A/N: By having clicked on the link to this story, I'm assuming you want to read it. However, if it's not to your taste, you really don't have to continue reading. So constructive criticism instead of flames would be appreciated. If you find something you don't like, telling me how to improve on it would be great. I hope you like this one just as much as the last!
Summary: After spending the summer with Snape - and discovering that he is his father! - Harry must now return to Hogwarts. However, Voldemort's continued attempts to gain control of wizarding Britain, coupled with his own rocky relationship with Snape makes the new term more difficult than Harry would have liked. Besides, whatever happened to Shadow, anyway? And will he find Harry again?
Shouts and the sharp whistle of a steam train woke Harry from his light doze. He sleepily blinked his lids open, only to flinch as he found himself staring into a pair of wide, green eyes that were identical to his own. After a moment, he shook his head in disgust.
A reflection, only a reflection.
Harry sighed and pressed his face against the glass, staring out onto the well-crowded platform filled with excited children and anxious mothers. From within the compartment, the noise was somewhat muted, but it was still close to a cacophony. There were plenty of families that Harry recognised, but none that recognised him; their eyes slid over him as if he did not exist.
That was just fine with Harry.
Despite the rapidly filling train, no one had entered Harry's compartment. After all, what student in their right mind would want to go into a compartment with a fourteen year old boy no one's seen before? Who knows, he could be dangerous! Harry chuckled wryly and practised a scowl on a group of second years hanging outside the door. They squeaked and ran as fast as their legs would carry them.
Harry chuckled again. Not being 'Harry Potter' was blissful. He had already decided to find his friends later and fill them in during the journey, but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy these few minutes of complete anonymity.
With a jolt and a hiss of steam, the train started moving, banging Harry's unprepared head against the window. He cursed and rubbed the sore spot, looking up just in time to see the compartment door slide open.
"Excuse me, but have you seen a boy with messy hair and round glasses? He's my friend and I can't find him anywhere."
Quickly turning back to face the window, Harry broke into a huge grin upon hearing Hermione's bossy tones echoing from the doorway. Until now, he hadn't realised how terribly he'd missed her.
Turning back, he took in her familiar form; straight-backed, hands on hips, and a determined expression. She also seemed to have grown a couple of inches over the summer.
Harry craned his neck, careful to obscure his face with his newly long hair, and caught sight of a nervous Ron shuffling anxiously behind her – honestly, doesn't he ever stop growing? – and there beside him was Neville, holding Trevor in a stranglehold. Bringing up the rear, Ginny looked just as worried as her brother, but at the same time, very determined.
Harry's stomach swooped. He really had missed them all, and the fact that they were worried about him meant more than he could say, but suddenly he couldn't resist the urge to have a little fun with them before he re-introduced himself.
Putting on his most polite expression, he turned to face them for the first time. "No, I haven't seen anyone like that around." Well, it's true after all! "But you're welcome to share my compartment if you like. Your friend's bound to come looking for you eventually."
Despite his purposeful deception, Harry was shocked at how much like his lost brother he sounded. Everything, from the pitch of his voice, to its inflection almost made him glance around himself just in case. At times, Harry was quite annoyed with his new voice. It was a reminder of things he would rather not think about. Besides, on a more superficial level, his old voice had just been beginning to drop; now he was back to square one again!
Hermione bit her lip and glanced at her companions, before finally nodding and accepting Harry's invitation.
"Hello, I'm Hermione Granger," she said clearly, sitting down across from Harry and sticking her hand right in front of his nose. "I haven't seen you before; you must be new here. Are you coming into our year? We'll be Fourth Years this year."
"Yes," an amused smiled curled Harry's lips, "yes, I am. I'm Harry, by the way."
"Nice to meet you," Hermione said with a smile and Harry almost laughed when she didn't immediately put two and two together. "We haven't had any new students that aren't First Years before, but I've read about it happening in 'Hogwarts: A History.' Have you read that book?"
