The last days of the summer flew by so fast that Harry was sure someone was speeding up the spin of the earth via magic. Between last-minute studying, doing chores, and getting ready for school, the moments dashed by at an alarming pace.
Two days after Draco left, Snape decided Harry needed new clothes. So they took the rented car back to Diagon Alley and spent the day buying new robes and school clothes plus some muggle clothes since, as Snape said, "Your regular clothes are in a sad state of affairs, looking like they've been chewed and spit out. You're not showing up to school looking like a ragbag."
Shopping for clothes was not Harry's favorite thing, especially since Snape insisted on disguising him again by changing his hair and features before they left the car.
"I feel like I should be someone else since I look like them," Harry grumbled as they headed towards the entrance of Diagon Alley.
"That has to be the most ridiculous thing you've said all summer," Snape observed.
But the shopping actually took less time than Harry imagined. Snape got him into the shops, which were very busy with other students getting clothes, in a very short amount of time.
"What did you do?" Harry whispered before he headed back. "Threat to kill the woman if she did not get to me right away?"
"Something like that," Snape replied coolly. "Now, go on back so she can measure and fit you, and no arguing with her. I don't want a temperamental robe maker getting upset with you and causing a scene."
An hour and lots of trying on robes and getting pricked with pins later, they left the robe maker's shop with boxes of clothes, most of which Snape made Harry carry.
"Was that expensive?" Harry asked as he tried to follow Snape, craning his neck around the stack of boxes so he could see where he was going. The boxes tipped dangerously, and Harry ran forward a few steps to balance them out, knowing Snape would be displeased if he dropped them on the ground.
"Not too bad," Snape replied. "Less, in fact, than I thought it'd be."
"Should I be paying for it?" Harry queried, still trying to see around his tall load. "I mean, I have my pocket money in my pocket as it were but I've always paid for clothes with my parents' money. I don't know if that's good or not, spending the money that way, not that I have a choice."
"Relax," Snape told him as they crossed the street to an outdoor cafe. "As your guardian, I got the bank to send me some money to pay for your school things, including books and clothes. All right, you stay here while I go to the Ministry for a while."
Snape indicated an empty table, and Harry gratefully placed his armful of boxes down on one of the seats. Snape put his boxes on top of Harry's.
"Can't I come with you?" Harry asked.
"No," Snape shook his head, "after what happened there, I don't want you anywhere near the Ministry."
"But I won't –"
"No, Harry," Snape said sternly, pointing a finger at him, "you sit down and stay here. And if I find out that you've wandered off to Knockturn Alley while I was gone –"
"I won't go anywhere," Harry promised as he dropped into an empty chair. He glanced towards the café where the menu was being written on the board by a piece of floating chalk. Harry thought about the money in his pocket, and he had barely reached his hand down toward it when Snape said,
"You might as well have lunch while you're here. Get something nutritious, Harry, not just sweet." Snape dropped a handful of Sickles and Knuts on the table, adding, "You can have a small ice cream after you have lunch. And I want the change back."
Once Snape was gone, Harry took his time getting lunch and eating it. He kept glancing around, hoping he might see Ron or Hermione out shopping or another friend from Gryffindor. He saw students from Hogwarts, but no one special enough to talk to and tell them the truth about who he was under the disguise. The day was warm, but not too hot, and under the little round umbrella over his table, Harry enjoyed watching the people bustle about the shops, calling to each other and haggling over prices.
Harry was scraping the last bit of chocolate ice cream out of the bowl when Snape came back.
"That was quick," Harry put the bowl aside and reached for the leftover money. He dropped the coins in Snape's hand while commenting, "As you would say, I'm disgustingly honest today, down to the last Knut."
"Well," Snape sat down in the last empty chair, beside the boxes, "take two Sickles, honest boy, and get me a sandwich please."
"Frog livers and tool stools?" Harry asked, trying not to smirk.
"Egg salad, you cheek brat," Snape retorted. But he smiled the least bit as Harry went to order.
