This story contains no slash! I hope you enjoy it and please bear in mind that only the story idea is mine! gnothi seauton - know thyself.


The boy sat on the edge his worn bed, one foot dangling down to the floor, slowly moving in circles, the other knee tucked up under his chin, his thin arms wrapped tightly around it. He was gazing out of the darkened window, where the reflection of his pale face could barely be made out. The boy had been staring for the past hour, unmoving, barely blinking, just staring at himself without emotion.

This boy was not given much to introspection, nor did he believe in becoming maudlin. The reason the window had garnered his undivided attention was much simpler than that; exactly an hour ago, when the clock struck midnight and the boy had turned fourteen, he had glanced at the window and seen a face that was not his own.

Now, an hour later, the boy's patience paid off and the face appeared again, only this time it did not fade away. The boy stood and crept cautiously over to the window, eyes wide to catch the first hint of the face disappearing. The street light outside flickered and abruptly went out. Then another, and another, and another, until the whole street was dark and the boy was left shivering and frightened, staring at a pale reflection whose only visible similarity was that it was wearing his clothes.

The shade and the boy stood and stared at each other for a minute that stretched into eternity, before the boy in the glass reached out and beckoned the other to him. The first boy tiptoed forward and reached his hand out to touch the other boy's through the glass, not understanding the meaning or the reason behind this apparition's appearance.

The child reverently traced the shade's features. First the nose, which appeared to have a slight kink in it, then the eyebrows, elegantly arching beneath his questing fingertips. Next, the mouth, the top lip thin and expressive, the sharpness belied by the full pout of the lower lip. The chin was sharp, but its jaw was well-rounded, giving the child in the window an open, eager look. The deep chocolate hair of the child, long and silky, was smoothed over as the young boy marvelled at its straightness. The fingers left the hair and slid over one high cheekbone, towards the apparition's eyes.

The boy in the glass slowly opened the long-lashed eyelids, once the exploration came to an end, having closed them while the inspection was taking place almost as though he were enjoying the attention. The first boy stood still, his breath misting the window slightly as he peered into identical, emerald green orbs.

"You're me, aren't you?" he whispered.

The reflection tilted its head slightly in acknowledgement, green eyes sparkling.

"Tell me," the boy breathed as he leaned closer to the window. "Are you happy?"

The reflection quirked its lips, before nodding again.

"Good," the boy sighed as he curled up against the window. "At least one of us is. Are your parents alive? Mine are long dead."

The brown-haired boy held up one finger before pointing at the boy in the room and holding up the finger again nodding vigorously.

"Me too? Nah, I know my parents didn't survive, I'm glad you've got one though, it must be really nice."

The brown-haired boy threw up his hands in despair before pointing at his black-haired counterpart with determination. The black-haired boy stared slightly, brows rising in amusement.

"Me," he said slowly.

The reflection nodded and pointed to itself.

"And you."

Another nod and this time the counterpart held up one finger on each hand before, slowly bringing them together.

"We're the same?" The black-haired boy laughed in amusement at the energetic nodding. Who knew having a conversation with yourself was so much fun? If the boy had known he would have tried it much sooner.

The reflection grinned at him as his quiet mirth ran its course. The boy had not had much chance for amusement in his life. A few moments later the shade rapped silently on the glass as a cue to resume to conversation. He held up one finger.

"One?"

A cradling gesture was made.

"Child, oh no, no, parent!"

A point in his direction and a gesture to encompass them both.

"What?" The child wrinkled his nose, before his eyes went wide in astonishment. "What!" he yelped as quietly as he could, whirling to face the window and pressing both hands to the glass, "You mean… I have a parent too?" Tears started in his eyes as he saw the other boy nod. "But who?"

The other boy smiled and pressed a finger to his lips for secrecy.

"No, no!" the boy cried as he beat his fists against the window. "Please! Please tell me! I have to know!" He became even more frantic as he saw his counterpart begin to fade, his own features starting to show through on the glass. "No, no, no, no! Please don't leave me, please!" the last word seemed torn from his lips. "I'm so lonely; please tell me about my family!"

Tears scorched down the black-haired child's face, making the shade's features blur and distort until he wasn't sure if the boy had gone already, leaving him staring at his own distraught face. Whimpering, he pressed his face flush against the glass.

An indefinite amount of time passed before he found the strength to lift his head. The other boy was waiting for him, a small smile lighting his face when he saw the first boy looking up.

The raven-haired teen touched the side of the other's cheek. "You will come back won't you?" A nod. "You won't leave me alone?" A feverent shake. "Will you tell me who our parent is?" A shrug.

The first boy sat back on his heels and regarded the second. "Am I supposed to find out for myself?"

This earned him the first full-blown grin he had ever seen from the other boy, causing him to scrub the remainder of the tear tracks off his face and grin back.

"So, I have to find out for myself, but that's okay, 'cos I'm good at snooping." A sly look was exchanged. "Is it someone I already know?" A nod. "So, that narrows it down a bit, but I've met quite a lot of people in my life…"

He looked at the reflection and smiled again. "Thank you for your help and especially your company, I guess you already know how lonely it gets 'round here."

The reflection nodded sadly, before pillowing its head on its hands and closing its eyes then pulling them away and waving at the first boy.

