My dearest readers,
Here is my newest monstrosity of a story, actually written in Hungarian and translated all by myself. I hope thereby that its English will be a tad better than those of my other ones written directly in English.
The story will be 13 chapters long, longer than Fool, but shorter than Happy Days in Hell: my favourite length somewhere between 30 and 50 thousand words.
Summary: Harry's younger son runs off after a family quarrel, shattering the once-so-solid peace of the Potter family, envied by the whole magical society.
Warning: In this story Harry isn't a boy by any means. Quite the contrary.
Non-slash pairing: Harry and Snape (yes, yes, Snape, you read it well) and many others
Warning: post-OoTP, no facts of books 6 or 7 mentioned
Disclaimer: I don't own anything except the plot.
Oh! Why does the wind blow upon me so wild?
– Is it because I'm nobody's child?
P.H. Case, Nobody's Child
Chapter One – Harry
"You lied to me! You lied to me all this time! I hate you all!"
Harry flinched at the resounding sound of the slamming door as if he had been slapped. He was unable to speak, staring at the forbiddingly shut door behind which the sound of exiting footfalls had already died away moments earlier – though those moments seemed like hours, days, years in the complete silence unbroken by anything except the small, incessant clinking sounds of several delicate silver instruments inherited from Dumbledore himself.
None of them moved, and Harry was sure somewhere deep inside (though unable to really think) that even they – his wife and his older son – were staring at the closed door with as much pain and shock as he was.
His wife began to cry. She didn't cry aloud, only her ragged breathing showing that she was losing a fight against her tears, and he heard Barrys's low voice whispering, a little hoarse:
"He'll come round, you'll see, Mum, everything'll be all right. Seren will calm down and apologise soon…"
But the words didn't bring reassurance.
"But why? Why?"
Now, Harry could hear perfectly the crying in his wife's words, and Barrys muttered something he couldn't make out.
It wasn't really important. Their son wasn't any wiser than them.
He knew he should be at his wife's side comforting her, but he was unable to move: the pain and the shock were still paralysing him. In reality, he wanted to cry as well, but he didn't want Barrys to see him crying: if he shed tears over Seren's stormy leaving, they would both think that the previous drama was as serious as they tought. Though it wasn't.
Still, Seren had been seventeen in June, so he had stormed out as an adult after a half-hour long, horrible quarrel. He wasn't to be stopped, and knowing him, Harry wasn't sure he would return soon. Seren was hard to hurt, but if someone managed to it, his anger lasted long and he rarely forgot – if at all. In this, he was the complete opposite of his brother, Barrys, who was easy to infuriate but just as easily got past the real or imagined hurts.
Finally, collecting every shred of his willpower, Harry turned around to leave the hall, but on his way to his study he stopped next to his wife and touched her shoulders encouragingly. Their eyes locked for a short moment and both sighed. They didn't need words to understand each other: they had been married for almost twenty years. Harry turned his attention to Barrys.
"Dad?" he asked uncertainly, and in his chocolate brown eyes, so like his mother's, Harry could see a pain matching his own.
"It'll turn around," he said, but his words didn't hold encouragement even for him. He cleared his throat. "Seren will need a little time, but he will regret what he said."
"But…" Barrys was uttering the words with obvious pain, "if that's true, what he said, he has good reason to be mad…"
"Good reason?" Harry asked, half-surprised, half-enraged, and massaged his forehead tiredly. "I didn't know love is a good reason to be furious and say foul words to your family."
"It's not that," Barry said embarrassed. "But you should have told him before…"
"Before? Before what?" Harry asked angrily.
"Harry!" He heard his wife's calming voice and he released the breath he'd held.
"I know, I know," he said retreating, and looked at Barrys again. "We just wanted him to have a normal childhood free of pain and fear. We thought, both me and your mother, that he would understand this by the time he reached eighteen, and he would see that we love him, we are there for him whenever he needs us. That he would take it easier…"
"You should have known it could come out anytime. Particularly like this. It's surprising he didn't find it out before."
"Barrys, this is not a shameful secret we tried to hide from him," his wife answered. "Mostly, they're facts no child should be burdened with."
"But Seren is not a child!"
Harry couldn't suppress a laugh which echoed hollowly in the hall.
"I'd hardly say seventeen is grown-up, though at the same age I was sure I was an adult…"
"Your situation was totally different, Harry," his wife countered. "You were much more mature than your companions."
"Perhaps, perhaps not. But I wasn't an adult by any means. I had to live forty-five years to see that, however."
His wife cracked a sad half-smile.
"Seren also is more mature than his mates."
