Author's Note: Written for a Potions and Snitches fic fest to FoolishWishmaker's Cruel Reversal Challenge: "A reversed Sevitus. Harry Snape grew up with his father. His mother, Lily, died to save him from Voldemort. At the same time as Harry is trying to deal with the awful knowledge that he is destined to face Voldemort and only one of them will survive the encounter, Harry also finds out the unthinkable - Severus Snape is not his natural father!" This fic contains a direct quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, US Edition, Chapter Three: The Knight Bus.


Blurring

"Should I be expecting a death squad of your cohorts around the corner?" Lily demanded before the crack that signaled her Apparition had stopped ringing in his ears.

"No," Severus backed up, grabbing his arm self-consciously.

Her stomach wrenched. "Then why did you ask me to come?"

"I wanted to say... I just wanted to say," he stammered.

She folded her arms across her chest, resting her weight on her back foot, ready to fight or run, or something. "Spit it out then."

"I'm sorry!" he howled, eyes blank.

"You're sorry?" she thundered. "You're sorry? You made your own bed, Sev, you put yourself against everything I care about, and joined people who want me dead, and you're sorry?"

"I..."

"Shut up!" she screamed, running away from him, disgusted.

"No, wait!" Lily whirled back around, robes billowing around her. "Your friend Alice Longbottom," he whispered.

"What about her?" she snapped.

"She is pregnant, is she not?" he pressed again.

"What does that have to do with anything?" she yelled, her eyes narrowed into green slits in the lamplight.

"When is her due date?" he said urgently.

"Late July early August," she gazed up into the light, joints loose, head rolling on her neck. "What are you on about?"

Severus swallowed. "The Dark Lord-"

"Don't you dare call him that!" she spat.

"He heard a prophesy that a boy born in the end of next July will have the power to defeat him, I-"

Lily counted quickly in her head, her face bleaching underneath her sweep of red hair. "And he believes this? It could apply to anyone, Muggleborns, Muggles, anyone, why Alice's baby?"

"The prophesy says that the boy will be born to two people who has defied him three times, and the Longbottoms already have!" Severus breathed hard, trying to catch his breath and stop panting like someone being cut apart.

"And how many times have you defied him?" she scorned, her lip curling, "just this once?"

Severus' face colored almost purple with shame, and she wondered if it were for only defying his lord once or for defying him at all. "He said he'll kill him before he gets a chance, and you know he never just kills one person." He couldn't stay still, his arms swinging wildly, his whole body consumed with manic energy.

"And you think he'll go after Alice?" she gasped, then her eyes narrowed again. "Why do you care?"

He tried to explain that it being someone he knew, someone real made a difference, but the words just stuck in his throat. "I..."

Hollow-eyed, she saw that blue glow around her belly when she cast the spell that morning and what she was going to tell James that night. She could count to nine as well as anyone. "God!"

He shifted his feet, looking down, "Thank you for hearing me out." He raised his wand to Apparate away.

"Wait," she said, a sudden idea coalescing in her mind. No, it was too horrible to even think about, she couldn't, it wasn't... She had to, just in case. He dropped his wand and she sprinted over to him and threw her arms around him. "Thanks."

The purple bled out of his skin, leaving blotches behind on his chin and jaw. "Lily, I..."

She kissed his cheek warmly, her courage suddenly waning. She had no idea what she was about, none at all! "It's really good to see you again," she breathed in his ear.

"You don't know how many times I wanted to tell you I... To just leave and have you like me again," his face heated up again, but this time for a different reason.

"I didn't stop liking you," she confessed. God, she felt horrible, "I don't know why, but you're still my friend."

"I'm sorry, I..."

She put her finger against his lip. "Do you want to come home with me tonight?"

His face contorted in hatred. "I'm sure Potter-"

"Won't be around," she murmured.

He swallowed harshly as she laid her hand on the inside of his thigh. "Oh."

