I do not own Harry Potter. I have read a lot of fanfictions and apologize if anything seems well-used.
The night seemed cool to Petunia Dursley, unusually cool for late July. She thought it was the chill that had woken her but as she made her way back from the bathroom she heard a soft muffled sort of moan from the smallest bedroom and made her way there.
Petunia was frightened of her nephew, she truly was. He had powers that she would never know, and though her head knew that she should have been kind to him all these years and earned herself an ally; fear and resentment and jealousy never allowed it. The door creaking open slowly and the shaft of street light that eerily crossed the room only added to her fright and she could barely make herself shuffle across the room to her nephew's bed.
Tears were streaming down his face and he had the blanket twisted up and clamped between his teeth, his hands were white knuckled as they pulled on the raggedy ends. It was a heartbreaking sight, to see a boy young man child in such distress and so unearthly quiet about it. "Harry?" she whispered.
His eyes shot open, big and watery and the exact shade of his mother's. Petunia startled at the intensity and pain in his eyes but she swallowed and crept a little closer, crouched a little lower, "Harry, do you need help?" It was a stupid question she realized but she was one of the ones who had trained him to never ever ask.
He nodded and groaned a tiny bit. "Do you need hospital or, or a healer?" She could barely even whisper healer, it was just a breath of air. His eyes widened in surprise, he took a shuddering breath and centered himself a little, the gag was pulled out just enough for him to whisper, "healer, call F-figg." And then the gag was back and his eyes closed and his forehead creased as he curled in on himself.
Petunia was surprised that her nephew had asked for Mrs. Figg, but then again she was completely barmy and had all those cats. She was so busy running through all of her interactions with Arabella Figg over the years that she didn't even notice she was straightening out the blankets and tucking her nephew in a little better as she rose and left the smallest bedroom.
The kitchen phone was the most discrete, Arabella answered on the second ring and sounded almost competent and not the slightest bit shocked when Petunia informed her that Harry was unwell and needed a healer. She said it out loud that time, just threw it out there. And then the conversation was over and she thought about going back to the smallest bedroom but decided to put the kettle on instead so she could open the door quickly and quietly when they came.
Hopefully they would come and wave their little sticks over the boy and Vernon would never know, or maybe they would just take him away again. How would she explain that? Maybe she could pretend she didn't know, on the one hand Vernon wouldn't be happy to know that they had been in the house while he slept, but on the other hand, the freak gone a month early would be a good thing. The kettle whistled and she jumped ten feet.
Arabella Figg had not been shocked to hear her phone ring in the middle of the night, this was what she trained for after all. She was a little shocked to hear her neighbor Petunia ask for a healer for Harry though, shocked and deeply concerned. She knew how Petunia treated her nephew and could only assume that Harry had decapitated himself or something for Petunia to actually seek out help for him. Or possibly got blood on the new living room carpet, but really wouldn't Vernon consider more blood the fix for that?
Hilarity started to creep up on her at the image and she wondered if she was getting shocky at the excitement, but she was still moving towards her fireplace. The gas logs sprang to life as she slammed her palm on the button, for years she had kept real wood and tinder laid out ready to be lit at a moment's notice -except for when the cats knocked it all to hell and dragged branches into the dining room. Finally she had seen an ad on the telly for the gas logs and when she asked Minerva if she thought that would work. Minerva who was so reliably no-nonsense had just shrugged and said, "it is magic after all."
Let's hope, she thought grimly as she tossed down the floo powder and stuck her head in the flames, "Albus!"
Albus Dumbledore had been deeply asleep before the floo network woke him up. His mind wanted to snap to full alert but this was one of those nights where he actually felt as old as he was. Fawkes burbled a few notes that helped put him to rights and he was able to drag himself up and pull on a robe before he shook the sleep from his head and made his way to the fireplace.
"Arabella! what's the matter?"
"It's Harry, Petunia phoned me asking for a healer for him. He must be very bad indeed Albus for Petunia to call at such an hour." Arabella had a sudden urge to go check the boy herself, squib or not she could comfort him at least. Petunia was probably done with it now having made her big heroic phone call; she was probably making a cuppa and dreaming about how the boy would leave early due to this. Arabella's lips turned down and her eyes started squinting at the thought, when Albus glanced up at her he thought she was cross with him.
