The Other Side of An Unbalanced Destiny
Rating: NC17 (M on FF.N)
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 and The Other Side of Normal. Chapters of this story are posted on Adultfanfiction(dot)net daily. As sex or violence show up, it will be edited out to be posted here. Feel free to follow both versions.
As Scary As Fate
Harry Potter, otherwise known as Johnathan Harold Snape, would be eleven years old in one month, two weeks, four days, and six hours. At the moment, he was hurriedly getting things ready to leave Durmstrang in the next few days for the summer. Severus Snape could see him easily from the living room, where he was getting books together. They would be spending the summer at Malfoy Manor, as usual. And after that...
Harry would begin school in September. Severus had already spoken with Karkaroff to do the necessary application process. Not that he was worried. With the dirt he had on Karkaroff, which the headmaster most assuredly did not want public, Harry was assured a place there for better or worse. The boy would be happy, if only so he could be near Cissienia Novak and her infant daughter.
The pregnancy had been very difficult on her because of her age, but Cissienia was too stubborn and willful to abort, even with urging from her husband. He was there the whole time, monitoring her progress and consulting with Severus and Koenig over various potions to keep her strength up that wouldn't interfere with the child. She stayed in Novak's close summer home and visited on Sundays.
When the baby was born, Cissienia survived and the three men gave a collective sigh of relief. Now, only six months later, she was quite convinced that she would return to work that September and resume teaching with little Avina staying with her father or Koenig, who'd been named the child's godfather along with his wife as godmother. Severus applauded the choice and was rather amused when Cissienia told Harry that he'd have to be a good godbrother to the baby, a responsibility the boy took very seriously.
Severus watched as Harry carefully packed up his books and toys. He could be rather meticulous when he wanted, though he generally had a much messier disposition. As long as he cleaned his room on Sundays, Severus didn't tend to mind it. Now, however, he'd asked Harry specifically to pack carefully to save space. The boy was obedient enough to mind at least this much. Generally, Harry wasn't all that rebellious, but he had his moments and Severus had been assured by Koenig that those moments were nothing like what would come later as the boy aged. Severus wasn't too worried.
He wondered what it would be like, with Harry busy getting into the glories of school. Harry was already rather independent and self-relying, so he doubted that would change much. He wondered if Harry would ask for help with his homework or just go to his friends for study groups. He would have friends. Harry was outgoing and personable, so Severus had few doubts of the boy's ability to find company. And with Harry's natural prowess on the gently-used adult broom he'd gotten for Christmas, he was assured at least the athletic natured boys would likely flock to him. Harry spoke of Quidditch often. He had every intention of joining the team when he started school and had notions of breaking the taboo of only picking students second year and older. Stubborn as he was, Severus had little doubt he'd manage.
After watching his son a bit longer, Severus finally looked away and went back to packing. They left Durmstrang two days later and made a short trip to their home on Spinner's End before heading on as customary to Malfoy Manor.
Draco Malfoy, newly eleven only days before, greeted them with his usual cocky smirk. He'd, for some inane reason, decided to emulate his father's foppishly long hair by gelling his own back, making it look slightly longer than it actually was. Severus had never really understood Draco's insistence on being like the man, but he supposed it was much like why Harry still refused to cut his hair. The black locks brushed his shoulders with messy bangs falling so fully into his face that they rarely had to use their concealing method on his scar.
Draco led them to their customary guest rooms, chattering about this and that, but Severus heard little of it. His thoughts went to the scar. He'd still not told Harry where it came from or anything about the business with the Dark Lord, other than what Harry had read in his history book. He had no notion that he was so critically involved, though he did find it a little odd that he shared the birth date and nickname of the boy savior. Severus knew the time was swiftly approaching that he'd have to tell him. He was loathe to do it because telling him that... meant explaining everything.
He was terrified of losing the gentle sound of "Father" from Harry's lips.
Draco and Harry chatted as the latter of the two set his things away. Severus could hear them through the short hall that connected his room to his son's. It was strangely calming. Harry and Draco had cultivated a good friendship between them, though they often bewildered one another. Harry had once asked why Draco had so much against non-magical people and Severus explained as well as he could, but he doubted Harry really understood. Even being raised within Durmstrang, Harry had been tainted by rather little pureblood diatribe, to which Severus was grateful. It likely had to do with the fact that Severus admitted to the boy of being halfblooded himself and that Harry's mother had been muggleborn.
