AN: A note for you all at the end, a big thanks. I've got a few scenes that didn't make it in, which will probably be posted as one shots later. :) Also a very big thanks to Pygmy Puff of Doom, who has been a great source of inspiration and endless answerer of odd questions I popped up with along the way.


Ch 14 - You're Home Again.

Harry woke to a persistent tapping at the window, and fumbled around for his glasses in the darkened dorm. Ron was drooling on his own bed, asleep, and Neville had moved to his desk to work on an essay. The tornado of clothing strewn across the bed next to his told Harry that Dean had been up at some point while he was sleeping.

Letting Hedwig in, Harry stretched and checked the clock above the door. It seemed to be getting close to dinnertime…maybe. Dinner was at five, and the watch said four and thirty five. Hedwig squawked at him and Harry gave up on the math. Unrolling the parchment and ignoring the dreaded newspaper, Harry immediately recognized Snape's writing.

The news has been leaked. Go with Plan September.

- Dad.

P.S. Return my tie at once, thief.

Harry unrolled the newspaper and blinked at the headline, before starting to laugh. He got a questioning look from Neville, and Ron sat up quickly out of his nap, mumbling about spiders and bacon. Harry smirked and held up the paper.

"They didn't even get my name right."

"Harry James Snape?" Ron asked, rubbing his face with the side of his bed sheet as he squinted at the paper.

"There's a fidelius-like spell on my file at the family services office. No one can find out my real name unless Snape, the family services wizard, or I tell them." Harry said. He stood up and stretched, wincing when he accidentally hit his ear. Apparently the babelfish was something he'd need to remember to remove before going to bed.

The door to the dorm creaked open further as Seamus and Dean barged in, looking to change before dinner.

"Are you going to deny it?" Neville asked from his desk, putting away his quill and parchment.

"Nope. No sha…point to do that." Harry shrugged. He shirked his dress trousers and searched around in his trunk for one of his new pairs of jeans. Dinner did not require the uniform. Leaving the dress shirt, albeit wrinkly, Harry put a black jumper on top and ran his fingers through his hair.

"Deny what?" Dean asked, his shirt stuck trying to get over his hair.

"That Snape's my dad." Harry answered, putting his watch back on and feigning indifference. It was a bit hard to keep a straight face, as upon hearing the news Seamus tripped back onto his arse while trying to change his trousers.

"Bollocks!" Seamus blurted. "You're taking the piss!"

Harry tossed him the newspaper and searched around for an errant shoe.

"Does Snape care if you curse?" Neville asked, putting Trevor into a cage and ignoring Seamus' sputtering.

"I guess it would depend on the an...person." Harry answered, then realized what Neville had actually asked. "Oh, no. I don't swear much, but he's never told…said anything."

"You're telling us that Snape is actually your father?" Dean asked, looking gobsmacked.

"Adopted father." Ron said, standing by the door and petting his grumbling stomach.

"What?" Seamus asked, still wondering if it were true or not. "Severus Snape? The sadistic sonofabitch Slytherin?"

"That's the one. Tall, sarcastic, bit of a git, has a thing for black." Harry confirmed, not hiding his smirk.

"Well, Harry's not got the greasy hair, obviously." Ron snorted.

"Although." Neville stopped by the door, "You are blind as a bat, and you know what they say about Snape."

Harry laughed easily for the first time in a few days, thinking once again that Snape was a genius. He'd originally been skeptical of the September plan, as it was just a 'back to school' idea. Go back to classes and life at school with Harry just boldly acting as if everyone else was daft not to have known. Acting arrogant and slightly condescending, rather like Snape's normal professor persona. But he had to admit, the false bravado and 'so what?' attitude was working well. It'd be interesting to see what Snape did with his role in the plan, Harry thought with a grin.

"Rubbish. Absolute bullshit." Seamus shook his head, following Harry out anyway.

Harry walked into the Great Hall for dinner with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Dean, and Seamus. They'd arrived moments after the delivery of the Evening Prophet, and Harry figured Seamus had come along merely for the entertainment factor. He ignored the students staring and whispering at him, and sat down at his regular spot, chattering with his friends and laughing at Ron's bad jokes. Acting normal, just like the plan said. The room was quieter, other conversations down to a slow buzz, as Harry filled his goblet with pumpkin juice, ignoring the attention he was getting. Out of the corner of his eyes, however, he could see Snape put his own wand to his throat.

"I trust," Snape's low growl easily reached the far corners of the hall, "that you are all sufficiently able to feed yourselves without making too much of a mess, while you try to wrap your little brains around a belated and poorly written adoption announcement."