"I will have the guard investigate the situation, I believe it's Bill Weasley now, and see about sending some medical help post haste." He stood up to draw his wand and send the patronus, Arabella started to draw back herself. Both of them creaked a bit and cursed the floo network, if you put the grate at a comfortable height for talking it was no use at all for traveling, really there must be a better way.
As the silvery patronus phoenix streaked out the tower window and into the deep night a real phoenix warbled to itself. The trills and clicks sounded as if the bird was talking to himself, should I go too or will he be alright? Fawkes had a great fondness for the boy that he had saved from the basilisk bite. But now Albus was taking a deep breath and crouching before the fire again, another shower of green and he shouted, "Severus!"
Bill Weasley, like most Weasley men, knew how to cat nap. He wasn't literally a cat of course (it's worth checking in the wizarding world) but he was curled up in his cloak, drowsing against a friendly tree trunk when the patronus found him. It was embarrassing to wipe his chin even in front of Dumbledore's patronus, the eyes seemed to notice and twinkle. Surreptitiously rolling his shoulders back, Bill stepped from the shadows and up to the back door of 4 Privet Drive where he could see the kitchen light was on.
Petunia was peeved of course to see that his hair was too long and he had an earring with a bone or fang or something, but she knew in her heart that it could have been a far more unnatural looking person at her door so she let him in. Bill opened his mouth and then realized he wasn't sure what the hell was going on, the patronus had just asked him to check on Harry.
"He's upstairs, the door is open." She gestured vaguely towards the stairs and then turned back to her tea. Bill gave her a strange look and then headed for the stairs, respecting her apparent wish to not hear his voice.
The antiseptic house felt extremely unnatural to him as he took the stairs two at a time. Everything was sharp and square until he reached the dingy ajar door with six locks on it. He pushed it open and then rushed across in a heartbeat to fall to his knees next to the suffering boy. His arms automatically wrapped gently around the shuddering shape and he leaned his head close to whisper, "Harry, what's the matter?"
Bill noticed the hands twisting the blanket and gently disentangled one so that it was squeezing his own big warm hand. Harry seemed to clutch it gratefully, "it hurts," he managed to say.
Bill brushed his sweaty bangs back a bit, "I know, Harry, I know, but what hurts?"
"Everything" was the unhelpful response so Bill just kept holding his hand and waiting with Harry, hoping that someone would come soon.
Severus Snape was at his home, Spinner's End, and awake when the headmaster shouted for him. He wished that he wasn't, he wished that he might have been curled up snug in his bed on the fifth moon of Jupiter where there was no atmosphere, and thus no blasted floo and thus no headmasters summoning him in the middle of the night for whatever catastrophe he had chosen to stick his lemony fingers in. But alas, he was awake so he responded, but not pleasantly.
The headmaster had told Arabella that he would get Harry 'medical help', he never promised a healer, even Madam Pomfrey a basic mediwitch was out of the country and he certainly wasn't going to call St. Mungo's without a very good reason. "Severus, I was wondering if you could pull together some basic healing potions and go check on Mr. Potter? Arabella Figg just called and said he requires a healer."
"As my employer Albus, perhaps you have noticed I am not a healer?"
"Of course, but look you're already dressed. It's probably just a summer cold with this bizarre weather we've been having."
"As you wish Albus. I will gather a kit and apparate there directly..."
Dumbledore withdrew his head just slow enough to hear Snape finish his sentence under his breath, "- after I finish writing my acceptance speech for the Witch Weekly Most Charming Smile award." The headmaster regretted his sloth when an uncontrollable snort of laughter caused a plume of ashes to go right up his nose.
But Snape did summon a small carry-all and dutifully began stuffing fever reducers and pepper-ups in to it. His own competence worked against him though and in no time at all he was departing for Privet Drive. Like Bill he quickly saw the kitchen light on and approached the back door.