Suddenly, Severus heard the word Hogwarts. He listened more closely without even thinking about it. Draco started going on about the school, dictating that he would, of course, be in Slytherin and Harry would have to come with him-
"But I'm going to Durmstrang," Harry replied calmly. "With my father."
"What are you going on about? My father said you'd be going to school with me!"
He almost saw the exasperation Harry must have been showing. "Not everyone does what your father tells them to do, Draco. And I'm not. I'm going to Durmstrang. I want to stay near Father."
"But he said- Harry, you cannot leave me there alone!"
Severus felt a little sorry for the boy and the obvious anxiety he heard in his voice, but his thoughts shifted. Malfoy had told him that? But he knew Severus intended Harry to attend Durmstrang while he taught there. Severus frowned. Perhaps the older man had simply misspoken, or else Draco may have misunderstood him. Both were used to getting what they wanted and hearing what they wanted came hand in hand.
In the other room, Harry was comforting Draco as best he could, citing out Draco's other friends who would be staying in England for school. It wasn't so much of a big deal, now was it? And he certainly wasn't leaving him alone. Draco still snipped and sniped anyway.
Once Severus had his things settled, a house elf came to fetch him for afternoon tea. The boys went off to amuse themselves elsewhere and Severus drew at his iron will once again as he went to face Malfoy. After years of this arrangement, he was quite used to doing it.
The eldest Malfoy aged well. Severus would have rathered he hadn't. The man was conventionally beautiful and sickeningly Aryan, minus blue eyes anyway. His face was more distinguished and far too much like his father for Severus to be comfortable. The old man had been a terror before he died.
"Ah, Severus. How prompt you are," Malfoy murmured with an amused smirk. He always looked amused when Severus was involved.
Except for the summer holiday, Malfoy tended to ignore him and Severus liked it that way. He'd have rathered leave the man behind completely, but Malfoy was an insidious bastard. He'd have found a way.
"Honestly, the way you call me. One would think we weren't old friends."
"We aren't," Severus said in a blank tone as he stirred honey into his tea.
"You wound me."
Malfoy's lips quirked and Severus hated how even that was done with graceful beauty. He hated Lucius Malfoy.
"Well, since you're absolutely set on lacking in pleasantries, I suppose we shall have to get to business," he murmured with boredom in his tone. Lucius always sounded either bored and amused. Sometimes both at once. He was talented.
"Please do. I will enjoy getting back to my rooms for a peaceful, solitary afternoon," Severus countered without a bit of warmth. This used to bother Malfoy. He'd grown used to it in the last years of their dalliance.
Malfoy merely lifted a brow. "I'm sure you would. The matter concerns my son. He shall be starting school this September."
"Naturally. He's not quite as slow as his father."
That one stung. Severus felt a mild adulation when Malfoy's eyes narrowed. He'd pay for it later, but he'd stopped caring about that.
"...Quite. As I was saying... With Draco beginning school, I find myself rather worried. He needs watching, that boy. Cultivating."
Severus lifted his gaze, lips pressing in a white line. Times like these, he wished Malfoy was the kind of man to spit things out already.
"...Yes?" he prompted.
"I would like you to do this cultivation."
Severus lifted a brow. "The boy will be journeying to Durmstrang, then?"
"Oh, no. Narcissa is completely against sending him so far." Malfoy smiled at the faint confusion on Severus' face. He rested his head on his folded hands. "I have it on firm authority that Horace Slughorn has been desperately trying to find someone of skill to replace him. You will be that replacement."
For a moment, Severus was absolutely still. He stayed quiet, eyes boring into Malfoy as he tried to decode this newest order. Perhaps Malfoy had gotten all he wanted from Karkaroff. It was the only thing he could think of that would make him repeal his decision to leave Severus in Germany.
"I shall have to inform Karkaroff of my resignation," he said slowly.
"Oh, I've already taken care of that," Malfoy murmured with a short, cold laugh. "Igor seemed rather relieved. Don't tell me you've been tormenting that man all these years."
"There was little other entertainment."
As soon as Malfoy had amused himself all he could from their meeting, he dragged Severus off to molest him properly and then finally let the younger man go when he grew tired of Severus' complete unresponsiveness. The whole routine made very little impact anymore.