There was silence as the students stared between Snape and Harry, and then the clang of cutlery as dinner appeared. The message had been very clear from Snape: this is not up for discussion. It seemed like no one really knew how to act, and Harry smirked at the chastised look the other students were wearing. He was starting to feel a bit bolder, as he realized that it really wasn't anyone's business that he'd been adopted. Harry found himself thinking back to Spinner's End, and smiling.

It was a Monday night. Last summer on a Monday he could often be found in the kitchen, making an evening snack while Snape sat at the table and shuffled a deck of cards with precision. The cribbage board would be set and the radio would be alternating between rock music from Snape's teenage years and the news (which Snape would provide scathing and often hilariously sarcastic commentary for). Harry would ask just the right questions to provoke Snape into a rant about the general idiocy of those in charge. Laughter broke through his thoughts, one of Ron's jokes had been a hit, and Seamus snorted pumpkin juice with a loud choking sound. Maybe Snape would let him invite his friends over this summer, Harry thought, still smiling.

For his part, Snape said in his regular seat and gave the hall his customary scowl. He noted that fewer Slytherins were sitting at the table than before, as McGonagall and he had assumed, the children of certain death eaters had been pulled. Snape had no delusions that all of his students could have been saved from a life of servitude from the Dark Lord. He was no saint, no charity case professor, and if he could provide a Voldemort-free environment for the Slytherins smart enough to see past the propaganda, that was enough for him. On his second sweep of the room, Snape noted something buzzing around a Weasley head at the Gryffindor table, and pulled his wand. With practised accuracy he pointed it in the direction of his son and grabbed the nearest goblet. It wasn't perfect, but it would do.

"Accio beetle."

He watched with satisfaction as a small brown object tumbled through the air towards him, landing on the table and immediately being quarantined under the goblet.

"Severus? All right there?" Sprout asked, pouring some goblin made wine into her goblet.

"Perfect, Madame. Merely adding to my stores of ingredients." Snape answered. He transfigured the goblet into a little cage and held it up for inspection; pleased to see tiny little squares around the beetle's eyes, almost as if they were glasses.

"Beetles," Snape continued, surprising Sprout by being conversational, "are remarkably useful in a variety of different potions. Their eyes, for example, are used in most healing bases, their shells are used in potions that alter thinking habits, and their innards are used for home repair and defense brews."

Sprout stared at him as if he were a venomous tentacula in search of a victim.

"Their brains, most interestingly, are the only thing that hasn't been found to aid in any potion. Absolutely useless." Snape finished, tapping the side of the cage with his wand and giving it an evil smile.

….

Tuesday night held an impromptu match for the Gryffindor quidditch team, one that had been set up just for fun between the whole house. It was windy and snowy out, but the visibility had been good and there was still an energetic buzz left over from Monday's party, so McGonagall had kicked them out to burn it off. Harry was in an excellent mood, as even though Snape hadn't quite given him the go ahead to go flying (something about ensuring his balance wasn't affected), he'd performed at his best and captured the snitch before the other pick up team's seeker.

Most of the other Gryffindors, upon realizing that being Snape's son made Harry no different than the same bloke they'd been rooming with for five and a half years, had gone back to their regular behaviour around with him. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws kept their distance as usual, but even they couldn't help but admit that Snape showed absolutely no favouritism towards Harry. He endured pointing and snickering from some of them, but it wasn't any worse from when Harry had been accused of being the heir of Slytherin, so it was easy to ignore.

Only the Slytherins seemed to be truly conflicted, some hating Snape for killing the Dark Lord, others hating Harry as well for helping, and others disliking Harry for slipping in and usurping their favoured place in the eyes of their Head of House. Of all students, Harry thought as he ran with mud encrusted shoes through the dungeons, it figured that the Slytherins had the meanest jealousy streak. All in all, it hadn't been a bad day. He turned another corner and side stepped to the right to avoid a stick wall (one student had been a little too enthusiastic with enlarging a muggle sticky tape bug trap) and briefly considered just hopping on his broom and flying the rest of the way.

Snape would kill him, but it would be quite worth it.

Nonetheless, he arrived at Snape's flat on foot and burst inside, dropping his broom by the coat rack.

"Dad? Dad, are you hibernation?" Harry called, walking into the living room and shedding his shoes. The wall sconces were already lit as he walked in, so Snape was around somewhere. He passed into the kitchen, wincing at the cold stone that he felt through a hole in his sock, and checked the fridge for any leftovers. Snape usually ate in the Great Hall but sometimes a plate of cheese or some fruit could be found.

