The Hammer Falls
Lunch in the Great Hall was just winding down, but the majority of students still had not left. Owl posts were finally allowed in and out of the castle again and many of the outgoing posts from the morning were already receiving replies.
"Severus—it would seem as if you have become somewhat of a celebrity," Minerva mocked. Or at least Severus thought she did. Sometimes, it was hard to tell with the old cat. "I think you have more personal posts in that stack than I've ever seen you receive in all of your years here," she noted as she perused a letter from some unknown sender that Severus did not care to ask about.
Without even bothering to turn towards her, Severus' eyes cut a nasty glare at his colleague as he continued to check his posts for curses before touching them. Minerva was exaggerating, as always. He only had six letters; with the exception of two, all were from his former Death Eater colleagues.
It was the exception that caught his attention and made his heart jump. It was from the Ministry of Magic's Bureau of Vital Statistics. Severus eagerly opened the letter and schooled his features so not to look like a five-year-old on Christmas morning.
It was here. It only needed two signatures to become official.
They were both from the Ministry. The first was a letter that would officially change Harry's name from Harry James Potter to Harold Severus Snape once it was signed by himself and Harry. Severus thought hard on the name and what it meant. He knew it was the name chosen by Lily, but as Severus contemplated past events, he thought something was missing. After all, he was Harry's father. He should have a say in his son's name, too. Without a thought of regret for what he was about to do, Severus pulled a self-inking quill from inside the chest pocket of his robe. He quickly scratched one correction before carefully rolling up the parchment. He hoped Harry would approve. Severus was sure he would.
The second letter was a copy Harry's revised birth record, officially recognizing Severus Tobias Snape as Harry's father. Severus knew that somewhere in Heaven, Lily was very happy right now. Their son was now who he was born to be.
It was all Severus could do to keep from jumping up and rejoicing in front of everyone there in the Great Hall. However, the only outward sign of joy he showed was the smile that crept into his eyes.
"Good news, Severus?" Filius asked from Severus' right. Apparently Flitwick was the first to see his change in demeanour.
Severus cleared his throat before he answered. He did not want to sound like an overexcited teenager. "It is only Harry's revised birth record," he said as he carefully rolled the second parchment, at least managing to sound calmer than he actually felt.
"Only!" cried Minerva. "This calls for a celebration, Severus. Harry will be so pleased."
Severus shook his head. "I appreciate your show of support, as does Harry as well. But right now he is still in no shape for a party."
Severus rolled his eyes at Minerva's look of disappointment. "Rest assured we will quietly recognize the occasion."
Severus thought about the bottles of wine he had brought from his cellar at the manor. This was special enough to allow Harry his first glass of wine to toast the occasion. He had brought two of his best wines in anticipation of this very day. One was for himself and Harry, the other he would give to Albus to share with the faculty in private at a later time.
With only fifteen minutes left for lunch, Severus decided that there would not be enough time to go down to their chamber and properly give Harry the good news. Not if he was going to get to his temporary classroom on time. So he sighed his disappointment and opted to open one of the letters from his former colleagues.
The letter he opened was from Ian Nott.
I have been meaning to contact you for several days now, but caution has stayed my hand. However, my son's recent post has given me reason to forgo my previous caution and I now reach out to you in desperation.
In light of recent events, it is evident where your loyalties lie and I do not fear retribution from revealing my own loyalties and fears to you.
Is it true? Does the Dark Lord expect us to sacrifice our children to him in order to further his own megalomaniacal agenda?
I have oft regretted the pledge of servitude I swore in my youth, never more so than I have in recent months. I had put the transgressions of my youth behind me and it was only with reluctance and fear for my family that I returned to the Dark Lord's side. But this I cannot abide.
He is my son, Severus. How can I possibly? The horror of the deed is too monstrous to even register in my thoughts. I am sure that you, as a father, understand this.
As of this moment, I pledge to you and your Order of the Phoenix my services and all that I have if you would only rid me of this Mark that has enslaved not only me, but my family, to this devil.
I beg of you, Severus. Help me save my Theodore.
My bond and my service are yours,
Severus hurriedly opened the other letters. He quickly read through each one; they were all along the same vein. Death Eaters were wanting out.
