Always A Snape

It was the nightmare and the clipping from the Daily Prophet that finally caused him to make up his mind. The nightmare began the same as it always had, himself in the stone cell, surrounded by Death Eaters, wands pointed at him, ready to cast the Cruciatus Curse, holding knotted cords in their hands to beat him with. But then the dream changed and suddenly he was no longer in the cell, but watching from a distance, as the Death Eaters held, Ron, Hermione, Neil, and Mia prisoner, and did to them what had been done to him, until they lay dead on the cold stone floor.

Helpless, he watched as more prisoners were led in, Remus, Dumbledore, Hagrid, the Weasleys. All of them were tortured and died and he could not stop it.

This is the choice you made, Harry. This is what will be.

But the last was the worst. For the last and final victim was his father, Severus Snape, and him they played with before finally granting him death's sweet solace.

Harry screamed and begged, but was powerless.

And this too shall come to pass, for what ordinary wizard can stand against the might of Voldemort?

He woke with a scream still lodged in the back of his throat, his heart pounding crazily like a runaway express train. It took him several minutes to calm down, stop shaking, and go back to sleep. But his sleep was uneasy and filled with darkness.

The next morning he dragged himself out of bed and went to school. A letter from Hermione was waiting when he got home. Inside it was a clipping from the Daily Prophet. Death Eaters Target Muggle Home! Entire family killed, Aurors arrive too late to help.

Hermione had written that this had scared her so badly she wished she could go into hiding with her parents, before Death Eaters came to her home next.

It gave Harry cold chills reading that article. It begins again. Like it did last time, when Tom Riddle first came to power. The death, the killings, innocents dragged into the middle of a war they never knew existed. Who will stand up for them, if I don't? Who cares about Muggles as well as wizards as much as I do, who has both in my family, and who knows that both are needed to make the world whole? Who knows best the mind of the enemy, who was once a victim and once a champion? Me. Dad was right. Prophecy is what you interpret it to be. And I choose to interpret it as me defeating Voldemort, not as the lone hero, but as part of a team. Cooperation is a power the Dark Lord has not. And this time we 'll show the bugger what it means to mess with us, and let him dance with Reaper one final time.

Decision made, he set the letter down on his desk. Harry would return to Hogwarts, but not alone. The Chosen One would fulfill the prophecy, but on terms of his own choosing. He rose and went to go and find his father.

Severus was labeling potion bottles in his lab when Harry came in. He could tell from the determined look in the boy's eyes that Harry had finally made a decision, and therefore he wasn't surprised when the first words out of his son's mouth were, "I've decided, Dad. I have to go back to Hogwarts. I don't want to, but I have to. But I'm not going to be Dumbledore's puppet. I won't be Harry Potter the Boy Who Lived. I'll be Harry Snape, your son. And together we'll kick Voldy's ass."

"Right back to hell where he belongs, son. Spoken like a true Snape," said the father of the Chosen One. He caught his son in a fierce embrace. "I'm sorry, Harry, that you had to make this choice. I wanted so much for you to have a normal life, the one you deserved so long ago."

"I know. And I will have it, Dad. Once Voldemort's gone for good and all, I can be what I was born to be, just Harrison Remus Snape." He buried his face in his father's shoulder, inhaling the familiar odors of spices and sandalwood that was the Potion Master's unique scent.

"Yes, Harry. You'll always be that," whispered Severus, stroking the silky black hair. "What made you decide to go back?"

"It was . . .I just had to," Harry floundered. "If I don't, he'll come back stronger than before and who will fight him if I don't? They've already begun killing Muggles again, Dad, it was in the Prophet. I can't let that happen, it's not their fight, it's ours." He swallowed sharply. "I'm afraid, Dad. What if I screw up and he wins?"

"Harry," Severus hugged him hard. "You do not have to play the hero simply because Dumbledore asked you to. You're only thirteen, it shouldn't be your task to fight a madman. You can stay here and grow up a normal teenager."

But Harry was shaking his head. "I want to, Dad, you don't know how much, but I can't . . .Mum died for me, and he killed her. He deserves to pay for that."

"Harry, revenge isn't a good motive," warned Severus. "Revenge will destroy you, trust me."

"That's not the only reason I'm going back, Dad. I'm going back so her sacrifice wasn't in vain and so kids like Mia will grow up free of his shadow. Nobody should have to live in fear, in a world where a crazy wizard can kill you just for existing. Can you understand that?" he gazed earnestly at his parent, his green eyes glowing with the heat of his conviction.