"Severus!" Petunia was shocked to see her sister's childhood playmate at her kitchen door. She took in his dark clothes and sallow skin, his thin angular body so reminiscent of her own and realized she was looking at something of a kindred spirit. Maybe this person was just as destroyed by the loss of Lily as she was, it was more than a little horrible to see, she drew back and her hand came up over her chest.
"Tuney," he sneered. The sneer was to cover up that his thoughts had been running exactly parallel to hers.
"Are you a healer?" she asked, not sneering quite as bad as he was.
"No." Severus saw no need to expand beyond the monosyllable.
"He's upstairs, there's... someone with him already." She waved vaguely towards the stairs and went back to her cup of tea.
Severus looked at her, rather closely and then moved towards the hall. He registered the dingy door under the stairs but wasn't quite sure why he was looking at it so closely, and then he was heading up the stairs, also two at a time, his satchel thumping his leg as he went.
The hall was dark but a light was coming from the slightly open door at the end. He noticed all the locks on the door, he noticed how small the room was and how shabby the furniture. He noticed the chill coming in the open window and the owl sitting upon the sill with a few envelopes tied to her legs, and then he saw Bill Weasley holding a quivering shape on the bed and stopped noticing everything else.
At first Severus wasn't even sure it was Harry Potter, the hair was dark but it looked like it was dark with sweat, the skin was paler than he expected the shoulders narrower than he remembered. Bill was rocking slowly and whispering comforting words to the person he held, their hands were intertwined and it looked almost as if Bill's fingers were being bruised before his eyes. It was hard to see a face, the blanket still being used as a gag was covering most of it. Severus crept closer and crouched down to see better, the blanket was very grubby and not the slightest bit sanitary, he longed to pluck it out but realized several teeth would probably come with it, assuming he could budge the rag.
The face also didn't really look like Potter, it was hard to tell under all the tears and snot and grimacing but after the last year Snape was actually familiar with what Potter looked like in such a state, and this wasn't it. He drew back and thought for a moment, item one -where was Harry Potter, item two -who was this, item three -why was this person in such obvious pain? Time to multitask he decided and began to wave his wand for a diagnosis charm while he whispered to Bill, "Mr. Weasley, who is this?"
Bill was startled by the question, he looked down at the person in his arms in surprise, "it's Harry Potter, isn't it?" His voice rose at the end as he looked back at Snape, "granted," he continued, "he didn't look exactly like this when I got here, I can feel his body shifting. It's like polyjuice wearing off very slowly." "And painfully," he amended.
Snape was completely baffled by that response but Bill seemed quite certain of it, his spell told him that the person before him was in a lot of pain and stress but nothing more specific. "Mr. Potter," he began in what he considered his authoritative tone, he wanted a response, "do you know what's going on?"
The miserable figure seemed to draw a deep shuddery breath and the gag was slowly eased a bit forward, a whispery voice was just barely audible. "It f-feels like what Bill said. And it is me, I am Harry." He shoved the gag quickly back in and squeezed his eyes shut but he had opened them while he spoke and Severus knew those eyes, it really was Harry.
Bill seemed to hold Harry even closer and he managed to tease, "how would you know what polyjuice feels like Harry? My little brother better not know too."
Harry seemed to like the teasing; he curled in tighter to Bill and relaxed a tiny bit. Snape quickly decided that a muscle relaxant would help, and a pain numbing potion and possibly a calming draught. Definitely a calming draught, in conjunction with the others it would knock the child out completely. 'Child?' he asked himself, the boy was supposed to be fifteen, or was it the 31st already? sixteen, he looked like he was shrinking.
He stuck his wand into the case and summoned the potions he wanted and uncapped the pain reliever first, "Mr. Potter," he said gently and then immediately regretted it when an obviously girlish face turned to him; he tried to suppress the shock and gestured with the vial, "for the pain."