"He's much more mature than me," Barrys added.
His words brought brighter smiles to their lips.
"It still means nothing, son," Harry said and tousled his son's unruly hair.
"Dad!" the almost-nineteen-year-old cried indignantly.
"You were always below the general level of maturity."
"Not to mention your grades," his wife added reprimanding. Barrys moaned.
"Oh, come on, don't begin it again! I have four N.E.W.T.s, perfectly enough to do the job I like. I can't help that while a student, you were the star of the school!"
The small click of Harry's study door interrupted the usual verbal spar between his son and his wife. He was limping slowly towards the comfortable armchair next to his desk. The old pain sliced through his thigh and hip with every step – it had become stronger as the years went by.
In two weeks he would be forty-five.
He bit back a moan as he slumped in the chair and his eyes wandered to the family photograph taken about four years ago, not long after Barrys had received his O.W.L. results. Fred Weasley had taken the picture at Fortescue's while eating the sundae-compositions created by Seren himself.
Seren loved ice cream. Well, he loved everything sweet, but ice cream held a distinctive place amongst them.
His older son, Barrys, at the age of fifteen was almost an exact replica of his mother's father; only his unruly hair showed that he was also a Potter by origin. Seren looked more likeHarry: not his face, but his gestures. His younger son, Harry knew, had adored him and so copied everything about him: his words, his tone, his way of moving.
The two boys were whispering from time to time while their parents were waving at somebody outside of the photo.
Harry remembered that day very well. They had planned a meeting with Neville and his family at Fortescue's, but they had been delayed. Lee Jordan and his family, on the other hand, had been going to visit Fred and George, and shortly after the photo had been taken, they had joined them with the twins. George, who in the meantime had become like his father, his paunch growng bigger and bigger with each child he had, and Fred, who had remained thin, almost sickeningly so, had announced a break for themselves and come to sit with them as well.
With the arrival of the Longbottom family, their meeting had resembled a Weasley family reunion: even though all four children carried the name of Longbottom, they were all red-haired like their mother, Ginny. The kids had joined the Potter boys together with Lee's two daughters, and they had soon moved over by Fred, who had been feeding them tricky sweets to their parents' annoyance.
Seren had laughed a lot that day, and together with Denis, the youngest son of Ginny and Neville, they had somehow managed to make Fred swallow something which had caused the thin, tall man to wear a tail, small horns and hooves, to the delight of the children and the passers-by.
Fred was the only Weasley with no family, but he was the most favourite uncle for all of his nieces and nephews. He was quick to laugh and adored the kids in turn, but he loved the often-too-serious Seren as his own. Harry had the feeling that Seren was going to join the WWW, and even though he had never mentioned it aloud, he wasn't too upset about it. At least, there would be somebody from the Potter family.
It was strange though, that Seren was friends with Denis. Denis was very much unlike him: loud and energetic, almost violently so. They were in the same year, and although the Sorting Hat had put them in different houses (Seren to Ravenclaw and Denis – naturally – to Gryffindor) their friendship had endured up until now, the sixth year. Denis reminded Harry of Ron, and this fact always caused a feeling of a blunt blow to his chest, even if that had happened more than twenty years ago…
And there had been so many beautiful days he could have recalled; times they had spent together, the four of them, the Potter family: Harry, his wife, Barrys and Seren. They spent every free moment of their time with their sons: they dragged them through the world, from camping under half-nomadic conditions to luxury hotels. And even though Harry knew that his wife was trying to compensate for his own rotten childhood as well, it hadn't lessened the fun of it. The kids adored it so much that last year Barrys, despite being a Hogwarts graduate who could have spent his free time chasing after girls, to their great surprise had suggested going on a holiday together to Australia.
It had been so beautiful, so perfect until now, and against Harry's negative expectations it had lasted for more than seventeen years, not a short time by any means – but now it was over and it hurt. He had been dreading this moment, just like his wife, ever since that day seventeen years ago when the few-days-old Seren had come to them. Though his wife had done everything in her might to prepare them for this day, from reading the books about this topic to consulting experts, preparation hadn't been as successful as it should have been.
Against their expectations, their adopted son, whom Harry and his wife loved as much as they loved their own flesh and blood, Barrys, somehow had figured out that Harry and his wife weren't his biological parents. He had taken the news with hurt and annoyance, as if he had been deceived, and hadn't let either of them explain the situation. He had been sulking for weeks, since he had gotten home from Hogwarts, and today he had packed his things, confronted them like common criminals, with the facts, and in the end shut the door in their face.
