The True Face of Another
Several notes today to start off.
Note 1: Thank you all for your continued awesome, encouraging reviews! You make me want to keep forging ahead :)
Note 2: Thanks to everyone who has sent reminders of certain events that came to pass in Harry's fifth year. Some details I'd planned on including all along, and others have slipped my mind, so I definitely appreciate the reminders!
Note 3: Thanks also to those asking about the amount of time that has passed. This led me to take a closer look at my story and I realized I made one major mistake in an earlier chapter - a few chapters ago, I had Snape tell Harry that 5 weeks had passed since he'd arrived.
In truth, after going back through and double checking the passing of events, only 3 weeks and 3 days had passed at that point. I will go back and fix that.
Below is a general timeline of events
July 1 (Sat) - Harry arrives at Prince Manor
July 5 (Thursday) - Harry found sick by Snape and Draco
July 8 (Sunday) - Snape gives Harry tour of the manor
July 13 (Friday) - Harry plays chess with Draco; start to develop rapport
July 16-20 (M - F) - Severus busy with Potions work; Harry and Draco go flying
July 21, 22 (Sat/Sun) - Harry alone; Draco and Snape in lab
July 23 (Mon) - Draco trails Harry to garden; reveals his knowledge of Lily and Sev's friendship
July 25 (Wed) - Snape learns Harry lived with Petunia; gives Harry letters from friends
I will include dates/days in the text now to help everyone (including myself) stay oriented.
Note 4: In this world, Dumbledore has not revealed the full contents of the prophecy to Harry as of yet.
Note 5: A lot of ground is covered in this chapter. Let me know what you think about pacing. I'm happy to take constructive criticism, of course!
And now, finally...on to the story!
I do not own HP.
Chapter 19 - More Revealed
July 26 (Thursday)
The next day, Potter asked for permission to use the lab once again. Severus consented, and decided to again observe the boy as he worked, as the Potions Master figured further observation may reveal an opportunity to ask the boy more about his blasted relatives. Of course, to Potter, Severus insisted he just didn't trust the Gryffindor alone with so many valuable ingredients.
Truthfully, Severus had come to realize he did not abhor the prospect of being in the boy's presence so much as he once had.
For this particular session, Potter had decided to start with a basic potion, apparently keen on revisiting a variety of potions he had previously been unable to successfully complete.
In the two hours Potter spent in the lab, they exchanged few words. The boy completed two basic potions and upon completion of each, asked him for his evaluation, at which point he left his own workstation to examine Potter's work.
In both cases, he offered minor suggestions but had nothing to say in the way of true criticisms. Of course, these were second and third-year potions, so it would have been embarrassing in the extreme had the boy's performance been atrocious, but that being said, he could not say he disapproved of Potter putting effort into perfecting the basics before moving on.
After he had given the boy his evaluation of the second potion, Potter carefully cleaned up and then politely thanked him for letting him use the lab before excusing himself.
The next day was much the same. In the morning, Severus worked with Draco on his advanced work, but come afternoon, Potter was once again set up next to him, this time working on a fourth-year potion.
Again, it was satisfactory. More than, if Severus were honest with himself. The two relaxed into companionable silence and Severus was able to make some good progress on his own work. He had almost forgotten the boy was there with him when Potter again asked him for his feedback.
And so it continued. By Saturday, Potter was working on fifth year potions he had botched before. He took his time with them, now, and the results showed it.
Severus came over to examine Potter's healing draught. After running a few quick tests, he nodded. "Acceptable."
Potter smiled as he did each time his potions were announced not to be failures, but as the boy went to vanish the potion as he had each time before now, Severus stopped him. "Leave it."
Potter looked up in surprise.
"That...is of acceptable enough quality such that there is no need to waste it."
The hopeful way the boy was looking at him made him uncomfortable, so without making eye contact, he barked an order. "Bottle it up, careful not to spill a drip. Label the vials - neatly, mind you - and place them on the table in the corner."
"Yes, sir," Potter said quietly before moving to follow his instructions.
Severus tried to return to work, but was too conscious of the boy's presence to truly focus. Finally, Potter approached the door to the lab, presumably to leave, but then just stood there, hesitating for some reason.