And then there was the packing, and Harry ran around the manor, nearly distracted with all the stuff he wanted to pack. Clothes, textbooks, parchment, and he really wanted to take that cloak from the mudroom with him. It was green with a serpent clasp, but maybe he could turn it red because it was really warm and would be fun to wear to Hogsmead in the fall.
Then there were things around the manor that did not belong to him, but he kind of wanted to take them.
"Hey," Harry burst into Snape's study without knocking, "I know the books in the library aren't mine, but can I take some of them to Hogwarts?"
"Can't you knock?" Snape snapped, looking from his papers.
"I'll take care of them, really," Harry promised, going to stand in front of Snape's desk. "I won't eat near them or leave them on the floor, and I'll bring them back at Christmas. Come on, no one's going to use them while we're gone."
"I suppose, but let me look over them. Hogwarts does have a list of contraband books, and though I don't think any of them are in the library, I need to –"
"Is that the list of students for your classes?" Harry strained his neck to see the list."
"Yes," Snape said rather crossly.
"Please, can I take Potions?" Harry asked urgently.
Snape glanced up, surprised. "What? I can't –"
"Please!" Harry begged. "Please, let me. And this isn't about still wanting to be an Auror. I really want to take Potions, and I promise I'll do better. Look, I'm begging you down on my knees."
Harry dropped to his knees. The floor was a lot harder than he thought it would be, but he stayed down, gripping the edge of the desk with both hands, the very picture of desperate pleading.
"Get up," Snape said, trying to sound stern and just coming off as indulgent.
"I'm not moving until you say yes."
"I'm telling you, I can't –"
"Please!" Harry nearly howled, dropping his head on his hands in despair. "Please, I'm begging you."
"It's not because –"
"I know I didn't make high enough on the O.W.L.s, but I promise to do better. Ask me anything about Potions, up to the fifth year. I know it."
"If you'll let me finish," Snape said sharply, "I wasn't going to tell you that I can't let you into Potions, because I am not teaching it this year."
Harry's mouth dropped open. "They sacked you? That's not fair! How could they just fire you? You're not that bad a teacher."
Snape's eyes narrowed. "I have not been fired, thank you very much. I got the position of Defense Against the Dark Art teacher."
Harry's eyes went wide. "No," he whispered.
Snape frowned, but only said, "Yes, Dumbledore asked me in July when he stopped by to visit one night. This was right after you went to Malfoy Manor and you were already in bed, so you didn't see him, but he asked me then. I said yes."
"Is he mad?" Harry demanded, jumping up to his feet indignantly. "Why would he offer you the job?"
Snape looked even darker. "Watch it, Harry. You're on very thin ice."
"You went evil years ago," Harry began pacing in front of the desk. "You were a real Death Eater. What if you get into the class and see all the evil, dark things, and then you turn again?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Snape retorted. "You're carrying on like a lunatic."
"Am I? Am I!" Harry challenged. "You stay around black magic long enough, and suddenly my guardian's handing me over to Volde–"
"If I were to turn evil," Snape interrupted, "I would have done it this summer when you were pulling pranks and blowing things up."
"Hmph," Harry crossed his arms, not convinced.
"I am not turning evil," Snape said shortly. "And especially not over something so silly as teaching that class."
Harry reluctantly nodded until he remembered, "Wait! No one lasts longer than a year at the job. It's cursed. If you take it, you won't be around for my last year at Hogwarts."
"If I only teach one year," Snape sighed, "then I will go back to Potions next year. You know, though you might not know it, I've wanted this position for a long time. I was hoping you might feel a little happy for my success."
"Congratulations," Harry said, not looking like he meant any of it. "And when you turn evil, I'm saying 'I told you so' right before you kill me. I don't understand – why is this job so important to you? If you don't care about getting pulled back into the evil, why do you want it?"