"Hello?" Harry called again, taking some cheese out of the fridge. There were some crackers and peanut butter in the cabinet, so he put them out on a plate, singing horridly off key to a U2 song.

"Keep your caterwauling to the shower, thank you." A deep voice came from the doorway and startled Harry out of his precise application of peanut butter to the cracker in his hand.

"Bird kept spot in the onion ring whoosh fast on brooms and I got lucky. Scored. No, I got the golden bitch." Harry smiled happily, sucking errant peanut butter of his finger.

Snape blinked slowly and looked down towards the floor, where Harry's muddy feet and trousers had tracked spots in.

"Have you joined some sort of bizarre adult quidditch league I was previously unaware of?" Snape asked, drawing his wand out of his sleeve and pointing it at Harry.

"No." Harry replied with a confused look on his face. "Flying game I won and captured the snitch. I didn't trip."

Harry placed a precarious three stack of crackers in his mouth, cupping his hand under his chin to catch the crumbs.

"You played quidditch on a broom before I could assess the safety of such an action." Snape clarified, scourgifying Harry's feet and the bottom of his trousers.

Harry nodded and picked up the chunk of cheese he'd sliced for himself.

"You can't babygate me my whole life." Harry said with a stern tone, before popping the cheese into his mouth. He had goosebumps on his arms from the chilly and mucky clothes he was still wearing from quidditch, and shivered slightly as he scratched the back of his sweat dampened hair. Perhaps he should have grabbed his cloak on the way to the dungeons.

Snape looked a mixture of exasperated and unimpressed.

"What part of guardian do you not understand?" Snape asked, spelling clean the footprints on the floor. "Go take a shower before you come down with some heretofore unknown malady."

Harry looked at the wand that was pointed at him and guarded another peanut butter cracker to his chest.

"I'll shower later."

"You'll shower now and stop making a mess of my kitchen, if you know what's good for you." Snape glared.

"I can resist the imperius curse." Harry said, trying to sound menacing. He backed up a little towards the fridge.

"Lesson number seven, Mr. Snape. When someone acts tough," Snape warned advancing towards Harry, "call their bluff."

With the tiniest flick of his wrist, Snape had Harry floating over the kitchen in mere seconds. Cheese flew out of Harry's hand towards the floor and crackers dropped gracelessly (landing peanut side down, interestingly, the theory applied to crackers as well as bread it seemed), and a struggling Harry was floated out towards the hallway.

"What the hell?" Harry gasped, more amused than annoyed. "You can't levitate me to the tub!"

A rushing sound of water from the vicinity of the bathroom suggested otherwise, as Snape walked Harry down the hall.

"I believe you'll find I can." Snape answered, with a smirk.

Harry found himself extremely tired after his hot shower, and wrapped in two towels made his way sleepily to the guest room of Snape's flat. He'd barely managed to get dressed into the spare pajama pants from the dresser before he heard a knock at the door.

"C'm in." Harry grumbled, putting his wand on the table.

"You'll be mighty embarrassed in the halls if anyone sees you returning to Gryffindor tower in those pants." Snape pointed out, walking into the room.

"No, no, bed here." Harry yawned, pulling the sheets up and untucking them.

"No, you will not take advantage of having a father on staff, especially with everyone now knowing. Back up to the dorm." Snape crossed his arms, watching Harry turn back to the dresser and search for a shirt.

"It's Tuesday." Harry blinked at him, shivering slightly in the chilly air. Snape wondered if the little idiot had set the charmed window to 'open'.

"Accio Aberdeen shirt." Snape commanded, and caught the blue shirt as it came flying out of the clean laundry pile. "I don't care if it's Christmas."

"Thanks Dad." Harry murmured, pulling the shirt on over his head. He turned and did a little dive towards the bed, landing on his stomach and elbows. "M'cold."

"Because you were stupid and went flying in a snowstorm. You have a warm bed upstairs." Snape muttered, yanking the covers from under Harry, flipping him over roughly in the process.

"Yeah, another bed upstairs." Harry agreed, burrowing further. He took his glasses off and blindly flailed his arm towards the night table, his aim off by a good half a foot.

"You are a ridiculous boy." Snape huffed, catching the glasses.

"What time are we launching rooster?" Harry mumbled into the pillow. Snape took a moment to roll Harry's head to the side while he figured out what on Earth Harry had asked.

"Accio babelfish." Snape incanted softly, cupping his hand next to Harry's ear. He caught the small yellow worm and placed it with a sticking charm onto the night table.

"Early. I shall set the hounds of hell on you before sunup." Snape answered, mussing Harry's hair roughly and pushing his head into the pillow.