His tone one of slight annoyance, Severus asked, "Is there something the matter, Mr. Potter?"
"Uh, no sir." The boy flushed. It looked like he was working up the courage to say something. Finally, he burst out, "Only, I was just wondering…"
Severus raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms, waiting.
"Did-do you know if my mum liked Potions? See, I don't really know much about her. Professor Flitwick said she was great in charms, and I know my dad was apparently good at Transfiguration, but I wasn't sure about mum and her favorite subjects…"
Severus sighed. In the past, he never would have answered the boy, but now that he had openly admitted that he had been an acquaintance of Lily's, he felt more apt to answer the boy. He also felt somewhat motivated by pity that the boy knew so little of his mother and that, having been raised by Petunia, had no doubt had to endure years of the awful woman's horrid lies about Lily.
Additionally, perhaps a little honestly would make the boy more likely to reciprocate in kind...
"Her favorite subjects were Charms, Potions, and Ancient Runes."
Potter's eyes widened.
"She found language learning to be enjoyable, accounting for her interest in Runes. As for potions...she and I partnered regularly for a number of years and so I can confirm she had a talent for the subject. An interest as well."
The look on Potter's face suggested he had not expected Severus to reveal so much.
"I-I see. Thank you, sir. I never knew that about her," he said softly.
Severus nodded curtly, expecting the boy to scurry away. But he was still there.
"What is it now, Mr. Potter?" He asked, trying to reign in his patience.
"Was she kind?" The boy actually covered his mouth with a hand after the words left it. Clearly, that had been an impulsive question he regretted immediately.
Severus felt fury flood his body at the boy's question. But his fury was not directed at Potter, for once. He was furious at everyone who had failed Potter to the extent that he was not certain of such a fundamental truth - that his mother had been kindness epitomized. Potter was unsure of this, even knowing she had died for him? It was the height of absurdity.
He stomped over to the boy and waited until Potter looked up to meet his eyes, nervously.
Quietly, but with no absence of passion, he said, "Lily Evans was the kindest person I have ever had the privilege to know. It confounds me that this was not something you were aware of."
"I see. Thank you, sir. I-I'd hoped she was, but I've never learned much about her from anyone who knew her personally, except for Aunt Petunia, but I learned early not to trust a damn thing she said."
"Astute of you," Severus nodded.
"You really knew Aunt Petunia, sir? And she was awful as a kid, too?"
"I thankfully did not have to endure her presence on many occasions, but yes, the interactions we did have revealed her to be nothing but a petty, jealous, vindictive girl incapable of loving anyone but herself and those she saw as belonging to the limited world she wanted to belong to."
"Sounds like the Aunt Petunia I know," Potter said lightly, as if trying to inject some humor into the situation.
"What of your uncle? Was he something of a balancing presence in the household?" Severus probed, honestly curious.
Potter laughed harshly, which itself was a telling response. "As if. He was worse, if anything. And precious Dudley was a miniature version of his whale of a father," he sneered.
"Oh? What was your cousin like?" Severus in the past would have chastised the boy for speaking ill of the dead, but he was certain these people deserved it.
"Stupid as you can get, and cruel, and his parents let him get away with everything. Oh, and Dudley had a gang of boys that followed him around. They loved to terrorize the neighborhood kids. Of course I was their favorite target. Luckily, I was faster than they were, and knew the best hiding spots..."
"I...see." That was consistent with the squib's account, though Potter had shone more light on the situation, even with as little as he had revealed.
"Uh, anyway, sir...I should get going so I can change before lunch."
"Fine, Potter. Go ahead." Severus waved him off.
That had been informative. It was interesting to him that the boy had been willing to reveal anything else to him about his home life, but he supposed, his openness about the boy's mother had been an effective hook. Perhaps he could use this tactic again in the future.
Harry couldn't believe he'd told Snape as much as he had. Not that it was all that much, really.
He hadn't gone into much detail, but he'd still touched on Dudley's favorite pastime - "Harry Hunting" - though he'd stopped short of mentioning that's what it had been called. Somehow, admitting that seemed like a much more significant reveal, even if that were a little irrational.
