Embrace what Fate Hands You
Author's Note (copied from note posted in The True Face of Another):
Hi everyone! For those of you who have followed me back since when I first published this, you may be surprised to hear from me. After all, I haven't updated this story (or any of my others) in 8 years.
I want to thank everyone who has reviewed, PM'd me, Favorited, or Followed this story and others of mine. Without you, I never would have considered giving my stories another readthrough. But thanks to you all, I have decided to return to the fanfiction world for a time and plan to finish as many of my stories as possible.
Here's the long-awaited Chapter 13.
(Again, it's been a long time, so I'm a little rusty. Feel free to give feedback. I take your comments seriously.)
Chapter 13 - Canon World (Alternate Severus)
Harry woke the next morning to the smell of eggs and coffee. He was momentarily disoriented, not sure where he was exactly, before the events of the previous night came rushing back.
He hurriedly reached for his glasses and then looked to see Severus standing by a simple but delicious-looking breakfast of coffee, eggs, toast, and jam, set up on an unfamiliar table in the middle of the magically-enlarged bedroom that had replaced his forlorn little prison at Privet Drive.
"Good morning, Harry," the tall man responded gently. "Care for some breakfast?"
Harry nodded eagerly, but then hesitated. "Er, the Dursleys won't be so happy we took food from them."
Severus kept his voice even with effort. "Cretins they may be, and I am aware they apparently made a habit of withholding food from you, but even they must acknowledge that some food must be made available to you." Severus raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"Yeah, but it's not like they wanted me to get any of it. They'd take any opportunity they could to remind me it's theirs, and that they're only letting me bum off of them out of the goodness of their hearts. Either way, my breakfast was always the scraps they didn't want - whatever was left after they'd eaten their full."
Harry cursed himself for revealing as much as he just had, though hopefully his casual tone would prevent Severus from focusing on it too much. There were things about the Dursleys he felt comfortable sharing, and then there were things that not even Ron and Hermione knew. Of course, Severus was here with him, so he realized it was useless to try to hide too much from him...plus, the man was damn intelligent, and could probably read between the lines to what Harry didn't say.
Despite his natural inclinations to keep stuff hidden, especially from adults, it felt...natural to want to confide in Severus. Harry figured it was likely because it was obvious by now that the man was firmly on his side. Harry was confident he could tell him all sorts of things without the man turning and running for the woods.
As Harry spoke about his muggle relatives, the Potion Master's familiar features hardened until his expression was one of absolute hatred and revulsion (but Harry knew the expression was on his behalf, rather than directed at him).
"Absolute pigs," the Potion Master snarled under his breath. "Though I suppose saying so is cruel to pigs," he considered.
He met Harry's eyes and knelt down before him. "Harry. Listen to me. As I said last night, I will do everything in my power to ensure you never again have to suffer as you have, being forced to live with those who don't have your best interests at heart."
Harry nodded, even though a large part of him thought the man was making promises he couldn't keep. After all, Severus wasn't going to be able to stay here for good.
At the thought, a black pit opened in his stomach, but he rushed to shove the feeling away.
He was thankful for whatever he could get. And for the moment, he had Severus here with him which was, itself, a bizarre miracle. He would enjoy spending time with the man as long as he could. So he just smiled at Severus. "Thanks."
Severus abruptly changed the tone in the room with his next comment. "In any case, I didn't want to bother with the damn Dursley's today, so this food was actually brought by the Hogwarts' house elves."
"Wow! You can do that?"
"Privilege of being a Hogwarts professor, Harry. Even when you're away from the castle, you can request delivery."
"Wow. Maybe I should become a Hogwarts professor," Harry said aloud.
"For the delivery option?" Severus asked wryly, one eyebrow raised.
Harry laughed. "I admit that sounds pretty nice and convenient but...honestly, I like the idea of it anyway. I mean, I see Hogwarts as my first real home, after all. So it being my home in the future sounds kinda nice…"
"I see." Harry's words about Hogwarts feeling like his first real home did not escape Severus. Nor did they surprise him, but he chose not to comment. Severus sat down at the breakfast table the elves had brought and set for them and Harry took the other seat. "And what would you teach if you were to take this path?"
"DADA," Harry responded immediately. "Actually, I taught a student defense club for a while last year so I think I'd be okay."
