FLASHBACK TO SEPTEMBER, 1983
James Potter stood completely still, staring out of the living room window of his house in Godric's Hollow; he didn't know how long he had been standing there, just watching his son play with Sirius and Remus in the sandbox. He sighed and turned away from the sight and looked at his desk; there was a letter he had to write, but he didn't know how to say what needed to be said.
He sat in his chair and picked up a quill...slowly he began to write the words that would tear his world even further apart than it already was.
Dear Severus Snape,
PRESENT TIME - 1991
"Harry, would you come in here? I want to talk to you about something."
Harry James Potter could hear the near panic in his mother's voice and wondered what had happened now. He didn't think he'd done anything wrong; but that could always change at a moment's notice...whether he was there or not. Mr. Snape still had a tendency to blame him for anything that happened around the house; even though five years had passed since the kidnapping, Mr. Snape still had not accepted Harry into the Snape family. Things were a little more comfortable than they had been, but they still weren't good...or what Harry would have considered 'good'; Mr. Snape didn't say many bad things to Harry anymore...he barely said anything to Harry. He honestly thought that he could probably give dates for all of the times that Mr. Snape had directly addressed him; sometimes the silence was so heavy that his mother sent either one or both of them out of the room she was in...she really didn't want to deal with it, because she knew she couldn't change it.
Harry entered the library and looked around for his mother; she was seated at the far side of the small desk, staring at two separate pieces of parchment that bore his name. "What did you need, Mum?"
Lily looked up at her eleven year old son; she was fairly certain that her shock still showed on her face. "Harry...did you apply to Durmstrang?" She held out one of the letters; he took it and read the acceptance letter that he had been waiting for.
"Yes, Mum, I did; I'm not going to Hogwarts."
Lily hadn't thought that anything could disturb her more than reading that Harry had been accepted at Durmstrang; she was wrong. "What? Why not? Why don't you want to go to Hogwarts?"
Harry looked at his mother askance; she couldn't really be serious...could she? "Mum...think about what you just asked. Mr. Snape teaches Potions at Hogwarts...and Mr. Snape hates me. I'm not going to put myself through seven years of absolute hell because of that man...your husband or not."
Lily just stared at her son sadly; even after all this time, he still referred to Severus as 'Mr. Snape'. "Harry, he's your stepfather; he's not going to do anything to you."
"Really?" Harry snorted as he pulled his mother's pensieve over to him. "Watch this memory and then tell me if he's not going to do anything to me." Harry pulled a phial out of his pocket and dumped the contents into the pensieve; he'd had his Uncle Lucius remove the memory so that he could show it to his mother, if the situation ever warranted it...he thought that the situation warranted it right now. Lily looked at her son closely before entering the pensieve memory.
Judging by the sunlight streaming through the windows of the Entrance Hall at Hogwarts, it was mid-Spring. Lily could just see the green leaves on the trees just outside of the windows and sighed heavily; this must have happened before term let out. They were still living at Hogwarts during the school term; they had been ever since she had married Severus. Lily's attention was caught by the sight of her son slowly making his way up the stairs to the fourth floor; she knew he was heading to the library to work on one of the essays that Severus had set for him. He looked anything but confident, which was a change from when Harry was in their rooms; Lily wondered if Harry always looked almost frightened when he was outside of the safety of the dungeons...she also wondered just how many masks her son had.
"Mr. Potter!" Lily spun around to look behind her; Minerva McGonagall was striding down the hallway.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall?" Lily was proud of her son for showing respect and deference to the stern woman that Lily was sure still haunted some students' nightmares.
"Well, then...I understand that you will be eleven soon and will be attending Hogwarts beginning next term." Lily waited to hear that Minerva would be proud to have Harry in her house. "From what Professor Snape has told me about you, I expect that you'll be in his house." Lily's eyes widened; what had Severus said to her?
"If I may ask, Ma'am...what do you mean?" Even in the face of possible hostility, Harry still remained polite.
"He's told me how you don't hesitate to use the fame and influence of being 'The Boy Who Lived' to get your way. He said that you are prone to lying and will do anything to make sure that you come out on top of everyone else. Let me tell you, Mr. Potter, those are not the actions of a Gryffindor...they fairly scream 'Slytherin'! No, from what Professor Snape has told me, I do not want you in my house."
