And Still Can't Stop Hoping

Summary: AU: Neville was named the Boy-who-lived. Harry's mother died giving birth to him and his father blames him for her death. And if you already have an heir in your family who really needs someone like Lucas Harry Potter?

Disclamer: Nothing but the idea, some new characters which you don't know from the books 1-6 are mine. Anything else like the characters belong to J., I'm only using them ;)

Well…new year, new luck and already a new chapter :D I really have to thank Brightfeather for her fast work!!! And I also want to say THANK YOU to the person who nominated this story for the Quibbler Awards (which you can find at quibbler dot this-paradise dot com) because it motivated me to write and finish this chapter so fast. So thank you!

Now…enjoy the chapter, my dear readers!


Sam :)

Chapter 23

After a nice long walk on the grounds, Harry was just on the way to the library when he heard his name being shouted. First he thought of ignoring the boy but when the Gryffindor called out again, Harry sighed, turned and waited for his brother to catch up.

Jonathan slowed down and walked up to his brother.

"Harry! Merry Christmas! I thought you would celebrate with us but then dad said that you had your own Slytherin party down there. Sorry, if I'd known I would have sent you your present to your dorm."

Harry was thankful that his brother turned away to take the present out of his bag because he couldn't conceal his shock. He had really thought that his brother just hadn't thought of giving him something or hadn't wanted to but to think that it had been only a misunderstanding…

Harry pushed the thought, that his brother had only bought something for him after receiving his, to the back of his mind. If Jonathan hadn't thought to get a present for Harry, he wouldn't have bothered to get one afterwards.

Therefore, Harry waited smiling for his brother to find the present.

"There you go. I know it's not much, but I hope you like it anyway," his older brother said and gave him a badly wrapped present. But before Harry could unwrap it, his brother cleared his throat.

"I know that you love books and all but then I was unsure which books you already had, so I thought I give you something that you probably hadn't got but still liked, so…I hope you like it!"

Bemused, Harry looked at his older brother who was blushing a deeper red with every second he talked. Most times he really wondered who of the two was the older brother and who the younger.

"Thank you, Jonathan," Harry said and without thinking about it, he gave his brother a short hug. It seemed enough because his brother beamed at him and then walked away after saying good-bye.

Harry smiled a bit longer, put the present in his bag and then walked in the library.

He sat down on his table and after making sure that no one was watching, took out his present. He unwrapped it slowly and when he saw the title of the book, he blinked.

He blinked again and before thinking about the significance, opened it on the first page. There, written in Jonathan's scrawl, was a short Christmas salutation.

To my little brother for his first Christmas at Hogwarts.

So that he knows that I know how different snakes can be.

~ Jonathan ~

Harry looked again at the cover of the book. The title '1001 snakes and where they live' was written on it and Harry laughed and then smiled.

Jonathan's acceptance of his house was completely unexpected and therefore so much worth. And now he could even find out what kind of food Salem liked the most.

Smiling, he opened the book and looked through the pictures to find a snake that looked like Salem.

The next few days passed very quickly for Harry.

He had read everything he could about European vipers, what weather they liked, what they liked to eat and so on. Jonathan's book had been a great help and he had thanked him again for the book.

But now, on New Year's Eve, Harry still had one thing on his mind that wouldn't get away no matter how hard he tried to ignore it.

Professor Snape's letter.

It was still lying on his desk and Harry had been looking at it for the last ten minutes.

He couldn't even concentrate on his Occlumency exercises anymore and therefore it was clear to him – he had to read that letter.

Harry went to the desk and took the innocent looking letter and walked back to the bed where he had been sitting before.

He turned the white paper around and around but finally, he sighed and opened it slowly.

It was the last day of the year and therefore probably the best time to open the letter. Depending on the content of it, he could at least decide on a resolution for New Year.

With one last deep breath, Harry took the piece of paper out of the envelope, unfolded it and started reading.

Dear Lucas,

How are you?

I'm sorry that I haven't sent you a letter sooner, but somehow, no owl wanted to leave Hogwarts to find you. Wherever you are, it seems to be well protected from the outerworld. I just hope that you have been safe and there have been no other incidents with Dark Creatures.

