"Harry," Severus called out the back door, trying to get the young wolf's attention. "Harry, we need to leave for Hogwarts."
The large silver wolf padded reluctantly toward his pack mate.
"As a wizard, if you please," Severus said firmly, making it quite clear that there was only one proper response to his statement. He nodded approvingly as the wolf changed back into the familiar form of the boy he assumed to be his brother. He still sported the black trousers, thankfully. He really would need to convince the boy to change to fresh trousers soon, Severus thought absently.
"Why?" Harry asked petulantly.
"We have discussed this for three days," Severus said with as much patience as he could. He had already had this precise discussion countless times in the last 72 hours. "We must go back to Hogwarts—"
"Yes," Severus said for what was undoubtedly not the first time. "The white den. We must go back there to speak with the Healer. She has information for us."
This was a new question. Severus paused for a moment to process it. While he had not been trying to withhold information from Harry before now, he had not before volunteered the truth for why they were returning to Hogwarts for the afternoon. "She has run a test that will determine if we are related."
Harry scowled. "We're pack."
Severus sighed heavily. "We just want to determine how we are related," he said, careful to word it more delicately. Harry's language skills really were improving by leaps and bounds.
Harry's scowl darkened as he fought through his memories, trying to find the right word to explain their relationship. Perhaps if he could remember the stupid word they wouldn't have to go be with the other men. He couldn't come up with anything. "They hurt Silver Wolf," he finally said, deciding to stop trying to find the proper words in English and move on to his bigger concern.
"They will not hurt you," Severus said, guiding Harry through the cottage to the fireplace.
"Make me just man. Hurts."
"I will not allow them to place that spell on you again," Severus promised as soothingly as possible. "You can still be a wolf if you wish it. But you must be a wizard while we travel. It is not safe for you to attempt this as a wolf." He threw a handful of floo powder into the fireplace. "Do you remember what we discussed?" he asked, when he saw how pale Harry had turned at the sight of the green flames.
Harry gave a jerky nod.
"Just like we discussed. We will step into the flames together, and I will say our destination. Just keep hold of my hand and you will not get lost."
Harry swallowed hard. "No burn?" he asked for confirmation.
"It will not burn you." He reached down and grabbed the nervous boy's hand. "Come along. They are waiting for us." He pulled the reluctant boy into the fire and called out their destination before Harry had a chance to bolt.
Harry closed his eyes tightly as the flames swirled around them, licking at his hairless skin with an alarming, tickling sensation. Certain of his imminent demise, he clutched his pack mate's hand even tighter.
When Harry opened his eyes he was standing in a different room, surrounded by men who seemed to loom over him. He immediately transformed into his wolf form, snarling at the assembled group. Better to face the threat with claws and teeth than as a defenseless man.
"What were you thinking?" Severus hissed at Dumbledore. "Was it really necessary to have so many of you in such a small space?"
Dumbledore looked around his spacious office. He supposed to someone who was accustomed to living outdoors, it might appear small. "I apologize. I confess it did not occur to me. Perhaps we could move our meeting to the Great Hall? With the students gone the house elves have removed the tables, so it is currently the largest, empty room available inside the castle. The ceiling will likely appeal to Harry as well."
Severus nodded. "Come along, Harry," he instructed the wolf.
Harry snapped at one of the men's feet before obeying, allowing his pack mate to lead him through this strange, enormous den.
"How has the last week gone?" Albus asked Severus.
"As well as can be expected."
"Has he taken to wearing clothes with any less discomfort?" Minerva asked.
"I have not yet pushed him to wear anything aside from trousers. And he wears those around fifty percent of the time."
"That's an improvement," Remus said encouragingly. Severus wondered dourly if the man was every anything but placid and encouraging. It annoyed him to no end.
"What else have you two done?" Sirius asked, unable to fully keep the plaintive tone from his voice. He still regretted the fact that he was unable to take his godson in, and teach him what he needed to know in order to take a place in the wizarding world. Worse, it galled him that the best person for the job was Severus Snape of all people. Not to mention, he still wasn't convinced that the man hadn't raped his best friend.
"The boy responds, most of the time, to 'Harry' which is a definite improvement. His vocabulary is improving at a remarkable pace. He uses a knife with decent regularity, and has even ventured to attempt a fork – once yesterday, and twice today."
"For one meal?" Remus asked.
"No. For one bite. He has a difficult time piercing the raw meat with it, so he quickly gives up. We have not yet moved on to a spoon. He also still cannot use a glass. We have done very little else. I have focused my attention on helping him become accustomed to living among humans, to speaking English, and to understanding the psyche of wizards. He still thinks, largely, as a wolf. Finer concepts seem to go completely over his head."
"What have you planned for next week?" Minerva asked, knowing that her friend undoubtedly had at least a loose schedule planned.
"Personal hygiene," Severus said; the distaste clear.
"Has he not bathed in the last week?" Minerva asked, aghast.