If somebody had told him seventeen years ago that it would be more agonizing than a Cruciatus, he would have laughed in their face. But today wasn't seventeen years ago, but seventeen years after.
The child he had taken in so reluctantly had somehow grown in the last 17 years into his life and his heart. Seren hadn't been even six months old when Harry would have hurt anybody, without a second thought, who would have dared to harm him. His wife had needed even less time to come to care about the sickly child.
Harry lifted the photo to his eyes to have a closer look at Seren. The boy, as if he knew, turned away from his brother and smiled directly at Harry with that genuine openness of his, and it recalled another memory, five or six years ago, when Seren had come home from his first year in Hogwarts…
"Dad," Seren looked up from his History of Magic book (Harry had been sick at the mere thought that Binns had been drooling about his story with the same monotony as about the troll wars). "How were you brave enough to defeat Voldemort? In the school, they don't even dare say his name, and you…"
At that time Harry, as the Aurors' Ministry coordinator, had been preoccupied with some personal documents, and for a moment couldn't even understand what Seren was saying.
He looked up, but he needed some time to comprehend the words.
"I wasn't brave," he said finally. "If I had ever thought about who I was fighting, I would have been unable to do it. Things were just… happening to me. I never had much time to ponder them. And then… I was never alone."
"But you were. In the end you were alone."
"No, even then I wasn't completely alone. Many had been thinking of me and I knew that Dumbledore's sacrifice hadn't been in vain, nor was your mother's love or your uncle Ron's whom you have never met…"
"He was Aunt Ginny's brother, I know. You've already talked about him," Seren nodded.
"So I knew they were fighting at my side, even if not physically. And it gave me the power."
"And… how did you kill him in the end?"
The study became completely silent. Harry scratched his head.
"Look, Seren… It's pretty hard to talk about it. In reality, it was almost he who killed me. He tried to… hmm how can I explain this? He tried to lure me into darkness, because he knew it would destroy me. It was a kind of Legilimency, you know, our minds were connected, and somehow I attacked him with the power Voldemort had never had: I didn't want power, I didn't want to win out of hatred, but for my loved ones to live in a free world…"
"I see," Seren said and his black eyes were suspiciously bright. Harry didn't want to peep into his thoughts so he was very careful not to Legilimize him. He smiled.
"Even the fact that I was able to do this, to attack him in this way, wasn't by my own merit. One of my old teachers taught me of Artimency, the Art of Mind."
"Who was that?" Seren asked excitedly.
"You don't know him. He doesn't teach in Hogwarts anymore. His name was Severus Snape."
"What did he teach? Defence against the Dark Arts?"
Harry laughed in spite of himself, then straightened his face.
"No, although he had always wanted to do so. But Dumbledore didn't want him to leave the school after a year. In that time, you know, the job was cursed and no teacher managed to last longer than that."
"And what happened to him? Did he die in the war?"
"No. He taught for years after it, almost until you were born. He was the Potions Master. Once, a serious accident happened during a lesson - a concoction exploded and hit him so that he died soon afterwards."
Shock flooded Seren's face.
"Potions are dangerous."
"I know. Professor Zabini used to say so."
"He is the Head of Slytherin, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is. Was that… Snape the Head of Slytherin as well?"
"He was," Harry said a little colder than he wanted.
"You didn't like him," Seren immediately said.
"The feeling was mutual, I assure you. But," with a small wave of his hand Harry stopped Seren's interruption, "finally we managed to get past this grudge. I owe him a lot for surviving the war. Without his help, though reluctant, I wouldn't be here now, nor you, nor anybody else, except for Voldemort and his lackeys." He shuddered. Voldemort had always been a chapter of his life he could never really get over for good.
In reality, he tried to keep the topic at bay, because in every mention of it, heavy darkness was stirred up somewhere in the depths of his soul, and he felt old and sad.
Though he had had no reason to be sad. Not then. But now…
He let his thoughts return to that previous conversation.
"I want to be like you." Seren sighed. "But if I don't like somebody, I'm unable to cooperate with them. Like Lenny Wood in Charms."
Oh yes, Lenny Wood. The boy had become one of the main topics of the family since Seren had attended Hogwarts. He was a Gryffindor boy from the same year who had been harassing Seren since the first day. His wife and he had tried to tell him countless times not to pay attention to Lenny, because the boy was just being envious, but Seren, being the nice, shy kid he was, had been hurt deeply by the cruel comments.
Barrys had had to clean the Trophy Room twice with the horrendously aged Filch, because on his brother's behalf he had once cast a particularly nasty hex at Wood; the other time he had even fought with him. Since then, Lenny had left Seren alone, but he had earned his hatred.