Severus looked over at his Slytherins and noticed an unusual occurrence. Not only were many of his students gathered together, but there were a few students from the other houses assembled with them, apparently all anxiously discussing letters from home. Severus did not fail to notice that they were all children of Death Eaters. Many of them looked up to him with unfeigned apprehension.
The time to take action was now. His celebratory toast with Harry would have to wait. Unfortunately, that meant Black would have to linger in his home all the longer, but sacrifices had to be made. Although Severus found Black's presence annoying, so far the Marauder had proven to be trustworthy.
Severus gathered his posts, forcing himself to do so without too much haste so not to draw too much attention. As Severus approached the headmaster, he silently cast a Muffliato spell so he would not be overheard. He still felt inclined to whisper when he leaned in and spoke to Albus. "You need to get hold of Lucius. We must meet with him—tonight."
Albus looked at him and silently nodded his understanding.
As he headed to his classroom, Severus pondered what Harry had mentioned before.
His son was right. By leaking information to the children, the news of Voldemort's treachery had made it back to their parents in record time.
The Death Eaters were ready to turn on their master.
"I really appreciate this, guys—you have no idea," Harry said as his eyes skimmed over Hermione's neat Charms notes. He was out of bed and sitting at the small writing desk in his room. His room was now blue and white with green trim. At least he wouldn't get headaches from the overdone burgundy and gold. Now his headaches would come from his enormous amount homework due to his OWL prep.
Ron and Hermione had joined him in his room. They sat at a small round table that Severus had brought in so Harry could study with his friends as a group during his recovery. "Well, luckily your dad gave Remus a Floo connection so we could get down here. They're still searching the dungeons to make sure that git Goyle didn't leave any other surprises. They should be done by the weekend," Ron said. Harry noticed a bit of astonishment still in Ron's eyes as he scanned the room. "You know, I have to admit this is sort of brilliant. I'd never guess it would look so normal. I thought Snape would make you decorate it in green and silver."
Harry wanted to laugh, but the mention of Goyle darkened his mood. Sure, he never got along with the Slytherin, but he never thought the overgrown buffoon would ever try to kill him. The thought that any classmate would go to such lengths made Harry nauseated.
"It's good to see you up and about so soon, Harry," Hermione said too cheerfully. She must have noticed Harry's change in mood. She added, "With any luck, you won't get behind."
Harry looked at his friend and couldn't help but feel guilty. Being friends with Harry Potter was becoming a dangerous proposition. First it was Cedric last spring and now, because of him, he almost lost Hermione. Well, he guessed that her life was never in any real danger, but it just as easily could have been. What if she or Ron had got hold of that quill?
"Hermione…how are you doing?" he asked hesitantly. Here he was convalescing at home, when she had been sick, too, and she was already back in classes. What if she relapsed?
"I'm fine, Harry," Hermione assured him. "It was only a little shock."
"But what if…"
He had been staring at his feet and hadn't even realized that Hermione was standing right next to him until he felt her comforting hand on his. "Honestly, Harry, I've never been better."
"I'm sorry you were hurt, Hermione. I'm sorry you had to see any of it; these sorts of things just seem to find me."
"Well, it's a good thing for you that we did see that sort of thing," Ron replied astutely. "I'd hate to think where we would be right now if we hadn't."
"We'd most likely be attending your funeral, Harry," Hermione added tensely. Harry could see her physically shiver at her own remark.
Harry's thoughts couldn't help but to momentarily drift back to Gregory Goyle. Was his family attending his funeral? Although the thick bastard tried to off him, Harry couldn't help but feel sorry for him at the same time. Harry was quite sure that Goyle would not have had the motivation to attempt such a half-cocked scheme on his own devices. The moron never did think for himself. Harry had no doubt that it was Mr Goyle who put is son up to it, trying to get to Harry and his dad from inside Hogwarts.
Harry wondered what would have happened if Mr Goyle knew that Harry and Severus were actually trying to protect his son. Would Goyle senior still have tried to secure his position in Voldemort's ranks? Exactly how fanatical was he? Would he have been willing to give up his only son and heir for his master? Somehow, Harry doubted that even of Mr Goyle.
"Do you think Malfoy told the others about the potion?" Harry wondered aloud.
"He had to have," Ron nodded. "You should have seen all the owls today. And the way some kids formed ranks around the Slytherin table? It's obvious something's up."
"I noticed Professor Snape received quite a few posts, too," Hermione said. "I wouldn't doubt that he is already hearing back from parents."