He realized he'd come to have some level of trust for Snape. Maybe it had to do with the fact that his own mother had clearly trusted him. Apparently they had stopped being friends at some point, though, and he wondered if the reason had to do with the memory he'd seen in Snape's pensieve that time the man had blown up at him.
Snape had called his mother "mudblood," and his mother had clearly been furious. Had they been close friends up until that moment? If that was the case...part of him wondered why the friendship had broken apart so easily.
Not to say that he approved of what Snape had done, but he had clearly been responding out of pain. He'd been getting dangled upside down by a group of, from Snape's perspective, bullies.
It was beyond bizarre that those bullies had been made up of Harry's dad, Sirius, and their friends...
Harry knew from experience how vulnerable it made you feel when bullies were after you. You were liable to lash out at anyone, even someone you cared about and wanted to trust. You went into defense mode.
He had the feeling, based on how Snape had talked about his mother and her kindness, that the man had lashed out in this sort of state, and had undoubtedly regretted it.
Had his mother given Snape a chance to apologize? Had she listened?
How would a loner like Snape have responded to a close friend of his dropping him so easily, only to then marry his school rival - his bully? He probably would have decided never to trust or open himself up again.
The fact that Snape had clearly made himself human to some - Draco and the elves, at least - surprised Harry based on what else he knew of the man. He'd even showed Harry a few hints of...if not kindness, at least tolerance...as of late.
"What am I doing psychoanalyzing Snape like this?" Harry wondered, bemused, and decided to try to get his mind off of these matters before he had to face the man again. Too bad occlumency had been such a cock-up, he thought to himself. It would have been useful to be able to "clear his mind" anytime he pleased. Unfortunately, though Snape had shouted this at him on numerous occasions, he'd never once explained what he'd meant or how Harry was supposed to have done this.
Thoughts of the miserable occlumency lessons brought the nasty Snape back to the fore of his mind which helped him to forget about the man for now and go on down for supper.
July 29 (Sunday)
The next day was rainy - uncommon at the manor.
(When he'd asked Draco, the blond had confirmed that many wealthy estates had their own weather patterns. At Prince Manor, there was generally a 1:10 ratio of rain to sun. For those families that absolutely hated rain, it might always be sunny. The plants grew magically irrespective of how much rain they received.)
To pass time, Harry and Draco were playing chess in the library. Harry felt that he was improving somewhat, but Draco still won practically every match.
"You've been visiting the lab a lot these days," Draco noted.
"Yeah. It's kind of weird to admit, but I'm actually starting to enjoy potions."
Draco chuckled. "Don't let Weasel hear you say that. He'll feel betrayed."
Draco held up his hands in apology at Harry's glare. "Annnnyway, I figured you'd have to like them at least a little considering how much time you're voluntarily spending on them."
"True." Harry was silent for a moment as he stared at the chess board, contemplating his next move.
"Snape told me my mum liked Potions."
Harry laughed at the flabbergasted expression on his fellow Hogwarts student's face.
"I know, I didn't expect him to answer - or at least to give me even close to as much as he did...but yeah, he told me they were partners in potions for years and that she both liked the subject and was good at it."
"Is that to account for your newfound passion for the subject?"
"No, he just told me yesterday. I guess I've naturally started to enjoy it, but it's interesting to know she liked it."
"My understanding is that your mother was reasonably smart. My parents...granted, as she was a muggleborn, they didn't have much in the way of positive things to say about her, but they did make a comment that suggested they were surprised someone of her...birth...could be such a good witch."
Harry noticed that Draco seemed somewhat uncomfortable touching on the topic of his parents' prejudice against Harry's mother.
"I wish I could have known her."
"Well, perhaps Severus will drop more tidbits here and there."
"Maybe. He's not being as tight lipped about it as I would have expected."
They were silent for a few minutes, just talking about the game they were playing before Harry spoke again. "Draco, you said you're working on an experimental potion?"
"Yes, that's right," he said, a bit guarded.
"What sort of potion are you trying to make?"
"It's...a little dark. I'm not sure you'll approve."
