The Other Side of Normal

Rating: NC17

Pairings: RL/SS, LM/SS

Warnings: Slash/Yaoi, Angst, Violence, Werewolf!Snape

Notes: There will be only vague reliance on the normal timeline for this story. Sequel to the Other Side of the Mirror.

Summary: His promise to Lily was solid. Severus Snape would raise Harry Potter as his own for better or worse.

Chapter 21

But the Knight Comes

Severus awoke in the medical bay the next afternoon. He hissed with pain and his body itched as the moon ran rampant through him. He could feel it, the impending change in the next few hours. Hoarsely, he called for Novak but the man didn't understand him enough to know what was wrong. He got Karkaroff, who immediately realized the problem.

Novak swore and yelled after Karkaroff ordered Severus to be brought back to his rooms. His wounds were still in need of tending, still dangerous, but Karkaroff shoved him off and conjured the stretcher himself. He got Severus onto it as Novak continued yelling at them, then left with more shouted curses behind them. Karkaroff's face was absolutely white.

Severus had not transformed so injured since his first time. It was frightening, wondering if this time he'd die. If this time, his body would tear apart under the strain. Karkaroff laid him down in the middle of his living room.

"Potion. Potion, it is-"

"Can't... can't brew it now," Severus interrupted through panted breath. "Ward the bedroom. Shrink everything... Get it out of there.."

Karkaroff hesitated only a moment as his eyes drew to the clock. Moonrise was earlier, this time of year.

After a moment, the man went off to clear out the bedroom. He threw the shrunken things into a corner of the living room and started casting various charms and wards he knew of. Severus instructed him in a few of his own. Then Karkaroff levitated him into the center of his cleared bedroom. Severus took Karkaroff's wand and made a few more shields and wards before tossing the wand back to him. Karkaroff backed out of the bedroom and Severus activated the wards by word. Then he laid back and waited.

The moon hit just as Severus was wondering if it ever would. He cried out and shook, body spasming as it ripped and changed. The pain was unimaginable and he felt his wounds bleed freshly as he tore healing tissues. He screamed and wept and writhed. And then blacked out as it overcame him.

The wolf awoke. He panted with small aches, then got up and tested his feet. Steady, strong. As he lifted his head and looked about, the wolf grew wary. This place smelled of him but it was wrong. Empty. Human. Anger swirled within him, a deep, gnawing thing that brought out his worst. Without thinking, the wolf attacked anything that seemed like a way out. He hissed and snarled as magics sparked around him, denying his fondest wish. He smelled humans. Small, defenseless humans. Waiting to be killed. Ripped apart. Eaten.

With mindless rage, he fought and howled and beat at every door and window, but to no avail. They were there, just beyond his reach, just waiting for him. He could smell them, hear them, almost taste them. Hot, coppery blood to spill on his tongue. The wolf bit himself in lieu of it, but his own blood sated him little. He clawed and chewed at himself, as if somehow, he'd eventually find the heady richness he searched for.

The pain only made him angrier. He threw himself into the door as it rattled, spell strengthened. Just a little more. Just a little more and he'd get through and he would hunt. He felt bone break with the force of his body against the wood, but that matter little. It healed quickly enough and he broke himself again, over and over and over...

Moonlight sang in his veins, a bewitching mix of crooning and taunting that both soothed and riled him. He sang back to her with loud howls as he continued to fight and bite, and destroy. He knew nothing of time, nor the state of his own body. It didn't matter. He was so angry...

The wolf didn't realize when resting for another try became sleeping with exhaustion. The body shifted and righted itself in sleep and the wolf grew dormant as the man rose instead.

Severus woke unable to move. He laid curled naked in the middle of his rooms, surrounded by deep claw marks and breathing deeply. His body ached, worse than he could remember waking up to before. He shivered and curled a little tighter and waiting for Karkaroff to come for him.

Finally, Karkaroff arrived. He paled at the damage to the room and the damage on Severus, eying deep gashes and welts and signs of broken bones. With a soft frown, he knelt next to Severus.

"You are there?" he asked quietly. Severus opened his eyes and looked at the man with clear exhaustion.

"Yes." He was too tired for sarcasm. Karkaroff nodded faintly and went to fetch a sheet. He conjured the stretcher again and levitated Severus onto it, draping the sheet over his naked form. Then he took him back to the infirmary.

Novak was not pleased at all. He snarled something that sounded very angry and vulgar as he directed Severus back onto a bed. Then he paused and stared a bit at the younger man's nakedness before shooting Karkaroff a very dirty look and saying something that had Karkaroff blushing with embarrassed anger. Severus was too tired to really care what was going on. Almost as soon as he was laid down again, he went back to sleep.

Almost two full days later, he woke hearing the most beautiful sound in the world. He opened his eyes and turned his head, watching as something painful unraveled from his chest.