Severus stepped into the shower as soon as he returned to his room to Malfoy's disgusting touch from his skin and heal his sore body. Then he wrote a letter and settled to wait for Dumbledore's reply.
The World Spins Wild
Dumbledore, as usual, was very prompt. He set up a meeting and Severus took a dull sort of glee in telling Malfoy he would be unavailable. Harry was safe enough. Malfoy would do nothing to the boy, especially with how fond of him Draco was. If there was anything Severus trusted, it was Malfoy's unending spoiling of his son.
Severus left the house just after lunch and made his way out to the apparition point. From there, he went to Hogsmeade and finally up to Hogwarts. There was no one about except a house elf or two, who greeted him curiously before popping off to warn anyone around that he was there. Severus ignored them and found his way to Dumbledore's office. The statue jumped aside as he reached it. Severus went on.
Dumbledore greeted him with a warm smile and a handshake Severus could barely make himself return. He felt a coldness permeate him when Dumbledore touched his hand and it only got minimally better when the older man released him. This was normal. Apart from Harry, no one could make contact without triggering the cold. Severus didn't really care enough to wonder why, but he avoided touch whenever he could.
"Albus," he greeted quietly as he folded his arms over his chest.
"It's good to see you, Severus. It's been a long while since we last saw one another, hasn't it?"
Severus sat down across the desk and Dumbledore returned to his chair as well.
"I've come in regards to replacing Slughorn," Severus began. "I've been told he wishes to retire?"
"Indeed. How strange. I didn't think it was public knowledge to anyone but the school governors..." Dumbledore looked at him but Severus ignored the less than subtle probing.
"I wish to apply for the position."
"Have you grown tired of Durmstrang?" Dumbledore rested his clasped hands on the top of his desk. "You seemed quiet insistent on staying there when last we spoke."
Severus thought back. Less than a year ago, Dumbledore had mentioned some vague reference to him staying in England, but he'd not heard any sort of offering in those words. Then again, he wouldn't have taken it anyway.
"Various things have changed since then," Severus murmured.
"Mm. I wonder. Harry shall be of schooling age this summer, will he not?" Severus nodded and Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Lovely. I've been waiting rather patiently for the time I would meet him properly."
Severus narrowed his eyes. "That is assuming he doesn't attend Durmstrang. Karkaroff has already accepted him."
"Oh?" Dumbledore leaned a bit on his desk and smiled. "He'll have to be disappointed. Harry was enrolled here almost eleven years ago. The tuition was paid for then as well. You'd hate to waste that, now would you?"
He shouldn't have been surprised but Severus felt a slow anger knowing even this was out of his control. He was rather sure Dumbledore would find a way to get his way in this even if Severus did protest. He wouldn't, but he wanted to, just to spite things.
"You planned it this way from the start," he couldn't help but say.
"Perhaps. Of course, a few things changed. If you hadn't returned by this summer, drastic measures would have had to be taken." Dumbledore looked at him intently. "You're quite important to my plans, Severus."
"Of course." Those mysterious plans. It wasn't as if Dumbledore had ever cared about him personally. Severus wasn't surprised now. "Then you will give me the position."
"Quite right, my boy. Horace will be relieved to know he can leave."
Severus nodded faintly, lips pursed. "If that's all, I shall take my leave."
He rose as Dumbledore nodded and headed back out.
"Severus," Dumbeldore called suddenly. Severus paused and glanced back, still frowning. The old man's eyes were suddenly serious. "The name on our rolls is Harry Potter. It won't be changed."
Severus' hands tightened at his sides. This, he had expected as well, but it still galled him that Dumbledore seemed intent on ripping every decision and every choice out of his hands. He hated that he was letting it happen.
"I'd already decided the time had come," Severus murmured and his voice came out in the faintest hint. No doubt Dumbledore could hear his resentment. "It is Harry's decision which name he keeps. Your roll will change according to his will. Surely, you can offer him that much."
Dumbledore looked thoughtful as he sat at the desk. Severus held his eyes the entire time, refusing to be the first to back down. He didn't care if Dumbledore ruled his life like so many already had, but he'd be damned if the old man did it to Harry as well.
"Very well. Send word quickly."
Severus nodded, accepting the win gracefully. Then he left before his smoldering resentment could raise it's ugly head again.
