Sorry for the delay... but I finally, finally found time to finish this. And, yes, I mean FINISH! My first ever completed fic (with the exception of my one-shot). I didn't think I had it in me, and apparently it didn't want to come easy, but here you have it - ENJOY!
Oh, and REVIEW - please...?
You Found Him, Hedwig?
When Harry was found by Ron and Hermione sitting and waiting for them calmly in the common room they immediately set upon him with a barrage of concerned questions.
"Shh…" Harry insisted, he honestly didn't think Snape would take too kindly to any of what had transpired today becoming public, no matter how it all turned out in the end. Both Hermione and Ron had nodded understandingly, lowering their voices to a whisper and huddling closer.
"Blimey mate, I was worried ole Snape had murdered you and pickled your body parts for potion ingredients when you didn't turn up to any of our lessons," Ron hissed out; he was oft prone to dramatization.
Hermione rolled her eyes, but it was clear she'd been quite concerned too.
"What did Professor Snape want, Harry?" she asked, and Harry fought the urge to grimace.
He honestly didn't want to share any details about the letter he'd written and the highly personal and vulnerable emotions that it had contained. Those were the kinds of things he felt should be only shared with a parent, or parental figure, and he felt rather embarrassed at the sentiments now that he wasn't feeling as low as he had when he'd written them.
And honestly, it was bad enough that Snape, and also Dumbledore Harry now recalled, had read his highly exposed and emotional scribbling, without making his friends consider whether he was having a mental breakdown or something. But without describing how it had all started Harry wondered quickly just how he would explain to his friends.
"Look," he began quietly, "Snape was really angry about something I did." At Hermione's disappointed, somewhat accusing look, and Ron's almost congratulatory one, Harry explained further. "I didn't do anything deliberately… it was mostly a misunderstanding."
Ron frowned slightly, looking a bit disappointed, but Hermione looked mollified.
"Anyway, he was pretty pissed off, but then something else came up… a question, I suppose," he continued rather vaguely.
Both his listeners frowned deeper. "A question… what? What do you mean, Harry?" Hermione voiced what they both must have been thinking.
Harry felt his face warm, the reaction completely out of his control. "Er… well…" he paused, weighing whether he really was going to reveal the question of his paternity to his friends. "It seems there might be some doubt as to whether James Potter really was my father," he blurted, eager to get the words past his lips.
"What! Bloody hell, mate," Ron exclaimed in a quiet, sympathetic tone.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, also expressing her commiseration.
Harry nodded his agreement with their sentiment. "Yeah, I know," he said, forlornly, even though a part of him was still a little thrilled at the prospect that he might have a living father if it turned out he wasn't a Potter after all.
"Well, who do they think your real father might be, then? I mean, do they even know?" Hermione asked, already thinking past the shocking notion.
Harry's gut clenched at the inevitable question, and he turned his face away from his friends. "Er… they do, but I'd rather not say at the moment. I mean, they're going to run some tests, and if it turns out that he is… well, I'll tell you then. Is that okay?" he added, turning back to his two best friends in the world imploringly.
Both looked rather disappointed, but eventually they nodded understandingly.
Ron then snorted out a chuckle, evidently finding the thought floating through his mind amusing. "Yeah mate… I mean, what if it turns out to be greasy, old Snape?" he joked, "I can tell you Idefinitely wouldn't want anyone to know about that possibility!"
Harry burned with embarrassment, hoping earnestly that Ron hadn't noticed. "Yeah… that would be bad," he agreed pitifully. But deep down he felt traitorous and treacherous denying his inner joy and hope that he might soon be able to call someone, anyone (even Snape) Dad.
Later that night Harry lay in his bed unable to sleep.
First his thoughts had been consumed with a number of fantastic versions (some pleasant and some not so) of how his life might be if Severus Snape did turn out to be his father, but eventually they became mutinous and dredged up a plethora of guilt for denying and forgetting James Potter and all the man had done for him as his father; including laying down his own life to protect him as an infant.