Just in case, she told herself again, just in case. He gazed at her as if he couldn't believe it, like she was something so wonderful, so perfect that she couldn't really be asking him, and something pooled in the bottom of her stomach. "We can go to my place," she whispered anxiously. "James is going to be out all night."

He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the lips and she let him, opening her mouth to let him in. They Apparated together, right into her bedroom. Tomorrow morning she could cry and stare at the wall and ask what she had done, she had to, but tonight, she could pretend there was nothing wrong with any of this. Everything was wrong with this.

She pushed him onto the bed, the covers poofing up over his head and then back into place and fell down on top of him, kissing him deeply. His arms came up, just to touch her.


In the next few months, when her son was born on the last day of July, to two parents who had defied Voldemort three times, she cried on James' shoulder and told him all about her night with Severus. When she said she had done a Paternity Charm already, but had really cast a glamour charm, and when she told her husband Harry was Severus', she twisted and writhed, but knew she had done the right thing. When she signed the divorce papers and moved in with Severus before James even got them back, she knew at least their son was going to live, and if James knew, he'd not mind what she had done. He was his son too.


His eyes were doing it again, sliding out of focus and then going back to normal. He threw his Dark Arts book back into his bag in frustration, his head starting to throb dully between his eyes. Sometimes his vision wouldn't go back and would become his new normal until it started slipping to even worse levels. This time when his vision faded, the words were too fuzzy for him to read.

He shook his head and slumped back against the compartment wall, blinking his eyes waiting for his vision to clear. The compartment's only other occupant, Hedwig, hooted softly in her sleep, tucked away in her cage under one of her school robes, and he could hear her rustling as she crouched low on her perch. He hadn't even gotten to London yet, and already he missed Ron, but Ron didn't get to go home for school holidays.

The train pulled into the station before his vision went back to normal. Swallowing, he heaved his trunk down onto his trolley and rolled it out of the train with Hedwig balanced precariously on top, groping with his hand ahead of him so that he knew the walls were where he thought they were. He followed the stream of students piling off the train, flicking his eyes to and fro, hoping he could fake it when he got off the train. His trunk wheels thunked down onto the platform and he rolled it towards the barrier that divided platform 9 3/4 from the Muggle world, scanning the crowd, unable to make out the faces. He slowed, breathing hard, waiting for his vision to go back to normal.

"Harry!"

Harry's head jerked, and he stopped, waiting as his father's secretary caught up with him. "You have everything?" Harry nodded. "Alright, let's go then." His father's secretary grabbed the trolley and wheeled it off the platform and out of the station. Harry followed, resisting the urge to catch hold of the man's robe. His vision wasn't that bad.

Out on the street, James stared at him impatiently until Harry fumbled his wand out of his pocket and held it out. With a shattering BANG, the Knight Bus burst into existence and ground to a halt in front of them.

"Welcome to the Knight Bus," a pimply man in a garish purple uniform with gold braid at the seams said, swallowing the ends of his words, when the bus doors hissed open, "emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this evening-"

"How much to get us to Godric's Hollow?" Harry interrupted.

"Snape's kid?" Stan staggered back against the side of the bus. "D'you 'ave your card?"

"Yeah, here," Harry rifled through his bag and resurfaced with an acid green glossy piece of plastic, passing it to the conductor. His picture smiled shyly up at Stan, and Harry gritted his teeth, knowing how awful the picture was even if he couldn't quite see it properly.

Stan handed it back after barely even glancing at it and then glanced at the earring in James' ear, but James didn't react. "Eleven Sickles, firteen if you want 'ot chocolate-"

"Blimey," James exclaimed, "I'd love to know which blockhead thought it would be a good idea to sell hot liquid on this thing."

"Er..." Stan stammered, "that'd be Ern, our driver, Ernie Prang." Ernie grunted acknowledgment.