If you should every encounter one, I hope that the present I've sent you, will help you. It is designed to shield you against subtle mental attacks and also lower keyed charms and hexes. I hope, of course, that you won't be in need of it, but one can never know.

I wish you a merry Christmas and hope that you can enjoy it a bit.

Adrian and I will spend it at Hogwarts again and I can only hope that my snakes behave so I may spend some time with my son. Even though we both live in the castle, we don't have nearly as much time to talk than I'd like. I can't even imagine what it would be like for us if I weren't working here as a professor.

I'm still very sad that you haven't been able to come to Hogwarts. I think you might have fitted in nicely. I miss you especially in my potions class. This year, there are two students who will probably be decent potions brewer but no one of your knowledge and instincts.

But at the same time I can't think but be a bit happy that at least haven't seen me behaving very un-slytherin. I've disregarded my own rules of house unity and equality and now I'm trying to make up for it. I hope it's not too late for it, but I'll try.

You might wonder why I tell you this.

I started writing this letter when my son came into my office and we talked about a boy I have likely treated unjustifiably badly. After he has left and I've continued writing this letter and I couldn't help but think what your reaction might have been. Or even what it would have been if you had been that boy.

I couldn't stand that thought and so I hope that I will amend my behaviour. You can think of it as a New Year's resolution, if you like to.

But enough of me and my plans.

I hope that you have a great Christmas and that you like your presents.

If you still have some questions about potions, Hogwarts or anything at all, I'd love to help you.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year,

Master Severus Snape

Harry stared at the letter a long time, not knowing if he should laugh because of the irony that Master Snape would write about him as Harry, or cry because he didn't know what to do about this knowledge.

In the end he did both.

The next day, Harry finished reading in the library late in the evening. He hadn't noticed that Madam Pince hadn't been there and therefore, no one had told him that curfew was only two minutes away.

Hurriedly, Harry put the book back on the shelf and walked fast out of his favourite place in Hogwarts. As he only had few minutes left until he would lose points for being out of the common room, he took a route he rarely used. Therefore, he hoped that the professor wouldn't look there first.

He was just walking down a narrow corridor when a light caught his eye.

It shone out from a disused room to his left from which the door was slightly ajar.

Looking at his watch he saw that he was already late, he shrugged and decided to have a look at whatever was glowing. He opened the door a bit more, walked in and closed the door quietly behind him.

It was dark inside the room and fell over a waste-paper basket which fell to the floor. Thankfully, it was made of something that looked like willow, and didn't make a sound. Now, Harry was very carefully to knock over some piled up chairs or desks and walked slowly to the object that had caused him to overlook the basket in the first place.

It was a beautiful, tall mirror with an adorned gold frame.

"Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on whosi", Harry read quietly and considered the words for a moment before he smiled.

I show not your face but your heart's desire.

He was already moving towards it but stopped himself after only two steps.

Did he really want to know his own desire?

But then he nodded to himself.

Of course, this knowledge could only help him and made him more aware of his thoughts and wishes. So taking a deep breath, Harry took the last steps and looked into the mirror.

To his shock, his real face was looking back at him and not his glamoured self.

He conjured a little mirror and looked at it. To his relief, the glamour was still in place and then he hit himself.

The mirror was a magical mirror and showed his heart's desire. It was no real surprise that he would also show his real face. He smiled to himself when he thought that the inscription said that it wouldn't show his face.

He took another breath and looked into the mirror again.

Again, his real self looked back at him but he was smiling happily. His other self was just standing there for a short while, but then another person stepped up to him and gave him a hug.

Tears gathered in his eyes as he saw how beautiful his mom was and how lovingly she looked at him in the mirror. But then, another person appeared and Harry's sad smile slipped.

Of course.

He had deceived himself to believe that the opinion of Master Snape didn't matter to him anymore. But this mirror showed the truth. He still longed for the approval and warmth of the relationship he once had with the potions master.

Harry didn't noticed his father appearing in the background, broken with remorse and looked away in a prison or his brother standing a little behind him and casting hateful glares at their father. These two were only in the background and his father ever being remorseful was as impossible as his mother being there for him again.

For a moment, Harry was very tempted to curse the mirror but in the end, he didn't.

With one last sad gaze, he left the room and swore to himself to never look into it again.

Why agonize over something he'd never have?