Harry laughed, sitting in Koenig's lap as he and the old man played a board game of some sort. The boy looked good after the rather traumatic event, healthy as ever and without a mark. He was dressed in his play clothes like usual, his thick hair falling in messy waves into his face and around his ears, then curling at the nape of his neck. A right cherub.

Severus watched them. The language barrier meant very little with the game they played, some sort of card matching, and Harry babbled to Koenig while the man gave a comment or two here and there. It was rather peaceful. Suddenly, it wasn't Koenig Severus saw anymore. It was his own father, aged and happier than he'd ever been in life. He wondered if Tobias would have enjoyed being a grandfather, had life not been so cruel. Perhaps Eileen would have liked it.

He fell asleep listening to his son's laughter. When he woke again, Harry and Koenig were gone. He listened to the noises of Novak made moving around, his little grumbles and the swish of his robes against the floor. It was oddly comforting.

When he looked to the other side, he saw Jugson. She was asleep, various magical bandages still patched here and there, bruises showing easily against her pale skin. The whole side of her face was one big bruise. Novak hovered over her, reading the results of a diagnosis charm with an unhappy scowl on his face. Of course, Novak looked sour most of the time, but Severus couldn't help thinking he seemed a bit worse off.

Abruptly, the medic looked up and saw him awake.

"Snape," he greeted grimly as he stepped over to the bed. He sent off for Popovic since Karkaroff was busy, then started checking over Severus' wounds. The transfiguration teacher showed up just as lunch began and gave a sigh of relief when he saw Severus awake.

"Ah, Snape, you good?" he murmured as a greeting. Severus liked Popovic. The reedy man didn't really care one way or another what Severus acted like or that he was English. Really, all Popovic cared about was competency. They weren't friends, but he always knew where he stood with the man.

"Good enough," Severus murmured. Popovic lifted one almost invisible brow, then shook his head a bit as he drew up a chair. Novak rolled his eyes and then started speaking. Popovic listened and started translating.

Apparently, between Jugson, Koenig, and Steiner, they subdued Poitr Jugson and were going to take him in, but he managed to get free and nearly killed Jugson before Steiner managed to put him down permanently. Jugson hadn't awakened yet, since Novak had put her in a magical coma to keep her out of pain. Severus himself would be out in a few days and sore for a week or so after.

Novak paused in the narrative and scowled and puttered around the subject enough that Popovic gave him the oddest look. The medic scowled a bit more and sighed, then asked a question. Popovic stared.

"Go ahead. Translate," Severus muttered. Popovic looked a bit uncomfortable.

"Mm... He want to know... Bring you away Karkaroff was. Come back, more injure?"

Damn it. Severus sighed a little but both men were staring at him intensely now.

"Want to know... Karkaroff does to you something?"

"What?" Severus scowled. "Honestly. No. That spineless fool couldn't even button his own robes right without help."

"Severus, he being... We know like you not Karkaroff does. He being-"

"An ex-Death Eater. I know." Severus shook his head a bit. "He didn't do anything. Frankly, it's a bit of an insult to think he could."

Popovic gave him a hard look and lowered his voice. "No. He being homosexual."

Severus stopped. He stared. And then he laughed. Both Popovic and Novak stared at him as if he'd lost it. Oh. Oh this was good. He wondered if Karkaroff had any idea about what these two thought/knew about him. Either way, Severus was going to use this. He wondered how hard Karkaroff would fight to keep it secret if it were true.

Shaking his head, Severus managed somehow to make it through to them that no, Karkaroff hadn't done anything untoward to him and he was perfectly find fending off solicitations if it suited him. Popovic relayed it to Novak, who finally just snorted and that was that. Novak went on treating him and he chatted with Popovic before the man headed off to teach again, leaving Severus behind to listen to Novak mutter and putter about.

Harry came that evening on Koenig's hand. He let out a cheery cry when he saw Severus awake and climbed up to the chair beside the bed.

"Severus!" he said with a grin. "You're okay!"

"Of course I am," Severus murmured, lifting a brow. "I'm always okay."

"But...but..." Harry's face fell and he bit his lip. "But you was sleeping. For a long time."

Severus reached over and ruffled the boy's hair. "But I'm still okay, see? And I'll be back on my feet in a few days."

"You promise?" Harry murmured, lip thrust out.

"I promise, Harry."

The boy gave him a hard stare, searching his face for any hint of a lie. Then he nodded a little and settled.

"...Can we go outside then?"

"Of course. But you'll have to wear your coat."

Harry made a face. "You always make me wear coats."

"That's right. Because I'm-" Severus stopped. Koenig gave him a glance and Severus finished, "because you might get a cold."

He'd almost said "because I'm your father". It was the first time in... The first time he'd been so close to saying it. But he wasn't Harry's father. He could see James Potter too much in Harry's face to claim that. Sighing softly, Severus pushed that away and concentrated on enjoying himself with his s- with Harry.

Chapter 22

And the Battle Rages

Severus healed. The bedroom was hell to clean up, but he managed it and moved his things back into it. Harry helped, once it was safe from broken things and bits of ripped wood. He was a bit confused on why the bedroom had been cleared in the first place, but he minded well enough when Severus told him it wasn't important. Harry's curious streak would have to be unsated.