Harry dug into his bag and pulled out the coins, thrusting them at the conductor. Stan hopped aside and into the bus to let Harry pass and helped James wrestle the trunk and Hedwig's cage up the steps. Awkwardly, Harry snatched the cage away from his father's secretary and carried it over to one of the chairs near the back of the train. Groaning faintly, Stan dragged the trunk over to him with James lifting up the back end, exasperated. He let it sink down to the floor next to his master's son and slumped down on top of it. "Why'd you have to interrupt him like that?" Harry grumbled.

The bus jerked with another loud BANG, barreling down the street. "Because if I hadn't, you'd have bought some, and I'd have to explain why you were wearing it when we got home."

"So why wasn't Dad there to pick me up?" Clinging to the chair arms, Harry leaned forward so he wouldn't have to look out the windows.

"Why didn't you just Floo home with me from his office?" James shot back, steadying Hedwig's cage over her hooting.

Harry flushed. "None of your business."

James leaned back against the bus wall. "Sick of being the headmaster's son?"

Hunching over his knees, miserably, "No."

"Wanted to ride with friends?"

"Ron has to stay at the castle," Harry muttered. "You haven't answered my question."

James looked down again, "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named called a meeting. Your father thinks he does it on the start of holidays to remind the Death Eaters he comes first, before family." His charge's face fell, and James squeezed his hand reassuringly, "but he does get the summer off this year, so he's going to come home after."

Harry dipped his head, sucking in a ragged breath.. He could see a few pioneering streaks of grey in his father's secretary's unruly hair. His own scalp started to itch in realization that his own hair was sticking up in the back the same way James' did. He flattened his hair hastily, hoping no one thought he was copying the man.

With another deafening BANG and a sharp lurch that sent Harry tumbling out of his chair and Hedwig's cage off his trunk, Godric's Hollow came into dim view through the warped windows. Grass grew amidst the burned rubble James knew was there only by memory. Among the saplings and stones, his old house stood solitary, almost disappearing inside the dozens of additions Severus had built with his new found wealth. James bit his lip and kept his face blank as the bus ground to a halt in front of the new long driveway.

"You've been with Dad for a long time, right?" Harry asked uncertainly.

"Since you were two," James replied, and then added wryly, "Just in time to change the last of your diapers." He didn't mention he had been around to change the first few too.

"So since the end of the war." James inclined his head with a self mocking smile. "Why'd he pick you? It's not like he-"

"He didn't," James rasped, hauling the trunk up onto the trolley. "He would have happily have left me to rot."

"He saved your life!" Harry said, shocked, "You were going to be executed!"

"I was under a death sentence," James gritted his teeth as he and Stan lifted the trolley and trunk over the short bus stairway. "There's a difference. Most of us were, back then. Your father didn't save me, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did, decided this was worse."

"Is it?" Harry asked softly. His feet crunched against the gravel driveway and the sound seemed unnaturally loud in the quiet summer air.

James' eyes went blank. He could see the filthy Azkaban cell, feel the needle biting into his earlobe and into the neck underneath, and the way his magic felt, smothered and tethered. Funny, he'd never felt his magic before, not consciously, but feeling it dying hurt like the needle was striking him everywhere at once. It wasn't dead, he knew, he wasn't a squib, he could still see Hogwarts, Muggle repelling charms didn't work on him, and he supposed if he could get rid of the earring it would all come rushing back, but still he felt hollow, emptied, and blind, or deaf, or unable to taste, or something very like that.

He could still feel it gasping and choking in the back of his eyes. But he forgot about it, and the memories subsided until someone brought them back. And then they had stunned him and taken him to his own house only to find out that Snape had moved in, and Voldemort had killed Lily, because obviously one of his own Death Eaters couldn't be married to a Mudblood. Snape had just looked at him and snapped at him to take a bath.

He had tried to drown himself in it.

"Do you really hate being here that much?" Harry questioned, hands twisting in his pockets.