"Is that so?" Severus had a genuine smile on his face. "Well, I am extremely interested to hear more about that later. So I suppose it's safe to assume Defense is your favorite class?" He asked as he took a bite of his eggs and toast.
"It...would be," Harry started, "If the teachers weren't trying to kill me half the time."
"Not funny, Harry," Severus rolled his eyes.
"It's uh, not supposed to be," Harry admitted. "It just so happens that of the 5 teachers I've had for DADA, two had been working for Voldemort, one was a ministry goon who used a blood quill on me, one was an incompetent fool who tried to obliviate Ron, and uh...the only good one was Remus. Who is of course a werewolf," he added to try to lighten the suddenly thick atmosphere.
Severus stared at Harry, unsure whether the boy understood how insane that was.
As if in answer to his thought, Harry said "I know it's crazy. Remus was great, though, so that got me into it. After him, the second best actually turned out to be a death eater posing as Mad-Eye Moody."
Before they could get any further, Severus suddenly reached for Harry's hands.
The older man's eyes widened in outrage at the faint scar still visible on the back of Harry's hand.
"That monster - the nerve - how dare they?!" He snarled.
Harry was again comforted by the heat of Severus' anger on his behalf.
"It's ok, Severus," Harry started. "It's over, now."
"It's not, child. It's not okay." And then Severus began stalking around the room, using some colorful language that actually made Harry blush, both because the formidable man suddenly sounded more like a sailor than the dignified Professor Harry was used to, and because again, it was nice for someone to exhibit such anger on his behalf.
Severus sat back, looking more composed but still livid.
"Severus, thanks. But really, it wasn't that big a deal. I mean, it sucked while it happened, but 'Mione got me some salve. Er, Murtlap essence I think. And that helped a ton."
"Is this teacher," he sneered the word with as much sarcasm as a word can manage to contain, "still roaming free? Or has the ingrate since been imprisoned?"
"Oh, er, I dunno. Probably she's, er Umbridge that is, still free. But we played a great prank on her!" he said, trying to cheer Severus up. "She hates what she calls "half-breeds," and we got her captured by some human-hating centaurs, so she got what she had coming to her."
Severus nodded, indeed slightly cheered by the news. "It is indeed a worthy appetizer, but not good enough. I assume the Weasley twins had something to do with that particular idea?"
"You guessed right," Harry laughed.
"Figures. Their particular brand of ingenuity is something else," he said with affection, something Harry didn't fail to notice. "But Harry," he said seriously. The Black Quill is illegal for a reason. It has contained within it dark compulsion magic, similar to the Imperius curse."
This was news to Harry. "Wha - really?"
"Really. The words she had you writing all year were words she was truly trying to ingrain in you - that is, the more you wrote them, the harder it would be for you to disobey the command she was giving you."
"That's…" It took Harry a moment to process that. "But then, shouldn't she be sent to Azkaban or something? She definitely used the quill on plenty of students. I'm sure we could prove it with some pensieve memories, too."
"I agree, child. And this is just one of many things I plan to...look into...while I am here."
Harry resumed eating, leaving the man to his thoughts.
It was at that point that they heard a familiar rustling of feathers. "Hedwig!" Harry breathed, welcoming the bird in through the no-longer barred window. The bird had gotten out in the commotion when Harry had first arrived back at Privet Drive, and had been likely enjoying a night of hunting since then.
Hedwig perched on Harry's shoulder, affectionately cooing and rubbing her head against his cheek.
"Can you introduce me?" Severus asked.
"Oh yeah, of course." Harry walked over to Severus, transferred Hedwig onto his right forearm and held the owl out to him. "Severus, this is my friend and familiar, Hedwig. She's been...my only ally here at Privet Drive up until now."
Severus could tell Hedwig was an uncommonly intelligent creature. He held the owl's eyes for a time, and then nodded as if they'd reached an understanding. "Thank you, Hedwig, for watching over Harry," he said soberly.
The owl gently nibbled on Severus' hand before rubbing against it affectionately, obviously inviting him to pet her. Severus obliged.
Harry noted that Hedwig probably could tell the difference, without any trouble, between this man and the Professor Snape who had been here before. While he wasn't an expert on familiars, he knew they were attuned to magical signatures, and presumably, Severus' was not identical to Snape's.