Cissienia Jugson woke up after a week long coma as her body healed from her brother's vicious attack. Severus went to see her and was rather amused at the way Novak hovered over her, all grumpy and scowling. Was it Severus' imagination or was there a flush to those freckled cheeks? Still, Novak was generally his usual self, grouch included. He wasn't all that happy when Jugson requested she and Severus speak alone, but he did give them a bit of peace. Severus stood at her bedside after she'd gestured to a chair, ignoring it.

"Why did your brother come after Harry?" Severus asked without preamble. Jugson sighed a little.

"That... It is my fault, I think," she said softly. "My brother... We've been writing letters, since I left England. We were...close, as children."

"I doubt either could agree to that now."

Jugson winced faintly, resting a hand over her chest, above bandages still healing damaged tissue. "No. No, I don't suppose we can."

Severus folded his arms over his chest. "That man called him Harry Potter. Why would he believe that?"

"Because he is." Jugson lifted her head, frowning as she met his eyes. "I've seen the scar, Snape. You can't hide that truth from me."


"Last year. When he fell. I.. Whatever magic he managed, it broke the seal you had on his forehead. I saw the scar fully."

"That couldn't have been all," Severus murmured. "The scar is coincidental."

"No it isn't." Jugson pursed her lips. "His birthday is the same as the Boy-Who-Lived. He's the right age. And I met James Potter. I can see him in that boy."

Severus' eyes narrowed at the mention of that man. The one who had stolen Lily from him. The one who'd sired the son Severus should have so that Harry would truly be his.

"Why did you reveal it?"

"I didn't mean to." Jugson swallowed, looking down as she curled her hands in the sheets. "I just mentioned that the little boy I watched had an odd scar. Poitr didn't ask anything about it. He just... He just showed up."

"Did you mention Harry's name?" Severus pressed, glaring at her.

"Once or twice, before. I... I'm very fond of Harry... And Poitr liked hearing about what I was doing..."

"Yes, he seemed quite the caring younger brother, to me."

For a moment, he thought Jugson might yell at him, but she didn't. She was quiet for a long while, hands tight in the sheets and eyes on her lap, hidden by her loose, black curls.

"Snape. I'll do everything in my power to protect that child," she murmured finally, low and quiet. "I owe him my life now. I'll even vow."

Severus scowled and glanced away. "That won't be necessary."

"Yes it will. I owe him, Snape. I... I almost got that poor boy killed..."

"He's fine."

"This time. But...but... That boy saved us from You-Know-Who. I... I kept him in my prayers since the announcement came out, years ago, to thank him for freeing my brother..." She trailed off and closed her eyes, hands sliding to curl around herself. "Not that... he let himself be freed..."

They both fell silent at that. Severus watched her as Jugson curled in on herself, looking rather more pathetic than usual. Closing his eyes, he sighed and lifted a hand to rub his temples.

"Jugson. I don't require a vow or any nonsense from you," he began before looking at her. "Neither does Harry. I will ask that from now on you keep what you have learned with the strictest confidence-"

"Of course!"

"-And that you continue to care for Harry as you have."

She stared at him, her eyes wide and surprised. "...You... You honestly trust me with his care after this...?"

"I believe you are capable." Severus lifted a brow. "Are you doubting my judgment as his caretaker?"

"No, I...I just..."

"Then either accept that as your debt or refuse it."

Jugson swallowed, continuing to stare for a few moments, then she slowly nodded. "I accept it. Thank you for trusting me, Snape."

"Make no mistake. I trust only three people in this world and none of them are you," Severus returned quietly. "The surveillance spells will be returning to my rooms. However, I do believe they are an unnecessary precaution."

She nodded, accepting that. Severus was glad she understood enough not to be angered by his words. He left her at that and dimly heard Novak speak to her before the door closed behind him. Then Severus returned to his rooms to spend the rest of Saturday with Harry.

Karkaroff was much easier to deal with after that. Severus did not keep secret his knowledge of Karkaroff's orientation and found with dark glee that the man had no idea of his own. The fact that Severus had a son seemed to seal things for the man. Karkaroff did what he could to keep Severus happy and that suited him very well. He didn't feel guilty using his knowledge to gain what he wanted. After all, he was owed it by Karkaroff anyway.

Severus tried to write Remus about the whole debacle. He began the letter over and over, but could find no way to convey things properly. He stared at his salutation and the blank space below it, giving up after a while with the vow that he would come back to it later. Later, however, was postponed through all over November and part of December. And then permanently when Lucius Malfoy appeared for a visit.

To say Severus was surprised would be an understatement. He'd had no contact at all with Lucius in over three years, except for a letter or two from Narcissa to tell him how Draco was. Severus stood still in his doorway while Lucius stared back, brows lifted and eyes half lidded with obvious uncaring.