"Not indoors. He is in and out of a small lake that is on the property, at least once a day. But he has not yet been introduced to soap and the other products he will need to understand how to use."
"I don't envy you that task," Remus said. "He will likely object to anything that holds any scent whatsoever. You might try Gillevry's soap – it is very mild. I have to use that when it is too close to the full moon. My senses are too sharp to stand anything else."
Severus filed the advice away for future use. Although he wouldn't thank the werewolf for his advice, he certainly wouldn't ignore it. Anything that eased the way in this process was a godsend.
He looked down at the wolf who had not strayed from his side as they proceeded through the school. He was staying remarkably calm, although it was clear that he was on edge. The moving staircases and the talking pictures were unnerving the young wolf. Nothing like this existed at Snape Cottage, and he had had no prior exposure to this sort of magical artifact. Severus reached down and ran his hand through the silver fur, trying to calm him. "Almost there, Harry," he said quietly.
Down another flight of stairs and through another long hall and they had reached the Great Hall. Albus spelled the doors wide open. "Here we are," he said cheerfully. "Perhaps I should conjure a few chairs?" he asked, although he had already created seven seats without waiting for confirmation.
Severus cocked an eyebrow at the seventh seat, before he let it pass without comment. Who knew, perhaps Harry would decide to use the seat after all.
"Are you prepared to release your findings, Madame Pomfrey?" Albus asked, sitting back in a gaudy purple and gold armchair. Harry ignored the additional chair and lay down next to his pack mate's seat, his eyes watching the circle of men warily.
Poppy nodded. "The results of the lineage test lock themselves until all members in question are present. Now that I have both Severus and London, they can review them together. I am afraid that I will need Harry to be a wizard for this," she said apologetically to Severus.
"The boy needs to grow accustomed to this form, it is no matter," he said to her. "Harry, please change into a wizard," he said firmly.
Harry growled irritably and rolled lazily underneath Sev'us's chair. That'd show him.
Severus sighed impatiently and stood up to get a better look at the wolf. He knew that the boy had a much harder time denying him his requests when he looked him in the eye. "Now," he said firmly, locking eyes with the green and gold eyes of the wolf.
Harry huffed irritably, but he crawled out from underneath the large chair and changed forms. He narrowed his eyes at his pack mate. "Har-e does not like white den, Sev'us," he said firmly.
"Be that as it may, Healer Pomfrey has requested that you continue our meeting as a wizard."
Harry sniffed irritably and looked around the large room curiously. The other witches and wizards studied him just as curiously, each of them fascinated by the young man standing before them. His vocabulary had improved greatly in the last week, and although he had some obvious difficulty with the potion master's name, he had done remarkably well.
They watched in amusement as his gaze turned toward the ceiling. This would likely be the wild boy's favorite room in the castle, with the spectacular view of the afternoon sky. Birds could even be seen flying above the eaves, and occasionally falling leaves would be pulled high enough by the strong wind to be seen above the Great Hall.
Harry scented the room carefully, growing more and more alarmed as he could not detect any of the scents that his eyes told him should be present. "Sev'us," he called out nervously, his eyes flicking around the room quickly.
"It is just an illusion," Severus said soothingly. "The roof is charmed to show what is outside."
"Wrong, wrong," Harry muttered. "Air is wrong." He started unconsciously pulling magic toward him, gathering it slowly and steadily.
He was growing more agitated by the minute. "For Merlin's sake, Albus," Minerva snapped. "Get rid of the damn illusion."
"I am afraid that is impossible, Minerva," Albus said softly. "This is old magic, and I am wary of tearing it apart. It would take months to replicate the illusion."
"Calm down, Harry," Severus said, realizing how much magic the young man was amassing. He doubted the young man could retain control over the power much longer. "You must be calm. We will go outside soon. Calm down."
Harry released the magic with one primal pulse, his hair standing on end as the magic tore through the room, ripping the complex illusion from the ceiling as though it were paper. He shuddered as the power left him, draining him nearly completely. He looked up at the now-visibly-wooden rafters and sighed in contentment. Things looked as they should now. The world was right again.
The professors stared at him, gap mouthed. "I suppose I know what the rest of my summer will be spent doing," Albus said dryly.
Severus slumped back into his armchair, his head resting in his hand. "I will assist with the research. Surely the illusion cannot be that difficult to replicate."
Harry stood slightly outside of the circle of professors, still studying the room. He turned slowly, taking in the large dimensions of the chamber.
"Are you ready to proceed, gentlemen?" Poppy asked. At Severus' firm nod, she pulled out the thick stack of paperwork that was magically bound together. "I will need both of you to place your hands on the paper at the same time. It will read your magical signatures and will unlock. You may review the findings first," she said with a smile, knowing how intensely private the potions master was. She was certain that finding out such private information in a group like this was killing him.
"Come here, Harry," Severus said, gesturing to the young man. "Did you hear Poppy's instructions?"