"Mmm. 'kay. Night." Harry muttered, waving his arm in a pathetic attempt to bat Snape's hand away.

"Snape, what on Earth…?" Scrimgeour sputtered, burning his tongue on hot coffee and ungracefully spitting it back into his mug. He placed the mug down on the desk amongst the haphazard piles of paper, glancing quickly to the clock. Not quite eight in the morning.

"Charming." Snape said, barely keeping his tone polite. He sat in one of the chairs opposite and Harry followed suit, keeping his mouth shut. Snape hadn't ordered him to, but Harry was under no illusions of having any conversational skills to match Snape's.

"Mr. Potter and I would like to enact clause six B of the law for Magical Retribution Against Wizarding Persons And Property."

"You would, would you?" Scrimgeour grunted, taking a seat at his desk. "Against whom?"

Snape placed the cage with the beetle on the desk. "Having my family affairs broadcast in the newspaper is not something I'm particularly fond of."

"Part of being a celebrity, I hear." Scrimgeour commented, staring at the beetle. It seemed to be having a panic attack in the cage. He picked up a bundle of papers, from the stack that had been labeled urgent a few days ago, and looked hard at Harry. "Never pictured either of you as morning people."

"All hours of the day have their merits. Avis passeridae." Snape murmured, his lips twitching upward as four brown sparrows burst out of his wand and immediately started circling the cage.

"Is that so? And what benefit does it have to coming here so damn early in the morning to tell me you're going to curse Rita Skeeter? Do not tell me that you're the reason she's gone missing." Scrimgeour glared, grabbing for his coffee again. He slammed it irritably on the desk after taking a large gulp. "And what the hell does that beetle have to do with anything?"

"That's Rita Skeeter." Harry said, a small smile on his face, watching the birds dive-bomb the cage unsuccessfully. The beetle inside let out a high-pitched squeak.

"Sweet shit in a cauldron." Scrimgeour exhaled, tossing a thick file in the vicinity of his bookcase.

Harry bit back a snort and scratched his wrist. Snape had made him wear dress clothes today, but they were actually rather casual. Scrimgeour himself looked to be dressed in sturdy work robes, and from the shape of his office, was a much more hands on kind of Minister than Fudge had been.

One of the birds landed on top of the cage and the beetle shrunk into a little ball.

"Being that she is an unregistered animagus, I've taken the opportunity to provide you with a set of registration papers, with a list of accompanying fines." Snape banished the birds and slowly smiled. "For your convenience."

"Naturally." Scrimgeour immediately said, as if he didn't believe a word of Snape's hospitability. "Once this news gets out I imagine the Daily Prophet will be facing quite a few fines as well."

Harry smiled at this, thinking about how many other people would be wanting revenge on Rita Skeeter.

"Set her to rights, Snape, and then you can hex her. You know the rules, no unforgivables and within all the limits set in section thirty-four."

"She's already been cursed." Snape responded blandly, unlocking the cage and stunning the beetle. He lifted her out and placed her on the floor, incanting the spell to reveal animagi. A frazzled and angry Rita Skeeter appeared, glasses skewed and green business suit rumpled. Snape and Harry stood and turned to leave the office as Skeeter spouted some rather vulgar phrases.

"You already cursed her!" Scrimgeour snapped, glaring at them. "We have procedure to follow here Snape, it's not just an eye for an eye. Not even for ex-death eaters." Scrimgeour lifted a rather bony finger and jabbed it at him.

"He's a waspish and bitter old bastard, trying to get my accounts. Oh yes, I know you're trying to trade in on my famous name, you Machiavellian excuse for a professor." Skeeter announced, glaring confidently at him.

Scrimgeour blinked.

"Merlin Snape, did you invent your own curse? Subsection five C of the law demands it be curable."

"It shall wear off in a few years. It merely illudes that each conversation she overhears is about her." Snape shrugged.

"Begone from my sight, you meddling little fiend. I've done my year's silence." Skeeter spat, looking at Harry.

"Not positive things, either." Harry finished, smiling at Scrimgeour.

Snape inclined his head as he guided Harry out the door. "Good day, Minister."

Most of the lifts whizzing past the first floor were full, but one finally stopped for Snape and Harry, and much to Harry's chagrin, it contained several reporters who looked like hunters gazing at their prey. None of the other cars were stopping, as they were all full of Ministry employees arriving for the workday and regular citizens appearing for meetings and appointments. Snape let a slow and rather malicious looking smile grace his face, and Harry tried to hide his suspicion as they stepped into the lift, facing the reporters.