Voldemort had given Snape James' house, James' money, James himself, James' wife... But Voldemort hadn't given Severus Lily, he had taken her away.

"It has its benefits," James answered bitterly. "I get to ride the Knight Bus for free," with the rest of the luggage.


Severus Apparated into the entrance way of his own house and stomped up the stairs to his son's bedroom, the post-Cruciatus curse tremors still wracking his body, waving a piece of parchment fiercely. "What is this?" he demanded, framed in the doorway.

Harry swallowed. "It's a letter from my Dark Arts professor," he winced, resigned.

"Do you know what it says?"

Harry licked his lips anxiously, trying to infuse his throat with some moisture. "It says I'm failing."

"Care to explain?" Severus snarled.

Harry flushed. "I can't cast the Cruciatus Curse. I lack," he quoted, "the requisite ruthlessness. I'm sorry Dad," the words tumbled out before he could stop them, "but the people they bring in just look so normal, I can't..."

Something in Severus' heart leapt, but he clamped down on it, clenching fear replacing it. It didn't matter how good, or kind, or right Harry was if he were dead. He shoved the letter into his son's face, his hand shaking so hard he almost dropped it. "Do you know what is going to happen if you can't cast it by the end of the summer?" he demanded. "Read it to me!"

The letters swam together in front of Harry's eyes in blurry blotches of black, and he blinked rapidly, hoping that maybe this time his eyes would clear back up.

But they never did. They started slipping to even worse instead. "I can't," he whispered.

"What do you mean you can't?" his father roared, "are you so deficient in intellect that you have forgotten how to read? Is your brain leaking out of your ears as we speak?"

"How can I read it when I can barely see the letters?" Harry yelled back, pushing the letter out of his face.

"What do you mean 'barely see the letters'?" Severus hissed, words soft and dangerous.

Harry's face heated and color spilled all the way down his neck. "They're fuzzy," he mumbled, "hard to make out."

"Just the letters?" Severus asked, eyes narrow.

Harry chewed his lip unhappily as his father tipped his chin up and examined his eyes to see just how unfocused they were. "Everything. And it keeps getting worse!"

"Well that would certainly explain your penmanship this last semester," Severus glowered. "And you didn't tell me about this before because..."

Harry flushed further and shook his head.

Severus bolted out of his son's room in disgust, slamming the door as he left, so hard it rattled the bars in Hedwig's cage. Grimacing, Harry opened the cage door and let her step out onto his hand. She nibbled his finger affectionately as he stroked her plumage.


"You should be lying down," James told Severus darkly, seeing him stagger into the room.

"Shut up," he snapped back, and James' teeth clicked closed.

As soon as he sank down into a chair in front of the fireplace, James darted off to get him a cup of tea and his current book, pilfering the letter from where he set it as he left. "It's not a bad thing that he can't bring himself to torture people," James offered, handing over the book and the cup.

Severus' head jerked up. "If he still cannot by the end of the summer, he will not be marked, and you know what that means," he growled. "He will lose his special status, he will be one more penniless half-blood struggling to-" he stopped and tried to shake away the weakness the Cruciatus curse left behind when it ended. "Do you know what Avery or Dolohov would do to him without the Mark?"

"I'm sure you can inspire in him the hatred necessary to cast the curse by the end of the summer," James cut in snidely, anything to take away the strange and horrifying sight of tears at the corners of his eyes, tears of fear instead of rage or physical pain, either of which would be normal, acceptable.

"It's weakness!" Severus hissed, eyes narrowing, forcing the tears to subside, "just like the weakness that put that," he jabbed his finger at the earring, "in your ear. Of course," he whispered coldly, "an unwillingness to torture someone was never your problem, was it."

James flinched.


A quiet knock on his door brought Harry out of bed. He crept over to it and turned the handle, letting it swing open on its own. "So that's why you wanted to ride the train home," James said, shaking his head. "Trying to put that off?"

Harry nodded wearily. "He called me an idiot."

James raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Well he used bigger words, but I'm not so deficient in intellect that I didn't know what he meant!" He kicked the foot of the bed and missed.

"Now that sounds more like him," James returned, sinking down onto the bed. "He doesn't really mean it; he's just worried about you. Ever since he lost the ledger and it turned up in the hands of the resistance, half of the other Death Eaters have been looking for a way to punish him."

The ledger that showed the names of all magical children eligible to attend Hogwarts had disappeared almost twelve years ago, when his father had first become headmaster. "You'd think they would've forgotten about it by now," Harry said, hugging his pillow tight against his chest, "Why does it matter anyway if a bunch of Muggleborns are still alive out in the Muggle world? They don't even know we exist."

James' heart jumped and he had to suppress a smile at the way the boy said "Muggleborn instead of Mudblood". "There are still squibs being born, so according to the Death Eaters, those kids are still stealing magic."

"But," Harry said, hands worrying the pillow case, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes, "it doesn't make sense. I mean, Mum was Muggleborn, and she wouldn't... Dad said she didn't even know what magic was until he told her."

"No, she wouldn't," James wrapped an arm around him.

"So how could she have stolen anyone's magic?" Harry cried.

"She didn't."

"So why does it matter?"

"It doesn't," James whispered, squeezing his shoulders. "They just think it does." When Harry didn't talk, James opened his mouth just to break the silence. "He's afraid of what would happen to you if you don't get marked. Three fourths of the Wizarding World serves the last fourth, and he really wants you to be part of that one fourth."

"I know that," Harry twisted around. "I do!"

"Then you know he doesn't really think you're an idiot." James patted his knee and stood up.

"Maybe they're right," Harry muttered.

"What d'you mean?" James asked sharply, turning him around to look him in the eyes.

"I mean... I'm a Pureblood, but I'm not really a Pureblood. Mum was Muggleborn, and Dad's a half-blood," Harry said, he stumbling on the words. "What if I'm just not as good as everyone else in the school?"

"Don't be ridiculous," James said fiercely, "your mum was strong. She took three of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's fingers and a big chunk out of his chest before he managed to kill her."

"Yeah, I hear the other kids saying she must have stolen three people's magic to be as good as she was," Harry smiled painfully, a note of pride in his voice.

"And your father's not bad either," James finished reluctantly.

"I guess."

"And you, kept me frighteningly busy with accidental magic before you started at Hogwarts," James teased, "strong accidental magic."

Harry smiled. "Thanks."

James peered into his face, wrinkling his brow. "Something wrong with your eyes?"

Harry suddenly looked ill. "No."

Opening his mouth to press further, James turned the boy's face to the light and Harry could see his face reflected in the man's glasses.

"Master Harry!" a high pitched voice piped in, "Master Harry!" James dropped Harry's chin hastily and glanced down at the house elf holding the heavily laden tray. The house elf shot him a dark, protective look. "I is bringing your dinner, Master Harry," he set the tray on the bed.

"Thanks Tippy," Harry replied, leaning over to pick up the tray as James swept down to pick up a bowl of boiled potatoes. "Hey, that's mine!"

James promptly stole the spoon too. "I haven't had my dinner yet either."

The house elf swatted his hand hard until James put the bowl and spoon down. "Your dinner is being in the kitchen, James," he told him irritably. James remembered when Tippy used to add a "Master" before his name too. House elves he supposed, had a very odd type of loyalty.

"Lead the way," he said briskly, and followed her out of the room. Before he left, he leaned back in, his elbows on the door frame. "We haven't finished this conversation yet," he said, and Harry threw the pillow at the door as it closed.


The next day, the optometrist showed up with a massive brown leather attaché case in one hand. Death Eaters and their families after all did not consort with half-bloods and other unsavories in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Shop keepers came to them. Harry slunk into the parlor and the man bowed to him and then to his father. With a flick of his wand, his case popped open and a crisp white paper covered in lines of letters flew into the air and hung in front of Severus' favorite armchair. "Sit down and we can get started," the man told him, eyes flicking nervously to the boy's father and back.