Harry swallowed hard. He knew that he would have a role to play soon. The idea of getting up close and personal with Death Eaters made him nervous, to say the least, but he had agreed with Dumbledore's plan to remove their Marks and it was too late to back out now. Not that Harry ever would. But it certainly wasn't a task he looked forward to. If it wasn't for the fact that kids were involved, Harry would leave those who gathered at the graveyard the night Cedric was murdered to their fates.
"He probably has," said Harry as his finger stroked the feather of his quill. He found a strange fascination with how the barbicels reminded him of zippers. "How do you suppose he's going to set up our meetings with the Death Eaters?"
Ron and Hermione were both eerily quiet. Ron finally answered slowly, "That's sure to be a tricky one, mate. Obviously you can't meet here and, wherever you go, you'd have to make bloody sure you aren't recognized."
"Polyjuice, most likely," Hermione offered.
"But Dad said Polyjuice was too dangerous," Harry reminded her.
"It is if you use it long-term at our age," Hermione said academically. "You can't use it to permanently hide your appearance as Barty Crouch did last year. But you can certainly use it on occasion."
"People—let's not talk about this for now," Ron balked. "Harry, just let your dad and Professor Dumbledore work out the details. We have Transfiguration to worry about."
Harry and Hermione both raised their eyebrows at Ron. If Ron wanted to study, then the topic Death Eaters was becoming tiring, and Harry had to agree. The thought of Ron wanting to study made Harry grin for some inexplicable reason and Harry happily turned his thoughts back to his studies.
"I suppose if we don't get cracking you still might attend my funeral," Harry said with an impish grin. "Dad laid into me about last year's History and Divination grades and he wasn't even Dad last year."
The three friends basked in the mundaneness of their homework and studied in companionable silence for the next hour and a half, with only the occasional interruption to have Hermione explain the finer points of some theory or another. Their studies were interrupted by a soft rap on the door. Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, looked up. Harry noticed the clock on his bedside table. It was almost six o'clock and he figured it was his father coming to invite them to dinner.
"Ron—Hermione? Would you like to join Harry and me for dinner?" Harry was bewildered to see that it was Sirius at the door and not his father.
"Thank you," Ron and Hermione voiced simultaneously.
"Where's my dad?" Harry asked. "He should have been home over an hour ago."
"He sent a message with a house-elf a while ago. He said to let you know that he'd be home late and he'd talk to you then," Sirius explained. "I didn't want to disturb your studying."
As much as Harry had enjoyed Sirius' company, he couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed that his dad wasn't home yet. It felt a little weird, caring so much for Snape after all of these years.
Harry was also a little annoyed that Sirius had not given him the message earlier. But it didn't sound like it was anything that would put his father in peril of life or limb, so Harry chose to let it pass. He didn't want to hurt Sirius' feelings by commenting on his thoughtlessness. The day had been quiet of drama and Harry wanted to keep it that way, so he simply asked, "What's for dinner?" as he gingerly made his way up from his chair.
"Curry," Sirius replied with a smile. "Do you need help?" he quickly added when he saw Harry moving so slowly.
Ron offered a helping hand to Harry, but he good-naturedly waved his best mate off. "No. I'm feeling a lot better, thanks," he said honestly. "I just need to take it slow."
Harry and his friends followed Sirius into the kitchen. Ron and Hermione flanked him and, though they weren't hanging on his shoulders, Harry was glad to know they were close enough to be there if he had the need.
As they approached the kitchen together, Harry stopped in his tracks. Ron and Hermione both looked at him quizzically.
The concern was plastered on Hermione's face. "Harry, is something the matter?"
Harry stared at the dining table. A familiar bottle of wine was opened on the table. Even from across the room he recognised the distinctive label. Harry quickly looked to the wine cabinet in hope that he was somehow mistaken and Sirius coincidently had brought a similar bottle from home. But Harry noticed the wine cabinet open and the contents tampered with.
His chest tightened with disappointment at his godfather and he began to breathe heavier. His father was not going to like this. Ron grabbed his arm, though Harry honestly did not need the help.
Sirius had turned back when Hermione had voiced her concern. Sirius' alarm was evident when he rushed towards Harry and knelt down before him. He ran his hand over Harry's forehead and carded his fingers through Harry's hair, obviously looking for signs of fever or distress. "Harry, are you alright? What's wrong?"