"You may begin." Snape intoned, not looking welcoming in the least. "You have five minutes." The door clanged behind them and the car started moving, unaffected by the scramble of five reporters searching for quills and parchment.

"Is it true you adopted Harry Potter?" A short little wizard blurted, his blue quill flashing as it waited for the answer.

Snape withdrew his wand from his sleeve very slowly.

"Someone who is not an utter dunderhead may begin."

"Why did you adopt Harry Potter?" Another wizard asked, as the first molded towards the back of the lift. Four department memo airplanes buzzed around his head.

"As much of a weapon as he was made, even the Boy Who Lived needs a family." Snape said smoothly. Harry bit back the urge to growl at the nickname.

"Harry, were you imperiused?"

"I didn't give you permission to use my first name." Harry said, glad Snape had made him drink a calming potion at breakfast in addition to wearing the babelfish. "And no. I can resist the imperius curse."

"Imperius and the Killing Curse? How powerful are you that you can resist two of the three unforgivables?" The face was narrowed and there was a suspicious tone to the question.

"Anyone with half a brain and this boy's level of determination can learn to throw off an imperius curse." Snape responded levelly.

Harry crossed his arms and gave his best Snape glare.

"I can tell you that when I was 14, I discovered very well how much the cruciatus curse affects me."

"Er, right." The reporter replied, watching like a hawk as Snape started twirling the end in his hand.

"I guess what we all want to know is why you didn't tell anyone about the adoption." A brave reporter from the Daily Prophet commented. He was backed up with a pathetic 'yeah' by another colleague.

"You all don't wish to know anything. The wizarding world is content to go about their boring every day lives, open a paper with their morning tea, and have someone like you tell them what they need to be nosy about. You're merely begging to hear some bit of slightly scandalous information because in order to sell the paper, you need something drastic to ensnare their pitiful attention spans." Snape was tapping his wand against his forearm, and it was making a small humming sound.

"Ludicrous! The Daily Prophet reports the gritty truth to the public. We do our best to inform…"

"Pish you do." Snape cut him off. "Ravenclaw, aren't you? When is the last time you read an article you gathered information for?"

"I skim them when I get the chance. I'm surprised you recognized me, you're just as much a bastard now as you were in school." The man gritted his teeth, bending his quill slightly in his grip.

"Of course I am, and don't flatter yourself." Snape sneered, in a tone identical to his normal domineering potions lecture voice. "I don't remember half the Slytherins I taught, never mind any other student. It is evident in your unwavering quest for information, which you think you are owed, instead of it being a privilege granted. Your ridiculous lack of common sense in following up to see that all your hard work actually goes into mediocre and slanderous rags is a trait shared by quite a few of your house as well."

Snape had his head titled slightly up so he was staring down his nose at the man, who at this point was rather flustered and looked to be at a loss for words. Snape jammed the red panic button on the lift panel, causing the car to jerk to a stop almost level with the sixth floor. None of them moved to start the lift again, and they all paused to listen to the chirpy female recording that greeted them. Please do not press this button again.

"Your assertion that everyone deserves the noble truth indicates that one of your parents must have been a self-righteous Gryffindor." Snape finished, looking rather pleased with his assessment. Harry was leaning against the wall panel next to the door, arms crossed against his chest and a wide smirk on his face. He was thoroughly enjoying the tongue lashing, and glad as hell that he wasn't at the end of it.

"He's a Gryffindor." The reporter sneered, nodding at Harry.

"Not all of us are perfect. He's made up for it." Snape said dismissively.

"Prig." Harry muttered.

"Are you married?" Snape suddenly asked. He ignored Harry and looked the reporter up and down with a disdainful look.

The reporter stared at him blankly. "Yes. What has that to do with anything?"

"And your wife? What's her maiden name? Did she come from a pureblood family? Is that why you married her?"

"That is absolutely none of your business."

"And yet you wish to know why I would chose to adopt a boy. Tsk tsk, Mr. Big Shot Reporter. It seems it isn't all fair in life and war."

"Harry Potter is a celebrity, and so are you. This is part of destroying the worst wizard in a century." The reporter huffed, his quill obnoxiously flying on the parchment beside him.

"No." Snape stopped, holding up the hand not carrying his wand. The reporters flinched regardless.

"Harry Potter and I are two wizards who managed to get off their arses and kill a man everyone else was afraid to. That's it. One paragraph, perhaps two, for the history books, and nothing more. This boy owes nothing else to anyone."

He spun and wrenched open the doors, pushing Harry through to drop a step onto the floor. Snape followed immediately after, spelling the lift door shut after him.

"Come. We'll take a portkey back." Snape grumbled, stalking off down the hall towards the Portkey office.

