Disclaimer: Everything you recognise is J.K.Rowling's property. This story is a response to the Severitus Challenge.
Chapter one: when the dead tells a tale
Harry Potter for once wasn't very happy to return to the wizarding world. After a relatively uneventful summer (chores, grieving for Sirius, blaming himself endlessly, bad dreams and false or true visions of Voldemort), the Headmaster himself had come to fetch him because he had to be there for the hearing of Sirius' will.
So there he was, following Dumbledore into Gringotts, where a Goblin told them to enter his superior's office. Lupin was already there, as well as Tonks and Arthur Weasley.
Harry forced himself to smile at them and sat between Lupin and Tonks. Dumbledore sat on the chair near the door. Only one seat remained, and the Goblin behind the desk seemed to be awaiting someone else.
Two minutes later, the next-to-last person Harry wanted to see (just before Voldemort in fact) entered the room, sneered at its occupants and sat. Why would Snape of all people be in Sirius' will? They couldn't stand each other!
As soon as Snape sat, Harry forgot all about the man's presence, for Sirius' voice filled the room. A voice he thought he would never hear again. He sensed Lupin's hand on his shoulder, and it helped. A little.
"If anyone hears that it means that I, Sirius Nobilus Black, am dead. This is my will, and I wish Harry James Potter, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore to be there for its hearing.
Let's begin with the material things:
First of all, my dear old house is to be owned by Remus Lupin. You're free to give access to whomever you want, including the old crowd. Moony, you once told me (whether to cheer me up or because you really meant it, I'll never know) that "with a little care, it could be a great place"… it's up to you now!
My money is to be shared in equal parts by Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley and Nymphadora Tonks.
Tonks, we didn't know each other very well, but you're the only member of my family I'm not ashamed of and that I like, and trust me it's worth thousands of galleons!
Arthur, you and your family are the only things standing between me and madness. If it weren't for all of you I think I couldn't stay in that damned house for more that a few days. These twins of yours are really great! The worthy heirs of the Marauders…
Harry, I was going to give you everything, but then I remembered what you once told me. How you would give back all your parent's vault just to spend one minute with them you could remember… I think you've got enough gold from dead people, don't you? I know you don't want it.
Now that all my modest possessions are out of the way, lets begin with the rest.
Remus, you have my most sincere apology. If I had trusted you all those years ago, I would never have begged James to make Wormtail his secret keeper and all this disaster could have been avoided… I know you think we're even because you thought I was a mass murderer for twelve years, but I want you to know that I have forgiven you for that. Take care Moony.
Dumbledore, I thank you for finally believing me two years ago. Since then, even if I wasn't free, you've helped me to hide from these ministry idiots and I want you to know that even if I really don't like this place, I am grateful.
However, I still have a few grudges against you, and if I'm dead, there's no point of shutting them up, is there? So here we go. WHAT IN THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING, PLACING THE KID WHITH THESE DAMNED MUGGLES! He never says a thing, but I KNOW he isn't well cared for there! BLOODY HELL Headmaster! He was willing to come living with me as soon as he learned I wasn't a mass murderer! Doesn't it tell you anything? I really hope you have a VERY good reason. Else I'll be haunting you to your grave.
But I guess it's as much my fault as yours, so I won't say anything else.
Snape. I have a few things to tell you, and I beg you to listen. Yes, I beg you. You never thought you would see the day when I'd beg you for anything, did you? Well, here it is. I did certain things I'm not proud of now, and I know you, more than anyone, can understand that. I'm not asking for forgiveness, I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry.
And that there's more, much more to forgive…I wrote you a letter and I want you to read it till the end before you say anything to anyone.
Harry, you've got one too. And I ask for your forgiveness as well for what it will tell you. You're the main reason why I did leave anything at all. I don't want you to tell Remus one day about how when anyone you care about die, the only thing left is money… you really broke my heart when you said that, kid.
Because I have loads of memory of James and Lily, but I realise that you haven't…
That's it. It's done, and I really look forward to forget this thing! It's morbid, to do a thing like that. I'm still young, and not looking forward to die. I sure hope no one will hear that in a good fifty years, but I fear there is no time. Every time Snape comes here and tell me how lazy I am to just sit there and do nothing while others get killed…
I want to do something, I want to go out and fight, and if you hear this, it's probably what I did…
I'm sorry Harry, for if I indeed left the house protection, then it is entirely my fault if I died and you're alone once again. But remember that you're not. You have Remus, and your friends, and perhaps soon you'll have someone else…
April, the 23rd 1996.
Silence filled the room as the Goblin handed two letters, one to Snape and the other to Harry. He hesitantly took it and pocketed it. It was the last letter of Sirius he would ever receive, and he didn't want to read it with Lupin reading over his shoulder. From the corner of his eye, he saw Snape doing the same, looking a little green.
Harry supposed that hearing from someone you hate that you taunting him was probably what lead him to his death was certainly difficult, even for him.