That's why he seemed a little weird just now, Harry realized. He shook his head. "I won't judge. I'm just curious."
Draco gave him a long measuring look before shrugging his shoulders. "Fine, but you better not make me regret this…" He sighed, before putting a serious look on his face. "I'm trying to develop a potion to relieve the pain of the dark mark. It's...for Severus but also for others who want to get out of the service to the dark lord but can't due to the insanity-causing levels of pain they'd have to endure."
Harry blinked. "I think that's brilliant."
"Yeah. Why did you think I'd disapprove?"
"Come on, Harry, you've always been strictly anti dark, and to make this potion, I have to get into some seriously dark grey territory. To test it, I've had to create my own version of the dark mark. Why wouldn't you disapprove?"
"Are you hurting anyone testing it?"
"No, I made sure to use dolls that can relay the response to me but which will not actually experience any pain."
"Then what you're doing is good, as far as I'm concerned."
"Even though it's dark?" Draco asked, an eyebrow raised.
"If it's used for good reasons, then I don't see the problem," Harry shrugged.
Draco smiled at him then, and it was perhaps the most genuine smile Harry had seen on the boy's face. "Then you're far more open minded than the average light wizard."
"Yes. Listen," and at this, the blond got a little excited spark in his eye. "Magic comes in all sorts of different forms. Wizards decided to classify magic into different categories - dark magic, light magic, grey magic, neutral magic. But the truth is, light magic meaning good magic and dark magic being equated with evil is a vast oversimplification that loses so much nuance and is really not right. A spell is made good or evil based on the intent of the user at the time, not the type of magic itself."
"I don't think the cruciatus curse could possibly be anything but evil."
"Well of course there are exceptions. And there are some light spells that I can't see anyone using for evil. But you also have special targeted healing spells that use one's blood to make them more effective, but they are considered dark just because of the use of human blood. But the blood's being used for healing purposes, not to harm. That's certainly not evil."
"And on the other side of that, you can use a levitating spell to drop a brick on someone's head or heal them to keep them conscious during torture, both cruel uses of non-dark spells. So you see...it's not so simple."
Harry was listening intently. "I hadn't ever thought of it that way."
"Of course not," Draco waved him off. "The fools at the ministry feed the public on a strict diet of propaganda, insisting that light equals good and dark equals bad. No exceptions. And the masses just lap it up. That's distressing because much of traditional magic is technically dark in nature, though not evil. Calling it that just strips the wizarding world of a large portion of its culture! From the ministry's point of view, it's just a tactic for them to be in control of what people think and keep them dumb and powerless."
Remembering Umbridge and her attempts to shut down what people were supposed to say and think, as well as others who had less than impressed him at the ministry, Harry could believe it, but it was so different from what he was used to thinking he wanted to know more before taking Draco's words at face value. He was certain that there was still plenty that was unsavory about traditional culture, though. The obsession with blood purity, for instance.
"That's interesting...and it's the first time I"ve heard anything like this. Is there a book I could read that would help me learn more?" He felt like Hermione asking, but he'd realized, now that he had access to this huge library and the time to actually read, that he enjoyed how much books could enrich his understanding of things. They'd sure helped with potions.
"Well of course there are. The book I lent you is not a bad place to start...but there are also bound to be a number of excellent books in the library. Wait a moment…"
Harry played with a section of his ratty old trainers that was threatening to come off. He looked up to see Draco offering a book to him.
"This should be a good start."
Harry took it. An Introduction to Traditional Magic and Magical Traditions. As usual with many old tomes, the book was bound beautifully.
Harry nodded. "I'll give it a read. Speaking of books, have you started the one I gave you?"
Draco's cheeks tinged a little pink. "Yes, actually...I...read the first chapter. I must admit to surprise at how well written and imagined it is. The language is cultured in the extreme. I had to remind myself a muggle had written it, because I had forgotten that while reading."
"Why remind yourself?"
"If you couldn't tell the difference, then perhaps that's proof it just doesn't matter. There are brilliant and stupid people in the world, regardless of whether they're magical or nonmagical."
Draco seemed to be struggling with this, but gave an awkward half nod, half shrug gesture. Harry decided not to press it for now.