Lily watched as Harry's shoulders drooped noticeably; she really couldn't blame him...one of the first times he had come across Minerva McGonagall alone, and she had basically told him that she thought he was spoiled and a liar. "I'm sorry that I'm a disappointment, Professor McGonagall...Mr. Snape tells me the same thing every time he sees me." Lily hoped that wasn't true, but she had a feeling it was; she knew she needed to speak with Severus about this very soon.
"Well, at least you know you've disappointed people; now you can work on correcting it before the new term starts. Let me tell you, young man, the teachers in this school will not put up with any shenanigans from you...famous or not! We have high standards here at Hogwarts; from what Professor Snape has told me, you do not fit many of those standards. I must remember to speak to him about home schooling you until you learn some humility." With that, Minerva swished past Harry to continue on her way to her destination.
Lily moved closer to Harry as he stood still in the hallway; he hadn't moved since Minerva had left and Lily was worried about how Harry was going to react to her accusations. She walked around her son, so that she was standing in front of him and could see his face; she was shocked by the tears that were streaming down his cheeks.
"I still can't do anything right...I've tried and I've tried, but nothing I do is ever good enough for HIM!" The sound of Harry's sobs broke Lily's heart. "If this is what she thinks of me, what do the other teachers think?" He turned around and headed back toward the dungeons, all thoughts of completing the essay early now gone. "Why should I try to finish my work early if he's just going to tell them that I'm no good?"
Lily followed Harry back down to the dungeons and waited for him to open the door to their rooms; she grew concerned when he seemed to be having a problem getting the door to respond to the password. Suddenly it struck her...this was the day that Severus had changed the password; he had fire-called her at St. Mungo's, to let her know what the new password was...but he had, apparently, never informed Harry of the change. Severus had told her that he had given Harry the new password; now she realised that he hadn't done that...and she had blamed Harry for forgetting such an important thing. Harry sat down on the floor next to the door and rested his arms on his knees; placing his head on his arms, he gave into the most gut-wrenching sobs that Lily had ever heard from her son. He hadn't even cried like this when he had been reunited with her after the kidnapping.
The memory faded and Lily found herself sitting in her chair in the kitchen again. Harry looked at her shocked expression and grimaced; he hadn't intended to hurt his mother, but she needed to know what her husband insisted upon doing to him.
"I'm sorry that you had to find out like that, Mum, but you needed to know at least one of the many reasons that I won't go to Hogwarts. That is the reason that I applied to Durmstrang; no one knows me there, and there won't be stories like this, where I have to work to prove them wrong." Harry scooped the memory back into the phial and placed it back in his pocket; he wasn't going to leave it here and risk Mr. Snape finding it. "I'm going to Draco's...he's invited me to stay the night."
Harry turned around and left the room, leaving his mother staring after him; Lily gave into the tears she had been suppressing since she left the pensieve. What has Severus done to my son? she thought despondently.
FLASHBACK TO 1983
It was now nearly Yuletide of 1983 and James had yet to finish the letter he had started in September. It was no easier now than it had been then; this letter was just so damn difficult to write. He looked up and watched Harry colouring in some books; his son was very careful about what he did, no matter what it was, and was trying his hardest to stay within the lines of the drawing.
James looked back at the letter and wished that he knew how to put into words what needed to be said; he laid the partially written letter aside.
Dear Severus Snape,
Lily waited until dinner was over with, and Amanda and Jared, their youngest child, had gone off to their rooms, before confronting Severus with what he had done to Harry. She observed her husband giving their two youngest hugs and kisses goodnight and realised that he had never...never...done that with Harry; not even after the kidnapping. She knew that having your blinders ripped off could be a painful process, but she hadn't known how painful until today.
"Severus? I have some questions I would like answered...truthfully." Lily waited until she had his whole attention focused on her before starting. "Why did you tell Minerva McGonagall that Harry lies and uses his position as 'The Boy Who Lived' to get his own way?" She hadn't been expecting the stunned look on her husband's face; it was almost comical...Severus very rarely showed any type of emotion.
"Wh-what do you mean?" Severus needed to think quickly; he hadn't thought that what he'd told Minerva would get back to Lily...at least not this quickly.
"Harry received his acceptance letter from Hogwarts today," Lily paused for a moment before dropping her bomb. "He also received one from Durmstrang; he applied to Durmstrang because he has no intention of attending Hogwarts. When I asked him why, he showed me a memory of a meeting he had with Minerva while on his way to the school Library. She said that you had told her that he lies and isn't above using his fame to get what he wants." Lily sat forward and pinned Severus to his chair with her gaze. "That was also the day that you changed the password to our quarters at Hogwarts...you do remember that day, don't you? The day that you told me that you had given Harry the password and then accused him of lying when he said that you didn't. You never gave him the password, did you? You do realise that the main reason that Harry doesn't want to attend Hogwarts is because of you, right? You have pushed my son away from the very beginning; you never made him feel welcome; you berated him whenever you could...as long as I wasn't there...yes, I know about that; you made him feel like he was worth nothing. Why? Why would you do that to an innocent boy? A boy whose only crime is that he looks like his father...why would you do that?"