"Are you going to let me in?" he asked with a bored tone. Severus frowned but he stepped out of the way to admit the man.

Much like his father, Lucius was aging like fine wine. He didn't look over thirty and certainly didn't look old enough to have a six year old son. For some reason, he seemed to be growing out his hair as well. It fell past his shoulders, swept back rather elegantly. Severus took this in before his eyes came to the cane held delicately in one slim hand.

"...Were you injured, Lucius?" he asked with a lifted brow as his eyes trailed over the metal snake head adorning the handle.

"So concerned with my well being?" the blond murmured with a cool smile. Severus looked at him rather seriously.

"What do you want from me?"

For a moment, Lucius just watched him with a strange intensity. Severus was suddenly glad Harry had gone out with Jugson for a walk around the forest.

"I want a great many things," Lucius replied finally as he took a step closer. Severus steeled himself not to move, even when Lucius touched his face in a mockery of tenderness. "But only a few will be granted, I think."

Severus' lips pursed. "Out with it, Lucius. I have little time for trivialities."

"You're always so very serious." Lucius sighed as he stroked Severus' cheek. "Karkaroff tells me you've done well here, though there have been a few... mishaps."

"Nothing I couldn't handle."

"Of course not. You're so very competent. Always dealing with your traumas so very deftly."

Severus managed not to wince. Lucius didn't notice.

"However... " Lucius hesitated and slid a little closer. "However, I am not like you, Severus. I cannot set aside feelings and wants and lock them away."

"What are you saying?" Severus demanded, though his voice seemed weak in his own ears as Lucius continued to stare at him with such focus.

"Leave that low-blooded fool. I'll not have you with someone who cannot protect you or your ward."

Severus' eyes widened despite himself. "Lucius, you can't be serious-"

He was cut off as a hand grabbed into his hair tightly and lips crushed against his own. Severus struggled, shoving at the other man, but Lucius didn't heed him at all. He turned them, slamming Severus back up against his own door as he continued to ravage his mouth. Severus fumbled for his wand and Lucius knocked it from his hand, twining their fingers as he pinned it up to the door as well. Finally, Severus managed to turn his head and break the contact.


"I'm not giving you a choice, Severus," the blond hissed softly against his bared throat. Severus shivered at the hot air against his skin. "Leave that damned fool. I'm taking you for myself like I should have done years ago."

"No! No, I won't-"

"If you don't, I'll kill him myself and mark my words, it will be slow and painful. I know his name now, Severus. I know where to find him."

Severus sucked in a hard breath, eyes wide. Lucius would do it, too. A Malfoy never let anything stand in the way of what they wanted. There was no way he could protect Remus as well as Harry. A shiver ran down Severus' back.

"Don't... Don't do this, Lucius. I... for once, I'm..." Happy. Content. Oh Merlin, not now...

But Lucius wouldn't budge and as he began to describe exactly what he'd do to his lover if he didn't comply, Severus closed his eyes and slowly nodded. Lucius smiled and Severus felt himself die a little inside.

Chapter 23

Until Peace Prevails

Harry noticed Severus' sullen mood. He did little things to try and make Severus happy, such as staying out of the far too interesting office and keeping his toys picked up from the living room, but to little avail. Severus didn't share his troubles, leaving the boy rather bewildered over the whats and whys and how he could fix it. He did his best.

The winter hol came upon them. Harry started to pack up a bag to take to Remus' house, but Severus stopped him from the doorway.

"We're not going to Remus this year," he said quietly. Harry stared at him.

"Why not? Is he sick?"

"No." Severus furrowed his brows tightly. "No, we... He and I... We won't be going to see him anymore. Ever."

Harry's eyes went wide and shocked. "But... But Remus is my friend!"

"I know. But we won't be seeing him again."

"No!" Harry snarled out as anger ripped through him. "I want to see Remus!"

"Harry-" Severus began.

"I want to see Remus!"

"Do not raise your voice to me, young man," Severus snapped back as his jaw tightened. "We are not seeing Remus and that is final."

"But why?!" Harry demanded, face reddening with anger. "Don't you like Remus anymore?!"

Severus went quiet. He stared at Harry as a stony look fell over his face and he bore through the pain clenched in his chest.

"That doesn't matter."

"Well I think it does. And I want to see him!"

"No." Severus folded his arms over his chest. "We're not seeing him, Harry. Never again."

Harry's hands fisted at his sides as he glared at him, eyes wet with frustrated tears. "I hate you!"

Severus felt like he'd been hit. He stared as Harry stormed up to his door and threw it shut, blocking Severus from the room and nearly catching him in the face. Severus swallowed thickly and didn't have the heart to yell at the child, even as he heard Harry throw something heavy inside.

Instead, he went to his chair and held his head in his hands. Merlin. Why was it that when he finally got stable, when life finally became fully bearable, someone came to rile things up again? He hated Lucius Malfoy. He hated him with every fiber of his being.

