A Sorting and An Apology

Okay, this is the sequel you've been bugging me for. It's AU with one original character who is NOT a Mary Sue, and any comments to that effect will be laughed at and deleted. There is mild CP much later on in the story, but it is NOT a major component. Enjoy!

Harry and Severus entered the Great Hall just as all the students had been seated and were waiting for dinner. Both of them received rather odd glances, and not a few of the students were trying to figure out who the newcomer was that resembled their former potions professor so much. It had to be a relative, but who would have thought Snape had any relatives young enough to attend Hogwarts? Speculation ran rampant in swift whispers. Could the kid be a distant cousin, maybe a nephew, or perhaps a much younger brother? No one even dared to voice the probability that the boy walking by the Potion Master's side might be his son. And all of them wondered what on earth had become of Harry Potter? They had been informed by the Headmaster at the beginning of the year that Mr. Potter would no longer be attending Hogwarts, and there was no reason given as to why that was so. All the Gryffindors save for Ron and Hermione had hoped that Harry might return one day, if not this year than perhaps the next. Slytherin Draco Malfoy and his buddies were praying he remained gone.

Out of all the people who might have entered the hall right then, Snape and this quasi reflection beside him were not at all what anyone had either expected or hoped for. The Headmaster had told the students that Professor Snape was on temporary sabbatical and therefore the substitute potions teacher was Professor Horace Slughorn. Many students prayed that their strict Potions Master never returned, though others missed his exacting and thorough methods, for despite his sternness, Severus was a good teacher.

"Great, just what we need, Snape back and now he's brought along a mini Snape to spy on us," groaned Dean Thomas.

"Better start running, Neville, 'cause something tells me that little creep's gonna be on your arse every minute, just like the professor," predicted Charlie Ambrose, a fourth year.

Neville moaned and looked positively green.

"Ah, shut your mouth, Charlie!" snapped Ron. "You don't even know the bloke. Maybe he's not as bad as you think."

"Yeah, never judge a book by its cover," Hermione chimed in.

Charlie gaped at them as if they'd suddenly started speaking in tongues. "Are you two blooming cracked? He's Snape's bloody relative! Of course he's gonna be a nasty bugger. Leopards don't change their spots."

Ron rolled his eyes and Hermione cast her gaze heavenward, as if praying for the patience to endure dense idiotic Housemates who thought they knew everything.

Harry felt all the eyes on him and wished he dared to just turn around and scream at the others to quit staring at him like he was an exhibition in a freak show. He didn't think he looked all that different-he still wore his glasses, had his mum's emerald eyes, granted he was a bit taller, his face was shaped a little differently and his hair was slightly longer and a silky black, but really you could still recognize him as Harry Potter if you looked closely.

He was grateful for his father's firm hand on his arm as they made their way up to the dais where the staff was seated. Dumbledore had already informed them of the return of Severus and Harry, so they alone (besides Ron and Hermione) would not be surprised at the Headmaster's little introduction. Harry caught his godfather Remus Lupin's wink and smiled tentatively at him. McGonagall gave him a slight smile and Flitwick grinned openly, as did Hagrid. Dumbledore was already standing at the dais, though the ever-present twinkle was absent from the old wizard's eyes.

Both Harry and Severus knew why.

They reached the staff table and the Headmaster motioned for them to stand to his right. As they complied, Harry felt his stomach tighten with anticipation and nervousness. You're being ridiculous, Harry. Why should you be nervous at all? You know practically everyone here, they just don't recognize you without the glamours that made you look like James's son.

For the truth known only to the staff, Ron, Hermione, himself, and Severus was that he was not truly Harry Potter, but Harry Snape, son of Severus Snape. Harry Potter had been a ruse to fool Voldemort during the first war, a ruse that had been perpetuated by the old wizard standing next to them. A ruse that had cost both Snapes a family and happiness. It was in part because of that very thing that Harry and Severus were here.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and raised his hands for silence.

All muttering in the hall ceased abruptly.

"I apologize to you all for delaying your dinner," began the Headmaster solemnly. "However, I have several very important announcements to make. The first being the arrival of a transfer student from America."

Harry gazed at Severus, puzzled. "Transfer student, Dad? Was this how you planned to announce my return?"

But his dad looked as confused as Harry. "No, of course not. What is that old coot up to now?" he hissed to his son in an undertone.

Dumbledore continued in a slightly louder tone. "She is the niece of Professor Lupin, who also happens to be her guardian as well as her uncle. I would like you all to welcome Miss Aria Lupin of Louisiana."

There was a long pause and the students waited expectantly.

The doors remained shut.

Dumbledore coughed. "Er . . .Miss Lupin?"

Still there was no response. Several heads turned and whispered in puzzlement. Was this some kind of farce?