The two finished their breakfasts in companionable silence, both Harry and Severus sparing a little bite of egg each for Hedwig.
Once they were done, Severus called "Hoppy!" and a little house elf popped into existence, bowing deeply. "Professor Snapey, sir, and Mr. Potter! Are you needing anything else?"
"No, this has been excellent, Hoppy," Severus replied with a smile. "Thank you. We may make the request again tomorrow."
The house elf vanished with a loud pop, beaming at them.
Having a house elf popping in and out of this particular room reminded Harry strongly of a time when another house elf visited him with the best intentions, only to result in disaster…which speaking of… "Severus, won't the Dursleys hear all the popping in and out if we have a house elf visiting us every day?"
"The room is well warded, Harry," Severus assured. "Both with one-way silencing charms so they cannot hear anything going on in this room, while at the same time not obscuring sound from the other direction, as well as security wards that will not allow them to enter without our permission."
"Oh yeah, of course," Harry felt silly having asked the question now. It seemed so obvious that Severus would have thought about that. And come to think of it, he did vaguely remember Severus casting a privacy charm last night.
But as usual, this man didn't make Harry feel bad for asking questions, even dumb ones.
"What would you like to do today, Harry?"
"Er, I dunno…avoid the Dursleys, I guess."
"I could not agree more. We could go for a walk or stay in and read…" The man then sighed. "Ah, but there is one thing I must confess..."
Harry nodded for him to continue.
"Due to the travel across dimensions that brought me here, I have been suffering from some mild...magical exhaustion."
At Harry's alarmed look, Severus quickly assured him. "It is nothing to be concerned about. My magical core was indeed somewhat drained, which simply means I need to conserve my magic to an extent and that I may tire out more easily. So long as I don't overdo it on a daily basis, I should be fine. Though this is, admittedly, one reason I decided to ask the house elves for assistance. I confess I may have overdone it a little with the magic I used on the Dursleys, yesterday, and didn't want to risk another confrontation."
"Please be careful, Severus," Harry said seriously. He then gulped at a realization. "How's that going to affect the er...death eater meetings?"
Severus sighed. "That is a good question indeed. I have thought on the matter and have a plan in mind. To exercise it, I'll need to make use of my Potions Lab, so I can wait until we've left this place to put it into motion."
"Why wait? You can use the potions lab now, can't you?"
"I don't fancy leaving you more than I absolutely must alone with the filth in this house."
"I've done it for 14 years, Severus," Harry reminded.
"Which is 14 years too long!" the man snapped with such sudden ferocity that he almost scared Harry for the first time. This Severus had been so calm and gentle since Harry had met him and this sudden change in volume honestly reminded Harry a little of Snape. It made the boy have to face the fact that at one point, at least, Severus and Snape had been one and the same.
The man took a deep breath and schooled his expression. "Sorry, Harry. The thought that you've spent so many years here, all alone, truly horrifies me."
Harry just nodded, trying to push away traitorous thoughts of how, had this particular version of Severus Snape appeared in his life when he was little, he would have clung to the man and never let go. What was he kidding, he probably would have done the same with Snape, too, as miserable of a personality as the man had.
Especially knowing what he knew now about Severus, Harry realized that he was sure now, that grumpy and curmudgeonly as he was, Snape could never have truly been evil. If the capacity for him to become this man had been in him all along…
"The other reason I'd prefer not to travel to the potions lab much is to spare myself needless apparition. Enchanting a portkey would also take more magic than I care to use at the moment."
It seemed a weak excuse to Harry, and while he appreciated how much Severus wanted to stay here and watch over him, and understood that this was likely behind his being so stubborn, Harry felt the need to press the issue.
"Severus, what if I had an easy solution to the apparition problem? It's...really important to me that you get this magical exhaustion thing sorted. Who knows when the next meeting could be? It's not like Voldemort will wait for us to be ready, you know."
Severus considered his words, finally nodding. "What do you have in mind, Harry?"
"You gave me the idea, actually." The boy grinned. "Dobby!"
With a pop, a familiar figure popped into the room. "Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is so pleased to see you again! And Mr. Professor Severus Snapey, what are you doing here?"
"Dobby," Harry said, kneeling down, "Professor Snape is helping me out a lot right now, and I'd like to ask you to help him with something."
Dobby looked suspicious. "He's not being mean to Mr. Harry Potter?"