"It's a good place to show the children the evil that is out there, real evil that they should leave alone. And after last year with that idiot Umbridge, I think you children need a competent teacher. I don't want you having secret classes where you tell them who-knows-what about the Dark Arts."
"I happened to teach them a lot," Harry said stiffly.
"Yes, and then they thought they could storm the Ministry and meet whatever evil was inside," Snape put his papers down with a quick flick of his wrist. "I don't want my students to feel ignorant or overly confident. And believe me, with all you've done teaching your own class, I will be twice as hard on you in my class."
Harry huffed and shifted and huffed again, unable to think of anything to say. "Fine," he said at length, "but in a few years, if I become a professor and teach at Hogwarts, that's my job! I get to be Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, not you."
And with that Harry marched towards the door. He had just stalked out into the hallway when he paused. Sticking his head back in the study, he asked, "So where exactly did we leave the whole book issue?"
"Let me look them over," Snape said coldly.
"Yeah, right," Harry nodded. "And I'm going to ask the new Potions professor if I can take Potions. And well, I'm glad you got the position you really wanted. You should be happy."
Harry leaned out of the study and went back to the library without saying anything else.
They planned to go to Diagon Alley the day before school started and spend the night in an inn so they would be on time for the train the next morning. So the night before leaving for the inn, they had their last meal at Snapdragon Manor.
"This is it," Harry said as he sat down.
"Don't get sentimental," Snape told him. "I hate when people are sentimental, especially over something so . . . trite."
"Trite!" Harry exclaimed. "It's not trite. We won't sit together like this until Christmas. You'll be up with the teachers and I'll sit with my house."
"Unless I invite you to my quarters for supper on the weekends," Snape reminded him.
"Oh, yeah, there's that," Harry admitted.
"Or if I take you to Hogsmead for dinner."
"Or if you eat in my classroom on the evenings you help me."
"Fine, this isn't the last time of anything," Harry snapped, irritated that he couldn't have a sad moment.
"But it is the last night we eat as temporary guardian and ward," Snape said significantly.
"Huh?" Harry looked up, worried.
Snape put a leather folder on the table and untied the leather cord, pulling out the papers inside. "Papers for adoption."
Harry felt like his heart jumped into his throat. "R-really?" he stammered.
Snape watched him carefully. "We don't have to do this if you don't want to."
"Let me see the papers," Harry said quietly, trying to stay calm.
Their food had not been served yet, only their drinks, so Snape put the papers in front of Harry. There was a ton of legal jargon – party of the first part, henceforth, whereas, and clauses scattered throughout. But Harry saw his name, Harry James Potter, right under Snape's full name.
"Will my name change?" was the only thing Harry could think to ask.
"It could," Snape told him. "Not with this document, but another one could change it to Harry James Potter Snape or Harry James Snape Potter, or even hyphenated."
"Maybe later, I'll change it," Harry said cautiously. "What are these other papers?"
"Stipulations," Snape said, almost too casually. "Coming of age, legal status, inheritance . . ."
"Inheritance?" Harry jerked his head up. Was he in danger of losing his parents' fortune?
"Yes," Snape reached for his wine glass, "with this document, you become my heir."
"What?" Harry whispered, not believing his ears.
"You're my heir," Snape took a sip of wine. "Upon my death, you get the house, my money, and anything else I might have. Should I get married and produce a child, which is highly unlikely, I will make changes to include that child, but right now, you'll get everything."
Harry was finding it hard to breathe. This information seemed overwhelming, more than he had expected.
"That's what most adoptions mean," Snape shrugged.
Harry swallowed hard. He nodded and then sniffed. "Thanks," he said before sniffing again. He was determined not to cry, but the news was almost too much to bear. The fact that Snape would not only adopt him but make him his heir, too . . . Harry could not swallow, so he just sniffed.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Snape scolded, handing Harry a napkin. "Stop your sniveling or I'm changing my mind. My word, Potter, you can cry at the drop of the hat."
"It's Harry!" Harry glared at him. "And this is big deal."