Severus stared at his hands for a moment before meeting his wife's eyes; the same eyes that she had shared with her son. "I have good reasons for what I've said. You know, as well as I do, that Harry isn't above using his fame as The Boy Who Lived to get his own way."
Lily let out a very unladylike snort. "Severus Tobias Snape, that is a lie and you know it. Harry has never used his fame for any reason, let alone that one! There is no reason for you to have done this to him...I dare you to come up with a good reason...one that will hold water! This is all because he looks like James, isn't it? ISN'T IT? I know it is!"
"If you know it is, why are you asking? Lily, your son has never done anything to try to make things any easier for me; what was the first thing he said when he got here after Potter died? If I remember correctly, he asked when he was going to go back to live with his father; does that seem like a child who wants to create a relationship with me?"
"Severus, he was three! What did you expect him to do...walk in here, bow to you and tell you that he would do whatever you wanted? He didn't understand that his father had died and was never coming back; you cannot expect a three year old child to understand just how permanent death is!" Lily stood and walked over to the floo. "I'm going to speak with Narcissa Malfoy; if Harry's received a letter from Durmstrang, chances are Draco has received one, too." She threw some floo powder into the firebox and called out "Malfoy Manor" before whirling away.
Severus carefully let out the breath he had been holding; this was not going to be nice to deal with. He hadn't thought that Harry would do something like apply to Durmstrang on his own; Draco must have helped him write the letter. Severus knew that Lucius had applied to Durmstrang for Draco; he also knew that Narcissa would never allow her only child to go to a school that far away from her. He figured that Draco must have thought that, if Harry was accepted and could go, maybe Narcissa would allow him to go as well.
Severus snorted slightly...that wasn't going to happen...Narcissa wouldn't let it.
FLASHBACK TO MAY, 1984
Dear Severus Snape,
James looked at the one thing he had ever gotten out on the paper...just the salutation. He still had no idea of how to go about writing this letter; but it needed to be written. He was going off on a mission in a few days and he needed to get this letter written; he sighed and placed quill to parchment once more. This time the words seemed to flow from the quill; he put his heart and soul into that letter. He let the recipient know exactly what had happened and what he thought about the matter. Once he was done, James sealed the letter and set it on his desk; he would give it to Sirius to give to Snape while he was away. He had already arranged for Harry to stay with Sirius and Remus for however long it took for him to find his quarry.
James knew there would be hell to pay once he returned from his mission.
"Now, you will write to me, at least once a week...do you understand me? If I don't hear from you at least that often, I'm going to come find you and tie you to an oath to write to me." Lily tucked a strand of Harry's long dark hair behind his ear; she was glad he'd talked her into letting him grow it longer...it laid a little more flat now. "Lucius said that he's talked to the Headmaster at Durmstrang and he agreed that you and Draco should share a room; he wants to make sure that the two of you are as comfortable as you can be, being that far away from home."
"I understand and, yes, I'll write to you at least once a week; Aunt Narcissa made Draco promise that he would write that often, too, so we'll probably be writing our letters together."
Lily straightened the shoulders of Harry's uniform coat and then pulled him into a tight hug, ruining the straightening she had just done. Harry looked over his mother's shoulder to see Narcissa doing the exact same thing to Draco; their eyes met and each grimaced slightly in commiseration. Their mothers were acting like they were going away and never coming back; they would be gone until the Yuletide holidays and, then, would be home for almost three full weeks. They had both chosen not to return home for the Easter holiday, preferring to stay in the school at that time.
"Mum, I am coming home in a few months, you know. It's not like I'm never coming back." Harry shrugged his shoulders and looked around at the empty portkey station; it looked like he and Draco would be the only two children from their age group going to Durmstrang this term.
"I know, Sweetheart, I know...but I've never been away from you for this long before; it's going to take some getting used to. We're all very used to you being with us during the term, since we're all at Hogwarts together." Amanda and Jared were both teary-eyed at the thought of their older brother leaving them and not being able to see him for months on end. They had all been looking forward to seeing Harry every day, since they lived in the castle during the term; now, that was all ending.