Harry shook his head rapidly. "No, not at all. He's been great, and has made sure I'm safe from the Dursleys. We're good friends now."
Dobby seemed a little wary, but finally consented. He remembered how mean the Dursleys had been to his beloved Harry Potter, after all. "What cans Dobby do for you, Professor Snape?"
"Dobby, Professor Snape is going to be staying with me for two weeks while I'm here, but he needs to use his Potions lab at Hogwarts. Can you apparate him there and back when needed?"
Dobby nodded vigorously. "Of course, Harry Potter! Dobby would be most pleased to help."
"Thanks so much. We'll call you when we need you."
"Yes, thank you, Dobby," added Severus.
The house elf eyed the tall Professor in surprise, his bulging eyes wider than usual. Severus Snape had never been mean to the house elves, though he was known for being grumpy to the students, especially the wonderful Harry Potter, but he did seem...different...now.
Dobby nodded and vanished with a pop.
"Alright, brat. You win," Severus sighed in faux annoyance, and a quick glance at the self-satisfied grin on Harry's face showed the boy was most pleased to have won that battle.
"One question, though...Dobby. I know that elf. But I could have sworn he was one of Lucius' staff members."
"It's a long story," said Harry, chuckling. "Let's just say, Dobby is a free elf, and he's my friend. We do favors for each other. Malfoy, er, wasn't too pleased when I freed Dobby, I'll tell you. But the man treated him horribly."
"I see…" Severus spared just a moment to consider Lucius. Severus had maintained a pretty solid friendship with the man in his world, but that didn't mean Severus wasn't aware of the man's innate capacity for cruelty.
Still...if there were any way to get Lucius off his dark path in this world too, and make him an ally, that would only be for the better. While Severus hadn't yet interacted with Lucius here beyond being in the same line of tortured servants at Voldemort's feet, Severus had the feeling Lucius was the same man he knew at his core, and therefore, if an opportunity presented itself that looked sufficiently appealing, the man could be turned…
"Anyway, now you can ask for Dobby's help anytime, and do whatever potions work you need to do without using your magic! Cool, huh?"
"Cool indeed," Severus said, rolling his eyes slightly.
By this point, it had started to rain, so the two decided to spend the rest of the day indoors and read. Harry couldn't say he minded. With the room being so much larger and more comfortable, with real furniture, it wasn't so bad. Knowing that he didn't need to worry about the Dursleys barging in and disturbing his peace, even though he knew they were downstairs at the moment, was an incredible relief.
In companionable silence, the two curled up on armchairs Severus had transfigured the night before and enjoyed each others' company, Harry reading a book on Defense Severus had handed him, and Severus, a Potions book, both borrowed from Snape's private collection. ("Snape won't appreciate us filching stuff from his collection..." "What he doesn't know won't hurt him.")
The rest of the week passed in a similar fashion, with their meals delivered from Hogwarts, and the two having plenty of time to talk.
Harry and Severus had left the house on a few occasions, but Severus liked to limit their outings to once every other day so he was confident his magical stores were in good enough condition that he could defend them without problem if needed.
So Harry gave Severus the grand tour of Privet Drive and its surroundings, showing him the playground where Dudley and his gang used to beat him up (though Harry kept those details to himself), the elementary school where Harry had managed to land himself on the roof as a child ("That is extremely impressive accidental magic, you realize") and pointed out old Mrs. Figgs' place as they passed it. ("Figg, Figg...that name is extremely familiar." "Turns out she's a squib, and was supposed to be watching me on Dumbledore's orders. Fat lot of good that did…" "Ah, I see...another of Albus's brilliantly executed ideas…")
All in all, Severus learned much about Harry and his life before Hogwarts from their walks, though he was certain Harry wasn't being entirely forthcoming with him. But Severus savored what he could get - every tidbit he could learn about this boy he saw as a second son.
In turn, Harry had warmed to Severus extremely quickly. In a way, this didn't please the Potions Master as it spoke volumes to him for how deprived the boy had been of positive adult interactions in his life. Had the adults around Harry truly failed him so horrendously to this point? The answer was clear as day to Severus - a deafening yes.
If nothing else, Severus swore to be Harry's ambassador. What Harry couldn't say, Severus had no compunction about saying.
It continued to surprise Harry how incredibly easy it was to talk to Severus.