After the incident with the meeting, Harry still didn't answer to Professor Snape's letter.

He wrote to Boris a few days after reading the other man's letter but he just couldn't bring himself to answer his potions master.

Especially now that he know how much the potions master approval and companionship meant to him, he couldn't risk to lose the last hope he still had for him.

Because even though the man had written that he was trying to make amends, Harry just didn't know what to write to him. Oh, well. If the Slytherin was honest, he knew exactly what he would write him but he didn't think the older man would appreciate his words.

His head of house had promised that he would better himself but Harry had yet to see it. And one incident in particular had shown him that the professor's words might be well meant but he hadn't acted on them.

Not once.

School had started a month ago and nothing had changed in the class room. Most times, he was still ignored by his potions professor and he only got cutting words the other time when he had managed to get some attention – mostly by ruining a potion by trying one something differently.

Well, when ruining that specific potion he had been just very bored. And he had always wanted to try out what would happen if he added the crushed dung beetle into an anti-hiccough potion while keeping the potion over the flames.

When the potion's colour changed from dark brown to a fiery red instead of the supposed orange, Harry was close to smiling. When even bright yellow bubbles from on the surface of his potion, he couldn't stop the small smile.

He wouldn't have thought that the reaction between dung beetles and dissolved frog eyes would bring such colourful results when they came in contact while being boiled.

Of course, professor Snape just snapped at him, vanished the potion and gave him a zero for that day's work.

Harry didn't care.

Because Snape already hated Harry. And if he still had his hope that he would at least still like Lucas, he could continue to hope for better.

That's why he also left the second letter from Snape unanswered.

The days dragged by and became weeks and finally months.

Harry spent his days studying, reading, writing letters to Boris, not responding to letters from Professor Snape and meeting with Madam Pomfrey.

Adrian Snape still kept him company in the library and they've even spoken a bit about their likes and dislikes. Only about food and drinks but it was progress. Sometimes, he also met with his brother to talk about Quidditch or homework.

Well, mostly, they spoke about homework because that was mainly the reason his brother sought him out but they've even managed some small talk. It wasn't much but Harry was still happy about the few times they managed to talk a bit like he thought normal brothers talked and acted around each other.

But the majority of his time spent with another student was with Adrian.

The other boy was nearly always there with him in the library, asking him about his homework, asking him of his opinion to his own homework. Sometimes, Adrian spoke about his Quidditch team and the new moves he had trained or about lessons and professors.

These were the times Harry liked best, not that he would tell the other boy that. But he cherished these moments the most because he could almost make himself believe that Adrian was his friend and that the other boy was talking to him because he liked him.

But still, Harry hadn't opened up that much to the other boy. If he was honest with himself, it was mostly because he was Professor Snape's son. And when he thought about that he had to wonder how he could make the same mistake in judging someone because of his parents when that was what had made him an outsider.

But he couldn't banish the doubts that Adrian was only trying to befriend him because of a strange try of the potions master to help Harry. The first-year couldn't stand the thought that someone would make such an effort to befriend him only because of orders of someone else, but he couldn't help himself.

Experience had taught him all about distrust and now it wouldn't leave him.

At the moment, Harry was again sitting at his work table in the library with Adrian.

He looked at his watch and saw that he had still fifteen minutes left before he had to go to lunch. For a while, he watched the other Slytherin working on his homework on the other side of the table.

Adrian was concentrating solely on the words he wrote but sometimes, he would stop, stare confused at his paper and then read a paragraph in the opened book before him. Then, nearly every time he started writing again, some strand of his black hair would have found its way into his eyes and he would thrust it back behind his ear.

Maybe, he could talk to someone like him. He had been very patient, even if Harry had no other idea why the boy even tried than to spy on him for his father. But it might not be so bad to have someone else to talk to besides Boris and Madam Pomfrey.

In the next moment, Harry rethought it and another idea came to him. How did he know that Adrian wasn't just sitting here because Harry didn't talk and no one else would sit down? What if the older had been only looking for a quiet place to do his homework and then just stayed on the same table.

"You're finished?"

Harry jumped and looked at the other Slytherin. He hadn't even noticed that the other boy had finished his homework. Only his mask kept him from blushing. But then he thought better of it. Normally, he didn't wear it when he was working here and over the time, he had even stopped being cautious around Adrian.