"Anyway, I'd be curious to see how your potion works at some point."
Draco smirked. "That should be perfectly doable, I believe."
July 30 (Monday)
The next day, Harry asked to use the lab again, but Snape apparently needed to leave the grounds for a short time.
"Harry and I can use the lab together," Draco suggested.
"Based on your track record, I doubt that is an even remotely good idea. I do not want to return to find my lab a pile of rubble!"
"Come on, Severus. I'm sure you can tell our antipathy is not what it was," Draco said lightly.
"Even so, I do not agree based on the number of volatile ingredients in the lab that could result in injury! It is one thing if I am in the house or the neighboring lab, but I will be off site!"
For a moment, the thought occurred to Harry that Snape sure hadn't cared about what happened in the lab much when Harry was being punished early in his stay, but decided to push past this thought. Snape had been much better recently, and clearly felt remorse for how Harry had gotten hurt.
Apparently, Draco was continuing to make his case. Snape had his hand on his head as if trying to ward off a headache. Eventually, he relented.
"Fine. I will place some charms to ensure I will be alerted if anything goes awry before I leave. And Draco? Don't do anything foolish."
"I know, Severus," Draco said, rolling his eyes. "Don't worry so much. I will be every bit the responsible and respectable wizard you wish me to be."
"Fine, child," Snape growled. "That goes for you, too, Potter. Don't blow anything up."
"I'll be careful, sir," Harry said, feeling amused. Snape was acting like a bloody mother hen at the moment! And Harry didn't buy that the Potions Master was just worried about the lab.
When they got to the lab, Harry turned to Draco.
"Are you going to be working on your dark mark potion?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "That's the most eloquent possible name for it, Potter. Thank you ever so. But yes, that's the plan."
"I can help," Harry offered.
Draco just gave him a very dubious look.
"I've really improved! If you give me instructions, I could at least help prepare ingredients."
Draco hesitated. "Severus would probably kill me, but I guess I'm alright with it. However, you must promise to do as I say. And do not do anything you feel uncomfortable with."
Harry nodded and then the two of them went back to the storeroom to get a variety of ingredients before lining them up on the large workstation they'd made by adjoining the two worktables together.
At Draco's direction, Harry began preparing ingredients as carefully as he could. They got into a comfortable silence, much like the one Harry had been enjoying with Snape recently in the lab.
Despite the earlier suggestion that Harry would be using this lab alone, with Snape next door, every time the Gryffindor had used the lab thus far, he'd had a partner in the room. He thought he preferred it that way. Now that neither of the Slytherins were being gits about every little thing, he actually found he enjoyed having them there.
"How are you doing?" Draco asked before leaning over. Surprise flitted across his face. "That's not bad at all, actually." He took his knife and picked up an ingredient. "These will do for sure. Thanks."
Harry smiled. "What did I tell you? I've improved."
"I can see that," the blond chuckled.
He started to add the ingredients, explaining as he did some of the things he'd tried before and recent changes to make it more effective. It was interesting stuff, and Harry found himself asking more and more questions.
Severus returned to the manor to find the two boys playing a game of gobstones in the living room. They had stopped when he flooed in, Potter looking like he might stand up, but he waved them off. "Don't stop on my account. There is still some time before dinner."
It was interesting, but the scene of the two boys sitting in his living room, playing a board game and dressed in casual clothing - Potter in his acceptable jeans and green t-shirt - was so domestic, it normally would have made Severus recoil and run for the hills. Strangely, at the moment, it didn't.
The two were truly getting along these days, and he admitted this had been a positive change in the household. Draco seemed happier overall. Potter, too, seemed to be coming out of his shell, bit by bit. He was speaking up more at meals, though he was never loud or intrusive. But he seemed more comfortable than he had been.
The past few days a kind of hominess had found its way into the air at Prince Manor - a feeling that had been absent from these halls since Severus' mother had died.
"Severus, wasn't your mother head of the gobstones club at Hogwarts?" His cheeky godson asked, jolting him from his reverie.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Yes. Her claim to fame," he said wryly.
"It's a fun game," Potter put in. "It requires some strategy and incentive not to screw up."