"Sirius," Harry said through clenched teeth, "did you open a bottle of wine?" He knew the answer. The evidence was sitting on the dining table.
"Just one of the…Muggle…bottles," Sirius said with uncertainty. "Snape didn't seem to mind the last bottle and I thought this one would be the least missed. I only had one glass. I was just getting ready to put it away."
"Did you even think to ask?!" By the time Harry reached the last word, he felt his control slip. Everything on the table started to shake violently.
"Harry," Hermione said through barely contained panic as she watched the dishes quiver, Ron watching in stunned disbelief. "Calm yourself. You're still weak. You're having a hard time controlling your magic."
"Harry…I didn't think it matt…" Sirius, Ron, and Hermione all ducked as a pitcher of pumpkin juice whizzed over Sirius' head and shattered on the stone wall to the side of them. It narrowly missed Harry and his friends, but Harry never flinched.
Ron cautiously arose first, looking about the room for other flying dinnerware. "Ha…Harry, listen to Hermione. You really need to calm down, mate."
"Calm down? Calm down! Do you know what he just did?"
Sirius arose slowly, too, covering his head, looking at the bottle of wine that had miraculously not spilled. "I'm sorry…If it's about the wine, I'll replace it, alright?"
Harry was so angry he could hardly force himself to speak. "Sirius…you…you can't just replace that wine! According to Dad it's very rare and really expensive. I think he had it planned for something."
"It'll be okay, Harry. I'll find some way to replace it…I promise. How much did it cost?"
Harry raised a sceptical eyebrow, hoping it was intimidating as his dad's. "Fifteen hundred Pounds, Muggle," Harry answered with a sneer.
Hermione gasped. Ron and Sirius looked confused.
"Is that expensive?" Sirius looked to Hermione for help.
"That's somewhere around 300 Galleons, Sirius," Hermione said with a half-apologetic, half-anguished look on her face.
"Three hundred Galleons?!" Ron exclaimed as Sirius sat hard in one of the chairs.
"Snape'll kill me," Sirius said numbly, holding his head in his hand. "I'll replace it Harry…really. I still have access to my vaults. The Goblins don't ca… "
"I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE FUCKING WINE, SIRIUS!"
Sirius' head snapped up and Ron and Hermione nearly jumped out of their feet at Harry's sudden outburst.
Harry limped his way to the dining table. He did not bother to sit down; instead he grabbed the edge to hold himself up and pointed an accusing finger at his godfather. "If Dad had been any other wizard in the world, you would have never done something this."
Sirius jaw dropped and his mouth gapped like a fish for a moment as he apparently struggled to say something in his own defence. "That's…that's not true, Harry. I…"
"You're what—this rude to all of your hosts?" Harry asked venomously.
Harry had been afraid something like this would happen. His dad had been trying hard to work through his past with the Marauders, as in inviting Harry's godfather to look after him. Harry knew it must have been hard on Severus. Sometimes, it seemed as if Sirius was trying, too, but then he goes and says or does something stupid. Wasn't it Sirius who told him that he and James had pretended to stop pranking Severus in seventh year, but did so behind his mum's back, anyway? Was Sirius pretending to try now just to get close to Harry, as James did his mum?
Harry turned his face away from his godfather, ashamed to even look at him. "After over twenty years of fighting, he's still 'Snivellus Snape' to you, isn't he? Not worthy to breathe the same air as you. Why would you ever find a reason to respect the man's personal property in his own home?"
"Harry…it's not like that," Sirius tried to say, but Harry didn't want to hear it.
"You wanna know what's funny?" Harry asked with a mirthless laugh. "I know my dad hates you, too. He won't admit it, but he does. But he is honestly trying to get along with you because he loves me, and he wants to make it right by me despite his personal feelings."
"I'm trying to do the same thing, too, Harry," Sirius said meekly.
"By pulling a stunt like this? You stole from a man who invited you into his house!" Harry said furiously. "Can't you let go of the past?"
"That wasn't my intention." Sirius shut his eyes and sighed hard. "It's hard, Harry. You don't understand. There's a lot of bad blood between me and Snape."
"Of course there is. Look at how you treated him."
Now Sirius had shed his contrite posture to more vigorously defend himself. "Now, look here, Harry, I don't know what line Snape has fed you, but he wasn't an innocent victim."