It occurred to Harry that Hermione didn't handle meeting new people well. She had covered up her nervousness with questions and her insatiable thirst to learn, but the apprehension was still present in her pushy tone. It was probably why she'd found it so hard to make friends during her first year at Hogwarts. Harry glanced at the other three in the room; they were all watching him warily and only Ginny had had the guts to sit down beside him. Now that certainly made a difference from her usual embarrassment.
He quickly diverted his attention back to Hermione when he realised he'd been silent for too long.
"No, I haven't read it, but a good friend of mine keeps telling me I should." This is getting weird. I'm lying while telling the complete truth! It must be Snape's fault.
Hermione nodded vigorously. "You really should. It's fascinating!"
She was going to say more, but someone else cut in.
"Hermione, be careful not to scare him too much. I'm Ron, Ron Weasley."
Harry turned to smile at Ron, who also extended a hand, apparently over his momentary shyness. Harry reached out his own, momentarily shocked at how dwarfed his hand was by Ron's.
"You'd better be careful with this one." He jerked his head at Hermione. "Unless you watch it, she's going to go off into an hour-long lecture about the latest book she's been reading."
Hermione huffed and tried to smack Ron on the arm, but he dodged out of reach. Harry's smile widened as he felt the familiar rhythms of school settle around him. It was such a relief to be going back to Hogwarts. Spending the summer with Snape had really opened his eyes to how great the holiday could be, but he still found it hard to completely relax around the man. It was easy to throw himself into his new relationship with his father when he was depending on it to distract him from his guilt over Shadow, but it was another thing entirely to consider it on its own.
Had Snape's discovery of their true relationship not come at the cost of losing Shadow, Harry was willing to admit he would have avoided the man like the Plague. But if Shadow had been there, Harry might have had the confidence to talk to Snape anyway... Harry shook his head. It was all so confusing. How did my entire life turn upside down, while somehow managing to remain the same? Now that I'm on my way back to Hogwarts, it's as if nothing happened at all... apart from the fact that none of my friends seem to recognise me.
It was because of this thought that Harry decided to end the deception; he'd had his fun, but he wanted his friends back. Besides, Neville was starting to squint oddly at his forehead.
"So," Harry flexed his fingers casually before pushing the hair away from his brow, revealing his scar to the world, "speaking of the new term; can I have my presents yet?"
There was complete and utter silence, which was only broken by the quiet croak and flop of Trevor escaping Neville's grip. Then...
He suddenly found himself being hugged tightly by Hermione; Ron was staring, gobsmacked, while his face was slowly morphing into a delighted grin; Neville was crawling around on the floor, looking for Trevor, while every once in a while popping his head up and smiling at Harry while muttering "I knew it. I knew it!"; and Ginny had flushed bright red, her shy smile lighting up her entire face.
Harry both grinned and hugged back, overwhelmed by the fact that he was finally back in a world he understood; back where he belonged.
"Wait a minute." Harry glanced up, surprised by Ron's sudden frown. "How do we know it's really him?" He jerked his thumb at Harry. "After all, the Ministry was attacked by Death Eaters. How do we know this isn't a hoax?"
Hermione suddenly gave Harry a horrified look and pulled her arms from around him as though scalded. She swiftly retreated to the other side of the small space, looking like she wanted to duck behind Ron. Harry slowly realised that both Neville and Ginny had their wands trained on him.
He swallowed and licked his suddenly dry lips as his magical core flared instinctively in reaction to the perceived threat. "It is me," he said quietly, pulling a strand of power out from his core and infusing into his skin for emergency protection. It didn't feel as strong as he thought it should.
"Err, in the Shrieking Shack at the end of last term..." He trailed off, abruptly realising that Neville and Ginny hadn't been there. Still, it was the best example he could come up with. He carried on, lowering his voice so the other two couldn't hear, "Ron; you, Hermione and I simultaneously cast Expelliarmus and knocked Snape out. You had a broken leg because of Padfoot."