"Everything's a big deal with you," Snape retorted. "Can we please sign this thing so we can have supper?"
"Fine," Harry wiped his eyes with the napkin before taking the pen Snape offered. Harry signed his name at the bottom, his hand trembling the least bit as he did so. This was real; this was really happening. He belonged to Snape now. He was Snape's heir.
He blankly watched Snape sign and then tuck the papers back in the leather folder, retying the cord.
Then the house elves came to serve dinner.
"So what does this mean?" Harry asked after taking a few bites.
Snape turned incredulous eyes on him.
"I know what this means," Harry said quickly. "I just meant for school. You're still a spy, and I'm still supposed to kill Vold- er, you know. What do we do?"
"We can't tell a lot of people at school," Snape replied. "You may tell your closest friends, but they will be sworn to secrecy. No one else, other than the teachers, will know. In class, you will be Mr. Potter to me, and I will be Professor Snape to you."
"Like you've always been," Harry grinned.
Snape frowned, but continued, "I will give you detention the first day in class so you can come twice a week to help me without raising suspicion."
"That sounds like a lot of work, trying to hide it," Harry grumbled. "Will it always be like this?"
"Until the Dark Lord dies," Snape told him.
Harry smiled. "Then I'll have to finish him off early, I guess."
"Harry," Snape warned, "no foolish stunts this year. I mean it, I'm going to be watching you closer than ever."
"Of course you are," Harry said slyly.
"And I will punish you as I see fit," Snape told him.
"Oh, I'm sure you will. Isn't that just brilliant on your part? Anything I do wrong now, you call me into your office and beat the badness out of me."
"I don't beat you," Snape said stiffly.
"Sure you don't," Harry said snidely. "I'll remember that when you're whacking away at me."
"You better not give me any cheek," Snape threatened.
"No more than you deserve," Harry promised.
That night, of course, it was almost impossible to quiet down and go to sleep. Harry ran around his room, tossing things into his trunks. He had to use one trunk he found in the garret of the manor, along with his own. Packing had never been one of his strengths, and tonight it seemed like he had forgotten how anything could fit tightly into his trunks. Would Snape mind if he took five trunks to Hogwarts? Arrive in his own carriage, just like the spoiled prince people thought he was. Maybe hire a few servants to carry his things, and make Ron sleep on the floor so Harry would have a place to pile his trunks.
"There's no way all this can fit!" he wailed when Snape came in. "It's not geometrically possible. You'll have to shrink everything magically."
"Speaking of which," Snape held out Harry's wand and his cloak.
"You're giving them back?"
"I wasn't planning on keeping them forever," Snape let Harry take the wand and draped the Invisibility Cloak over the end of his bed.
"Aren't you afraid I'll try to use magic this last night?" Harry asked as he held his wand, running his left hand over the shiny wood.
"You do that, and I'll spank you longer than I ever have," Snape growled.
"Can I use it to pack?" Harry asked. "Come on, no one will ever know because this is a wizard's house."
"Just to pack," Snape agreed.
Already feeling the magic in the wand, Harry pointed it at the mess and said, "Wingardium Leviosa."
The stuff began to float.
"Packitum Practoral," Snape instructed.
Harry said that, and immediately the stuff shrunk the smallest bit and neatly hopped into the trunk in an orderly fashion.
"Get everything together," Snape directed, "and I'll come in to tell you good night."
It was weird to think about not sleeping in the manor for another night. Harry got into bed, took off his glasses, and reached for the pocketwatch. With it tight in his hand, he lay down, sure he would never go to sleep. It was always hard to sleep the night before he left for Hogwarts. Well, technically, he wasn't leaving for Hogwarts until the day after tomorrow, but the feeling was the same.
Yet, everything was different. He wasn't going back after a hard summer, feeling completely alone. He had a home outside Hogwarts. He belonged to someone.
And for the last time at Snapdragon Manor that summer, Snape came in, turned off the lights, and said, "Settle down and go to sleep."