Harry stood slightly behind his pack mate's chair, unwilling to enter the ring of men. Only a fool would do such a thing willingly.
Severus could tell that this was as good as it was going to get. "The findings?" he asked Poppy, holding out his hands to accept the thick packet of papers. She set them in his hands gently, and Severus sat back in the chair. He set his hand on the top page, and watched with a thudding heart as Harry set his own, smaller hand next to it.
A flash of light indicated that the report would now be accessible. Severus opened the cover slowly, almost scared to see what was underneath. He forced his hand steady, and opened the cover all the way.
The top page blared the results all too clearly:
Severus Anthony Snape, son of Serena Snape and Silvestus Snape
Harry James Potter, son of Lily Potter and Silvestus Snape
Severus swallowed thickly. "May we have a moment?" he asked the group, pleased to find that his voice remained steady.
"Of course, my dear boy," Albus said, gathering the other witches and wizards and stepping to the back of the Great Hall to give Severus and Harry some privacy.
Severus closed the cover of the report and tapped it with his index finger a few times to gather his thoughts. "You were right," he finally said to the boy—to his brother, he mentally corrected himself.
Harry cocked his head in a manner reminiscent of a wolf, clearly confused.
Severus sighed. He pulled out his wand and spelled one of the other chairs closer to his own, the arms nearly touching. "Please sit down," he said, unable to have this discussion with the boy looming behind him. He needed to make sure that he understood what was being said, and for that he needed to look his brother in the eye.
Harry watched the group at the other end of the hall for a moment, obviously trying to determine how much of a threat they were. After a long moment, he moved around to take a seat in the armchair, curling up in the chair as best as he could. He still didn't understand the appeal.
Severus waited until he was situated. "Poppy ran some tests," he reminded Harry, "to determine how exactly we are related. She has discovered that we are brothers."
Harry looked at him blankly, trying to place the word.
"We both had the same father," Severus elaborated.
Harry understood that word. "Where?"
"He is…deceased," Severus said, unwilling to enter into the specifics at this point.
"Like our human mother and Silver Moon," Harry said.
Severus shifted uncomfortably. This was where the situation would get a bit more difficult. "We did not have the same mother," he said quietly.
"Ah. First mate died, so father take new mate?"
"No. My mother was still living…" Severus trailed off, uncertain how much information he should give the young man.
"How is this possible?" Harry scowled. "Is this the way of men? Many mates?"
Severus shook his head. He knew he had better explain more. Stopping now, or trying to end the string of questions would only result in more confusion. The boy needed to know sooner or later. "Our father raped your mother."
"What is this rape?" Harry asked curiously.
"You mother, Lily Potter, was married…mated to another man," he said slowly, using words his brother used to ensure that he would understand. "Our father took her away from her mate and forced her to mate with him."
Harry's scowl darkened. "Men do this?" he asked incredulously.
"Unfortunately, it does happen, all too often," Severus said, more to himself than anything else. "Lily was a small woman. Our father was large, and he knew too much black magic…evil tricks" he said, recalling the word that Harry had used to describe magic, "to be defeated by her light magic spells. He was willing to damn his soul to have access to the darkest of magic. She was not, and he knew that all too well. She didn't stand a chance," he muttered.
Harry shifted in his seat, clearly uncomfortable with this revelation about humans. "Good alphas protect others in pack. No hunting of small wolves…men," he amended.
"You're right," Severus said quietly. "Access to strength or power is no excuse to abuse it. Our father was not a good man." He looked Harry in the eye. "He abused his position terribly. He was not a good alpha."
Harry kicked his leg against the seat irritably. He hated nothing more than alphas who abused their power. And an alpha who not only abused his power, but who took another wolf's mate from him? It was unthinkable. He had never heard of such a thing. To think that his own father was such a creature…"We go hunting now, yes?" he asked hopefully.
Severus looked down at his brother. It had been a lot to learn, and a lot of new ideas for the poor boy to process. He undoubtedly needed a return to the familiar, at least for a few hours, in order to regroup. "That sounds perfect," he said, standing up. "We need to tell the other wizards where we are going."
Harry moved in behind his brother and walked closer to the group.
"Harry had requested some free time, to go hunting and burn off some energy," Severus said calmly. "I will escort him into the forest to ensure he is safe. There are not many creatures in the forest who would dare attack a wolf, this close to the school."
Albus nodded, trying to catch a glimpse of the young man. Harry peeked out from behind Severus' arm and met his eyes for a brief moment before moving away. "Is good time for hunt," he said to Severus, anxious to get outdoors.
Severus simply nodded and started leading the boy toward the doors.
"May we examine the results, Severus?" Albus asked before they had moved more than ten feet.
Severus gave a harsh nod and did not turn back. "Let's go," he said quietly to his brother. Harry slipped into his wolf form and ran ahead eagerly, turning around every few moments to urge Sev'us to hurry up.