Disclaimer: All Characters and universe of course belongs to the esteemed J.K. Rowling.
Thank you to ObsidianEmbrace for her continued support and encouragement, and for correcting my mistakes and her suggestions on how to make my story better.
As usual, thank you to my good friend Kristeh for her encouragement and support as well as her feedback.
Sorry for the long wait. Writers block and real life are to blame. Thanks for your patience and not giving up hope.
For those of you who follow my other stories, I am working on Uncertain Future and hope to have a chapter up in the next couple of weeks. Also, I intend to work on The Truth of the Matter soon as well.
"Lily," Severus whispered. "I don't understand. Are you a ghost?"
"No Severus. I'm not a ghost, but obviously I'm not real either. I'm in a place between the Veil and earth."
"I'm so sorry."
"I know Severus, and I forgive you. I know that you never meant for James and I to die. You couldn't possibly know that the prophecy had anything to do with myself or James. However…" she said sternly, "you knew that someone might be harmed, and you ran to your Master."
Severus flushed with shame. "I know. I don't deserve your forgiveness."
"I'll be honest Severus, James and I struggled for a long time to find it in our hearts to forgive you."
"Then why did you? I've done nothing to deserve it," Severus said in a hollow voice.
"Wait…but how-?" Severus began.
"How did I know? I know everything my love."
Sirius turned to glower at Severus. "Wait, what does she mean Snape? What do you have to do with James and Lily's deaths?"
James stepped forward to stand by his wife's side.
"I'm sorry Padfoot, but that is something that must remain between Severus, I and Lily. We've come to terms with it, and so must you."
"What did you do to them Snape?"
"Please Sirius. You must let it go."
"Voldemort is the one that is responsible for our deaths," she emphasised.
"You know that Wormtail betrayed us," James added.
"Yes, and if I'd had my way, I would have crushed that rat with my boot," Sirius said vehemently.
"We know Sirius, but vengeance isn't the answer; that is what got us here in the first place,"
"Peter betrayed us and Severus foolishly allowed himself to be caught in a madman's evil intent, because of his selfishness and thoughtlessness, but Severus has paid a high price for his mistakes, and has struggled to make amends."
"Amends? You seriously think that I could possibly do anything to make up for what I've done?"
"I admit that I was very disappointed in you for a long time Severus-particularly for the way that you had treated Harry."
Severus had the grace to look ashamed. "I know. I just couldn't get past the fact that he looks so much like Po-him. I was…I mean-I was…"
"You were jealous."
"Leave me some dignity please Lily."
"Of course Severus. I apologise."
"These are not things that I wish to talk about in front of Black, your son, or Potter."
Lily nodded. "I understand Severus. You didn't give me the chance to say that although you treated Harry appallingly in the past, that I've noticed…we've both noticed, how much of an effort you've made to take care of him after my sister and her great big lump of a husband-" she choked on her words, "when they…"
Tears began to roll down Lily's cheeks. "I'm so sorry Harry. If I'd known that you'd get sent to Petunia-I should have prepared myself for this..."
James took her gently in his arms. "We didn't know Harry. We never thought that you wouldn't be placed with Sirius."
Harry's heart twisted with anguish. "It's alright Dad. How could you have known? Please don't cry Mom. It's not your fault."
"We should have made provisions in case Sirius wasn't able to fulfill his duty," Lily said apologetically.
"You're not mind readers. You couldn't have foreseen what the future held. You did the best you could by me. I know that."
"Harry is right," Sirius replied quickly. "No one could have imagined the events that would take place."
"Despite everything you've been through, you've turned out to be such a fine young man," Lily whispered. "We are so proud that you're our son."
James nodded. "After everything you've been through, you still find it in your heart to forgive us."
"But there's nothing to forgive," Harry countered.
"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Severus scowled. "Are we quite finished with this sappy melodrama? The past is the past. Regrets are a wasted emotion. Most emotions are a waste of energy anyway," he sneered.
Lily's lips curved into a small smile. "I see that you haven't changed Severus. It was a rare and special occasion that you allowed me to see into your soul."
"Perhaps Severus is right Lily. We haven't much time and we have a lot to explain," James said to his wife.
Lily nodded. "Very well-we'll get on with it then. "Did you bring the box Severus?" Lily asked softly.
"Yes." Severus held out the wooden box with hands that trembled.
Lily motioned with her slender hand. "Harry and Sirius step forward also please."
"There isn't any way to say this that will make it easier for any of you," she said regretfully, "so, here we go."
She looked towards James for help.