He didn't dare say anymore, even though Ginny and Neville didn't seem to have heard, and were looking miffed because of it. Thankfully, it was enough for Ron and Hermione; their grins had returned and they were looking at him with barely concealed relief.
"Don't worry," Hermione told the other two, cheerfully. "It's him; it's just the things he was saying were... erm... personal."
Neville still looked put out, but Ginny just looked relieved; until she started blushing again, of course. Cheeks flaming, she leaned over and pecked him on the cheek before squeaking something about seeing her friends and rushing out.
Surprised by her bravery, Harry couldn't think of anything to say for several minutes, neither, he realised, could anyone else. He smiled; Ginny was sweet and he couldn't help feel protective of her, but he did hope her crush on him wouldn't get too out of hand in the coming term. After all, his life had already been pulled inside out as it was.
"Umm, guys... There's something I need to tell you." One by one, his friends pulled themselves out of their shocked surprise.
"Go on, Harry," Hermione prompted gently.
"Well, umm." Harry jumped up and climbed onto the seat, reaching for his trunk and whispering, "Aconite," at it. The lock clicked and the lid opened a little way. Harry hesitated for a brief second. Should I really be showing them this? After all, it isn't really mine. Strengthening his resolve, he reached in and pulled out a large, leather-bound book.
Agony rippled through his chest as he stared down at the dark brown leather cover. He couldn't help but remember that the last time that he'd read this book, Shadow had been with him, urging him to read on and exclaiming in awe over its contents.
Now Shadow was gone and Harry was forcing himself to blink back the sudden tears clouding his vision. This was the reason he hadn't looked at it too closely when he'd sneaked it out of Snape's library for the second time. He'd been very glad that Snape hadn't caught him scrambling about on the shelves that time around.
But now his friends were waiting and Harry didn't want to put this conversation off any longer than necessary. He pushed his grief down deep; deep enough that it wouldn't be able to affect him anymore, he hoped. What you can't feel won't hurt you, will it?
Sighing, he slowly climbed down from the carriage's seat and turned to face his friends, the Inheritance book of the Prince line held tightly in his hands.
Severus could not believe it; it was inconceivable. The audacity of the action was completely at odds with how he thought his new son would act. In fact, an act of this nature was more suited to James Potter's spawn than an heir to the line of Prince.
He ground his teeth and cursed himself for being so soft on the boy during the summer; obviously he'd become complacent in not enforcing discipline while his son had been grieving. The boy had probably been waiting for the first opportunity of Severus' attention being divided before pulling this arrogant, selfish stunt.
Severus slammed the old box of ebony wood closed and Levitated it back onto its shelf. He almost couldn't quite wrap his mind around the fact that Harry had stolen one of his possessions, but the evidence of the empty box was glaring him in the face. Only he and Harry had had access to the library for the whole summer and Severus hadn't opened that box for twenty-five years.
His teeth began to protest the harsh treatment but he didn't relax his jaw. That child was going to pay. No matter how he had been treated in his previous family – if you could call it that – no matter who he had lost in the past month, Harry had to learn that he did not steal.
It's not like I wouldn't have given it to him if he'd asked me to! Severus outraged thoughts were twisting through his head, rather like his newly released magic was twisting in his chest. It's as much part of his heritage as it is mine; I would have showed him if he'd had the inclination to behave like the human he is rather than an uneducated savage. No, worse than a savage: a deceitful little liar.
Severus winced at his own thoughts. Becoming a spy and being forced to lie about your every move made other people's deception a sore spot. It made you think back over your past actions and wonder how deep other people's lies were compared to yours.
But this was Harry.
He took a deep breath. Now was not the time to let rage have precedence. The last time he had let his temper get the better of him concerning the boy, he had traumatised him. Now was the time to think over his actions and Harry's for what they might have been over the summer. Now was the time to think carefully about how to show Harry what he had done wrong like a real parent would.
Conjuring a glass of Merlot, Severus sat down on the library's couch, pondering briefly that if the child's intentions had been to turn him to alcohol, then that plan was certainly succeeding.