As a show of mild insolence, he refused to visit the manor for the hols as the pureblood requested. Malfoy had been relatively forgiving about it, but required he come for the summer instead. Severus had ripped the missive into pieces and burned them.

He sent a message that night to Remus saying he and Harry were delayed and would arrive later than thought. If he was going to end this relationship, he would do it in person and when he had his full strength.

It took over a week for Harry to decide to talk to him again. In the meantime, Jugson kept giving him the most worried looks and tried a few times to pry into things she ought not pry into, which he made very clear. She still continued to watch him with growing concern that he ignored completely.

Severus used that week to harden his heart. He reached back into years old training and constructed the old shields to hide himself behind. It felt wrong, doing this after so long, but it was necessary. He couldn't take the chance that Remus would see though him. Would refuse to accept his falsehood.

He hated himself and his own powerlessness so very, very much.

Severus left Harry in Jugson's care when he left in the middle of the hols. He said good bye to Harry but the child still wasn't speaking to him so there was no reply. Sighing softly, he left the grounds and then apparated to Hamburg into an alley near Remus' flat. Then he walked quietly to it and rang the bell.

There was a faint yell from inside and then an amount of shuffling before the door opened. Remus blinked when he saw Severus and then smiled broadly but it dropped from his face when Severus didn't return it. He glanced past the man and saw no child, face falling further.

"Severus?" he asked quietly.

"Hello, Lupin."

Remus went very still. He looked over Severus' face, eyes moving jerkily, and his face paled. "...Severus, what's wrong?"

"Isn't it customary to invite a guest in and then converse?" Severus murmured without a bit of nicety. Remus stared at him a few moments more before he drew back and let Severus in. Then he shut the door again, hand tight on the knob.

"What's wrong, Severus?"

"Quite a few things. One of which I'll dispense of right here and now. Do not call me so familiarly."

Remus turned and stared at him. "What? Severus, I think I have the right to use your bloody first name!"

"Not anymore." Severus folded his arms over his chest and gave Remus a bored, unenthused look. "We're done, Lupin. Our liaison is over."

"What? Severus, you can't be serious!"

It was almost funny to hear those words when he'd said them to Lucius not two weeks before. Severus nearly crumbled at the horror on Remus' face. His hands tightened on his forearms until it hurt.

"I'm quite serious, Lupin. I'm weary of your company. It's over. I'm leaving your bed and your pack."

"No. No, this is- Severus, who put you up to this? Why would you- why now- No!"

Severus lifted a brow. "I fail to see how it is your decision whether I keep you or not, Lupin-"

Abruptly, Severus was up against the wall with Remus pressed up against him hard. Remus' hands gripped his shoulders tightly, pressing him harder into the plaster. Idly, Severus wondered why this seemed to be the favored way of anyone trying to change his mind

"Call me by name," Remus hissed out. Severus didn't let himself feel fear or regret. He didn't let himself cave at the harried look in Remus' eyes or the faint tremble he felt in Remus' hands.

"I will call you want I like," Severus replied in the same cool, calm tone he'd been using the whole time. Remus' jaw clenched and he pressed Severus harder.

"My name, Severus. Call my name. It's not that hard. My name."


"Damn it, Severus! Don't do this to me!" Remus' voice was suddenly ragged with pain. "Don't you dare do this to me now! Not after everything I've done, everything we've worked for. Severus, I love you! I love you so much, Severus, don't do this..."

Severus almost shook. He almost broke. And then he remembered what Malfoy planned to do to this man who loved him so much. This innocent man who would have taken it, with a smile, and never regretted anything except dying. He could see the blood and hear the screams and feel the mangled body in his arms. It made him sick and it made him strong.

"There's someone else, Lupin."

Remus shuddered hard. His eyes were wide, unbelieving. He began to shake his head slowly as his fingers clenched painfully on Severus' shoulders.

"At the school. We've grown close. Harry is fond of her as well." He'd have to apologize to Jugson later for sullying her honor abstractly. "It's... more natural this way. More natural than two men, in any case. Especially with a child."

"Severus," Remus whispered so softly it could barely be heard. Severus heard his will crumbling away. He knew what to do to break it completely.

"I love her."

Severus saw the shift in Remus' eyes. He saw resolve crumble and then watched that heart lock him out completely, those eyes stop seeing him. Remus let go of him and stepped back. Severus didn't move. He couldn't, not while those empty eyes continued to bore into him.

"You love her," Remus repeated in a quiet, hoarse tone. "And Harry likes her."

"She's already a good mother to him." Another nail, painful and false, but Remus wasn't really listening anymore. Severus could see it in the way Remus' gaze slid from him and fixed at some far away point down the hall. "And will be a good wife. We're happy together, the three of us."

Remus stood in utter silence. Tiny trembles shook his hands as he gripped them tightly at his sides. His face was white but utterly blank.

"Congratulations," he said finally and then turned away.