"Not an inaccurate statement, Potter," Severus agreed, chuckling when Potter proceeded to get squirted by the nasty-smelling goo.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Once you're done, clean up and I'll see you both for dinner." He then swept out.
Once he was out of their presence, he let his occlumency shields drop and the events of the past few hours came rushing back.
He immediately missed the peace he'd felt just a moment before observing the two boys playing their game.
Severus had just returned from a meeting with the Order of the Phoenix, and as was often the case, he'd been asked to stay after for a private meeting with the headmaster.
It had all been...far too informative.
The first bombshell Albus had dropped on them - the whole Order, this time - was the content of the full prophecy Severus himself had overheard part of all those years ago. According to the headmaster's interpretation, Potter was, indeed, supposed to be the one who could kill the dark lord.
It was in their private meeting later that Albus had revealed, apparently with great regret (and Severus sneered at the memory of the old man's devastated expression) that the boy was expected to just allow himself to be killed by the madman's hand.
Severus had raged against Albus at the pronouncement. If his old mentor thought Severus would just sit by and obediently accept that he had vowed to protect the boy all this time - that he had given up dying when Lily did to protect the boy - and that the boy had lived 10 miserable years and more summers with those Dursleys - just so he could sacrifice himself? He had another thing coming.
Albus had told him he had planned on waiting to inform him of this, but seeing as the boy was living with him and therefore fully under his purview for the duration of the summer, he thought it made sense to go ahead and share this information.
And then the man had attempted to explain why exactly Potter had to die.
A horcrux. In the boy. Merlin.
Severus couldn't think of a curse that would be sufficient to express his feelings at this realization.
He could only begin to fathom the harm the horcrux may have done to the boy living within him all these years. Perhaps a more complete - and yes, darker - diagnostic scan made sense given the circumstances.
Albus was convinced the only way to get rid of Voldemort was for Harry to walk like a lamb readied for slaughter to his doom.
Severus didn't agree.
Of course, the headmaster had yet to inform Potter of any of these matters. Severus had the sick feeling that this job, as with so many others, would also fall to him. But given the headmaster's rapidly deteriorating track record with Potter, Severus thought this might not be for the worse.
Severus would do what he did best.
Rather than sit back and feel sorry for the boy, coddle him while feeling so very regretful for the boy's fate, as Albus did, Severus favored action.
And act he would.
He had at his fingertips the Prince family library, and through Draco, the Malfoy library. Also, admittedly, Potter had been given the Black family house in that damn Mutt's will. If he searched the libraries in these three famous dark houses - would it not be possible to find something that would be of use?
He refused to admit defeat. He refused to go along with Albus' plan, just because the man fancied himself to be far more infallible than Severus had come to realize he truly was.
At least Severus had been able to talk the wizard out of an incredibly foolish idea - the man had apparently been planning on going to hunt one of the horcruxes alone in the next week.
Thankfully, the man had seemed to actually listen to Severus this time and agreed to wait and let Severus come with him just in case there were unforeseen dangers. Furthermore, he had folded to Severus' demands that he let him assist him in gathering the remaining dratted things.
It had taken some real arguing, but Severus had managed to convince the man that now he was no longer spying for Dumbledore, he could contribute to the cause in this other way.
"What was your original plan, Albus? To drag Potter along?" Severus sneered.
It disturbed him that he was half-certain he was right.
Much to his displeasure, the old wizard cut off Severus's next retort - and he'd been readying a good one, too - by abruptly changing the subject.
"Severus, dear boy, have you put much thought into what you will do for Harry's birthday? It is, after all, tomorrow, unless I am much mistaken."
Severus scoffed. How could the wizard at one moment be so casual about things that might end the boy's very life, while at the next, act like the kind grandfather concerned about the boy's birthday?
Admittedly, he supposed it would behoove him not to entirely ignore Potter's birthday, but the boy sure shouldn't expect much!
Then again, knowing what he now did of the boy's relatives, he imagined Potter's birthday celebrations to this point (at least insofar as his relatives provided them) to have been rather more humble than he originally would have expected.
Again, covered a lot of ground, but I hope it was good ground to cover! Let me know what you think!