He wandered Hogsmeade a while to cool his head. Tonight. Best to get this over with quickly and give Harry as much time to make it all right with himself before being blindsided by the rest of the world and what they would think of him. Harry deserved that. Severus finally returned near dinner and waited until the meal was over to call Harry to him. The boy gave him an odd look but nodded and followed his father back to their rooms. Severus closed the door and then drew his wand to cast a shielding spell over the space.
"Father?" Harry murmured, looking a little confused. Severus sat down on the edge of his bed.
"Come here, Harry," he said quietly.
Harry did so, sitting down. He fidgeted a bit. "Have I done something?"
"No." Severus rested his elbows on his knees, hands hanging between his legs. "No. You've been... very good, Harry. But there are a few things we need to discuss."
The boy shifted himself, crossing his legs under him as he stuffed his hands into his lap. He wasn't quite looking at Severus, eying him from the side instead. This was important and he could feel it.
"We've talked a little about your mother," Severus began. Harry straightened and watched him more intently. Severus hesitated, glancing off, and then forced himself to continue. "I've told you her name was Olivia Spatts. That was a lie."
Harry frowned. "What? But... I've seen my birth certificate. It's right there."
"I know. The certificate is fake." Severus couldn't look at the boy. "Your mother's name was Lily Evans... No. Lily Potter."
"Which one is it?" Harry demanded. He sounded irritated and Severus didn't blame him. "Evans or Potter?"
"Her married name was Potter." Severus straightened himself and stood, beginning to pace slowly. "This will all be very surprising and upsetting but if you'd please listen until I've finished-"
"Are you trying to tell me I'm Harry Potter?"
Severus stopped. Slowly, he turned his head and stared at his son, who's hands were tightly clenched on his knees. His face was white but his brows furrowed and eyes determined.
"Yes. I am." Severus sighed faintly and looked back at his hands. "Your name... We changed it to protect you. There are... many who would have come after you otherwise."
"Like the man in the cave?"
Again, Severus felt himself stiffen. He pursed his lips and then nodded. "Yes. Like the man in the cave."
Harry's eyes slid off him, staring off into nothing. "...I wondered. Why that man yelled at me when he came and hurt Cissie."
Swallowing thickly, Severus looked towards the boy, studying. There was a great tension in his shoulders and his hands were white knuckled. His eyes seemed a bit glassy. Mild shock.
"You don't have to be 'Harry Potter'," Severus offered. "That name... You don't have to take it up. It isn't you."
Harry's lips quirked up into a weak smile at first but it dropped quickly. "Can I think about it?"
"Yes. Whatever your decision, I will inform the school." Severus paused then, remembering. "Ah. I... You'll be attending Hogwarts this September."
The boy's head whipped around and his eyes widened. "What?! But- but Father, you can't send me there alone!"
Severus found it a little odd to hear Harry repeat words he'd heard from Draco Malfoy only days before. He folded his arms over his chest.
"You won't be. I've taken an offer to teach there, instead of Durmstrang. Harry, I will never leave you alone."
Harry swallowed thickly. He stared at Severus intently, as if to make sure he wasn't lying. Severus felt a stab of guilt that Harry hadn't trusted his words immediately.
"This is quite a lot to take in at once," Severus murmured with a soft sigh. "Take time and think about it. If you absolutely refuse to attend Hogwarts, I will arrange it and decline the offer."
Harry stood slowly and scratched at one arm, not quite looking at him. "..I'll think about it."
"Good. If you have questions, come find me. I won't force you to decide quickly." He stepped closer and hesitated a moment before resting a hand on Harry's shoulder, feeling tight muscles under his fingers. "Go get some air. Take a short walk."
Harry glanced at him, nodded, and then headed for the door. He paused there, hand on the knob, and spoke without turning around. "Father... Did... If my surname is Potter... I was born after Mother married."
"Yes." Severus felt a sudden fear, wondering if he would ask now, if his trust was suddenly so shattered.
"...I hope Mr. Potter was nice to her." Harry said softly. Severus didn't reply immediately but Harry didn't seem to expect it. The boy left and Severus sat down and wondered how he'd tell him the rest.