"Please hand the box to Harry, Severus," James said.
Snape narrowed his eyes at James suspiciously; he just wasn't ready to let go of his childhood grudges and he didn't trust the man as far as he could throw him, but he did as he was told.
"Before you open the box Harry, I just want you to know that you are my son in every way that matters, and that I died protecting you because of that love. I don't want you to ever think for a minute that I didn't love you as a father loves his son."
Harry tried to make sense of those cryptic words, as he lifted up the lid to the wooden box with trembling hands. Butterflies swirled in his stomach. Harry had a feeling that whatever was hidden in the contents of that box would change his life forever; part of him wanted to throw the box back at Snape and run in the other direction.
Harry had always had a keen sense of intuition and it had served him well in the past couple of years, and his intuition was telling him that he wasn't going to like the contents of this box very much.
Harry's green eyes clouded in confusion. He glanced up at Lily and James as he lifted various items from the box-a rattle, a lock of silky fine black baby hair, a tiny little gold ring with the initials H.S. engraved on it, a photo album…what the hell? A photo album with picture after picture of—of his mother and Snape!
Harry's stomach plummeted as he continued to come upon pictures of his mum and Snape; he licked his lips nervously. Things just weren't adding up! There weren't any pictures of James, and the pictures of his mother and Snape, suggested that they were more than just friends…much more than just friends.
As Harry plucked at corner of the next page in the photo album, his heart really twisted. His mother held a tiny baby with a shock of pitch black hair, and startling emerald eyes, in her arms.
Harry snapped shut the photo album quickly; he just didn't want to think of the implications.
Harry then noticed a clear crystal phial with green liquid inside.
"There is a Pensieve over there Harry."
"What? Wha-what is a Pensieve?" Harry asked nervously.
"In that bottle," James explained, "are memories."
"Memories? But how? How do you get memories in a bottle? I don't understand-and memories of what?"
James raked a hand through his messy hair; he looked at his wife for help.
"You can draw out your memories with a wand and put them into a bottle to view later," Lily explained gently.
Harry's jaw dropped. "You're joking?"
Lily smiled. "No sweetheart-I'm not. You need to take the lid off the bottle and pour the liquid in that Pensieve over there. Then you will be able to reach in and view the memories as though you were watching a movie."
Harry shook his head. Every day he was learning more about the wonderful world of Magic. It was truly amazing that you could view your memories like watching a film.
Harry was pulled back to reality by a sudden realisation. "What are these memories of that you want me to see?"
"I think it is better that you see for yourself," Lily said softly.
Harry began to take a step backwards, holding his hands up in the air.
"No! It's quite all right. You know-it's been nice seeing you and all, but I really think that it's time I leave," Harry said as he spun around and tried to pry open the door to the vault.
Firm, but gentle hands were placed on Harry's shoulders.
"C'mon kiddo," Sirius said gently. "We'll do it together.
"Go on, the three of you need to see this," Lily said.
The three of them stepped forward tentatively towards the Pensieve.
"Severus, why don't you do it, since you are the most familiar with using a Pensieve."
Severus nodded. He placed his hand into the box and gingerly picked up the phial of green liquid. A resounding pop echoed through the vault as he unplugged the stopper. With his long, potion-stained fingers, he carefully poured the liquid into the basin of the shiny, copper Pensieve.
Harry watched in fascination as the liquid began to shimmer and swirl like a whirlpool.
Severus motioned for Harry and Sirius to step closer to the Pensieve.
Harry's knees were knocking against each other as he moved closer. Suddenly, both Sirius and Snape on each side of him both grabbed an arm and firmly pulled him forward.
Harry's stomach somersaulted as he was sucked into the swirling liquid of the Pensieve. He felt as though his insides were turned inside out. Harry imagined that this was what it was like to be pulled into Aunt Petunia's vacuum cleaner.
Suddenly, the three of them landed with a jolt in what looked like a clean, but sparsely-furnished room. In one corner of the room, was a threadbare sofa, a large arm-chair that looked like it had springs poking out of the checkered material, and a single lantern illuminated the room. Obviously hand-made curtains hung on the windows.
Adding warmth to the otherwise dreary room, however, was a large vase was filled with colourful, sweet-smelling flowers. Flames gently licked the logs in the large brick fireplace, and the reflection flickered off the pale, yellowed walls.
Harry's heart beat against his ribcage as he took in the scene before him. His Mom was sitting in a large rocking chair, holding a tiny infant in her arms. She turned him around to face the camera that James was holding, a big grin plastered on his face.