There were many things about Severus that surprised Harry, actually.
For one thing, the man was extremely funny. He could be vicious at times, sure, but this translated really well to wittiness. Severus' sense of humor in particular had surprised Harry as Snape had never seemed to have any sense of humor at all. (Unless, of course, the joke was at Harry's expense, in which case he could picture a smile tugging at the man's lips.)
Severus was just...likeable. Harry genuinely liked him.
And the strange thought crossed Harry's mind that, assuming his mom and he were much alike, he could understand why she'd gotten with the man. If Harry were his counterpart, he wouldn't have minded having Severus as a stepdad. Not one bit.
Here and there, the man would show a hint of what Harry had come to think of as Snape-ness, an acerbic word on his tongue, a sneer, a particularly cutting comment.
These were usually reserved for the Dursleys or the Ministry, as Severus had requested The Daily Prophet to get delivered so he could get up to speed with what was happening in this world, or at least gleam as much information as he could from the paper that was half-honest at best.
But the man's cutting comments were never directed at Harry.
Harry was aware that he had shown the man a tremendous amount of trust in a short time. Sometimes he wondered if he were making a big mistake by trusting him so much so quickly. It was the perfect recipe to get hurt. And Harry had been hurt plenty of times already. But Severus seemed different. To Harry, he was one of the most genuine people he'd ever met, and he felt deep down that it was okay.
That wasn't to say Harry had told the man everything. No. There were certain things Harry just wasn't comfortable revealing to anyone, as they just made him look and feel even weaker than he really was…
He'd told Ron and Hermione things about the Dursley's, of course, but by omitting some details and downplaying their awfulness to an extent, the resulting picture was much more benign than reality.
Severus seemed to get it without Harry having to say anything. That being said, he wasn't ready to fully open up to the man yet.
Harry and Severus didn't entirely avoid the Dursleys that week, of course. But Severus' efforts had been successful in keeping their interactions to a minimum.
Harry's relatives would scatter whenever the two wizards entered or exited the house. Dudley, especially, would frantically make a run for it whenever he saw them coming, but the poor kid just wasn't a master of stealth.
Harry and Severus didn't comment on being able to see the boy's tummy sticking out past the armchair he had chosen to hide behind one day, though they were sorely tempted to.
When seen, Petunia was always clutching cleaning supplies. Dudley seemed paranoid. Both Dursley men were holding their tummies in apparently constant discomfort.
Harry would always start to feel sorry for them, but then Severus would remind him that all it would take for their punishments to end is for them to feel some remorse. And they knew that, too. Until they were sorry for the way they had treated Harry, their punishments wouldn't end.
Harry supposed that was...somewhat fair. In theory.
After Harry had gone to sleep for the night, Severus found himself looking the boy over - and not for the first time.
It bothered him the way the boy never looked truly relaxed, even in sleep. With his glasses off, Harry should have looked identical to his own son from his own time and yet, there were differences. Some he didn't like.
For instance, being in such close quarters with the boy made him keenly aware of how thin he was. He was practically emaciated. Severus hadn't commented on this, of course. He didn't want to do anything to damage the tentative trust he'd managed to establish with Harry. Harry hadn't gone into specifics, but his body and what info the boy had shared were very telling. Harry had clearly been practically starved for much of his childhood.
That being the case, Harry needed more than just a proper diet, now. He needed some supplemental nutrition at the least. Not wanting to spook the boy, for now Severus had decided to spell nutritive potions into the boy's drinks come dinnertime.
Not wanting to totally deceive the boy, he told Harry that he had supplemented both their drinks with a nutritive potion.
All he left out was his motivation for doing so. He allowed Harry to draw his own conclusions, that the nutritive potion had to do with his, Severus', magical exhaustion.
He felt some guilt at the small deception, but this Harry reminded him of himself as a teen far more than his own world's Harry did in many ways. And he remembered how damn prideful and defensive he had been. Particularly about things like this. He had the feeling Harry would be much the same if Severus drew attention to Harry's stunted growth.
Because most worrisome to Severus was that Harry was a full inch shorter than his son in his own world.
Thank you for reading! Hopefully it still feels like the same story, despite the author being a few years older than the last time she did any writing for it. ;D
I'll start working on the next chapter, so you guys don't have to wait long to see how Canon Snape is doing at the moment.