The hand with the gag was slowly lowered and the potion quickly snatched and thrown back. As soon as it was gone Snape was reaching for it and passing over the next one. By the time the third was gone the 'child' was pretty close to unconscious and completely relaxed. Bill gave a big sigh of relief and pried the much smaller hand off of his and tried to shake out the tingles left behind. He lowered Harry's head and shoulders so they could get a better look at him, and to their amazement they could actually see the features slowly morphing, perhaps not as slowly as before owing to the muscle relaxing potion and Harry's unconsciousness.
They watched silently for a few moments, until the shifting seemed to end and Bill was left definitely holding a young girl; a very pretty young girl with pale skin and wide cheek bones and hair that seemed to be turning a dark red. "What the hell Severus?" Bill finally asked.
Snape dearly wished he had an answer. "Lay her out on the bed so I can do a full scan." It was a stall but the best he could do. Bill complied and as expected the scan revealed a young woman, all parts present. Her body was still under stress, slightly dehydrated, slightly malnourished, but aside from that healthy. They were both at a complete loss and thinking furiously.
Bill was scanning her too, no doubt checking for curses, "it's as if," he suddenly mused aloud and startled Snape, "as if all of the James was drained from her..."
Snape leaned over and lit his wand to peer more closely at the girl's face, "it is," he agreed. The phrase started his brain hurtling through a hundred different potions and they both lapsed into silence again.
Eventually they heard Petunia creeping back up the stairs and realized it was still the middle of the night and the leader of the Order of the Phoenix needed to be informed of what was going on. Petunia poked her long neck through the door just then.
"Are you taking him away?" she asked, hope plain in her voice.
This caused new thoughts to crash against the already present confusion and both men looked at each other, looked at the shabby room, looked at the aunt who didn't ask how her nephew was faring. "Yes, we are." Bill answered definitively, not really giving a damn what Dumbledore would think of his response, not after he had held Harry in his arms all that time and his blood relative drank tea downstairs. He stepped forward, to block Petunia's view of the sleeping girl, knowing they didn't want to give this woman any weapons to use against Harry.
Severus' eyes flicked between them but he did not oppose anything Bill said. "I will sit with Harry while you go talk to Dumbledore," he instructed Bill. Bill's shoulders shifted a fraction, he knew what Snape was saying, 'you go and try to sell that, I'll conjure a nice squashy chair and stay here.' Nonetheless, he couldn't leave Harry here so he nodded to Petunia and Snape, touched Harry's unconscious form once more and then left.
Petunia, gazed at Snape. "It would be best," she paused, "if you kept the door closed." - If you kept the door locked and your mouth shut and didn't let anyone know you are here was left unsaid.
He nodded, and surreptitiously stepped to block her view like Bill had, it didn't seem to matter. She wasn't looking towards the bed, she wasn't even looking at Severus anymore, she was looking at the floor and drawing away. She probably would have slid one of the many locks into place if they were quiet enough, but in the silence of the house it would have been very loud indeed.
Once the door was safely shut, Severus relaxed a bit and began to figure out what came next. He decided to pack the boy's trunk in case Bill was successful, but really how could they leave Harry here? He had been fragile enough after watching his godfather be killed, after being possessed by the Dark Lord, after leading his classmates into a trap that got a few of them seriously injured; they couldn't possibly leave him here after this too. 'Careful, Severus,' he chided himself, 'you'll grow a heart.'
The packing hadn't taken long at all. The boy didn't seem to have many things, although it was interesting to find the little hidey-hole under his bed. Her bed. Severus had straightened her out and folder her arms across her abdomen, she looked like Snow White waiting for a prince now. No, she looked like her mother waiting for a prince. Severus was deeply affected by how much Harry looked like Lily now, and that was with her eyes closed, he dreaded the effect when they were open. It would be like a ghost come to haunt him. He wondered what Petunia's reaction would be but knew that her muggle brain would be so boggled by Harry turning into a girl that she wouldn't see anything beyond freakishness. He doubted she had ever seen anything about Harry beyond freakishness. What a tragic mistake it had been to leave the boy here all those years ago.