An official looking man walked up to the two families and announced that the portkey to Durmstrang Institute would be leaving in five minutes and the two taking the portkey needed to have all of their things ready and waiting for the activation. Lily, Amanda and Jared all hugged Harry one last time and went to stand with Lucius and Narcissa; they all watched as a bright flash of light shone briefly...and then Harry and Draco were gone.
Lily and Narcissa almost fell on each other in their despondency, while Lucius looked on with an understanding air; he would break down later, in private, where no one could see him. "Lily, my dear, where is Severus? I would have thought that he would at least come to see Harry off."
Lily stiffened her spine and looked at Lucius; the expression on his face told her that he knew Severus wouldn't have come, even if Harry had asked. "Lucius...just how much do you know about what Severus has done?"
"Harry has been extremely informative about what Severus has done to him over the years...particularly as to how Severus treats him. That's why I was hoping you would agree to send Harry to Durmstrang with Draco; if he had spent seven more years with Severus, especially as his student, I don't think any of us would have liked the outcome."
"Why didn't you say anything to me about it?"
"Harry asked me to swear an oath that I wouldn't tell you until he did; he wanted to make sure that he was correct in thinking that Severus would make life difficult for him at Hogwarts. I began to mention Durmstrang not long after the kidnapping; Harry had said that Severus had already gone back to the way he had treated Harry previously, and I knew that his attitude wouldn't change any time soon."
Lily sighed and accepted a hug from Lucius. "I had hoped that things would change; you saw how Severus was during the kidnapping...I thought things would be different."
"I wish that I could reassure you, but I think things would have only gotten worse had Harry decided to attend Hogwarts."
"I know, Lucius...I know."
Albus Dumbledore looked over his half-moon glasses at his Potions Master; the man was closed off, as was his norm, but this time there seemed to be something else bothering him. "Severus, my boy, I'm glad to see you returning for yet another year of teaching our wonderful children. I had thought, however, that I would have received Harry Potter's acceptance letter long before now." He indicated the parchment that Severus was carrying. "Is that it?"
"No, Albus, this is my syllabus for the coming term; I neglected to get it to you earlier." Severus handed the parchment to the Headmaster and turned to leave.
"Severus...where is Mr. Potter's acceptance letter?"
"He is not attending Hogwarts...he chose another school to grace with his presence."
To say the least, Albus was shocked. "And which school will Mr. Potter be attending?"
"Potter will be attending Durmstrang Institute; he chose to go there instead of here, where his mother attended."
"And why would he choose to go to Durmstrang, when we can fulfil all of his educational needs here?" Albus was determined to get an answer out of his Potions Master, one way or another.
"Albus, the brat didn't see fit to inform me of his reasons behind his choice. Stop the questioning...I don't have the answers you're looking for." Severus stalked away from his employer, barely snarling out a greeting to Minerva McGonagall as she greeted him.
"Well! What has him in such a mood today?"
"Minerva, did you know that Harry Potter will not be attending Hogwarts?" Someone had to know the answer to his question; he was going to start with the person most likely to know and, if she didn't know, he was going to corner Lily Snape. The shocked look on his deputy's face told him that she hadn't known about this either. Absently Albus separated a sherbet lemon from the lump of them in his pocket and popped it in his mouth. "I wonder why Harry Potter would choose to attend a school known for its dark tendencies; maybe Lily will know something." Albus nodded his head and left his deputy standing alone in the hallway; slowly Minerva raised a hand to place it over her mouth. She knew, without being told, that she was one of the reasons that Harry Potter had chosen to not attend Hogwarts...and Severus Snape was another.
Harry's first term at Durmstrang passed relatively uneventfully; he and Draco soaked up everything their teachers taught them like a pair of sponges. Soon, it was time to go back to England for the Yuletide holidays; both boys were packed and ready to go the day before the portkey was scheduled to take them back to the portkey station at the Ministry of Magic building.
While Draco was looking forward to seeing his parents again, Harry was only concerned with seeing his mother and siblings. He felt that he could go quite some time without seeing Mr. Snape again. Once they arrived, they were mobbed by their families; Harry noticed that Mr. Snape was, once again, not there with his mother. He honestly hoped that he wasn't driving a wedge in between them; he didn't want to be responsible for the destruction of their marriage.
Yule at the Snape household was quiet; they celebrated the old ways, instead of the muggle holiday, Christmas, because Mr. Snape had always insisted that they do. Lily had had to learn all of the rituals involved with the holiday; she was a muggle-born witch and had celebrated the Christian holidays until a few years after she had met up with Severus when she was nine.