"Actually." Harry stopped. He stared at the bulletin board outside of the Floo Network Authority Office, at a picture of himself that gave a wary smile. "Dad?"

Snape stopped and turned, robes billowing around his legs. He looked tired, but satisfied with how things had turned out.

"Can you take me to see my parents?"

There was only a minute flicker to Snape's eyes, something unidentifiable that flashed across his face before it set back into a closed expression.

"I suppose it's time." Snape answered, turning once again to walk with slower steps towards the Portkey Office.

…..

The cemetery was open, the front gates propped up with an old stone that looked like it had been taken from the surrounding wall of the area. Snape led the way with sure step, and Harry noted that Snape walked as if he'd been to the cemetery before and knew the exact path.

"Professor?" Harry asked, walking through the rows and noticing a few names that he'd seen before in his History of Magic book.

"Pardon?" Snape asked, walking slowly through the slush-covered trail.

"That scar on your neck, you got that for asking Voldemort not to kill my family, didn't you?"

Snape stopped, and even though he didn't turn, Harry could see the flinch.

"I received the scar asking that your mother be saved." Snape grunted. He still didn't move, just kept his head straight and his gaze somewhere in the distance by the bronze statue of a soldier.

Harry opened his mouth to answer, before snapping it shut again as he thought over Snape's admission. Snape had only asked to save his mother.

"Did you adopt me to make up for that…request?" Harry said, in a small voice. He wasn't his mother, but he was the only thing left of her and perhaps Snape had gotten to the point where he was even willing to put up with a James Potter look alike in order to keep some link to Lily, as it seemed he cared enough about her to want to save her life.

"No." Snape answered immediately. He finally turned to look at Harry, his face carefully blank.

"Did Mum ask you to look out for me? Are you doing this for her?"

"Do you remember the memory you saw last year?" Snape asked, eyebrow raised. Harry immediately blushed.

"That was the last time I spoke to Lily Evans. I am not doing this, as you call it, for her." Snape beckoned Harry forward and they walked down one of the side rows, finally coming to stand at the Potter's grave. Snape stood back, allowing Harry a moment to himself.

It had been the last time Snape had actually spoken to Lily, that didn't involve anything strictly school related. They'd never again gone anything beyond "Pass the crushed spider legs" after that. It was not, however, the last time that Snape had attempted to contact her. He'd sent an owl a few hours before Voldemort had arrived at the Potter home on that disastrous night, a short and signed note, saying 'I'm sorry.' The note was nowhere to be found in the home when the death eaters and aurors searched it mere hours later, and Snape never saw the owl again. Whether Lily had received his apology or not would never be answered for him.

Harry stepped back from the grave, his eyes glistening and his breath catching. Snape automatically fished a black handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it over. He stepped up towards the small stone, tracing his fingers around Lily's name. He heard Harry's footsteps receding, and allowed himself a moment to close his eyes and remember his childhood friend. His only friend.

"The most I ever did for you was to outlive you. But that is much." Snape whispered.

….

Snape took Harry to the small cottage after, down at the end of a narrow street of row houses, blanketed by a layer of thin snow. Grass stuck through the white flakes at points, and Harry shivered at the grey sky. The cottage was homey and comfortable, worn stone around the front gate as welcoming as it probably had been when his parents had lived there. As it came into focus Harry saw the damage that had been done to one of the rooms in the top corner of the house, his baby room. Harry paused by the gate to stare, taking in the amount of destruction the backlash from the Killing Curse had caused.

Snape put his hand on the stone wall, and a small plaque rose from somewhere under the weeds that had grown on the inside of the gate. Harry read the inscription, eyes blurring as he finally saw a proper dedication to the sacrifice his parents had made. Other messages had been left there, old notes from years ago expressing condolences as well as congratulations to Harry. Newer and more exuberant messages had been scribbled on top in the past few days, with Snape's name added to the well wishes.

"I'm sure your parents would love to see my name on a memorial for them." Snape couldn't help but comment, at least managing to keep most of the sneer out of his voice.

"Full round, isn't it? Full circle. You damned them, and you freed them." Harry replied, sounding far more mature than any normal sixteen year old had the right to be.

"Did you have any second thoughts to telling the headmaster that Draco was planning to kill him?" Snape asked, wrapping his cloak tighter around himself.

Harry stared ahead at the pale green porch door at the end of the small garden path. The trees lining the sides of the garden were overgrown and scruffy, matching his own messy hair and his father's before him. The garden, barren in the cold January sunlight, was likely as vibrant and alive as his and his mother's eyes in the summer.