"If your life were at stake, you would be able to," Harry answered then; it had happened a year before Barrys's drastic double solution.
"No, never. I'm not like you or Barrys. I would never be able to face evil wizards and cooperate with my enemies." He frowned. "It's not surprising the Hat didn't want to put me in Gryffindor."
Harry saw that something remained unsaid, so he leaned forward a little and looked at Seren seriously.
"Seren, you can tell me if the Hat wanted to put you in Slytherin. It means nothing anyway."
"Nothing?" the boy cried bitterly. "Every evil wizard came from that house. And even now: just one look at the Slytherins and you can see what they are!" he said, but Harry interrupted him.
"How many times have you heard from us, from your mother or me, that Slytherin is worse than the others?" he asked harshly.
Seren flushing, lowered his head.
"Not once. But Denis said…"
"It doesn't matter what Denis said. Seren, Slytherin is not worse than any of the other houses of Hogwarts. Many wizards came from it: good and evil, smart and stupid, cowardly and brave. That professor I mentioned before was one of the bravest I've ever met. He fought at Dumbledore's side. And Voldemort had followers from every house."
"But everybody in our acquaintance… every friend of yours is from Gryffindor…" Seren looked up uncertainly. "If Slytherins are that all right why don't you befriend them as well?"
"Because I lived in Gryffindor for years. These are very old friendships. And I have several friends from other houses: Luna Lovegood and Terry Brooks who are Ravenclaw like you, and Ernie from Hufflepuff…"
"But not even one from Slytherin!"
"Seren. The Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin as well. I became a Gryffindor because I begged it not to put me there."
The boy's reaction was quick and unexpected. He jumped up and, circling the big desk at which Harry sat, he launched himself at his father's chest. Harry embraced the trembling boy, a little surprised.
"I thought Lenny was right and… I'm not a real Potter… just bringing shame on your name… that I'm not your son…" He hiccupped into Harry's neck while clinging to him for dear life.
"If the Hat had put you in Slytherin you would still be my son. I wouldn't care."
"You wouldn't?" Seren asked, but did not release himor relax his embrace.
"But you're happy I'm not Slytherin, aren't you?"
"No. I'm quite proud though to have such a smart son. You know the Hat wanted to put your Mum in Ravenclaw."
"So I'm not a… failure? A disappointment?"
"Stupid child," Harry answered and strengthened his embrace. "Stupid, stupid child…"
He didn't realise when he had begun to cry silently and without tears, but his wife, as always, was at his side. Like that day, almost thirty years ago, when he had been sitting on the top of the Astronomy Tower drinking – as he had believed it to be – the last drink of his life. He had stolen the whisky from the teachers' table, and hurried to the Tower.
There hadn't been too much remaining in the bottle, and he had been almost delirious. But for the first time in his life he had felt brave: he, the hero of the wizarding world, the defeater of the Dark Lord, who had been believed to be brave, though he had never been, not once. But then, after a bottle of Firewhisky he had really been brave, he felt.
He had felt the bravery, the courage to make the step which would make an end of it: of eighteen cursed years, of hated existence. And he would bring Voldemort's last memory to the very place it had belonged and where the dark wizard had wandered to: beyond the veil, where those whispery shadows had been waiting for him, where he would meet everybody he had once loved: his parents, Sirius, Lupin and Ron.
But his wife – who at that time hadn't been his wife yet – had taken the bottle from his hand, had slapped him twice hard and had held him until he had felt he had had no tears remaining. And she hadn't let him jump, not since then.
However, there hadn't been anything romantic in their relationship: it had been just friendship, strong and stable, which had saved both of them. It had taken almost eight years – eight years to recognise they both had been healed enough to say 'Yes' to each other, and hadn't been looking for some kind of substitution for lost people.
The wizarding world had always eyed their perfect marriage with envy.
Oh, yes, Harry was almost used to things being good around him. The last twenty years had drawn him to this belief.
But his world was shaking now.
"I knew, I knew it was a stupid idea. I told you it would end like this." The hoarse words were hurting even his own ears.
"Oh, come on. You know Seren. Give him time. He loves us, loves you. He will come back."
"And what if he does not?"
"I will be here, with you even then."
Harry nodded as he watched the beloved face of his wife: the long, wavy hair which had darkened with the passage of time, the warm, chocolate brown eyes. He knew that as long as Hermione was at his side, he would always be able to face the darkness threatening to flood his very soul. But together with love, he felt fear as well: if she was taken from him…
No. It was better not to think about it.