"Yes. I want you to know that I'm proud of you, son, for having the courage and the determination to make such a decision, one that no child your age should have to make. It isn't even one most adults should have to make, and I wish that I could simply forbid you to do so. However, I promised you long ago that I would never control you that way, and hard as it may be, I shall keep that promise." His hold tightened about Harry, emphasizing his feelings the way mere words could not. "But you may come to me anytime for advice or whenever you need space from your irritating teenage friends or anything at all. My door is always open, day or night, for you."

Harry felt tears well up in his eyes at that last, and he sniffed hard, refusing to cry. Saviors of the wizarding world didn't cry on their father's shoulders like sentimental idiots. "Thanks, Dad," he managed to whisper, rubbing his face against his father's robe. He too wished he could be, just once, a normal kid, whose only concern was school and convincing his father to let him go to a Quidditch match. God, how he wished that! But since it was not to be, he had to face facts and deal with the cards he'd been dealt. "Will you teach me how to fight? Uncle Moony said you were an ace at Defense, even better than he was."

"I shall, child. And you won't be alone. I intend to be with you until the end, Harry, and make certain you survive and not Riddle. This I swear by all that I am."

Harry heaved a relieved sigh and leaned against his father, allowing himself to be a child once more.

For long moments they remained so, drawing strength from each other, fortifying themselves against the task they had to complete. At last they parted, and identical gleams of determination shone in their eyes.

But first they had one more obstacle to meet. They had to say goodbye.

* * * * * *

It was a difficult parting, though Severus never expected it to be easy. Mia took their leaving especially hard, crying and clinging to Harry and himself alternately, utterly desolate. Harry swore he'd return one day and so would Severus. "But we have to do this really important thing first, Mia mine," the older boy told her, kneeling down and looking her right in the eyes. "But when it's finished, we'll come back. This is our home too, you know."


"You've my wizard's oath on it, Mia Barry. And that's a promise that'll never be broken." Harry said solemnly.

"How long will you be gone?"

"I don't know. Could be months, kid. Maybe even years. But I will return."

She threw her arms about him. "I'll miss you. A lot."

"Me too," he sniffled, tears falling on her hair. Then he had an idea, something that might help ease her loneliness a little. "Tell you what. I want you to keep Rosie for me, Mia. Will you do that for me?"

She stared at him. "Oh, Harry!" she cried. "I'd love to."

"Good. Then she's yours."

"But I can't."

"Why not?"

"My daddy's allergic. And besides, you'll need her to remember me by and to keep you company when you have nightmares. She was a birthday present and you can't give away a birthday present, Harry," she informed him. "Don't you know anything?"

Harry laughed at the look she was giving him and hugged her one last time. She had the Prince generosity in full measure. "I do now, brat. Thanks for telling me." Then he smirked and wondered what Ron would say when he brought his new pet to school. A beagle at Hogwarts. Something tells me the school will never be the same. "I'll write, okay?"

"You'd better, mister," she warned. "Else I'll have Neil send you a Howler, Harrison Remus Snape."

Laughing, Harry picked her up and spun her around. "Be good, brat. You'll be a witch to be reckoned with someday. Just like the rest of us Snapes."

She smiled up at him then. And Aurelia snapped their picture.

The other partings were no less painful, but Aurelia had suspected this day would come when she heard the rumors of dark activity start up again in Britain and Europe. So she bid her nephews goodbye with a minimum of tears and lots of hugs, extracting from them a promise of her own, that they would write her as well and when their task was done, come and stay for good, since she had willed them her house.

Neil was the last person Harry said goodbye to, and it was then that he told his friend the truth about his past and who he had been. The other wizard was astonished to learn that he had made friends with the famous Harry Potter and kept babbling about what an honor it was until Harry socked him in the shoulder and yelled, "Merlin, knock it off, MacIntyre! I'm the same person I always was, don't you see?"

"No you're not. You're Harry Potter."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Big deal. So what? I'm the same Harry who played Quidditch with you, dope. The same Harry who got sick as a dog from drinking spiked punch too. Remember?" he elbowed his friend lightly in the ribs. "I'm still me, Neil, whether I'm called Harry Potter or Harry Snape. Now quit acting like an idiot and take my Nimbus."

"I can't do that!"

"You can and you will. Happy birthday."

"My birthday's not till another month!"

"So it's an early birthday present. Now shut up and take it, MacIntyre."