"No." He rested his own hand against the gate and startled back when it clicked open.

"You're home again." Snape murmured, looking very reluctant to take any step further.

Harry crossed the gate hesitantly, feeling warmer despite the bitter air.

"Dad? I don't want to go in alone." Harry paused, looking back over his shoulder.

The pale green door led to a small mudroom, disheveled wellies in the corner under a window filled with cobwebs. On the ledge were dead wild flowers in a dried up small glass, the water line marked around the glass from where it had laid stagnant for so many months before evaporating. There was a fold up muggle pram leaning against the wall, next to an old fashioned broomstick.

Harry's hand felt welcome on the door handle as he went to push it open, flinching slightly at the bubblehead charm that Snape had silently cast around his head.

"The house has been under a Ministry preservation and protection spell for fifteen years. The air inside will be a little less than pleasant." Snape explained, nodding at Harry to go ahead.

The door opened with nary a sound, as if it had been as well oiled and maintained. The inside of the house was cooler than the unprotected mudroom and Harry gasped as he looked around. The living room was directly in front of him, ugly brown and yellow patterned tiles from the front hall leading to yellow shag carpeting in the living room. Brown and cream coloured damask wallpaper covered the walls and the chesterfield was a revolting pea soup green. In his memories of the night Voldemort had killed his parents, he'd never really paused to look around the room.

"What the hell." Harry breathed, trying to reconcile how on earth the hideous rose and china patterns of his Aunt Petunia's tastes could ever be linked to his mother's…specialties.

"Your parents bought this cottage almost twenty years ago." Snape commented, sounding amused at Harry's reaction. "As colour blind as your father was, he never minded that Lily took such a vested interest in the high fashion of the time."

"Ugh." Harry commented, turning to go back to the hall and see what other rooms he could find. He paused, startled, in front of one of the framed photos in the hallway. It had been clear and coloured as if it had been taken earlier that day when they first entered, but was now yellowing at a rather rapid rate, and the edges of the photo faded.

"The house is no longer jam. Preserved." Harry said, running his fingers along the frame. Two pieces of owl mail were on the side table against the wall, and the corners of the parchment were starting to curl upon themselves with age. To his left, the pale green curtains in the window seemed to sigh as they slumped down in their fastenings, weighed by the passing of time.

"This could have been my shelter." Harry muttered to himself, staggering towards the stairs. Snape snatched his arm to catch him from going up and Harry slumped to the bottom step. "But instead it all started with a boy in a cupboard."

"Did it?" Snape prompted, picking up the 1981 Daily Prophet from the side table as he thought about his own past. His life had started with a boy cowering in a corner.

"Sometimes, late at night when the spiders came out, I used to wish that magic could take me away." Harry continued, talking half to himself instead of Snape as he sat on the stairs.

"Hmmm." Snape responded distractedly, remembering just how much magic couldn't fix everything.

"Then I became Merlin. No. A wizard. And sometimes I wanted to go back to being just a boy." Harry was picking at the faded runner that covered the steps.

"You were never destined to be just a boy." Snape answered immediately, dropping the paper.

"I could have been regular!" Harry blurted, slamming his fist into the railing and barely wincing at the pain. "Normal! All I queried. No, proved, chose…fuck! Wanted. All I ever wanted was normal."

"Yes." Snape answered, looking as stern and forbidding as ever, but his eyes betraying his concern. "You could have been normal, and Voldemort would not have died. We'd have been in a full blown war."

"My parent unit…parents still here." Harry glared at Snape's logic.

"Perhaps." Snape immediately said, grasping Harry's shoulders with his strong fingers. He looked straight at Harry's eyes, ignoring the redness. "Your parents were aurors; whether Voldemort existed or not they were at risk. You would have had a normal life with them for as long as it lasted. But how would you have grown up? Arrogant and spoiled? Like James Potter had been? Like Draco Malfoy?"

"No!" Harry's head snapped up and his eyes flashed. "I'm not! You…you always…you're arrogant!"

"No, I'm self-important. There's a difference." Snape corrected smugly. "How did the younger Dursley fair? If you'd been treated the same as him, would you have been selfless enough to face a prophecy that either led to victory or death?"

"I didn't have a choice." Harry said clearly, peering through the railings of the stairs and checking alongside the wall. As if he were looking for something.

"Yes, you did. The headmaster was always touting how one's choices defined a person more than anything, and the man was right. You could have run away from the prophecy and the Dark Lord, and likely died prematurely anyway. Instead, on a cold and rainy night in December, you came to me with an idea of how to finally destroy him." Snape was tapping his foot, a sign that his patience was running out.