And miraculously, Harry did.
"All right," Snape told Harry, glancing up at the overhead clock, "you've got ten minutes to get on the train. Your trunks are packed."
"Yeah," Harry agreed.
"Your owl is on the train."
"Everything you own is on the train."
"I know, I know."
"All you have to do is get yourself on the train," Snape said.
"I know, I'm not an idiot," Harry shot back.
"I'll be on the train with the new first-years," Snape said, shooting another look toward the clock. "Just get yourself on and find somewhere to sit. I'll see you at school when we all arrive."
"Right," Harry agreed impatiently.
"No shenanigans on the train," Snape told him sternly.
"Don't start before we even get there," Harry snipped back. "And we shouldn't be talking. People will get suspicious, seeing us together."
"Fine," Snape grabbed his leather case, ready to start towards the train, "I just want you to remember two things."
"Behave?" Harry suggested wearily.
"That, of course. And," Snape looked him straight in the eyes, "remember that you're my son now, and I will always love you."
And without another word, Snape headed for the train.
Harry was determined not to cry, not with so many people around. He took a deep breath and headed towards the train.
"Harry!" he heard an excited voice squeal. Then he was wrapped in a huge hug by Hermione, and Ron clapped him on the back.
"Hey, mate," Ron grinned. "Where've you been? We were hoping you'd get here early so we'd have time to talk. Now we have to get on the train and monitor the new students."
"How have you been?" Hermione squeezed his hand warmly. "We didn't get to see you much this summer. We haven't really talked since your birthday party."
A puzzled look crossed Ron's freckled face. "Yeah, where was that again? I can't seem to remember."
"Oh, who cares?" Hermione grinned. "You're here now, and we're all going back to school."
"Hi, everyone," Neville suddenly came up, clutching his toad. "Glad to see you all again. I hope I got everything together. Harry, is something wrong?"
Harry, whose face was flaming red, shook his head mutely. Neville didn't seem to remember what had happened at Snape's house during the dinner party, that awful birthday spanking, but Harry wasn't going to bring that up for the world. "Hey, Neville," he said weakly. "Good to see you."
"Guess what?" Neville said excitedly. "Seamus has a timeturner. He wants to take extra classes for the first half of the term. Can you imagine that? I saw it in his pocket though he pretended it was nothing. I'd like to have one of those, to get in some extra studying."
"They are more trouble than they're worth," Hermione stated. "Good luck, Seamus, going completely mad."
"I couldn't keep up with one of those," Ron agreed.
"Harry?" Neville glanced at him, "what about you?"
Here at the end of the summer, a timeturner of all things. Harry smiled softly, but he said, "What would I need a timeturner for? At the end of things, I don't think going back to change them would help. No, I'll take my chances for the future."
"Speaking of which," Hermione looked towards the train, "we better hurry if we want our future to be at Hogwarts. Come on, Ron – stop looking so lousy and straighten up. We have students to monitor."
"I'm coming," Ron snapped at her as they headed towards the train.
"You can sit with me, Harry," Neville said as they boarded the train.
"Thanks, Neville, I'd like that."
"What did you do this summer?" Neville asked as they pushed past students in the narrow hall, looking for a compartment with empty seats.
"Oh, not much," Harry said as they squeezed into the last compartment and sat down.
Just in time, too, for the train suddenly lurched forward.
"Well, we're off," Neville grinned. "I wonder if this year will be any different."
Harry looked out the window, where the train station was rushing by. It was quite a different feeling that he had now, with the summer past him. He realized with a pang of sadness that he had never thanked Snape. Oh, he'd dropped a 'thanks' here and there, but not a proper thank you for everything the man had done over the summer. Snape had stood by him, helped him. With his grief, his anger, his temper, even growing up – Snape had been there. He had given him a second chance, a time and place to grow. A chance to heal.
"Somehow," Harry told Neville, "I think this year is just the beginning."