"Say Quidditch Harry. That's it….smile for Daddy."
"C'mon Harry," Lily said. "Smile nice for Daddy James."
"That's it sweetheart. Your other daddy would be so proud of you," Lily whispered, as she brushed a stray tear that had rolled down her pale cheek.
"He can't be with you right now."
Harry's throat clogged with emotion. The scene continued as James snapped picture after picture of baby Harry. Normally Harry would be thrilled and a little sad to witness a rare moment from his childhood; a moment that the pictures he'd seen could never quite capture, but his mind was overwhelmed at the moment, with conflicting emotions.
Suddenly, the scene faded away and Harry, Sirius and Severus were pulled into the swirling liquid once again, to land firmly on the floor of the vault.
Harry could tell that he was not the only one whose emotions were thrown into turmoil from the scene inside the Pensieve; his green eyes were clouded in confusion. The voice inside Harry's mind was whispering to him that he knew perfectly well what that scene implied, but he chose to ignore the voice. His practical side however, knew that he could not remain in blissful ignorance forever.
Lily and James exchanged worried glances. Severus' pale face was even more pale if that was possible, and his dark eyes smouldered with emotion; a rare occurrence for the normally composed Potion Master. Sirius' face was the colour of sour milk and his blue eyes crinkled in confusion. It was Harry's agonised expression however that had them the most concerned. The poor child looked as though he would lose his breakfast soon, and Lily and James began to regret putting their son through this ordeal.
"Does this mean…what does this mean? Harry asked in a barely audible whisper.
"I think that you know what it means sweetheart," Lily said gently. "In the box, there is something that you should see—that will explain everything."
Harry bent down and retrieved the box, where Snape had placed it on the floor, when they'd gone into the Pensieve, and pulled out a rolled-up scroll. Harry unfurled the aging parchment, and his heart skipped a beat at the words that leapt out at him.
Harry James Severus Snape,
Son of Severus Tobias Snape and Lily Anne Evans.
"No! I don't believe this. James is my father. Everyone says how much I look like him and—"
But a little voice in the back of Harry's mind said that he "didn't" look so much like James anymore. Hadn't everyone been saying how much he'd changed lately? Hadn't he noticed how his chin seemed a little pointier, the shape of his eyes not so round, his cheek bones a little sharper, his hair…a little sleeker and more manageable?"
Severus didn't know what compelled him, but he rushed forward and yanked the parchment from Harry's hands.
His skin felt too tight for his body. His dark eyes filled with anguish.
"Lily? I don't understand. Explain this!" Severus said in a croaky voice.
Lily sighed. "I'm sorry Severus. I always meant that you would know one day. I never meant to go to the grave without you knowing your son, but you have to believe that I did what I thought was best for you and for Harry. I never imagined…"
Sirius paled. No, it couldn't be. He leant forward and pried the parchment from Snape's fingers. His blue eyes widened as they scanned the page.
"James…Lily…" he gasped. "How could you? How could you have kept this from me? I thought that I was your best friend," Sirius said, a hurt look in his eyes.
James raked his hand through his dark hair, a habit that had followed him to the grave. "I'm sorry Padfoot. There were so many extenuating circumstances; the bad blood that existed between you and Severus, and Severus' involvement with Voldemort. It was far too dangerous for anyone—even for you Padfoot, to be privy to this information. Lily and I thought it best to hide this until after the war, or even possibly longer. "
"This is crazy," Harry croaked. "He can't be my father. Tell me this is a joke. Yeah, that's it." He pinched himself. "It's all a crazy dream…a nightmare- yeah that's it, and I'm going to wake up soon."
"That's enough Potter!" Snape bellowed. "You're hysterical."
"Leave my Godson alone Snape," Sirius growled. "He's had a shock."
Harry paled. "Potter? Oh my God, I'm not a Potter anymore. I'm a Snape. Harry Snape. No!"
Harry crumpled to the ground, and he wrapped his arms around his knees.
"Please, Mom…Dad," Harry whispered, tears tugging at the corner of his eyes. "Tell me this isn't true."
"Oh Harry darling, we never meant to hurt you, but you must give your father a chance."
"Don't call him that!" Harry shrieked. "He's not my father. He'll never be my father."
He looked at James through watery eyes. "You're my father. You'll always be my father."
"Of course I am Harry. I'll always be your father too, but I can't be there for you like Severus can."
Severus shook his head. "This is insanity. I can't be a father." He raked his hand through his greasy hair.