"I'm a murderer." Harry concluded, his voice much deeper than it normally was. His head was in his hands, and a small swipe of blood had been spread over the palm of his right hand from where he'd hit the railing.

"Join the club." Snape said gruffly, pulling Harry up off the stairs and into a strong hug. After only a few seconds, Harry wrapped his arms around Snape, burying his face in Snape's thick winter robes and making a mess of his glasses.

"The Weasleys and Granger gave you friendship and a pseudo-family. You have a home now in Stockport, and a guardian in myself. Had you grown up here, you never would have known how much you valued those things, and just what you stood to lose if Voldemort won."

Harry gave a defeated laugh and stepped back. It sounded as if he was close to tears again.

"That's why I was banished to a cupboard? So I would know what I was fighting for?" Harry wiped his face with his cloak sleeve, earning a look of disgust from Snape.

"I do not approve of the methods. However," Snape held out his arm to apparate them back to Hogwarts, "had you stayed here, you would not have become my son."

As Harry felt the tug of apparition, he felt reassured that he had not settled for second best by choosing Snape as his family.

….

The alarm in the Gryffindor dorms was a lion roaring. It still frightened the bejeezus out of Harry when he was in a deep sleep, but at least he never fell out of his bed like Seamus did. On Thursday morning it sounded at eight am, echoing through the room and dissipating at the blue streaked windows. Evidently it had snowed overnight, sometime when they were busy laughing and plotting summer mischief around the stove heater in the room. Four wands, as Neville had risen early to tend to the greenhouses, pointed in the general area of the alarm and four spells hit it in rapid succession. Warm blankets and pillows called instantly, and Harry fell back asleep to the thought that the snowstorm outside smelt slightly of campfire and evergreen.

A little more than an hour later saw Ron and Harry laughing as they ran through the halls of Hogwarts, robes flapping behind them like the demented capes of two super heroes.

"Just remember," Ron huffed as they turned the corner to the defense hall, "if you see a bat on the desk, don't assume it's not Snape."

Harry snorted inelegantly as he skidded to a stop one door down from their class, remembering their first time being late to a Transfiguration lesson.

"Three, two, one." He said, catching his breath. Ron stood beside him and they shook their fists in the air three times, muttering bludger, cauldron, wand.

"Hah!" Harry said triumphantly, smashing his fist against Ron's pointed finger. "Bludger beats wand."

"Shit." Ron grumbled, before straightening his tie. "How is it fair that Seamus and Dean only had History of Magic this morning?"

"Just go, we'll lose more points if we're later." Harry answered, pushing Ron towards the door.

They'd obviously interrupted Snape mid sentence, as he was standing at the front with his hand raised as if making a point. Leaning against his desk, robes falling still behind him, he looked as imposing as ever. The class was quiet and openly stared as Ron walked in first, head up and taking the full brunt of Snape's displeased growl.

"Weasley, Snape. Ten points from Gryffindor." Snape intoned, glaring at their backs until they'd taken their seats. Snape was the only one that called him by his adoptive name, which Harry rather liked. He'd started at Hogwarts as Harry Potter, and he'd finish there as the same. Hermione tutted as she passed them two muffins stolen from breakfast and they slid into their seats.

"Sorry, sir." Harry responded, apologizing for the disrespect more than the oversight of time. And with Snape's nod of his head, Harry realized that he really meant it. Harry had great professors, even better friends, and part of the community who were ready to stand with him to fight for their freedom. Standing before him, however, was the one man that Harry needed to keep being himself. Snape had seen him at his sickest, seen him drunk and stupid, seen him in tears, and saved him when he was threatened. Snape knew that he only liked coffee in the morning, that his socks never matched, and that he had to daydream before going to bed. Snape had grounded him for misbehaving, given him chores to keep him busy, and expected him to follow a proper curfew. Snape had put Harry back together.

"Remove that stupid smirk from your face and turn to page four hundred and seventy five. Today we will be discussing the benefits and uses of patronuses in personal defense." Snape commanded, his voice serious.

Harry continued smiling as he flipped his book open. There were currently twelve people in the class of twenty-seven who could cast a fully corporeal patronus, thanks to the Dumbledore's Amy lessons he taught last year. He knew Snape would likely be surprised, and hopefully, Harry thought as he remembered his eager and energetic new patronus, he'd be proud of Harry too.

Fin.


AN2: Snape's words to Lily are a quote from Edna St. Vincent Millay. This story is a BIG thank you to all of you, to everyone that read, reviewed, and enjoyed. Also my way of giving back to all the authors who gave me such great stories to read as well.

Thank you again, and Happy writing!