Before she knew it, Lily was waving her son and his best friend off at the portkey station again; this time, Severus had accompanied them...she'd had to threaten him with sleeping on the sofa in order to get him to go. Severus stood against one of the walls in the station and watched dispassionately as his wife and children said good-bye to the Potter brat; they acted like they would never see him again...it was rather disgusting. He looked up as the flash of light told him that the boys were gone; Lucius was sauntering over in his direction. He didn't want to be there and he didn't want to be caught in a conversation with Lucius Malfoy.
"Severus...I was surprised to see you here; I had thought that you wouldn't come to see Harry off."
"I didn't want to come, but being threatened with sleeping on the sofa was enough to ensure that I came. How is Draco doing in school?"
Lucius raised an eyebrow at the man who was once his best friend; he couldn't rightly call Severus that anymore...they barely spoke at all. "Draco and Harry are, apparently, at the top of all of their classes; the Headmaster, Ivan Dimitrov, wrote to let us know how he was doing. I know Lily received a letter about Harry as well; did she not share it with you?"
Severus sneered and turned away; he would wait for his wife and children by the door.
FLASHBACK TO MAY, 1984
James called Sirius into his study for a quick moment before he had to leave.
"Sirius, I need for you to deliver this to Severus Snape while I'm away, alright?"
"Why the hell are you writing that git a letter?" Sirius sneered slightly as he took the letter and looked at the name on the outside.
"Trust me, Padfoot, this is a letter that Snape will want to get. Please don't forget to give it to him."
"I won't, Prongs. As much as I don't want to see Snivellus, I'll make sure he gets this." Sirius tucked the letter into the inner pocket of his leather jacket.
James knew he could trust Sirius to do as he said...Severus Snape needed to get that letter. He shouldered his pack and picked up his son to twirl him around before hugging him tightly.
"You be good for Uncle Mooney and Uncle Padfoot, alright?"
Little Harry nodded. "I will Daddy...home soon?"
"Just as soon as I can Prongslet...I'll be back just as soon as I can."
The first year at Durmstrang was over; Harry and Draco made one last sweep of their dorm room, checking for missing items. They wouldn't have the same room next year, so they wanted to make sure that they had everything. Harry looked around the room once more before sighing heavily; he really didn't want to go back to England...to Mr. Snape's house.
"C'mon Harry, we need to get down to the Hall to eat; our portkey leaves early tomorrow morning, so we're not going to get the chance to eat before we leave." Draco laid a supportive hand on his friend's shoulder; he knew what Harry was thinking and decided to share a bit of his father's last letter to him. "Father said that you are more than welcome to come to the Manor any time you want over the summer. He said to tell you that your place of refuge would always be open to you."
Harry smiled and gave Draco a swift, one-armed hug. "I know, and you really don't know how much I appreciate that; I have the feeling that Mr. Snape is going to be worse than ever, now that I'm going to be back. He's probably been saving up all year."
The two boys laughed as they walked down to the Hall; Harry's laughter was tinged with regret that he would have to leave a place that he was coming to regard as his home.
Harry was once again stuck in his room; Mr. Snape had been the one to retrieve him from the portkey station, as his mother had been stuck helping with an emergency at St. Mungo's. Amanda and Jared were at the Weasleys' house...Harry was wishing that he could go there as well. He knew all of the Weasley children, but wasn't close with any of them; Mr. Snape had refused to allow them in his house and he had said that Harry couldn't do much worse than have Ronald Weasley as a friend. Harry hadn't agreed with Mr. Snape, but his word was basically law; his mother had fought with Mr. Snape about it, but had, in the end, given up, as it seemed Mr. Snape wasn't going to budge on this.
Harry rolled over and grabbed his Dark Arts textbook; if he was going to be stuck in here, he might as well get a head-start on his summer homework. Several hours passed and Harry finally heard his mother come home from St. Mungo's; apparently she had stopped off to get Amanda and Jared as well, because he could hear their footsteps race up the stairs. He put his book away and sat up; he didn't want to get caught in a pile of arms and legs.
Harry laughed as his younger siblings burst into his room and jumped on the bed; he began to laugh harder as they immediately began to squabble over who got to hug Harry first. He ended the potential argument before it could get started by wrapping his arms around both of them, hugging them at the same time.
"Knock it off, you menaces...there's more than enough of me to go around."
"More's the pity."