But Harry could never forget that, he decided. He would always be eternally grateful and immensely proud of the man whose name he had shared throughout his life so far.
"Dad…" he whispered so softly that there was no chance of being overheard.
"… James," he amended, suddenly uncertain.
"No - Dad!" he ultimately decided. "I know you'll understand that I'm not denying you, and if you were still here with me I wouldn't even bother trying to find out, because I wouldn't need to, but seeing as you're not please understand that I still love you very much, and to me you'll always be my dad no matter what the tests say. If it does turn out that Snape is my biological father I hope you'll see why I need to accept him… and try to get along, because I know you didn't like each other much. I just need someone, and I'm going to give him a chance… because I need someone. Okay?" he pleaded into the ether knowing he'd never get a response.
He felt much better after getting the sentiments off his chest though and was soon able to settle into a deep, comforting sleep.
Harry was called to Professor Dumbledore's office on the Saturday morning and asked to provide a cheek swab sample for the upcoming DNA paternity test. Snape was nowhere to be seen and the Headmaster told Harry that Professor Snape had already provided a sample on determining it was the best course of action considering the rather unpleasant alternative.
Dumbledore had even chuckled lightly when he disclosed that Snape had seemed rather relieved that he would not need to endure the barbaric ritual required to get a result via the brewing of the Fateor Parentis Draught. And the old Wizard had also let slip that he'd never before seen Professor Snape so thankful to have been proven unapprised.
After Harry's swab was done it was dropped into a test tube and sealed immediately.
"I'll send them away to the Muggle laboratory and we've been told to expect the results in around two weeks," Professor Dumbledore advised him with an assuring smile and nod.
"Thanks, Sir," Harry said, pleased to finally be on their way to a definitive answer.
Classes with Snape were strange over the following two weeks. Sometimes the man was hideously unpleasant; glaring and growling with pointed venom at Harry in particular over the smallest of transgressions, and others he ignored Harry's very presence altogether. Other times still Harry had caught the newly appointed Defence against the Dark Arts teacher watching him wistfully; though the man had very quickly turned his attention away whenever Harry looked at him.
It was very confusing for the teenager who was struggling with his own emotions and thoughts during the agonising wait for answers.
And it all came to a head one afternoon toward the end of the second week.
Harry had become exceptionally and ultimately fed up with the nasty jibes and unrealistic expectations during his Defence double and had allowed his tongue to get the better of him, lashing out disrespectfully at the unfair treatment by the dark Professor which had instantly earned him a detention and a face full of an incensed Snape's spittle.
In that moment Harry had very almost allowed his fist to rise and ram itself into the older wizard's jaw, but just in the nick of time he'd managed to snatch back his control and reason and instead he turned on the spot and rapidly stomped out the classroom door. He expected Snape to come storming after him, but as the bell for the end of the lesson had chimed as he'd reached the end of the corridor he supposed Snape must have decided that he'd deal with him later during the detention.
Feeling particularly worked up Harry headed for a quiet corner of the student courtyard in which he could sit and work to calm himself down. It proved quite a challenge and come dinner time Harry still hadn't felt like facing anyone; so he sat there, pondering his bizarre situation and the unpredictable and bewildering man who was at the centre of his conundrum.
When Potter had stormed out of his classroom Severus had needed to hold himself back from going after the little snot and shaking the brat until his teeth rattled. How dare the boy speak so disrespectfully to him; and in front of his class too!
And the worst of it was that he'd ultimately been forced to dole out a detention, which meant he'd actually ended up punishing himself, along with Potter; for the last thing Severus wanted to do was spend more time with the boy. Especially given the turmoil the doubt over Potter's paternity had been causing him.