And You Hold My Hand
Harry didn't sleep well. He ended up sitting in bed, holding the picture of his mother that his father had given him. He stared at the red haired woman as she waved and smiled back at him and wondered, faintly, if the photograph was a lie as well. Maybe this was Olivia Spatts and Lily Potter looked different. Maybe she had black hair, like him. She had to have green eyes because his father certainly didn't. Or maybe her parents did?
He swallowed. Getting up, Harry padded to the shared bathroom between his room and his father's. He stayed very quiet and made sure both doors were shut before he turned on the light and stood in front of the mirror. Harry set the photograph against the mirror, propping it very carefully, then reached up and shoved his hair back from his face as best he could.
His eyes were exactly like the woman in the picture's. He leaned close, squinting a little as he studied her face and then his own. His nose was rather like hers, as was the shape of his face. Of course, his father was a very smart man. He'd have found someone who looked enough like him if he was going to lie about photographs too.
There was something else, however. The way she smiled seemed so very familiar. Harry watched her for a long time. Maybe it was his mother. He'd seen a picture of this woman with a black haired infant. It might be him. Harry pursed his lips and picked up the photograph again, bringing it close. She was pretty. Father had said his mother was, but that could have been a lie too.
Harry knew his father had loved his mother, whoever she was. He could see that plainly enough not to doubt a bit. As he stared at her picture, he wondered if she had loved him as well. Certainly enough to make him, anyway. He frowned at her anyway.
Why hadn't she stayed with his father?
He thought back to the man. Severus Snape was a quiet person and very private. Harry had been told his father wasn't very handsome but many felt a strange power from the man. A strength. Harry felt that as well. He knew his father could take anything and remain so strong, supporting him through everything. But Father certainly wasn't perfect. He had a temper and was very suspicious. He thought the world was far more deadly than Harry ever had. Sometimes, Harry thought he might be scared to venture any farther than he already had. But that was stupid. How could a powerful wizard like his father be afraid of anything?
In any case, Harry couldn't see a reason why his mother chose another man before he was born. He couldn't understand why anyone would hurt his father as much as she obviously had. Harry had caught his father here and then, holding one of the carefully framed photographs he left around their rooms, just staring at her. Before Harry had asked two years ago, there had been no photographs. Harry almost wished he hadn't because before that, he hadn't had to see his father's quiet, lonely grief.
If his mother hadn't loved this man who grieved for her so long, Harry wondered if she'd loved him. Father said she did, but Harry wasn't so sure. He wasn't sure if he wanted her to, either. Frankly, he felt rather angry with her suddenly.
He finally decided the photograph really was her, even if there were none with his father in them as well. Shaking his head, Harry went to bed and laid there, staring at his ceiling once he'd set the photograph back onto the side table.
The next day, his father was very quiet. They ate breakfast together and Harry ignored the way Father's eyes drew to him here and there but said nothing more than the usual breakfast conversation. Harry didn't mind. He wasn't sure he was ready to talk about things yet. His father went off to do some work and Harry headed outside to one of the safe gardens Draco had shown him. Most of them weren't safe. For some reason, Mr. Malfoy seemed to like dangerous, man-eating things in his gardens instead of pretty flowers, but Mrs. Malfoy had one or two of her own with roses and carnations and such. Draco knew all their names but Harry never could remember right.
He sat on a stone bench and stared as a bee fluttered around a bright yellow flower as he thought about Mr. Potter. There had to be a reason his mother chose that man. Harry knew his name, from his reading. James Potter was well known for defying the Dark Lord during the war, but he was more famous for being the father of Harry Potter, who'd defeated the madman at a year old. Harry wondered what the world would think if they knew James Potter wasn't his father.
"What are you doing out here?" Draco asked suddenly from behind him. Harry jumped a bit, then rolled his eyes as Draco plopped himself down beside him. "You look like someone died."
"Do not," Harry replied with a frown. "And I'm thinking."
"Did it hurt?"
Harry smacked his shoulder and Draco smirked at him. "No. I was..."
"Well, spit it out already," Draco muttered, leaning back on his arms as the wind played with his hair. He hadn't gelled it today, so it flew about rather wildly. Harry preferred it that way because he thought the gel was stupid.
"...Father took an offer to teach at Hogwarts, so I'm going there too after all," he murmured. Draco grinned.
"Really? Lovely. We finally get to be around each other more than just for the summers." He looked very happy. Harry managed to smile back.
"Yeah. Now I just have to worry about this 'sorting' thing you've told me about..."