Harry heard the low comment, even though it appeared that neither his siblings nor his mother had; it was the first thing that Mr. Snape had said in his general direction since they had arrived at the house. Harry looked down at the top of Jared's head, to hide the tears in his eyes; he had been gone for over six months...couldn't Mr. Snape leave it until the younger ones weren't able to hear?
Based on this alone, Harry couldn't wait to get back to Durmstrang in another two months.
FLASHBACK TO MAY, 1984
Lily stared at the Auror standing stiffly just inside her front door; she was having a difficult time understanding what the man was trying to tell her. "Could...could you repeat that, please?"
"I'm sorry to have to inform you of this, Mrs. Snape, but your former husband, Auror James Potter, has been killed in the line of duty." The sentence made no more sense the second time the man said it than it had the first time. Lily heard footsteps behind her, crossing the floor of the dungeon quarters that she and Severus occupied.
"Thank you for informing us of this tragedy; do you know where Auror Potter's son was staying? We didn't know that he had been away from home and do not know where the child is." Severus placed a steadying hand on his wife's shoulder.
"He is with Auror Black and Mr. Remus Lupin; there is another Auror on his way over there to tell them."
Severus nodded and held open the door for the man; hopefully he would take the hint and leave. "Thank you again, Auror..."
"Longbottom, Severus, Frank Longbottom."
"Ah, yes...Auror Longbottom. Thank you again." Severus all but shut the door in the Auror's face; he knew what this meant...Lily now had custody of the Potter Spawn...that meant that he was going to be living with them now.
Sirius Black stared at Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody...he didn't think he breathed the entire time. "What do you mean James is dead?" He was glad that Remus had taken Harry out into the garden when he had seen Moody come through the door.
"The wizard that James was after had an accomplice that we didn't know about...if it makes it any easier, James never felt it."
Sirius dropped his head into his hands, tears seeping past his closed eyelids; one of his dearest friends and his Auror partner was dead. He hadn't gone on this mission because James had asked him to decline so that he could watch Harry with Remus. "What happens now?"
"Well..." Moody stood and stumped his way across the room. "Little Harry will go to live with his mother, I'm assuming, after the funeral. She's married to Snape, isn't she." The last wasn't a question.
"Yes...she married Snape just after the divorce was final." Sirius looked up at the man opposite him. "Do you think I'd have a chance, if I challenged them for custody?"
"Can't imagine Snape treating James' son well, can you? I can't either...but I don't think you'd have a snowball's chance in hell of getting custody of that boy."
Remus walked in the back door, carrying a sleeping Harry; he saw Sirius' red-rimmed eyes and prepared himself for the worst.
The years passed and, soon enough, Lily, Amanda and Jared were all taking a portkey to Durmstrang Institute with Lucius and Narcissa, so that they could watch their boys graduate. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin joined them and the party of seven happily put up with the sensation of a hook at their navels being pulled; they all landed on their feet and straightened their clothes. Sirius saw Harry first.
Lily turned to see a tall young man with braided black hair make his way across the courtyard to her side; this was her Harry. At some point over the last year he'd had his eyesight corrected, so his bright green eyes looked even brighter as they weren't hiding behind his glasses; he had gained several inches in height, apparently having hit a growth spurt since the Yule beginning of the term. She looked to his right and was greeted with the sight of a younger Lucius, also with long braided hair; she hadn't seen Draco in at least two years, so the changes in him were much more dramatic.
"Harry!" Amanda's squeal literally stopped all movement in the courtyard; Harry and Draco winced and exchanged long-suffering glances. Harry leaned down to catch the running body of his fourteen year old sister and, immediately following that, the body of his eleven year old brother; Jared had just finished his first year at Hogwarts and Harry wanted to know all about it.
They all stood around talking amongst themselves when a late portkey arrival gained their attention; Severus Snape had arrived, Albus Dumbledore at his side. Harry had gotten to know the elderly Headmaster during the summers he spent back in England; he smirked slightly as the older man handed him a small bag of sherbet lemons. This was a trait both of them shared; they loved the tart sweetness of the muggle treat. When Harry smirked like that, Severus thought that he reminded him of someone...someone other than James Potter...but he couldn't quite place his finger on the memory.
Lily walked over to her husband and twined her arm in his. "Thank you for coming; I know you didn't want to, but I appreciate it."