The man thundered through the corridors alongside the courtyard; headed for the greenhouses to implore the Herbology instructor to part with a few rare specimens for his own personal brewing project; as even though he was no longer teaching Potions it did not mean he had no interest in brewing. In fact, his desire to pursue his own private research had heightened now he was not brewing so routinely. Though unfortunately the fact he was no longer the Potions Master meant that he could no longer take advantage of the abundant and continuous range of ingredients that were once available to him from the Hogwarts' stores; he now needed to acquire and purchase them for himself. But maybe Pomona would be agreeable to donating a few at least, and given his recent turmoil he could do with a distraction that would require intense concentration.
He didn't notice the boy initially, but as he rounded the final corner he spotted the teen, sitting curled defensively in a secluded corner, alone. Severus immediately halted; remaining hidden behind a wide pillar where he could observe the boy. He was sure he hadn't been spotted, and was able to watch him more attentively than normally.
He appeared troubled, but Severus expected that. But what specifically was running though the boy's mind was not especially clear. What was he thinking? Was he dreading the upcoming results? Did he still yearn for them to be found Father and Son?
'Do I?' he thought suddenly.
Swallowing down the abrupt rising of emotion he breathed out a slow breath. 'What in the world are we going to do if you are mine, Potter?' he wondered silently. His hand unconsciously inched toward the forearm that bore the brand of the Dark Lord. It was an impossible situation; one that really could not be resolved easily… or even at all. Severus could not abandon his position as spy; Death Eaters did not just walk away from the Dark Lord. He would not allow it. And once the reason for Snape's abandonment became clear then he would be hunted as summarily as Potter. How could he protect the boy then?
'Merlin, Lily… how do I deal with this?'
Severus watched the boy for a few more minutes until his mind turned to the boy's letter, the delivery of which had instigated this madness to begin with.
'What's going on in that Muggle home of yours, Potter?' he queried wordlessly. 'Why are you finding the need to reach out to a dead man, anyway?'
Several possibilities instantly ran through his mind, from the memories of sneering scorn and jealousy that had frequently adorned a much younger Petunia Evans' face, to the strict harshness and occasional brutal frustration demonstrated by Severus' own Muggle father. It occurred to Severus that Muggles often struggled with having the knowledge of Magic, but never being able to wield the power too. He hadn't acknowledged their anguish nor felt pity for them in his younger years, but as he'd become older he'd recognised and comprehended the sheer exasperation they must have felt; for Severus had shared such sentiments before and knew that they could turn a person bitter.
'Perhaps the issue might need investigating,' he considered to himself. He was loath to become more involved in the teen's life, especially if the results of the test proved he was not related beyond the distant one already established, but he had a sudden gut feeling that it was an issue that ought not to be ignored.
As Severus continued to observe, a female voice called across the courtyard. "There you are, Harry! We've been looking everywhere for you."
"Yeah, mate, Hermione has dragged me all over the castle… literally," the unmistakable voice of the second youngest Weasley teen whined. "Why didn't you come to dinner?"
As the trio of students joined in the middle of the courtyard Severus could not hear any more of their exchange, and ensuring he would not be seen he swept off in the direction of the Greenhouses.
The detention time loomed quickly and at seven o'clock precisely Harry found himself outside Professor Snape's office. He raised his arm and rapped sharply with his knuckles upon the wooden door.
Harry waited, quite reluctant to find out what sort of mood the Professor was in. He imagined the worst – foul - and resigned himself to the foulest of foul detention tasks.
After only a few moments the door was yanked open and Harry was face to chest with the taller, dark man who seemed stiff and tense with displeasure himself.
He was ushered in wordlessly and Snape indicated stiffly for him to take a seat in front of the Professor's desk where a chair waited for him.
Snape himself took a seat across from Harry and glared intensely at him for several moments before speaking.
"I will not accept such blatant disrespect in my class… I don't care who you are," he stated firmly, his tone full of malicious warning. "Your aggression is ill advised also, because I can assure you that you are woefully outclassed and if you ever dare to lay a hand on me in violence you will swiftly find yourself expelled from this school!"