"Oh, I wouldn't." Draco waved a dismissive hand before leaning on it again. "You'll be a Slytherin like me. I mean, you father was so you will be."
Harry blinked. "Father went to Hogwarts...?"
"You didn't know?"
"He doesn't like talking about past things..." Harry trailed off but Draco just shrugged one shoulder.
"Oh. Well, I suppose not. My father doesn't either. But Uncle Severus was a Slytherin. Father said he was a very good Slytherin too. Said he kept his marks high and everything, so I have to be like that too. Father was, but Mother says Uncle Severus did better with school things even if Father was better with other things."
Harry nodded. It sounded like his father. He wondered if he'd be able to do as well and if Father might be angry with him if he didn't.
"Do they have Quidditch there? At Hogwarts?"
Draco snorted. "Of course they do. But first years don't play."
"I could still try, couldn't I?" Harry murmured, lifting a brow.
"I guess. If you try, I will, too."
Harry grinned. "We could play together."
"You are my best mate," Draco drawled, trying not to grin back. "Of course we play together. Someone has to watch your back."
At the mention of that, Harry's face fell. Suddenly, it wasn't Quidditch he thought about. He remembered the way his father had looked last night, saying his name change had been to protect him. Protect him from what? The Dark Lord was gone and couldn't Father protect him from whatever dark wizards were about? The man in the cave had been a fluke, he was sure. Harry couldn't remember another time he'd been in danger.
"Harry?" He looked up as Draco watched him with faint worry. "Still there in that thick head of yours?"
"Still here," Harry replied with a shrug. He looked back at the yellow flowers and saw the bee had disappeared.
"Draco," he murmured softly, "you're my friend no matter what, right?"
"Of course." Draco seemed a little confused.
"Even... Even if I'm not who you think I am?"
"Who else would you be?" Draco had a brow lifted when Harry glanced at him but the blond was taking him seriously.
"I... Father said..." Harry trailed off. He didn't quite know how to say this without blurting it. His hands clasped in his lap. "Father said my name's Harry Potter. And my mum's name isn't Oliva. And-"
"Wait, wait, Harry, stop." Draco reached over and grabbed his shoulder, waiting until Harry managed to lift his gaze up to his face. "What are you going on about? Of course you're not Harry Potter. Your father's having you on."
"But... But, Draco..." Harry swallowed thickly. "He wouldn't play a trick like this on me. He... Draco, I have the scar!"
And for the first time in eleven years, Harry dragged his hair up out of his face and rubbed his forehead hard enough to displace the charm and make up covering his scar. Draco stared, his gray eyes rather wide.
"Harry," he whispered out, then reached up to touch it. Harry swallowed thickly at the feel of Draco's fingertip sliding along the rough lightning bolt. "This... This can't be right. Are you having me on?"
"No. I... Draco, what if I really am...?"
Draco pulled his hand back and continued to stare at the mark even after Harry let his hair drop back over it.
"What if it's true?"
"It might not be," Draco began but stopped at the look on Harry's face and furrowed his brows. "If it is... What about Uncle Severus?"
"What?" Harry frowned with confusion.
"Well, if you are Harry Potter... then Uncle Severus isn't your father."
Harry stilled. He stared at Draco with wide eyes. That thought hadn't occurred to him at all. Could Father really not be his father...? It seemed unimaginable. He loved his father and Father loved him. And cared for him. And raised him. Harry couldn't remember a time without Father.
"That's not true," he whispered. Draco looked at him a moment and then turned away.
"...You're right. That's stupid. Of course Uncle Severus is your father."
"Right." Harry didn't feel steady with that at all. "Right, he... He is my father."
"Right," Draco repeated.
But Harry didn't feel any better. He closed his eyes, hands curled in his lap as he leaned forward.
As The Sun Goes Dim
Harry didn't actually feel any better when he returned inside with Draco. They played a few games of Wizard's Chess and he failed more miserably than usual. Mostly, he just listened as Draco talked about this or that, complained about some kid named Vincent and another one named Milicent. Harry didn't know them, hadn't met any of Draco's high blooded friends, and he didn't particularly care to either from Draco's stories of their idiocy.
"Honestly, Harry, you're the only person I can get a decent conversation with," Draco complained. "Except Pansy, but she's a girl."