Severus leaned down to press a kiss to his wife's lips; he would put up with this folderol for Lily. He drew his wife over to where Lucius and Narcissa stood speaking with the Headmaster for Durmstrang Institute; he had never gotten along with Ivan Dimitrov after the man had refused to tell him anything about Harry's education and how well he got along with the other students. The Headmaster stared at him and sneered slightly; Severus Snape was one of the worst sort of individuals. During an Occlumency lesson with Harry, he had stumbled upon the child's memories of how his stepfather had treated him; Ivan had been hard pressed to keep from going to England and putting the man down as one would a rabid animal. He had made up his mind, then and there, to teach Harry Potter how to protect himself from his stepfather; when asked, after he had returned from England, Harry had told him that the methods of blocking his stepfather from getting into his mind had been extremely effective...and it had pissed off the older man. Anything that had that effect was a good thing, to Harry's mind.
Sirius pulled a letter out of the inner pocket of his robes; he had found the letter from James to Snape when he had gone through the pockets of his old leather jacket. He hadn't had the heart to wear the jacket after James' death; they had often gone riding on Sirius' motorbike and James had bought that jacket for Sirius after their first ride. He looked from the letter to Snape and back again; he was in two minds about actually giving Snape the letter.
"He wanted you to give that to Severus, you know." Remus saw what his friend was holding and wanted to make sure that Sirius kept his word, even though it was over thirteen years later.
"I know...and I will; I'm just trying to make up my mind about when."
"How about right before we leave? That way, we don't have to be around when he finds out that the letter is from James and gets mad."
Sirius nodded and put the letter back in his pocket. "Yeah, I think that's what I'll do...thanks Remus."
After the ceremony, during which both Harry and Draco had received several honours for their exemplary scores, everyone gathered around the graduates and began to question them as to their plans, now that they were done with school. Draco looked at Harry and Harry nodded back, indicating that Draco should go first.
"Well...I'm planning on getting my Mastery in Potions and Transfiguration; that way, I'll be able to double my chances of gainful employment." The smirk on the Malfoy heir's face told everyone that he already knew where he'd be working; Albus, when he had heard of Draco's scores, had offered him a position as Transfiguration Professor when his Mastery was complete...Minerva would continue to teach until that time.
Now, everyone looked at Harry; he wasn't looking forward to this, but he'd already made up his mind. "I'm planning to get my Mastery in both Charms and Potions...Headmaster Dumbledore has offered me the Charms position, once Filius Flitwick retires. I'll be apprenticing to him and studying for my Potions Mastery on the side."
"Oh Harry! That's wonderful...I'm so glad that you'll be apprenticing with Filius; but you could apprentice with Severus and do your Charms work on the side." Only Harry, Draco and Lucius noticed the suddenly stiff figure belonging to Severus Snape.
"No, Mum...I'm going to have to apprentice with Professor Flitwick, if I'm to take over when he retires."
Lily looked at Severus pleadingly; he heaved a sigh and bit the inside of his cheek before speaking. "Potter, I would be...honoured...if you would apprentice with me." Everyone who was aware of the past between the two looked at him as if he had lost his mind; truthfully...he felt like he had.
"Thank you, but no, Mr. Snape. If I were to pursue my Potions Mastery first, I would rather find another Potions Master to apprentice with. Your past with me precludes any type of decent working relationship...bluntly put, Mr. Snape, I would rather apprentice with a flobberworm than apprentice with you."
Lucius, Draco, Sirius and...strangely enough...Albus Dumbledore all smirked in the direction of the red-faced Severus Snape; Harry hadn't pulled any punches when he had spoken his mind. Mr. Snape didn't deserve that type of respect...especially not from him.
"So, you're going to be living with your godfather when we go back?" Draco and Harry were walking side by side, a little in front of Lucius and Narcissa...who were shamelessly listening in on the conversation; they wanted to know what the hell had happened to Harry to allow him to grow into the man in front of them.
"Yeah, Sirius offered me a place before my apprenticeship with Filius starts and again, when the school lets out for the summer. I've already told Mum...she didn't like it, but she also understands why I won't move back into that house."
"Good...I'm glad you've got a place to go; I was going to offer your rooms at Malfoy Manor, if you didn't." Lucius was very proud of his son; he was willing to go against his own godfather to ensure that Harry had a place to live.
"I may take you up on that occasionally; Sirius can be a little like a big kid sometimes." The two boys laughed as they walked back to their dorm to get their trunks.
A little further away, Sirius Black walked up to Severus and Lily Snape with one purpose in mind...to deliver that damned letter and get it over with. "Snape! Wait for a moment."
Severus turned and sneered at the other man. "Why, Black? What could you possibly want to say to me?"