Beyond, in the entrance hall, a thirteen-year-old girl was nervously tearing her nails to shreds when she heard the old wizard announce her. Oh Merlin, Uncle Remmy, you promised this would be a quiet introduction, not this--this announcement in front of the whole school. He makes me sound like I'm the star attraction at a parade! She buried her face in her hands, flushing in acute embarrassment. She heard her name called again. God, oh God. Okay, Aria, just go in there and get it over with, you're the new kid, you're supposed to be stared at. Been that way you're whole life. Remember what Mom always used to say, Head up, look 'em in the eye, and never let 'em see you sweat.

Feeling marginally better from her little pep talk, though inwardly her stomach was churning, the girl took a deep breath, lifted her head proudly, and marched into the Great Hall.

At last, the doors to the Great Hall opened again, and a slight girl wearing gray pants and a soft blue cashmere sweater walked in. She was not wearing robes, and her golden-brown hair swirled over her shoulder in a sleek curtain, it was bound by a beaded headband. She was tanned and her eyes were large and a brilliant amber color, almost like an animal's eyes. Very odd, indeed.

Like a hawk's, Harry thought as he watched her walk quickly down the aisle towards the Headmaster, who was smiling at her.

Dumbledore held the Sorting Hat in one hand, he must have summoned it from his office, thought Severus. He dimly recalled Remus telling him about his older brother Rene, who traveled all over North America photographing and documenting unusual and dangerous species of magical animals, but he'd never recalled Lupin mentioning he had a niece. Then again, neither of them really were one to discuss their families much.

Severus's eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the young girl, she walked with her head up alertly. But there was no arrogance in her walk, she was simply very self-possessed. She appeared to be the same age as his son, thirteen.

Lupin was on his feet, smiling broadly at Aria, who looked up and saw. An answering smile curved her lips, and Harry felt his mouth go dry. For Aria Lupin, who was otherwise ordinary in appearance had a smile that transformed her face, and drew the eye, though she was not a classic beauty.

Harry knew he was gaping like an idiot, and tried to close his mouth. The others were eying the new student curiously, sizing her up.

Aria seemed unaware of the effect she was having on Harry and came to stand before Dumbledore.

"Welcome, Miss Lupin, to Hogwarts School. I hope you find your time here most enjoyable." He bowed low to her.

"Thank you, sir," she replied, and her voice held the soft drawl of the South, making her sound odd to those who had never heard such an accent.

"As your uncle may have mentioned, here at Hogwarts students are Sorted into one of four Houses. While you are here, Miss Lupin, your House shall be like your second home and family. Please place the Sorting Hat upon your head if you would, and let it tell you where you belong."

He held out the old battered hat to Aria, who examined it with interest before setting it on her head.

The Hat woke up then and began to sing the same song as it had in Harry's first year. Then it deliberated for a few minutes, muttering, until at last it cried out, "I know which House to put you in-better be SLYTHERIN!"

There were gasps of astonishment from the Slytherin table, and Malfoy was smirking openly. A few of the boys in Gryffindor House looked disappointed, perhaps they had been expecting her to get Sorted into Gryffindor, like her uncle.

"A very good choice, Miss Lupin," smiled Dumbledore, and he accepted the Hat from her, tucking it under his arm. "The House of the Serpent is known for its ambition and cunning as well as fortitude. You shall do well there, it seems. Might I introduce you to your new Head of House, Professor Severus Snape?"

Severus blinked, he hadn't expected Dumbledore to present him with a new student so quickly, but he came forward and shook the girl's hand, giving her a brief nod and a slight smile. "Welcome, Miss Lupin, I am sure you will be a credit to us."

"How do you do, sir?" she shook his hand firmly, scrutinizing him in turn, and Severus arched an eyebrow. Nothing shy about this one.

"I will be better once I've had supper," Severus found himself saying dryly, something about this girl sparked his more humorous side, which he did not often show to students. Then again, he was predisposed to like her because she was his best friend's niece, unprofessional as that was.

"So will I, sir," she replied honestly.

"Go and take your seat with your new Housemates," Severus ordered, indicating the Slytherin tables, beneath the green and silver serpent banner.

She nodded and turned to go, when Severus called, "One moment, Miss Lupin," and he pointed his wand and a black robe with the Slytherin crest appeared on her. He nodded in approval.

"Thank you, sir," she said, and flashed her Head of House a grateful smile.

Severus blinked, her smile reminded him of Lily's, sweet and charming. Several of the Slytherin boys were eyeing her, it had been too long since they'd seen a new girl's face, despite her odd eyes and accent. From the looks of it, Malfoy was already trying to stake a claim, convinced that his popularity, looks, and money could win him any girl on the earth, since half the girls in Slytherin fawned over him.

But to the blond boy's astonishment, Aria merely nodded politely at him before sitting down next to Millicent Bulstrode and Amber Buckley, totally blowing the Malfoy heir off.