Harry perched on the end of the chair uneasily, gazing at the paper frozen in front of him. Absently, his father reached down and rubbed his cheek to calm him before seeing the optometrist looking and snatching his hand back. Harry wiggled self-consciously, trying to make out the letters.

Almost dropping a pair of thick-rimmed plastic glasses, the optometrist stared up at Severus, eyes wide and terrified.

Severus' lips moved, and he nodded understanding, moving off to the side. The optometrist shuddered and picked up the glasses. Frowning, Harry took them and put them on. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father's eyes widen and then narrow, head shaking with confusion.

"Oh, I forgot," the optometrist said hoarsely, picking up his wand and sweeping it over Harry's face. "You don't have anything wrong with your eyes other than myopia, no glaucoma or anything like that," he pronounced. Severus sagged into a chair, legs weak with relief. "Cover one eye, and look at the paper." Harry slipped his hand under the glass and wires and covered one eye.

Swishing his wand, the optometrist made the lens curve slightly. "Is this better," he flicked his wand, "or this?" he asked, seeming to regain his confidence once the headmaster wasn't standing over his son's shoulder and he was back to dealing with his lenses and angles.

"The second," Harry said confidently, suddenly worried his vision was going to slip away again, right in the middle of trying to get glasses.

"That one," the optometrist asked, "or this one?"

"This one," Harry mumbled. The optometrist flicked his wand over and over again and Harry picked and picked until they found the right one, and then they switched eyes and started again. By the time they finished, Harry just wanted it over, and he raced through the letters at the bottom of the page. The optometrist swept his wand over his case and then made the tiniest flicking motion with the tip. A receipt rolled out of the tip and he plucked it away and examined it carefully.

He stood the case up on the table, shaking it open until a rack with hundreds of glasses unrolled and stood up on its own. "I set them all with your prescription. All you have to do is pick one," he swallowed, glancing again at Severus, who stared back with a strange look on his face, "and then I can go."

Harry just wanted it over. He plunged his hand into the center of the rack and picked up the first pair his fingers touched, round black ones. Blinking behind them, Harry screwed up his face trying to get them to sit comfortably. The optometrist's wand bobbed gently in his hand and the glasses bent and twisted on his face until they fit Harry perfectly. At last the man stepped back and Harry stood up, wrinkling his nose wryly. "What d'you think?"

His father stared, and Harry was worried his eyes would pop out of his head. "What's wrong?"

Severus' mouth worked, but no sound came out. The optometrist stared between them wide eyed and worried, eyes drifting to the headmaster's wand. At last, forgetting the man was even there, Severus summoned his voice back. "James Potter!" he shouted, and his secretary appeared with a very surprised pop, his arms full of receipts and bills pushed between the pages of an account book, the strings of a coin purse dangling from his fingers.

Stray receipts fluttered down as James tried to catch them out of the air and shove them back into place. "Do you need something?" he asked tiredly, looking up. Suddenly his eyes bulged behind his glasses. "Oh.."

"What is it?" Harry asked, panic building. "What's going on?"

"He looks- everyone knows-" the optometrist gibbered, no longer frozen. Severus whipped around, only then remembering the man was still there, his wand out and pointing at him. "Look, I'm not going to tell anyone," the other man gasped, grabbing his case, the rack rolling up and away on its own and clutching it to his chest as if to shield himself, staring at that wand tip, expecting a jet of green light at any moment.

"Obliviate!" Severus shouted, sweeping his wand down in a sharp arch. The man's face went slack when the spell hit. "Get him out of here," he snarled at James.