"You know, it's been twenty years since we graduated from Hogwarts, don't you think it's time to give the war a rest? This is for you." Sirius held out the letter and hoped that Snape would take it; he didn't want to have to explain who it was from.
"What is this, Black?" Severus took the letter and held it up between his thumb and forefinger.
"It's a letter, Snape."
"Congratulations for stating the obvious."
"Congratulations for asking the obvious. The letter was given to me several years ago and I completely forgot about it." Then, Severus asked the question that Sirius had been hoping he wouldn't ask.
"Who is it from?"
Sirius closed his eyes against the wave of pain that came from that question. "It's from James Potter. He wrote it and gave it to me right before he went on the mission that ended his life. If you do one good thing in your life, Snape, you will read that letter and not make any comments about James to me, Remus or Harry. Good-bye." Sirius grabbed Remus' arm and almost dragged him over to where Narcissa stood waiting for Lucius to return with the boys; he had arranged a private portkey to take them straight to his house in London. Once the two graduates had returned, Sirius gave the Malfoys permission to come see them any time they wished. When all of the last minute hugs were out of the way, Sirius activated the portkey and he, Remus and Harry disappeared in a flash of light.
Severus decided to wait until he and Lily had returned home before reading the letter; in retrospect, he was glad he had decided to wait.
Dear Severus Snape,
As much as it pains me to write this letter, it has to be done. When Lily began dating you, within a few weeks of the divorce, I began to wonder just how long you two had been together. I knew you were together when we were at Hogwarts, but it had ended for some reason...I never found out why.
One day, not too long ago, I took Harry on a trip to Diagon Alley and then to the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. While we were there, I overheard some comments being made about the two of you and the fact that Lily was pregnant with your child. I did some maths when I heard how far along she was and figured that she became pregnant with your daughter before our divorce was final.
This got me thinking about the one good thing in my life...my son, Harry. What if the two of you were together the entire time I was married to Lily? What if Harry wasn't actually mine? What would I do if I found that the little boy that I love more than life itself wasn't my son, but was yours? I decided to have Harry tested, just to make sure.
Imagine, if you would, how I felt when the goblins at Gringotts informed me that Harry was not biologically my son. They told me that he was my heir, because I had named him so the day after he was born, but he didn't carry my blood. That little boy, the one I love so much, is your son.
I know you're going to take him from me...all I ask is that you don't let him forget me. I'm begging you to let me see him every once in a while...just so that he knows that I still love him, even though he's not mine by blood.
I don't blame you for this...well, maybe I do...but that's neither here nor there. I do, however, understand when the one you love loves someone else...as you might have thought that Lily loved me. I thought she loved me, too, and she may have, in her own way; in the end that didn't matter, as she chose to be with you.
I wish you both the best...
Lily found her husband curled up in his armchair, sobbing for all he was worth; she wasn't able to get any kind of answers to her questions, so she decided to sit next to him, to wait out the storm. As she sat on the floor, she noticed a piece of parchment that had fallen to the floor; figuring it was the letter from James, she settled in to read it.
By the time she finished the letter, Lily was in shock...James had known about them. Granted, he didn't find out until after the divorce, but he had known and not said anything. Then it struck her...Harry wasn't James' son! She had never thought that Harry wasn't James' son; he looked so much like James did while he was growing up. All these years, Severus had tormented and alienated a child that he thought belonged to his enemy, when, in fact, that child was his.
'No wonder he's crying.' Lily thought as her own tears slipped down her cheeks. She was no better than Severus had been; she could have left, as soon as she found out about how Severus treated her son, she should have left...but she didn't. She had condemned her own son to the abuse he had been subjected to at the hands of her husband...Harry's true father. She was no better than Severus.
In the end, Lily and Severus decided to never tell Harry that he was not James Potter's son; the truth would have ripped the young man apart. For his part, Severus tried to be better to his son; he didn't want to be excluded if Harry chose to make them grandparents. He was rewarded when, several years later, Harry handed his first son to Lucius, the other grandfather, Narcissa, Lily and, then, without hesitation, Harry motioned to him and handed him his first grandson.
They weren't on the best of terms, but they got along; whenever Severus felt angry or put upon, he pulled out the letter from James Potter and re-read it. It served to remind him that life was tenuous and he shouldn't ever take anything for granted; yes, Harry was his son, but he only knew this because one man chose to do the right thing and tell him about it. If James had been just a tiny bit more angry at them, he might never have found out that Harry was, indeed, his son.