This time, he did blush because the other looked amused at him. Of course, some moments have already passed and Harry hadn't replied yet.

"Yes, I am. Sorry, I was just lost in thought." Harry answered.

While Harry was thinking about what he could say, the other boy seemed to have the same problem. Or he looked more like he was thinking about asking Harry a specific question. It seemed he was right, because Adrian nodded to himself and then looked back at the younger boy.

"If you don't mind me asking… Why are you always sitting alone here? I mean, I know that the other first years have asked you a few times to join time. Or at least, I know that Draco and Blaise have asked you but you always said no. Why?"

The black eyes were looking at him intently. Harry didn't know how to react or how to answer that question.

Should he be honest?

Harry thought for a moment longer but then he shrugged. It was nothing damaging that could hurt him in anyway if Adrian told it someone.

"I don't trust them." He said and the older Slytherin looked a bit taken aback. Harry knew that the answer was probably not enough for him.

"When I arrived here, no one would talk to me, or at least not in a nice way. Draco welcomed me very…warmly to Slytherin, Blaise wouldn't talk to me anymore even though he had been friendly enough on the train. And now, after nearly eight months, they've suddenly decided to become my friends? I don't think so." Harry snorted at that thought.

He couldn't deny that he had wished for it but he had hoped so often and it had never came true. Why should it now?

Furthermore, at the moment, he was happy with his life. He learned a lot, no one bullied him any longer since Derrick thought that he had killed the snake and didn't show any emotion around him any longer. He was one speaking terms with his brother and even though he still was punished by his father once a month, it was nowhere so bad as it had been.

Somehow, after the strange behaviour James Potter had shown six months ago, he had become more cautious and less violent. The hateful words and stares didn't affect him anymore.

"Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me again."

He didn't know where he had heard or read it, but he stuck with it. And most times, he succeeded.

Harry didn't know if he had been lost in thoughts for only a short time or Adrian had just not know what to say, but the other boy was still thinking.

"But don't you think that you might give it a try? I mean, I think they really mean it and would try to become your friends if you only let them."

Harry looked at him. He sounded so earnest as if he believed that after a few words of advice he would suddenly say "Let's be friends!". In that moment, Harry couldn't help himself and stared pointedly at the house badge to assure him that Adrian Snape was really a Slytherin.

It seemed that the other boy interpreted his look correctly because he looked a bit uncomfortable. Harry waited but he said nothing further.

"And just why do you think I would trust you? We are no more friends than I and Crabbe or Goyle. If your words were true, I'd thank you for your advice. But as I have no way idea if it is, I'll just ignore what you said, alright?"

Harry didn't know what else to say.

It was stupid of Adrian to think that he would jump at the chance to become friends with Malfoy and Blaise. He stood up and put his things into his bag. When he was finished with his task, he shouldered the bag and after a moment longer, he looked at Adrian and told him a few of his thoughts.

"You know, if you had told me this three, four months earlier, I might have listened. I might have even taken the chance to make a fool of myself in front of Malfoy and the others for the chance of becoming his friend."

He paused for a moment; then he smiled sadly at the older boy.

"But now…sorry, it's just too little, too late. And even now, I don't even know if you are speaking the truth."

Harry turned and walked to the door, where he turned on last time.

"Have a nice lunch and thank you for the talk, Adrian."

He left.

So…how do you like this long chapter? Please review and tell me!!!!

Do you know how hard it is to work with these characters?
In chapter 22, Adrian wasn't planned at all but just came into my Severus-thinking-in-his-office-scene. And in this chapter…Adrian wasn't planned (again)…strange, isn't it? He's never planned…maybe that's the reason why he always appears anyway ;)

And now Jonathan becomes more sympathetic with every scene he's in and I'm already wondering what I'm to do in later chapters, which have been planned out so nicely and now probably won't fit anymore :(

Ah, well…at least, Harry is happier^^

And I already want to thank everyone who might vote for my story at the Quibbler Awards, so thank you!!! (Voting begins on the 10th of January and ends on the 20th)

Another big thanks to handadeath for your advice. Could you write me another pm but with your mail in it? I wanted to reply but I can't send you pms :(

Thanks again to everyone reading and have a great weekend!!!


Sam :)