James dropped the account book onto the couch, headless of the way it flopped open and bills spilled out over the seat. Grabbing the optometrist's arm, James plucked the receipt out of his fingers and steered him towards the entrance way. He cleared his throat, his head clearing once he had his orders, years of playing the diplomat for Severus, kicking in so that he didn't even have to think before he spoke, just open his mouth. "Thank you very much for coming today, sir, I'm sure Master Harry will be thrilled with his glasses." He smiled and opened the coin purse to pay the man, pushing him inexorably towards the door. The other man walked pliantly, eyes still empty, taking the money without even counting it.

As soon as the door closed on the other man, James slumped against the wall to catch his breath. He wiped his sweaty palms against his trousers, doing his best not to think, because if he thought, he would never be able to go back in. "What is taking you so long?" Severus shouted from within.

James felt his feet carry him back into the parlor. "It's not," he said slowly, "quite like looking into a mirror."

Instinctively, Harry tore the glasses off his face and tucked them into his pocket. "What's going on?" he yelled again.

Severus picked up a photograph from the side table, frowning at it, his expression growing blacker and blacker until he held the frame up level with Harry's face and looked from one to the other. The picture dropped to the couch cushions, bouncing the slightest bit. "Did you know about this?" he growled low in his throat, "was this some plan-"

"No!" James yelped, ducking back, "Why would I… Good God, why would I want you to think my kid..."

"What's going on?" Harry yelled again, his voice high and childlike. "What's all this about? He's not-" Severus jerked around and gazed at the boy, his whole face crumbling. Harry took that as his answer. "No, no, no."

He put back on his new glasses and stared at the picture his father dropped. When he turned the frame the right way, he could see his own reflection in the glass. The boy in it and the boy in the photograph were not the same one. He poked his cheek, just to assure himself he was looking at his own face, and not that of some stranger standing behind him. He never noticed. He'd been half way blind for most of the term, it wasn't like- "Why didn't anyone say anything sooner?" he demanded, the words choking off into a dull croak as he threw the photograph back onto the couch, hysteria sweeping over him. Poking his wand into his own arm, he felt the soft white glow of a Paternity Charm wash over him and two names shimmered in the air in front of him. Lily Evans and James Potter.

"It wasn't like I was looking for it!" James babbled, glancing from one to the other, unsure of which one he was supposed to be talking to.

Harry stared. "You were sleeping with my mum?" he asked, still too stunned to think clearly.

"Of course he was," Severus sneered at the man.

"Lily was married to me at the time, if you remember!" James shot back, hand reaching for the wand that hadn't been in his pocket for thirteen years.

"What!" Harry screamed.

"Why would she lie?" James whispered unevenly, "Lily never... Why'd she pick someone like you, evil, you pathetic-"

Severus' face contorted with rage. "I'm what?" he spat. "What are you?"

"I don't serve the man who murdered her!"

Severus raised his wand and pointed it directly between James' eyes, the muscles in his cheeks and chin jumping with the pressure of clenching his jaws together.

James stared down the length of that wand, swallowing carefully, fear flooding his joints, turning them to liquid. He'd gotten so good at not being on this side of the man's wand, of not pissing him off this badly. His arms hung limp when he tried to pull them up, because that would be fighting back. His legs stayed planted to the floor, off balance and bent, because that would be trying to escape. His ear throbbed as he tried to fight the enchantment, but nothing changed. He stayed frozen and defenseless, gazing back, waiting for the blow.

But none came. Severus' arm dropped. "Get out."

James fled.


Severus pulled away from the Pensieve, breathing heavily. "James Potter," he rasped.

Feeling the familiar tug behind his navel, his secretary braced himself for the landing. The office candles guttered, sending curls of smoke up to the ceiling. "What do you want me for?" he asked hesitantly.

Severus leaned against the desk, tottering unsteadily into the chair behind it. "Do you know what that is?" he asked, gesturing to the Pensieve.

James glanced at the memory inside, flinching back. "I seem to recall you forcing me to watch that one," he drawled. It was surreal, he remembered, so banal, so normal, just two people in a bed, in a very normal room with flowered wallpaper. The only thing that made it special was that it was Lily and Severus, and it was James' bed, and Severus had made him watch them having sex in the same room where he used to sleep.