Harry fought to keep from laughing. Ha! Guess Malfoy's not the ladies man he always thought he was, the big prat! Seeing her put Malfoy so neatly in his place made Harry smirk, at least one girl in Slytherin had some sense.

Then Dumbledore turned back to the assembled students and began to speak. "As all of you know, Professor Snape has returned and will resume his post as Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House."

There were some groans and muttering at this, but on the whole the students were silent, waiting to see what the Headmaster was going to say next.

Dumbledore gestured now to the young man standing quietly beside the Potions Master. "I know that many of you are wondering who this new student is standing here beside his . . ." here Dumbledore paused, and the students waited tensely with bated breath. ". . .father."

Gasps were heard and jaws could be seen hanging all over the hall. Snape had a son?? Who ever would have thought he came out of the dungeon long enough to go on a date, much less get married and produce a child? There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Snape had been married, he wasn't the kind to have affairs.

"However, you all know this student standing here, you simply don't realize it," Dumbledore continued smoothly.

Playing his audience like a fish on a hook, Severus thought sourly. You should have been in the theater, old man.

"He was under glamours before, to look like his stepfather, for his own protection. But now his father has removed them, and has told me that there is no longer a need for secrecy. That secrecy was due in part, to my own failing, I thought it best if he remain hidden away, but alas, I was wrong, and thus I will say to you, Severus, and you, Harry, that I am truly sorry." He had now turned to face the two next to him, and Harry was astonished to see true regret and glimmering tears in the clear blue eyes.

Severus eyed the older wizard sternly, his mouth set in a grim line. Crocodile tears, Old Meddler? Or true ones? Even so, the shedding of a few tears was not enough to totally soften the younger man's heart. His son had cried an ocean of tears on his shoulder over what this one's meddling had cost him.

"I would ask that you see that my actions were only meant to help you, Harry, I truly did want what was best for you, and I had thought hiding you with your Muggle relatives was smarter than allowing you to remain here in the wizarding world. I can say now, with deepest regret, that I was wrong, my boy. You should have remained with your father, for he could have protected you best of all. I would ask you to forgive me if you can, Harry, for I wished nothing but the best for you."

He gazed at Harry pleadingly from under the half-moon spectacles, and Harry could feel himself starting to crack. But he stiffened his resolve and said, quietly, "You regret what you did to me, sir, but what about what you did to him?" He lifted a finger and pointed it at Severus.

Dumbledore swallowed and said repentantly, "Yes, I am aware what my actions cost your father, and I can only say that I misjudged him terribly." He shifted his gaze to Severus, who quirked an eyebrow.

More drama, Headmaster? Let's hear it then, thought Snape sneeringly.

"Severus, you were always one I could trust and yet I betrayed your trust in me by taking away your son. For that I ask you to forgive me. If you can. You have always been a loyal and dependable friend to me, a bit sharp and short-tempered, to be sure, but you were never tempted into darkness, like so many of your classmates were. You were the shadow and the spy at my command and the services you rendered us were invaluable, we saved many because of you, and I am sorry the Ministry refused to recognize your great sacrifice and honor you as you deserve. It is my greatest shame that I did not either, and for that I also ask you to forgive me."

Snape cocked his head. The old wizard seemed sincere, certainly this was more than what he'd hoped for. His eyes lost some of their fire as Dumbledore continued to look at him, an odd pleading expression on his face, one that only Severus could see. In his own quiet yet flamboyant way, Albus Dumbledore was humbling himself to his former student and spy, something Severus would never have believed possible.

Until now, when he was seeing it with his own eyes.

He inclined his head a fraction, indicating that he was listening. No doubt Albus was expecting him to suddenly rush forward and embrace the old wizard, like a sentimental Gryffindor fond of Charles Dickens and all that nonsense. Words are all well and good, old man, but first I must see if you mean them before I can begin to trust you once more, and perhaps forgive you. You made this apology under duress, because Harry asked it of you, and therefore I'm not sure if you really mean it.

"Therefore I have submitted your name as a candidate for the Order of Merlin First Class, since you deserve it for your dangerous work, Professor. I have also come to the realization that nothing is more important than family over the past six months, and so it is with no further ado that I present to you the former Harry James Potter, who will now be officially known by his true identity, Harrison Remus Snape, son of Professor Severus Snape."

Dumbledore bowed and gestured to the pair, who were now the focus of over four hundred pairs of eyes, many of whom were about to fall out of their owners' heads! When they had returned from their winter recess, the students of Hogwarts had not been expecting anything like this!

To say they were shocked, amazed, and stunned, would be putting it mildly.

Thus was the tone set for the coming spring term.

Suddenly there came a loud THUD and a crash from the staff table.

Everyone stared up at the dais.

Sybill Trelawney had fainted.

I've given the students a kind of winter break at the end of Februrary, just so you know.

Well, what did you think of the apology and the new student?