Severus wouldn't admit it, but Harry's words had hurt. His son, as strange as the concept was. This boy, whom he had loathed from the minute that he was born, was his son. Now, he had to contend not only with the fact that the boy that he'd belittled and harassed for the past two years, was his own flesh and blood, but that he'd made it impossible for them to have a normal, father-son relationship. It didn't matter that he had begun to see Potter in a different light. Oh Merlin, "Potter" was not even a Potter at all- he was a Snape! The boy was a part of him and Lily and a product of the love that they had once shared… before he'd ruined it all.
Now, Severus felt the heavy weight of guilt press down upon him. He had tried very hard recently to treat the boy better, but he knew that he could never make up for the way that he'd treated him since he'd started at Hogwarts. Severus accepted his part of the responsibility for his treatment of his son, but if he'd only known that the boy was his son, he'd never have treated him so badly. Damn! Where the hell did Lily and Potter get off keeping this from him? A little voice whispered to him that it should not have made any difference in how he'd treated Harry-he told that little voice to shut up.
"How could you do this to me? Spring this upon me after almost fourteen years."
"I know that this is a shock Severus, but you can do this, and you don't have to do it alone," Lily said softly.
"Of course I have to do it alone. Who the hell is going to give me parenting advice? Him?" he scoffed, as he pointed to Sirius.
Lily exchanged a nervous glance with James.
"And I haven't exactly had the best role models," he continued, not noticing that Lily and James had gone silent. "Hell Lily. I'm not a patient man. I'm not a father. I mean...I don't know how to be a father," he said, a helpless feeling pressing down upon himself—a feeling that he was not familiar with.
"But you have been acting as a father-figure to Harry for months now," Lily argued. "You've done more for Harry in the past few months, than Petunia and Vernon have ever done for him."
James nodded. "We've been watching you and how you've been caring for Harry."
"Just where do I fit into all this?" Sirius asked.
James raised his dark eyebrows. "Have your feelings for Harry changed because he's not my biological son?"
Harry looked at Sirius, doubt clouding his green eyes.
"Of course not," Sirius said indignantly.
"I'd understand if you didn't want to be my Godfather anymore," Harry said quietly.
"You can't rid of me that easily."
"I believe as usual, we have veered away from the subject," Severus sneered. "Answer the question Potter. How does he fit into all this?"
"Before we explain, we need both your solemn promises that you'll hear us out and not jump down each other's throats," Lily said, giving them each a stern look.
"Honestly, you both have so many redeeming qualities and so many lessons that you can teach Harry, and you each have your strengths and weaknesses," Lily began. "James and I had a hard time deciding who best should bring up Harry-"
"You had a hard time deciding who should bring up my son?" Severus sputtered indignantly.
"You lost your right to decide what is best for our son Severus, the day that you pledged your loyalty to that madman," Lily said furiously.
Severus paled. Lily was right of course. It was his own fault that his own son despised him and he had no one to blame but himself if he missed the best years of his son's life because of his own stupid mistakes and bad decisions. But still—to have Potter make decisions that concerned his son, was humiliating and a hard pill to swallow.
"Of course, before Sirius was wrongly accused of betraying us, the decision who would raise Harry should James and I not be able to, was as clear as crystal."
Lily turned to look at Sirius. "You had always been loyal, brave, gentle and kind and the sort of role model that we would have been proud to have raised our son," she said gently. "Unfortunately of course, we had never anticipated that Peter would betray us, or that you would have to endure twelve years in Azkaban," she said sadly.
"Everything went to hell-in-a-hand basket—all our carefully laid-out plans went awry," James said bitterly. "Harry was sent to live with tho—those animals," he said angrily, as he clenched his fists tightly. "Nothing at all went according to plan."
Lily blinked away the tears. "If this box had been found even just a year ago, the outcome might have been quite different. Sirius was in no position to care for Harry. You Severus were not ready yet to put aside your bitterness and quest for vengeance against James."
"In the course of this past year however, you Sirius have been exonerated and you Severus have taken quite a leap towards letting go of the past. You still have some baggage to let go of, but I believe that you are finally worthy of being a father to Harry."
"Please let me finish Severus."
"I won't lie—to either one of you. You have spent twelve years in Azkaban Sirius. That has got to change a man. You will need to work especially hard to overcome the traumatic effects that those years spent in the bowels of hell have caused—don't deny it," James said sternly. "I know about the nightmares."
Sirius lowered his eyes in embarrassment.
"There is no shame in having nightmares-is there Severus?" James said, as he looked pointedly at Severus.