"Yeah, I'm tired too, goodnight." The other boy turned away. "Oh, and Shadow?" The boy turned back. "Happy Birthday, Harry!"

The brown-haired boy mouthed the words back at him and waved again before disappearing, leaving the first boy staring at his own scrawny reflection.

One by one, the street-lamps all flickered on again, the magic that had restrained them dissipating and restoring Privet Drive to its former orange-lit glory. Harry Potter stood at the window, staring out onto the street, marvelling at how much change each of his birthdays had brought into his life ever since he had turned eleven.

He was no longer alone and someone had wished him 'Happy Birthday' to his face for the second time in as long as he could remember. Grinning, he reached over and tickled Hedwig behind the ear as she watched him with sleepy, amber eyes. She was there because Harry had asked everyone to save his presents so he could open them when he got back to school.

At his real home, with his real family, no matter what torments each year seemed to bring, he wouldn't give Hogwarts up for the world.

He crawled back into bed and wound the blanket tightly around him, staring up at the ceiling as pleasant butterflies fluttered in his stomach. Maybe his luck was about to change. Maybe, this year, he could truly take the meaning of family a step further and get what he'd wanted for as long as he could remember.

He sighed and hummed in contentment as he drifted off to sleep, never noticing the translucent face that peeped out from the window, watching with solemn eyes as he was carried away by his dreams.

HPSSHPSSHPSS

Severus Snape sat staring thoughtfully into his fireplace currently filled with dancing, orange flames, trying to discern what indefinable feeling was keeping him from going to his bed. Superstition, to Severus, was utterly ludicrous in all its various forms, but instinct had kept him alive for many years and at this moment, Severus' instinct had all his nerves awake and jangling.

He had already contacted Albus two hours previously to confirm that nothing truly suspicious was going on, only to be met by a bemused Headmaster who was obviously in the process of getting ready for bed. After a few minutes of conversation Albus assured him that, no, nothing had happened, but that he would keep an eye out just in case.

Severus settled deeper into his chair, a little guilty that he had disturbed Albus on one of the nights he didn't need to be all things to all people, and who was now no doubt working through all the various options that could be causing Severus distress. Severus snarled and chucked his glass of Merlot into the fire, watching it explode with a satisfying smash.

If he didn't already know better, he would say that it was Potter, as the boy was almost solely responsible for all the major headaches Severus encountered during the school year. However, the boy was safely ensconced in the house of his Muggle relatives and shouldn't be able to get up to any kind of mischief at all.

Maybe it's because it's the brat's birthday, a date for chaos if ever there was one! About an hour after July the thirtieth became July the thirty-first, Severus had felt a deep tug in his belly as though he had just recalled something thoroughly unpleasant and the subsequent aftertaste of the memory had left him reeling. It would make sense if this was the source of his disquiet after the irritation he'd come across the last time he had spoken with the boy…

flashback

On the last day of the summer term Potter stayed back after class, a look of stubborn determination etched into his face. His compatriots showed no such courage, fleeing from the room as if Severus had threatened to lock them in.

Nice idea, Severus thought as he watched the Potter brat sidle closer to his desk, deterrent sneer firmly in place, Stun Potter, lock the door and make a break for it down the secret passage leading to my office. That way it wouldn't be possible for the little cretin to get into any kind of mischief over the summer…

"Why d'you do it?" That earned the boy a customised sneer.

"Why did I do what, Mr Potter? Do articulate," Severus drawled as he watched the boy draw in a deep breath…

"Tell me why you forced Professor Lupin into leaving Hogwarts! All he ever did was side with Sirius over you! Why take it out on him when Sirius was the one who escaped? You can't honestly tell me you hold him responsible for a prank he knew nothing about!" The boy's response started off as sulky, but escalated until he was fairly screeching out the last phrase, making Severus' right hand itch to discipline the boy. He had no respect for any kind of authority!

"Are you currently in the habit of questioning grown-ups' motives? Think you know better than them do you?" Severus was careful to moderate his tone, knowing his indifference and disregard for any of the matters Potter had brought up would infuriate the boy further.

"No, sir."

Severus fought to keep from smirking. The boy had evidently lost his nerve after the initial outburst; he refused to look Severus in the eye anymore and was instead studying the floor slightly to the left of his teacher, twisting his school robes ferociously between his hands.

"Then you understand you are in no position to make demands of adults, let alone with so little respect! Fifty points from Gryffindor for your blatant cheek!" Severus knew well that this would put Gryffindor behind Slytherin in the running for the House Cup. Never let it be said that Slytherins were not opportunists.

The boy paled as predicted. "But, sir… fifty points…"

"Do you wish it to be more? Get out of my sight, and don't you dare say you didn't deserve it."

An odd expression came over Potter's face and Severus watched as the little menace lifted his chin in defiance, nodded and walked out of the open classroom door without another word. Severus frowned and tried to remember precisely who made the sharp, jutting motion with their chin that Potter had executed so perfectly…

end flashback

Yes, Severus mused, a reminder of Potter would definitely explain the sense of foreboding. Anything to do with that brat was maddening in the extreme so such an aide memoire of him should be met with the appropriate disgust.

Conscience reassured Severus forced the cork into the Merlot and went to bed.