Severus left without another word because his throat was too tight to manage. He left Hamburg and apparated, but instead of appearing again on Durmstrang's shore, he found himself in Hogsmeade. The jump tired him considerably but he didn't care. He walked up the trail to the school through days old snow and muddy slush and wasn't surprised when the wards around the school admitted him without a hiccup. The castle was warm when he entered it, but he didn't feel it. He walked the familiar halls, found himself at the statue in front of the headmaster's office, and then stared at it blankly without any idea what the password might be.

McGonagall was quite surprised when she found him there. She took his elbow but he didn't answer when she spoke to him. After a moment, she gave the password and led him into Dumbledore's office. The old man took one look at him and then had tea brought to the office. They sat in silence for a long while, Severus in front of the desk and Dumbledore behind. The tea grew cold in Severus' hands. He didn't drink a drop of it.

"I've done something irreversible and it wasn't even for me," he said finally in a daze, when it felt as if years had gone by. Dumbledore looked at him with sympathy.

"All things but death are reversible, Severus. It is simply whether or not we have the strength to face our mistakes and rectify them."

Severus was quiet for another while. When he lifted his head finally and looked at Dumbledore, he felt a numb sort of acceptance. "I'm so weak, Albus. So very weak."

"I don't believe you," was the quiet answer Severus had expected. But that made it no less false.

Chapter 24

At the End of Pages

Severus wasn't quite sure when Harry forgave him. It happened gradually as the year progressed. Harry hadn't accepted his decision, not by a long shot, but he stopped asking and he stopped pestering. Severus saw him one night staring at the pictures beside his bed and tracing Remus' face in them, and he hated himself even more.

Mid February, Jugson came up to him and slapped him across the face. Severus jerked and stared at her with complete incomprehension. What on earth had made her angry enough to strike him.

"If I didn't respect you so much, I would curse you for weeks, Snape," she snapped out, lips curling.

"What are you going on about?"

"A man accosted me on the beach," she returned with a scowl. "He wanted to know who the woman was you were involved with. I informed him that I'm the only female staff member-"

"Tell me you didn't reveal-" Severus started with dread but she lifted a hand, silencing him.

"Oh, I didn't reveal you but do not ever put me in that kind of position again. Do you understand?" Her lips twisted. "I cannot believe you used me as an excuse to dump your boyfriend. If word of anything between us, even rumor, makes it through this school, I will get you for it. I swear."

Severus had never really been afraid of Cissienia Jugson. He wasn't quite now, but lingering self-preservation made him agree with her. With a swift nod, the mad woman stormed off and left him sighing in her wake.

The rest of the year was quite a bit less eventful. When summer came, they packed their things and returned to Spinner's end, only to leave the next day for Malfoy Manor. There, Malfoy met them and lead them to the guest rooms they'd be using. Harry held Severus' hand and kept near him as he looked with wonder and faint trepidation at the rich furnishings he was so very unused to. Once they settled in, Harry and Draco Malfoy were reintroduced. Neither boy remembered the other and they were both wary, but promised to be polite. That was all Severus could really ask for. He left Harry in the playroom with Draco and the nanny, then went on to meet Malfoy for a late lunch.

There was a certain smugness on Malfoy' face that Severus hated completely. He sat down at the small, round table on one of the covered porches around the property, hands folded on his lap as he looked back at the blond man with nothing on his face.

"Oh, Severus," Malfoy murmured, resting his head on one elegant hand. "No need to look so grim."

"You've no right to impose what I can and cannot feel," Severus replied coolly, "nor what I chose to project."

Malfoy watched him through thick lashes without amusement. "No. I suppose I don't. You've done it then?"

"I've done it." He almost spat the words.

"Lovely." Malfoy leaned back in his chair, hands clasped and resting on the table. "As it should be."

Severus felt his control splinter for an instant. "I would kill you at this very moment if I could."

"Yes, I expect you would." Malfoy didn't look surprised. "I'm willing to be the object of your hatred as long as you belong to me and not some idiotic Gryffindor halfblood."

He hated that he could almost feel the collar of control around his neck with the leash tightly pulled by Malfoy' hand. He wanted to bite it, to rip free. He wanted to run. But it wasn't just his life to lose anymore. There was Harry now and there was Remus. He hadn't felt so helplessly out of control since first taking the Mark. Malfoy had something far more dangerous in his grasp. Too many secrets. Too many leashes to tether him down with.

There was an aching loss within him that didn't even feel human anymore. During the full moons, human mind or not, he howled for what he'd lost, searching for a long lost voice. A long lost scent. Warmth. It didn't hurt any less months after but he adapted. He managed it. He locked it away deep inside himself and tried with all his might to forget.

Malfoy cornered him whenever he pleased. Severus never made it easy nor did he ever fully concede to him. The wolf and his own pride didn't allow it. Malfoy would never be more than a gleeful tormentor ever again. Severus didn't let it affect him. He ignored the feelings of dread and being unclean. It wasn't the worst he'd suffered and he gave Malfoy even less mind than he'd given Avery years ago. Eventually, Malfoy would tire of him. Severus just had to hold out until the man's interests turned elsewhere once more.