He apparently didn't consider Milicent a girl but Harry didn't blame him. She had a habit of pulling people into headlocks, if Draco's stories were to be trusted. Decidedly ungirly, they agreed. Harry wondered if Cissie had ever put anyone in a headlock but he doubted it. Cissie was very girly, though not quite like Draco's mother.
Mrs. Malfoy never seemed to wear the same clothes twice and kept her hair and make up in perfect condition all the time. Harry didn't know why she bothered. She was pretty enough without the work. Of course, sometimes Cissie had bothered, like when she got married. She'd been very pretty and Harry'd felt rather sad through the ceremony. He may have been a little sweet on the woman. Not that he held any grudge against Mr. Novak! The man was... well, not nice, but it was obvious he cared about Cissie and she liked him too. So, Harry had quite honorably kept his affections to himself. At least Cissie said he could be god-brother to little Avina. He wondered how the baby was. He'd scarcely been away from her so long. Maybe she would pine. Harry hoped not. He also hoped his father would take him to see them before school-
That thought stopped as Draco took his last Rook. Father... There were still doubts lingering quite fully in his mind but he didn't want to think about that now. Later, maybe after dinner, he'd talk to Father. Maybe he'd write a letter to Cissie. She always knew what to do and how to make him feel better.
He did end up writing after dinner. He rewrote it four or five times before he thought it was well explained, then sent the letter off with his father's owl, Ozymandias. The old bird gave him a disgruntled hoot before heading off at a leisurely pace. Harry rather thought Ozy did it on purpose, just to make it seem as if the whole business was an absolute imposition. He used to nip Harry's fingers hard but now seemed to have decided it wasn't worth it. Harry watched the bird until he disappeared, then a while long as if he might come back right then with Cissie's sagely advice. But he didn't, so Harry went on to his room again.
His father kept looking at him, watching him with sad eyes and a slightly lost expression. He seemed about as bothered by all this as Harry was. It still didn't make the idea of talking to him any easier. Harry avoided his gaze and knew that Father would give him the time he needed. Father always did.
So, Harry avoided talking for days. He played chess or Quidditch with Draco, studied in his room, spent hours in the Malfoy's library, or just wandered. It wasn't peaceful, but he just didn't know if he'd ever be ready for this.
Cissie's letter arrived four days after he'd sent his own off. Harry jumped up when Ozymandias returned and grabbed the letter, getting a hard nip on the knuckle before the bird let it go. Harry didn't mind that. Instead, he ripped it open and read quickly.
"My Darling Harry,
It sounds as if all of this has been very shocking."
That was an understatement. Harry snorted a bit before continuing on.
"I know you're very confused and it seems too big and crazy, but trust your father to lead you well. He loves you and everything he does is for your happiness. He would never hurt you intentionally. Remember that always.
What I know about your past, identity, parentage... I know your name is not Johnathan Snape. I've known for a very long while. But just because you've thought of yourself with one name this long does not mean it defines you. You're Harry. You always have been and always will be. Changing your surname with not change that unless you let it."
Harry swallowed. Somehow, knowing that Cissie knew and still treated him with such fond regard made him feel a little better. It still hurt that she'd never told him.
"Trust your father, Harry. Whatever he tells you, whatever it all means, he will never abandon you. He will never leave you alone. Trust him and it will be all right.
All my love,
Cissienia Novak "
Harry read over the letter a few times as he sat on his bed. He drew in a soft sigh, closing his eyes as he folded it up again. Trust his father. Trust the man who had lied to him... but Father said he'd done it to protect him. Cissie said he'd done it to make him happy. Harry didn't feel protected or happy at that moment. But it was time for the truth. The whole truth.
Though he wanted to postpone it forever, as if that might make any difference, Harry found his father that evening. Father didn't make it difficult. He'd been keeping to his rooms or the library since their talk, if he wasn't spending time with Mr. Malfoy. This time, he was in his rooms and he looked faintly surprised when he opened his door and saw his son. Harry watched a faint defeat enter his gaze.
"Come in," Father said quietly, drawing the door farther open so that Harry could come in. He shut the door after him and then stood there as Harry crossed to sit at the edge of the bed. For a while, there was quiet. Father waited, letting Harry decide how they would talk, what they would discuss first. He did that when he was uncomfortable or simply weary. Harry almost hated making him feel that way.