Packing accomplished, owl flown off into the night, Harry still blessedly unconscious, Severus conjured that armchair and sat down to think. He took a deep breath and thought about all of the James draining away and leaving Harry a girl that looked like Lily, that looked like Lily and her father he presumed. It must have been a potion, a potion that wore off. Severus realized it was in fact the 31st of July, so a potion that wore off after sixteen years. A potion that was thrown off by a wizard growing in power. A potion that made the infant look like his father. A potion that changed the infant so much...
There were a few; he couldn't believe Lily would use them on her baby though. How desperate could she have been to imbibe such a powerful potion? He remembered, all too well, how dark and hopeless things had seemed in the year before Harry was born. He remembered a rendezvous they shared in a muggle cafe outside of Spinner's End, she had seemed excited and then she saw his Dark Mark and a light snuffed out of her. Those were especially dark and hopeless years for him.
He was such an outsider but just burning with his own sense of potential and Lucius had all those showy Slytherin connections, Lucius had all the answers, Lucius had the big powerful friends who were going to help him. Help him drive away the only good and decent and beautiful thing he had ever loved.
Loved. They were lovers, the first time he wanted to shout it from the top of the astronomy tower (not that that was where it happened, it's merely a metaphor). He wanted to rub it in James Potter's face, he wanted to rub it in Dumbledore's face, but he never did. And she never did and nobody had ever known and in the end nothing had come of it. Unless...
Unless the boy that he had been malicious to for the last five years, unless the boy that had been dropped on an unloving doorstep like a bottle of sour milk, unless the girl with all the James drained out of her...
There was a charm. Of course there was a charm, how could a society make it through the intrigues of the middle ages without developing such a charm, which told the paternity of a child. Severus just had to pull out his wand and wave it over the sleeping girl, a few swishes and...
Lily was not a promiscuous girl, well, present company excluded, but if Harry wasn't James' son then she had to be Snape's daughter. She couldn't be Black's daughter, or Lupin's. No, not with those cheekbones. Severus startled himself a little with that observation. Cheekbones, really? Who notices such things about unconscious sixteen year old girls who might be their own daughter? 'Hmm, this must be what panic feels like, or losing your mind, or talking to yourself,' Severus mused.
The Chosen One as his daughter, Harry Potter as his and Lily's love child. The thought was laughable, and yet, if true he would certainly put an end to that chosen one business. No daughter of his, no precious bit of Lily was going to go around challenging the Dark Lord. Panic indeed.
And then he chanced to think of Harry's reaction to that, remember how you always thought that goody-goody rich pure-blooded Gryffindor James Potter was your father? remember how you always thought you were a boy? remember how you used to have a... Perhaps it would be best to just obliviate the poor blighter and start over.
But that really truly wasn't an option, was it? Although it was possibly the best way to protect Harry from his fate as the Chosen One. It was an escape from this place too, from the ratty blanket that he had to use as a gag. Why did Harry gag himself? Why was it so important that he keep quiet? 'Do you really wonder Severus?' he asked himself, remembering stories from Hagrid about the whale that was Vernon Dursley and the slightly smaller whale that was Dudley Dursley. Strange that they should be so whale sized and Harry so small, so dehydrated and malnourished, locked away in this tiny bedroom. The door under the stairs popped into Severus' mind too and he remembered flashes of that door opening from Harry's occlumency lessons.
He was across the room and down the hall before he had another thought. He was opening that door and looking down on the tiny cot, the skimpy shelf with a neat row of cheap broken toys before he realized that the rushing sound in his ears was rage, was his blood boiling. Then suddenly Bill Weasley was next to him again, looking down at the cot too. He opened his mouth and a brief, "wha-" sound came out before he saw the little crayon drawing that said 'Harry's Room' and the vocalization became a growl. Together they shut the door and stepped back from it.
Severus just stood there staring at the door and noticing the lock upon this door too when Bill came back from his foray into the dining room. He had the best bottle of brandy he could find in the Dursley's bar in his hand and he shoved Severus towards the kitchen table. They sat woodenly and drank a deep snifter each before either spoke again.
But first Bill Weasley pulled out a dark potions book and tossed it across the table to Snape. "Paternus Potion," he announced. She must have taken it before she realized she was carrying a girl, it completely rewrote Harry's DNA and forced him to be a boy, to be a better clone of who she wanted the father to be."