Harry blanched, only now realising that Snape had apparently been aware of his inner battle not to uppercut the man there and then in class.
"It will, of course, be a lenient punishment compared with what I am truly capable of, but don't push me, Potter… I might not deign to adhere to the rules in future," he smoothly threatened.
Silence reigned for a further few moments before Snape bit out angrily, "Don't you have something to say?" he demanded icily.
Harry flinched slightly, and internally berated himself, but wasn't foolish enough to egg Snape into further irritation. "I'm sorry, Sir," he offered, and at least some part of himself meant it. He didn't particularly like the angry, violent responsive part of himself; it reminded him of Uncle Vernon.
Snape glared some more, but eventually his expression softened slightly as he put the topic aside.
"We're going to have a little chat, Potter… and I want only the truth from you," he said firmly.
Harry stared back, clueless as to the impending discussion.
Snape curled his lip into a sneer, somewhat out of habit Harry felt, but the teenager could never have predicted the question that rolled from the surly man's tongue immediately afterwards.
"Is your home-life under the guidance of Petunia and her husband as intolerable as I might imagine?"
Harry was shocked and he was hard pressed to control his incredulous expression. "Wha…? I mean, pardon, Sir?"
Snape narrowed his eyes. "Tell me the real reason you sent that letter off to a dead man, Potter, instead of going to your doting and loving Uncle," he said, with rather indelicate sarcasm.
Harry's mouth had dropped open in astonishment, but the man's meaning for asking was now explicitly clear; he snapped his jaw shut immediately.
"It's fine, Sir," he answered, though quickly amended himself. "I mean, it's not as bad as you might be thinking."
"And what might that be?" Severus asked, curious about what the boy specifically meant.
"Abuse… I'm not abused. They don't particularly like me, so mostly they just ignore me, that's all."
Severus relaxed internally a little; he'd been slightly concerned about the possibility and that he might need to do something about it, but it seemed he'd been let off the hook. But it did not escape his notice that there appeared to be an element of emotional abuse that even the boy could not deny or disregard. However, Severus was utterly aware how hypocritical it would be for him to cast judgement regarding the torment of this boy by another; although Severus felt the boy ordinarily worthy of his disdain, he knew his own behaviour had often stepped over the line of acceptability.
"You should find someone else to talk to, then" he suggested instead.
But the boy swiftly threw it back in his face. "I had someone," he said ardently, "but Sirius was murdered… as was my father," the boy bit out bitterly. Severus gathered quickly that the boy attributed some blame to at least one of the incidences to him.
'If only he realised which one,' Severus thought instantly, but internally castigated himself for allowing his thoughts to drift in that direction. He frowned, taking in the boy's body language; noting that it seemed the rest of the blame was directed inwardly; and if he recalled the contents of the boy's letter that was probably the case. And now he considered what he recalled of the written words Severus could now identify around the boy an amount of fear that the trend of his father-figures dying would persist. He couldn't help but feel some pity for the teenager.
"They are gone, but you are not. Someone will listen; you do not need to-"
Severus was cut off by a sharp rap on the door.
"Come in," he commanded. The door was promptly opened and the Headmaster appeared in the doorway.
"My apologies, Professor Snape. I learned from his friends that young Harry was down here for detention and realised your office would be most appropriate."
Severus scowled in question, unsure exactly what the Headmaster was intimating.
"You may wish to impose those privacy wards once more, Severus… your results have arrived."
Severus felt his face drain as understanding dawned. He glanced toward the teenager sitting across from him and he too looked to be turning rather pale. Severus didn't know if he was ready to find out; he still didn't know what result he wished for the most.
Dumbledore was busy reaching into his cloak for a large flat muggle-style envelope and once he had retrieved it he handed it over to the dark man who had retaken his seat upon finalising the privacy wards.
"I need not stay if you'd rather I didn't," the old man suggested delicately to both the younger men sitting opposite one another.