"You... You said my mother and you were never married," he managed finally.
"Yes. She chose another man. James Potter. He was our year mate at Hogwarts."
Harry nodded a bit, hands curling in his lap as he pulled at his fingers. "Why? Why didn't she marry you?"
"I suppose..." Father sighed a little and leaned against the door, not looking at him. "She was in love with Potter. Not me."
"But... But you two made me!" Harry burst out suddenly and his father winced. "I mean, she had to have loved you a little at least. Enough for... for me..."
Father was silent. His arms crossed his chest, hands tight along his upper arms and white knuckled. He looked like he was in pain. Harry hated causing it. He tried to take it back, but Father cut him off.
"It's.. It's not that simple, Harry." Father drew in a slow breath to calm himself, but his face was white and his hands still clenched. "You... I didn't... Harry, I love you. I love you very much and that will never change."
Harry stiffened at the harried tone in Father's voice. His own hands tightened and his chest burned. Father looked at him and for a moment, Harry was terrified he might begin to cry. He looked suddenly weak and scared and broken and lonely and lost...
"I... I adopted you, Harry," Father said finally and it sounded as if the words had been ripped from his chest. Harry just stared at him. "Potter... James Potter is your father."
For a long for moments, Harry just stared at him. When Draco had said it, that seemed so... impossible. That Father wasn't... That someone else could have been... But Father had said it. Father had said it looking him in the eye with that painful openness on his face.
"Your parents," Father continued finally, voice quiet and deep, "They died when you were very little. I.. Your mother had been my friend. I couldn't leave you alone. It was... I had no intention of taking your father's place from you, Harry. I never did. But you wanted that. You asked if you could call me Father and I let you... I... Harry, I hope that some day you can forgive me for this."
Harry didn't know what to say. Neither did Father- not Father. He knew he was breathing too quickly and his chest hurt, so tight. Father- not Father darn it!- said nothing. He waited as he always did. Usually, it made Harry feel better, not being pressured, but this time, he only got mad.
"You're not my father," he said swiftly, brows furrowed. Father- not Father- stared at him in silence as his face fell into that blank slate it became when he was upset. "You're not.. You lied to me!"
"Yes. I did."
"You let me believe... I... I trusted you!"
The older man swallowed thickly. "Yes. I know."
Harry wanted to throw something. He wanted to rip something between his hands, burn it, scream out loud, something, but all he could manage was to stand and shake faintly.
"I...I... I don't even know what to do with this!"
Father- not Father- Severus sighed very softly and dropped his gaze to the ground. "You need time to process... to think about this."
"I don't want to think about it," Harry shot back and Severus closed his eyes.
"I know it's hard, but-"
"No." Harry narrowed his eyes. "You don't know anything."
Severus went silent and didn't look at him. His face was utterly bereft of feeling, but the faint trembling in his hands said it all. It hurt even more when Harry realized that angry as he was, he still didn't want to hurt the man, but he couldn't let this go.
"Who am I?" he snarled. Severus opened his eyes again.
"Harold James Potter, son of Lily and James Potter."
Harry hated that. He'd wanted Severus to say Johnathan. To make all of this a mean spirited joke. He almost wanted to renounce the name Harry Potter completely, but he couldn't. He couldn't live any more lies.
"I'm going to Hogwarts," Harry snapped out. "And I'll go with my name. No more lies. Ever."
Severus looked at him, quiet, and then nodded slowly. Without another word, Harry left. He heard the faint shudder in Severus' breathing but ignored it as he slammed the door shut behind him. Even the loud noise and the violence of it didn't soothe him. Harry stormed through the hall, scared a house elf, and then went outside.
His eyes burned and watered. His chest was so tight he could barely breath and when he did breath, it hurt and shuddered. His hands shook and nails dug into his palms as he clenched them. He wished he didn't know. Why had his father told him this? But Severus Snape wasn't his father. He was a liar. He spun stories and lies and... and... And he'd cared for him since he was a baby. He'd raised and protected and taught and loved him. He'd given so much and even told him the truth now, when it hurt. When it burned like fire.
Harry's knees weakened. He slid down to kneel in front of a patch of roses and buried his head in his hands. Confusion swept him, harsh as the unforgiving truth. He didn't know what to think, what to do.
He wondered if Cissie would come get him and make everything okay again. He doubted it.