Severus nodded, "that's what I came up with too. She could have killed Harry, she still might have -when he wakes up and realizes his whole identity is based on a lie, on two lies..."
"I remember you; I remember seeing the beautiful red haired lady at my uncles' funeral and her slipping out the back to meet with you. I didn't know I remembered Lily Evans at all until I looked at Harry's face tonight."
"You didn't go to see Dumbledore did you?" asked Snape, flipping through the book and reviewing the potion that Lily had used so foolishly.
"No, I didn't," Bill confessed. "I was going to and then I started thinking about how he might use this and it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Just like this house does, and the guard being set to watch Harry but not talk to him or let him know we're here does. -This brandy is helping though." He smiled and refilled both glasses.
"This does seem like an interesting turn and it's most Slytherin of you Mr. Weasley to double back like this and explore the options with me." If he had been anyone else, if he had been more stricken by the events of the night, or possibly less stricken, he might have clinked glasses with him. But he didn't, he swirled the amber liquid and allowed a small smirk to play across his face. He suddenly remembered Albus telling him that the Sorting Hat had considered placing Harry in Slytherin too.
"We must get Harry out of this house." Bill announced, as though he were making a list of home improvements. That would be an improvement for sure.
"Agreed," said Severus easily.
"We need to get him somewhere private so he can come to terms with this."
"Interesting that you would say private, you don't think the Burrow is the place to recover?"
Bill smiled, "Judging by how boggled I am that Harry turned into a girl before my eyes, I'm guessing that Ron will completely flip his wig and I don't know how helpful that will be. I think Mum will be more than a little crushed and disappointed in Harry's mum too and that also will not be helpful."
"I suppose not, I am impressed by how calmly you can acknowledge your family's shortcomings," he gave a little salute with his glass, "well done Mr. Weasley."
Bill was so surprised that he almost expected Snape to add five points to Gryffindor and then he really might have blushed. But instead he plowed on with his list. "Are you as impressed with my conclusion that he should go home with you?" He almost added, his father, but he noticed that Severus hadn't acknowledged that bit of obviousness yet and thought he'd leave it off for the moment.
"It does seem to make the most sense, as a potions master I can easily keep him in calming draughts until September first."
Bill actually chuckled at that. "That just leaves the tiny detail of what to do about the boy Harry Potter. Petunia wants him gone tonight obviously but Arabella or the next guard or Albus, or someone is bound to notice -aren't they?" His voice trailed off as he realized maybe not, Harry was extremely isolated in the summer months. It was really just the guards they had to worry about.
"We need to keep it simple. We could make up a disease for now, say he has dragon pox or something and I had to take him to Spinner's End for quarantine. I can even be suitably angry about the horrific imposition."
"A disease is good for now, it explains the late night emergency, explains the removal... but it won't work in September."
"No, but that's a whole month away. And it gives us time to ask Harry what he wants to do, if I was him I would kill the whole Chosen One character off and start fresh with a whole new identity."
"The scar is still there," Bill pointed out gently.
Severus had noticed that too. "I can get rid of scars" he scoffed, "I can even fix his eyes if he's still nearsighted."
"I bet he won't be, I bet it was part of that potion." Bill said.
"Probably," Snape agreed.
"Can you really get rid of the scar Severus?" Bill asked softly.
"Yes," Snape nodded, his mind already whirling with potions ingredients.
"Wizard pox it is then." Bill drained his glass, "I'll go inform Albus and you can escort your... -Harry home. Do you need a hand?"
"No, he only has his trunk, broom, and his owl, I'll shrink the trunk and the owl has already left." Snape was so distracted he didn't even acknowledge Bill's slip.
"Best of luck then, make sure you have a double batch of that draught for when she wakes." And with a grim smile he apparated away. Severus looked at the small mess they had made of glasses and stolen brandy, then pushed himself away from the table leaving it all behind. Let 'Tuney explain that to Vernon, he smirked. Maybe he'll think she had a bit of a fling with the wizards who came to pick up Harry.