Unable to stand his sight anymore, Harry quickly left the room, followed by Remus (who for once hadn't tried to play nice with the greasy git).
The rest of the day passed quickly. Lupin took him to Diagon Alley to buy his school things, then they went to Grimmauld Place. He only had to spend one night there, the next day being the first September.
As he arrived, he was immediately surrounded by people. All the Weasleys save Percy were there, as well as Hermione, and of course Remus. He couldn't help but think that Sirius would have been happy to see his so-hated house so filled with life and joy.
He didn't get the chance to look at his letter alone, and he wasn't really looking forward to. Reading it would make it real. Here, he could still pretend that Sirius was alive, laughing downstairs at the twins antics… he would read it later, he promised himself.
For now, he would just enjoy being with his friends after two months of complete loneliness (he didn't count the Dursleys as company).
Severus Snape was facing the same dilemma. He had been very surprised when Black had wanted him to hear his will, but he had thought it was another prank, a mean for the mutt to taunt him again even if he was dead. He had only agreed to be there on Dumbledore's explicit order. But to actually hear him apologise for all their past angst…
And he sounded so bloody sincere. So serious. Well, of course he was. Sirius. Hahaha. Everything was good to bring his mind out of it, even silly jokes.
He couldn't forget one thing the mutt had said. " I did certain things I'm not proud of, and I know you, more than anyone, can understand that."
And he was right. If there was one thing Severus could understand, it was regretting past mistakes. Guilt was something he lived with for so long… once, he had been a Death Eater, he had truly and fully believed himself above muggle-born and half-blood, and he had tortured and killed…
But Black had never done anything like that. True, he had wanted to kill him. To make him the werewolf's dinner. But it wasn't worse than anything himself had done, by any means. And the man was dead. No need to hold grudges to the dead ones. Who had apologised no less.
But another part of Black's little speech stayed in his mind: "there's more, much more to forgive…I wrote you a letter and I want you to read it till the end before you say anything to anyone"
What could be in that blasted letter? Apparently some confession. More to forgive… what could it be? And why did the git want it to be known after his death? If he had done something bad, he should have wanted to keep it to himself, shouldn't he? And what does it have to do with me?
Only one way to find out…said a little sneaky voice in his mind. Black's voice. And for once, he listened to it. He carefully opened the letter…
I have something to tell you, but if you're reading this it means I'm dead and I didn't tell. I swear I wanted to, but I must not have had the time… and really, when you're taunting me about this place I'm forced to reside in, I'm in half a mind to keep it to myself.
But I can't. I've kept it secret for much too long. At first, I thought it was for everyone's best. Yours, Lily's, James', Harry's, and mine. At the time I thought you were a loyal Death Eater… and when I discovered you were a spy, I thought it was too late, because Harry and you already hated each other.
But let's start from the beginning, or what you remember anyway. Do you remember that night when I asked you the Heir's Potion?
And he did, even if he didn't really see what it had to do with anything.
He had been brewing something for classes in his dungeons (it was his first year of teaching) when Black had entered his classroom. Raising an eyebrow, he had put the potion in stasis and grabbed his wand, while the mutt placed silence wards. Then, he talked.
"Black. What do you want?"
"A potion? What potion? And what made you think I would make one for you?"
"I'll pay. I want the Heir's Potion."
"The Heir's Potion? Having an affair with a married woman, mutt? "
"She's pregnant, and I can't very well afford to have a child looking like me around there…"
"Do you have the husband's blood?
"Fine. Return in a week and I'll have it. Then you'll have to make the woman drink it in a full moon and…"
"I know. Bye Snape."
And he had left, just like he came. It wasn't the first time he demanded a potion, and he always paid. This time hadn't seem any special to Severus, but apparently it was, if Black mentioned it after all this time… Maybe he wanted to tell Snape the name of the married woman he had slept with?
Shaking his head, he read the rest of the letter.
"You asked me if I was having an affair with a married woman. The thing is, I wasn't. You were."
Okay, so the mutt definitely lost it.
"I know what you're thinking. But you can't remember it, because I erased your memory as soon as I found out.
If you don't believe me, you only have to drink the "Healing Verity". I assume you know how to make it… but read all of this first, so you'll know what to look for.
After their marriage, James and Lily weren't as happy as they let on. James was always somewhere else, tracking your D.E. friends, and Lily had to hide… she was probably bored out of her mind and she started spending more and more time with you of all people!
Of course, you were both kind of friends back at school, and she probably thought you were the only one who wouldn't try to defend James…
After a few months you were very good friends. And then, I don't know how she did, but Lily managed to obtain proof that James was cheating on her… When James came back, she confronted him with his many adventures and he denied. She must have been really desperate, and you and her started to… Hum.
One day, I came by to see James and he wasn't there, but Lily was… and she was packing. She said she wouldn't go into hiding with him as Dumbledore asked. She said she was gonna leave James and go live with you. Said she was pregnant of your child…
You must try to understand me then. I was sure you were a Death Eater and Lily was like my sister… I tried to make her see it but she blabbed about you being a spy, and I thought she was just blinded because she loved you… and I panicked. I obliviated her, obliviated all she thought of you, all she felt for you, all your moments together (I was born in a Dark family, obliviate holds no secrets for me…).