Severus and Harry returned to the school in late August. Life resumed as much normalcy as it could and Severus embraced the steady, boring schedule like a drowning man took air. There was no healing, but it let him survive.

Harry grew quickly. They realized that year that he'd inherited James Potter's eyesight and he got his first pair of spectacles. He didn't much care for them, but grew used to it after a while. Severus also began, with Jugson, to teach him minor magical control exercises. His bouts of underage magic were few and far between, but tended to be spectacular enough that they needed better handling. Harry didn't much care for the meditation exercises nor the drills, but he bore through them with grim determination as well as his language lessons. Jugson had started minor German lessons with the boy in years past, working with Severus as well, but she upped their pace now to make sure Harry could converse well.

Severus also began on his magical education. When Harry eventually attended school, and he would, he wanted the boy to be ahead and to do well. Everything was theory work for now, but it would do. Harry took to some subjects with interest, such as reading about dark creatures and spectacular ways to defend himself against them, but had to be all but dragged through others, like runes and potions, unfortunately. Jugson wasn't all that surprised, with as young as Harry still was, and bade Severus to be patient with the boy.

Unfortunately, by spring, Harry had discovered Quidditch, flying, and all the rot. Severus had lost him to all the idiocy of sport, but somehow, he couldn't quite be angry about it. Instead, he sighed and for Harry's eighth birthday, got him a training broom. He could barely get the child off of it, but the broom did give Severus ample leverage to get Harry to do his work.

Severus stared at his calender often. He kept birthdays and other notes to himself there, reminders of full moons and the such. There was the faintest blue dot four days before Christmas, the day he'd ended things with Remus. He observed the day each year with solemn reverence. The day any dream of being happily loved died. But it was getting better. No less painful, simply easier to think about. Harry helped. Severus would do anything for the boy.

When Harry was nine, he approached Severus with a faintly disturbed look on his face as Severus was working on essay grading. "...Severus?"

"Yes?" Severus glanced up, lifting a brow at the unease in Harry's expression. "What's wrong?"

"Um. Nothing, I think." Harry looked down, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he itched one arm. Definitely hiding something. "I...well... I was wondering... But it's dumb."

"That remains to be seen. Please tell me what is on your mind."

Harry bit his lip. He glanced at Severus, then jerked his gaze down again as he continued to shift uncomfortably. For a while, Severus wondered if he'd ever answer. Harry could be very shy when he was unsure, boisterous as he was the rest of the time.

"Am I rude?"

Severus blinked at the blurted question. "Sometimes. Why do you ask?"

"Well... Because..." Harry chewed his lip harder, looking anywhere but Severus. "Well, 'cause I was talking to Herr Koenig and Cibor and Cibor said... He said I was being rude when I..."

"...When you what, Harry?" Severus prompted, thinking back. Cibor... Ah, one of the second years. Koenig's grand nephew if he remembered correctly.

"When... When I call you by name." Harry lifted his gaze to Severus finally. "Because I don't call you Father."

Severus stared at him a moment. He'd never thought of it as rude. Just... proper. "It's not rude, Harry. You've always called me that."

"Yeah, but..." Harry fidgeted. "But Cibor said... He said it was like I wasn't even your son, calling you by your first name like that. And I am your son. Right?"

When Severus didn't answer immediately, Harry's eyes slowly widened and grew wet. This had apparently been bothering him very deeply.

"Right?" he demanded with an edge of panic.

"Yes," Severus said as he rose from his desk and drew Harry into his arms. "Yes. You're my son. Always, Harry."

The boy relaxed a little as he slid his arms around Severus' narrow waist and buried his face against his belly. Severus sighed softly and pet his soft hair. Harry was really in need of a trim, but he'd been avoiding cutting his hair short for the last years. It fluffed to his shoulders with a hint of curl, just as messy as it had been when he was younger and it shorter. And he still had an unmanageable cowlick in the back that seemed to fit with his long, messy bangs. In a way, Severus was happy Harry hadn't cut it. He liked the feel of the soft strands through his fingers when he soothed Harry like this or tucked him in at night.

"Can I call you Father?" Harry asked softly against his belly. Severus blinked a little and felt his chest clench. He thought about James Potter and Lily, wondering if they would fault him for giving the child what he wanted. For usurping Harry for his own. He wondered if they might forgive him for wanting it.

"If you'd like to, you may," he murmured. He felt Harry's face crinkle into a smile.

"Okay." There was a pause and the tips of Harry's ears went red. "I will. Can I in front of Herr Koenig and Herr Novak? And Cissie?"

"Wherever you like." He wondered what they would think about it so suddenly. No doubt, Koenig would remember whatever conversation had started the thought in Harry's head.

"And...and when it's just us..." Harry hesitated, biting his lip. "Can I still call you Severus?"