Severus glanced again at Potter and immediately knew they both wished the same thing.
"No… stay," he said, but his voice slightly betrayed his nervousness. He swallowed thickly and drew a calming breath before beginning to open the sealed folder. He could do nothing about the strong, loud beating of his heart within his chest.
The dark man slid out the pile of documents from the envelope and sat reading their contents silently for a number of minutes, barely any expression giving away his emotions to his avid audience, before he deliberately turned the documents face down, stood from his chair and stalked toward the door; disabling the wards as he went.
"Severus?" Dumbledore asked with concern, but the younger man did not even glance at him.
"See the boy back to his common room," he bid of the Headmaster as he left the room.
Harry was rather alarmed, but stared hesitantly at the pile of documents only for a few short moments before he scrambled desperately for them.
The top sheet was merely a cover letter explaining the following pages; Harry quickly dismissed it and put it aside. The next was a muddle of figures and scientific results that meant nothing to Harry, he flipped it hurriedly aside also. The third, however, provided him with the answer to the question that had eluded and tormented him for a little over two weeks now. Was Severus Snape his biological father?
"The DNA comparison has excluded the subject Severus Snape from being the immediate paternal relative of subject Harry Potter."
Harry had to tell himself to breathe. He drew in a deep breath and fought down tears that threatened to spill. Whether they would have been tears of disappointment or tears of joy Harry could not at this point in time determine.
"Severus Snape is not related to me," he said aloud for the benefit of Professor Dumbledore who was watching him closely though had remained several feet away. "He's not my father."
Dumbledore nodded understandingly and when Harry was ready to leave he escorted him back to the Gryffindor common room in complete silence.
Over the next few days both Hermione and Ron, and Professor Dumbledore tried to coax Harry to talk about the results. Ron and Hermione never found out who was the contender for the place of Harry's father, but as it was a moot point the detail was quickly dismissed by the both of them. Their concern was their friend's low mood, and encouraging him to revel in the newly discovered confidence that James, the hero that gave his life to save Harry's, was in fact his father.
Professor Dumbledore wanted to feel sure the boy was at peace with the issue, but Harry persisted in assuring the older man that he was more than happy to have proved he had Potter blood running through his veins. Eventually, over time, Harry began to genuinely feel that pride again too.
Harry's encounters with Snape went swiftly back to normal; the terse man belittling Harry at every opportunity and inexorably ignoring the event ever occurred. Harry felt a certain private sadness at the outcome and would always wonder how things might have changed if the paternity test had come back with a different answer. He also wondered if he would always look at Professor Snape a little differently now, both because of what they might have had, but also because of what he'd surmised about the man during that day.
One Sunday afternoon several weeks later, Hedwig fluttered in through the open sixth year boys dorm window to deliver a muggle-style letter to Harry. Harry took it quickly from the owl's outstretched leg, fed her a quick thank-you treat, and opened it curiously. It read:
The pain you feel for your lost fathers will eventually fade, and then you will remember the good times and the good in us; treasure those in a special place inside your heart.
We would not wish for you to take from us the responsibilities for our own actions. We did what we did because it was within us to do it – let us have our glory through others knowing our sacrifice was worth it. A man needs to know he made a difference. Acknowledge the difference we made in you, and for you; it will be our departing triumph.
It is an unusually difficult position you find yourself in and as your father I fear my advice will only take you so far, but I nevertheless offer it as long as I can give it. You can find me here if needed, if only to share your inner turmoil with somebody. I understand your need.
Your mother would be so proud of you, I know it.
With a small smile Harry refolded the letter and hid it deep in his school trunk.
He suspected where it had come from, but he determined never to delve deeper into the mystery. He needed only to know he had a father-figure willing to do whatever he could to help his son through the tough times. It need not have been a specific single person…
Harry gave his owl an affectionate scratch on the back of her head. "You found him, Hedwig? Thanks!"