"Okay, Snape. No need to get all steamed. Thanks!"

"You're welcome. And next time one of Mike's dumb friends start bragging about how he's got a signed Snitch from Krum or whatever, you can tell him you've got Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000 and shut them right up."

Neil just laughed, knowing he had something even better than a broom, he had a true friend. "Want to go for one last flight? For old times' sake?"

"Sure." Harry agreed, and mounted his Meteor.

When they had enough of flying, Harry asked Neil for a favor. "I want to know if you can show me a few spells without a wand. I think it might be useful once I go back to school at Hogwarts. Certain people might not take too well to me being Sev's son, so I need to have an edge against them."

"Sure. What would you like to learn?"

They spent the rest of the day before Harry left going over several wandless hexes and jinxes and some protective spells as well, enough to give Harry an edge in a fight if he was disarmed. Afterwards, Harry thanked Neil and promised he'd write and maybe even return in the summer, if his dad permitted it. He didn't want to lose touch with Neil, who was a very good friend, the first one he'd ever had in America.

* * * * * *

On a sunny day in early March two figures in black robes could be seen walking up the path to the gates of Hogwarts School. Beside them gamboled a young tricolor beagle and overhead flew a snowy owl and a tawny one. They walked slowly and deliberately, for both of them knew the way to the castle and had no fear they would lose their way, despite the misdirection charms upon the path.

The taller of the two pushed open the gates with a tap of his wand and entered the grounds, followed by the puppy and his son. Their arrival was not greeted with any kind of fanfare or a dozen reporters snapping pictures in their faces. But on the stairs of the venerable institution waited a slightly stooped old man in flamboyant purple robes.

He smiled genially at them as they approached, his blue eyes twinkling behind his half moon glasses. "Welcome back, Harry and Severus. I trust your trip went well?"

"As well as can be expected, Headmaster," said Severus formally. He was willing to work with Dumbledore strictly on a professional level, but nothing more.

The old wizard saw this and some of the sparkle went out of his eyes. He had forgotten how long Severus could hold grudges. But perhaps the boy would be more forgiving. He turned to Harry. "I'm glad you've returned to us, my boy. You have a busy half a year ahead of you, what with classes and all. But you'll manage, you always do."

"That's right, sir," answered Harry stiffly. Then he drew himself up to his full height and said softly, "I just want you to know, sir, I didn't come back to fulfill your prophecy, or for you, I came back to save the innocent people who were drawn into this damn war, Muggles like my cousin, and if killing Riddle is what it takes to keep scum like that from killing again, I'll do it. But not as the Chosen One."

Dumbledore looked puzzled. "Whatever do you mean, Harry? You are the Chosen One, marked as such."

"Voldemort might have marked me, but that doesn't make me chosen," Harry snapped. "The Chosen One was Harry Potter. But that boy doesn't exist anymore, Professor. I am, and always will be, a Snape. Harrison RemusSnape, and that's what I want down in the record books."

"Very well, Mr. Snape. It shall be done," Albus Dumbledore said, and then he bowed to the younger wizard. "Whatever your reasons for returning, Harry, know that I am very glad you did. And I hope that you can let bygones be bygones."

Harry hesitated. He wanted to take the olive branch the Headmaster offered, but he didn't want the other to think he could be forgiven without making an apology to his father, who seemed to get overlooked once again.

"I can, if you will agree to apologize to my dad for what you did to him," Harry stated softly.

"I shall."

"Publically. In front of the whole school."

"Harry!" Severus objected. Inwardly his heart thrilled at his son's defense, but he didn't want the boy to anger the Headmaster. One should always be wary of rousing a wizard's wrath.

"Fair's fair, Dad." He turned back to the Headmaster. "Well? Those are my terms. Take it or leave it."

"Agreed." Albus said swiftly. "I see you've learned how to bargain like a Slytherin, Harry."

"Yeah, I have. Just like my dad," the boy said pointedly.

Then together the two black-robed wizards swept by the Headmaster, cloaks billowing, and entered the school, followed by Hedwig and Rosie.

Behind them, Albus Dumbledore smirked. His plan had worked perfectly. Six months ago, the man and the boy had left the school divided by old resentments and painful memories. But now they returned fully healed and a family, truly a force to be reckoned with. Voldemort would never know what hit him.

Then the Headmaster followed his two wayward students into the school. It would be an interesting rest of the year, and a future with many surprises

The End.

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