Severus paled. It was bad enough that Potter knew about the nightmares that plagued him nightly, but to have his weaknesses laid out so plainly in front of Black and his newly- discovered son, was more than he could bear.
"If this—situation is going to work, you two will have to get over your petty grudges and constantly trying to show each other up and prove who the better man is," James said sternly.
"What situation are you referring to Potter?" Severus asked in a silky voice. The back of his neck was prickling and his years of serving the Dark Lord warned him that he was being managed, and he did not appreciate that at all—especially by the likes of Potter.
Unbeknownst to Severus, Sirius was having similar thoughts; his own keen sense of intuition was on high alert. Why did he get the feeling that his best friends were plotting something that he was probably not going to like?
Sirius' heart softened though as his eyes fell on his Godson, who looked so small and lost. Harry needed him and-damn, Harry needed Snape too, as much as he'd like to deny it.
"Lily and I have this wonderful, big house in the countryside that has a large back garden. It's the perfect place to raise a child."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. "Potter, will you bloody well get to the point," he snapped.
"Fine. Lily and I want you to raise Harry together. We feel that you both have qualities that complement each other and you will balance out the other's strengths and weaknesses. You have strength Snape, and are a solid, stable influence in Harry's life, but you can also be over-bearing and overly harsh. You keep your feelings close to your heart and need to learn to let go a bit. Sirius, on the other hand, you are playful, kind, easy-going and affectionate, but your years in Azkaban have taken their toll on you, and you need time to heal and be able to enjoy life again."
"What James is trying to say Sirius and Severus, is that Harry needs both of you, and not just as a fleeting influence in his life. He needs your strength and stable influence in his life Severus, and your love, kindness and generosity Sirius. We feel that with two strong parental figures in his life, Harry will prosper and grow to adulthood with all the tools that he needs."
Severus' eyes flashed. "I am his parent. Not Black."
"We realise that Severus, but you said yourself that you are out of your depth here. You have done a fine job with Harry these past few weeks, but Harry will require more guidance and his needs will grow as he gets older and being a single parent is never an easy task. Besides, we want Sirius, I want Sirius, to be a part of Harry's life and not just as a favourite uncle who comes to visit occasionally, I want him to play a major role in Harry's life," Lily said softly.
"We have veered from our purpose here, and Lily and I must leave soon," James said regretfully.
Harry's eyes welled up with tears. "No please don't go," he pleaded.
"Harry, James and I will always be with you in here," Lily said gently, as she placed her hand over her heart, "but as painful as it is, we must leave. We were only granted a short time with you to make sure that you were properly taken care of and tie up loose ends. We don't belong here anymore sweetheart. You belong with your father and Sirius now."
"You can't seriously expect both of us to magically erase all of our years of animosity just because you wish it so?" Severus sneered.
"If you truly love me Severus, you will make an effort to get along with Sirius," Lily said firmly.
"Fine. I'll try," Severus grudgingly agreed out loud. Secretly though, he thought to himself, that there was no bloody way he was ever going to allow Black to dictate to him how he should raise his own son; it would be a cold day in hell before that would happen.
As a matter of fact, as the boy's true father, he had every right to appoint his own choice of Godfather. He was under no legal obligation whatsoever to keep Black's name on that document. On the other hand, he supposed that he did owe Lily something, and the boy was fond of Black—why that was he couldn't fathom, but Severus supposed that it was time to put someone else's needs before his own. He had to try for Lily's sake—for his son's sake. That did not mean though that Black would have any actual authority over his son. For that matter, there was no way in hell that his son would continue to carry the name of his other long-time nemesis. No, as soon as he had the boy's birth certificate and paternity tests in hand, Severus planned on marching down to the Ministry and claim his son in every sense of the word.
Lily sighed. "I need you to do more than try. Take a look in the box Severus."
At the bottom of the box, there was yet another rolled-up yellowed scroll.
"Look at it," Lily prodded.
Severus unrolled the parchment and snapped his head up quickly; his obsidian eyes widened.
"You have got to be joking."
Sirius yanked the parchment out of Severus' hand.
His blue eyes widened in disbelief.
Then he bent over in laughter.
"You had me going there Prongs. You haven't lost your talent for always pulling the perfect prank."
"This is no prank Sirius. Lily and I are perfectly serious."
Severus looked at him incredulously. "There is no bloody way in hell that I'm sharing a living space with Black and-and what? Live in a big house with a white-picket fence and pretend that we are the bloody perfect family, and live happily ever after? You have got to be out of your bloody mind Potter!"