"Because he wouldn't let himself be a victim," Harry countered. "I know my dad put his fair share of hexes on your lot. He's proud. He would never let the likes of you and James Potter get the best of him if he could help it." Sirius winced as Harry said 'James Potter'; he always did. "I'd bet every Galleon I have he would have never at lifted his wand at you if you would have only left him alone."
"But…Harry, he was a Death Eater," Sirius said lamely. Obviously the topic was wearing on him, but Harry didn't care. Calling his dad a Death Eater was the final straw.
"Bullshit!" Harry spat. "That wasn't until later and you know bloody well he was a spy. You were all in the Order. Even James Potter had sense to see that."
Harry saw Sirius squirm once again. "JAMES POTTER, JAMES POTTER, JAMES POTTER!" he screamed, making Sirius jump in his chair and Ron and Hermione, whom he had almost forgotten were there, wince and retreat to the sitting room.
Harry sighed again and gathered his thoughts. Remembering the relaxation tactics his father had taught him, he finally calmed himself.
"James Potter was not my dad, Sirius, but he turned out to be a good man. And I appreciate what he did for me and Mum. I just only wish he were here for me to thank him. He protected us even though he knew I wasn't his son and that Mum still loved my real dad. He even tried to talk my mum into telling him about me. He didn't take advantage of Mum, when he very easily could have, in her situation. He rose above his hate for one man in order to do right by someone he loved. He was your best friend. Why you can't do the same?"
Sirius looked small and dejected sitting in the chair. Harry slumped his shoulders. His energy was spent. "Ron…can you take me back to my room? I'm not very hungry anymore."
Ron let Harry lean on him as he led Harry back to his room. Sirius laid his head on the table. He was such an idiot.
"He's wrong, you know."
Sirius looked up to see Hermione sitting across from him, reaching out her hand to offer him comfort.
He shook his head in shame. "I don't think he's too far off. I try to convince myself I'm trying to make amends for Harry's sake, but I don't really want to."
"You don't really believe that. Do you?" Hermione asked.
Sirius leaned back in his chair and ran his hands through his hair. "I don't know," he admitted with anguish. "But I do know I am jealous. I think Harry's right when he said I would have asked if I was in any other wizard's home. I still can't picture Snape as…normal."
"Well, if you don't start thinking differently, you're going to have a problem," Hermione warned.
"I'm at a loss. I don't know what to do," Sirius confessed.
Hermione leaned across the table and looked at Sirius purposefully. "Well—first, you need replace that bottle of wine. I know Harry said he didn't care, but he does. And I definitely know Professor Snape will."
Sirius nodded his agreement. Harry might have said that it wasn't about the wine, but it was. To Harry, that open bottle of wine was a symbol of Sirius' lack of respect for his father. There. Sirius thought it. In his mind he thought of Snape as Harry's father. That was a start, wasn't it?
"What Harry didn't even bother to mention," Sirius said wearily, "is even if I managed to clear my name for murder, Snape could have me thrown right back into Azkaban for theft. I don't even know where to start looking for a bottle of wine like that."
"Oh, that's easy enough," said Hermione hopefully. "I'll owl my parents."
"Your parents drink that kind of wine?"
"Heavens no!" she cried. "My parents may be affluent, but they could never afford that sort of extravagance. I mean I'll have them locate some on the Internet. If there's anything like it out there, they will find it. They live in Havering. Maybe Professor Lupin can pick it up. With express delivery, they can have it in a couple of days. There might even be someplace in London that carries it." Hermione accioed her quill and some parchment from Harry's room and began to write. One thing to be said about Hermione Granger—she never procrastinated over anything.
Sirius decided it was time for some soul searching. It was going to take a lot more than a fancy bottle of wine to make this up to Harry and to Sni…Snape. But a thought had occurred to him.
"Hermione—write your parents that I need something else. Expense be damned."
*********************To Be Continued**********************
Hey! It's been less than a month and I've actually managed to update! Not bad since the only way I managed to get time off this month was to fall ill the other day and I'm under doctor's orders for bed rest. You know…sometimes promotions suck.
Special thanks to my lovely beta, badgerlady, who shot this back to me in no time at all. She rocks!
Hope you enjoy the chapter! I've already started chapter 35 so the wait won't be too long.