Severus drew back and knelt down to look at Harry properly in the face. "Harry. Whatever you'd like to call me, around whomever and wherever, that is your choice. I'm happy you think so much of me to want to call me these things."

Harry flushed with pride and happiness. Severus felt warmth when he saw the glimmer in Lily's son's eyes. His son's eyes.

That spring, Novak and Jugson announced they would be marrying at the end of June. Severus felt a little blindsided until he really thought about it. Then he simply congratulated them. He attended the wedding with Harry. Although he was in his customary black, he set a rose in his lapel the same baby blue as Jugson's decorations.

The service was small. Neither Novak nor Jugson had much in the way of family anymore. Severus sat on Jugson's side of the church and watched as Harry acted as ring bearer, looking quite pleased to have such a responsibility.. Koenig's youngest granddaughter was the flower girl and kept sniffing her basked and snuffling with it as the service went on. Popovic sat at Severus' side and joked (badly) about this or that. Half way through, there was a horrible sob and all eyes went to Steiner, who blew his nose in a rather ruffly handkerchief his embarrassed wife handed over. Near by, Karkaroff gave the most uncomfortable look but the wedding went on without any further mishaps.

The reception was rather nice, an informal dinner and dance. There wasn't much dancing, really, but Jugson did drag her new husband onto the floor to sway to an old melody with a happy sigh. Severus watched them and saw the faint flush to Novak's freckled cheeks. He almost smiled.

Harry grew sleepy with a belly full of punch, chicken, and cake. He and the other children – Koenig and Kozlowski's grandchildren and Steiner's youngest, almost teenaged son – had caroused around thoroughly and Harry wasn't the only one winding down. Severus took Harry's hand, as the boy was too old to carry anymore, and led him up to bid last wishes to the happy couple.

"I'm glad you came, Snape," Jugson murmured with a brighter smile than he'd ever seen on her. "And you, Harry. You did such a good job."

Harry beamed tiredly and laughed a little when she ruffled his hair. Severus took Novak's hand.

"Good luck. May you enjoy your lives together," he murmured in rough German. He still wasn't all that great with the language, even after years of teaching in it.

Novak nodded with a tight smile that seemed to suit him. Severus had once thought the medic was like his father, grim and strict. However, he'd grown to enjoy the man's dark sense of humor and realized that most of Novak's guff was a bluff. Most Durmstrang teachers had ways of hiding their true selves.

Severus took Harry's hand again and apparated them both back to Spinner's end. They both readied themselves for sleep on their own and then Severus went on to Harry's bedroom to tuck him in. Harry was already in bed and though he was tired, the boy looked thoughtful.

"What on earth is rattling in that skull of yours?" Severus murmured as he drew the sheets up over him. Harry thought about it before answering.

"Was meine Mutter as pretty as Cissie when you married her?"

Severus paused. It was the first time in a very long while that Harry had asked anything of his mother. The boy looked at him with rapt attention. Severus sat down on the bed beside him.

"... Your mother and I were never married, Harry," he said quietly, "but she was very beautiful and I loved her very much."

Harry looked as if he might question that, but he didn't. Instead, he reached over and took Severus' hand.

"She must have been. Beautiful. I wish I'd known her."

"I wish that as well." Severus curled his fingers around Harry's smaller hand. "She... She loved you more than anything, Harry."

Harry smiled. "As much as you?"

"Hm, very likely. Maybe even more." Severus gave Harry's hand a squeeze before drawing away and standing. "Tomorrow, perhaps I can find some pictures of her for you."

Harry brightened. "I'd like that."

"Very well." Severus leaned over and kissed his forehead. "Good night, Harry."

"Good night, Father."

Severus closed the bedroom door behind him. He closed his eyes and drew a breath. Pictures. He'd find the pictures he'd kept over these long years. Harry deserved to have some part of his mother.

As he searched for them quietly, Severus remembered the warmth that flew through him every time Harry called him 'Father'. He hoped Lily and James Potter would forgive him because he didn't think he'd be able to let that go anytime soon. Perhaps never.

Severus found a photograph that wasn't Lily's. He stared at it, hands shaking faintly. When had this been taken...? He didn't remember it, nor did he remember ever seeing it before. Trembling, he traced a fingertip along the shape of his own face, almost two decades past. He must have been fifteen, maybe sixteen at the time. There was a scowl on his face and his lips muttered in what seemed like a curse or just grumbling. On the other side of the library table sat a young Remus Lupin with that fluffy, too-long and messy hair, rucked back in the 'wind-swept' style boys favored in that day. Remus was smiling like a loon, sitting backwards in a chair.

He almost destroyed it but something inside him wouldn't let it happen. Instead, he smoothed out a few wrinkles almost lovingly and stared for a very long time. When he finally looked away, he slipped the photograph into his chest pocket and continued on the search for pictures of Lily.

The photograph ended up on his dresser where it stayed thereafter.

A/N: And Normal comes to a close. But don't worry! There will be a third story soon, The Other Side of an Unbalanced Destiny. See you then!