Then, I did the same to you. But as you always said, I'm a 'bloody Gryffindor', acting first and thinking later. When I did pause to think of what I had done, I realised that the child would look like you… And I asked you to make the Heir Potion to make Harry look like a Potter… ironic, don't you think?
I thought it didn't matter if you remembered me asking, because it wouldn't be the first potion I paid you to make, and I was so afraid you would become suspicious if you had too many holes in your memory…
When James returned and Lily didn't remember you, she fell in love with him again, and he was forced to stop his errands to go into hiding. And when he learned that she was pregnant, he was so happy!
All these years, I thought It was for the best. When I saw what that child did to their dead couple, I thought it was worth it. I really believed that James and Lily would be better for him that you would ever be. I didn't even want to think about the possibility of you taking care of my little godson.
When they were killed and I went to Azkaban, I was still proud to be the one who allowed my best friend's last years to be so happy. I thought Harry would be taken care of by his aunt and uncle…
It was a mistake. You must trust me on this, Snape, but there's something not right there. When I escaped Azkaban and first saw him, he was running out of his uncle's house. And he's so skinny, so little, so shy… His friends say he never receives anything for Christmas, never gets any letters, never talks about his family… he never goes back there for the holidays either, except for summer and I've the feeling it's only because he can't stay at school.
That night, when we found Wormtail, I asked him if he wanted to live with me, once I'd been cleared. He didn't knew me for more than half an hour. All he knew about me was that I had once been a friend of his parents and that I wasn't a murderer. Yet, he immediately said yes… with such obvious desire to leave his uncle's house!
Then I first questioned my decision. But you already both hated each other… and I wasn't convinced you wouldn't go back to Voldemort as soon as he would be back.
Last year I learned you were a spy all this time. And I saw all I had done. Lily truly loved you, and I believe you loved her too. If I had let her go this time, perhaps you would have had a happy life together. Perhaps she wouldn't be dead. You wouldn't be such a heartless bastard. And Harry wouldn't have had to suffer through a loveless childhood.
Still, I wasn't going to tell you. Cowardice, maybe. Or just resignation. It was too late, much too late. And I was so convinced that he hated you…
But yesterday, I learned that he doesn't. How? He told me. Not like that of course. But… what he saw in your pensieve really shook him, you know. He was so distraught. Ashamed that his father would do something like that. Shocked that all we'd been telling him about James had been a lie, that you were the one who never lied. That his father was every bit as arrogant and mean as you'd always made him.
He didn't pity you. He didn't laugh. He sympathised. Because of his horrid childhood with these stupid muggles, or just because of who he is. Do you know what he told me? He asked me "what was he thinking?" and I answered "he was fifteen and an idiot". I told him that everybody was an idiot at fifteen. He had tears in his eyes. Tears of shame, of sympathy for you.
I took what he said for me. "what was I thinking", indeed. To choose to hold the truth even now when I knew it was a mistake…To choose to let him go back to those muggles when there was an alternative.
And I decided to tell both of you. It wasn't easy. But now you know. Harry is your son, and he should have been all along. He needs you Snape, he needs someone to rely on, to love. Please, don't hold my mistakes against him. I wrote him a letter too, explaining things as well.
I love him like a son, and if I'm gone, then you're the only one he has left. Remus won't take care of him, he didn't when James died…
Please Severus. Please.
Severus sat for a long while staring at nothing.
A part of him didn't want to believe it. He, having an affair with Lily Potter? Having a child?
How could Potter be anyone's child but James'? He remembered when he first saw the boy who looked so much like his father. He had wondered then, if Black hadn't ask the bloody potion because he had slept with his best friend's wife. He had thought Black was a traitor and a murderer then. The idea had made him laugh.
But now… everything was so clear.
Why Black had always wanted to see him each time he went to that awful house, only to back up at the first little taunt.
Why he couldn't even remember Lily's face even if they had spent seven years in Hogwards together.
Why she had always been Lily to him, and not Evans or Potter…
Shaking his head, he quickly went to his potion lab. There was only one way to be sure, and he wouldn't even think about it until he was sure. It could all be a prank.
Harry couldn't be his son (and when did he become Harry anyway?)
Still, one thing that had nothing to do with the boy's parentage troubled him. His reaction to the pensieved memory… according to Black anyway, was disturbing.
He had thought the boy would be pleased to see his hated professor being humiliated, but apparently he hadn't. Black had talked about tears in his eyes. Tears of shame and sympathy. But Snape had never saw the boy cry.
Even after the Third Task.
Even after the mutt death…
The mutt. If it was true, then he had stolen his child from him. His child… No. He refused to think it could be true until he had proof. The potion took an hour to make and had to rest for nine. It would be ready tomorrow morning.
Until then, he needed to rest.