"Before that," he said poisonously, but then his gaze went blank. "I know why Lily..." He passed the Pensieve to James who didn't take it. "None of it was real."

James watched the swirling thoughts, pictures of Lily and Severus under the street lamp, unwilling to enter, and unwilling to answer lest he snap Severus out of his misery and into the same sort of anger as the afternoon earlier.

"Do you remember the Longbottoms?" Severus growled, lost.

"Of course," James replied, tensing.

"They didn't die because they were in your precious Order," he murmured. "They died because I overheard a prophesy that said that a boy who was born in the end of July to parents who had defied the Dark Lord three times would be able to defeat him. He went there to kill that boy."

James watched him over the rim of the Pensieve. "What does this have to do-"

"I told her about the prophesy that night; she must have just realized she was pregnant, she even asked me how many times I had defied the Dark Lord," he said, his voice hollow. He could see the man standing across from him blinking slowly, counting.

"She always was," James added sadly, "the cleverest witch I knew."

His eyes hardened. "So you won," he snarled.

His secretary shook his head, taken aback at the non sequitur. "What?" he demanded, "I what?"

"Lily loved you, all a long, even when she was married to me." His hands clenched and unclenched on the wood of the desk.

"She's still dead!" James cried, "I'm still here, I've still had to watch my son call you his dad for the last thirteen years, and unless you're a lot less of a human being than I think you are, I will keep hearing that for the foreseeable future. Don't you dare..."

"Your son?" Severus sneered. "Hardly. I am the one who has raised him!"

"You think I haven't?" James challenged. "I don't have my own family to look after, I've been taking care of yours!"

"Nothing's going to change," he informed him coldly. "Harry-"

"What, are you going to obliviate him too?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Severus scorned, "but what do you think would happen if the Dark Lord found out there was another potential object of that prophesy? I am going to restore the glamour!"

James folded his arms across his chest, shivering at the way Severus gazed back, unblinking, hopelessly. "Whose Pensieve was that?" he asked, already knowing the answer, "before it was yours?" Anger was so much more familiar, so much more understandable.

"Dumbledore's" Severus responded, eyes flicking up in fury.

"You know," James began, holding himself rigidly straight, "I'm amazed at how much nerve you have using the man's office, his possessions, after you murdered him."

"I didn't kill him," Severus snapped, pulling the Pensieve back towards himself.

"Excuse me," James shot back sarcastically, "I forgot. You just stood back and watched as your master killed him. You're still part of his murder."

"You know nothing!"

"Did you laugh," James spat, "when he fell?"

"What was I supposed to do?" Severus roared back.

His whole body shook. "You did exactly the right thing."

"If I had fought," Severus muttered, and James had to lean low over the desk to hear him, "he still would have died, and the Order would have lost its only spy within the Dark Lord's ranks."

"You were in the Order?" James whispered, stunned.

"Of course," Severus said sullenly. "Do you think Lily would have stayed anywhere near me after she left you if I weren't?"

James smiled oddly. "That means at least part of it was real, doesn't it? She didn't have to go to anyone after she left me, she could've made it by herself. Why d'you think she chose you?"

Severus grimaced, "She knew I would say yes," he said bitterly. "I've loved her since we were children, we grew up-" he couldn't make himself go on.

"Are you still part of the resistance?" James tried to keep his voice casual.

"How do you think they got the ledger?" he asked, shaking.

"Oh," he said thoughtfully.

"Any one of those children could be another..." Lily Evans.

"Yeah, I know."


Harry sat on the couch, his legs curled up to his chest, "Dad?"

Sinking down beside him, Severus wrapped an arm around him, snatched it back awkwardly, then settled it around him again, pulling him close. "Yes."

"Oh good," Harry said uncertainly.