The night and next morning had been a dizzying mix of emotions. Harry was exhausted as he made his way from Professor Snape's dungeon to the Great Hall, but a casual observer wouldn't have noticed. Harry felt like running and jumping for joy. So much had happened in one night that Harry couldn't keep his thoughts straight. One thing was for sure. His life had changed forever. And he couldn't be happier about it.
Harry's biggest shock came when he realized that after wishing and hoping his entire life, somebody loved him. Not only did someone love him, that someone was his very own dad. Harry couldn't stop the torrent of tears by then and his father let him cry for a long time. So long in fact, Harry hadn't remembered when he stopped, or when he fell asleep. His next memory was of waking up on a couch in Professor Snape's chambers. Harry comfortably nestled under a soft duvet and his eye had been healed.
As he wandered his way through the empty dungeons and up the staircase leading to the ground floor, he could feel the unseen eyes of the sentinel suits of armour and those of the portrait guardians of past professors and students follow him. Professor Snape would have escorted him, but he was called away by the headmaster. Funny enough, walking the lonely corridors of the dungeons by himself didn't creep him out at all. On the contrary, Harry felt safe. Even the few Slytherins that he did pass took no real notice of him. They seemed to have better things to do than mess with a firstie. He really did feel safe. Cold, but safe! Why were the dungeons always so cold?
Harry had missed his lessons that morning. An excuse had been sent to professors Quirrell and Flitwick. The rest of the school probably thought he was in the hospital, still recovering from his injuries. They were already gathered in the Great Hall for lunch when Harry could finally return to his friends. His head was still spinning from everything Professor Sna…his dad…had just told him. Harry was confused, yet he felt higher than any broom could ever carry him as he passed through the massive doors and searched the crowded Gryffindor table to find his friends. As much as he was chewing at the bit to tell Ron and Hermione everything he just learned, Harry still wasn't sure if he should. At least yet, anyway.
Harry's professor…or rather, his father, had explained everything to him and Harry felt he had understood…well, at least most of it.
Before Harry came to Hogwarts, Professor Snape had always believed what the rest of the world had believed. Harry was James Potter's son. But when Harry arrived at school, the professor had a real shock. Harry looked nothing like James Potter at all. In fact, Harry was the spitting image of Professor Snape as a boy, with his mum's green eyes. Professor Snape had started to wonder if Harry was his. But he didn't want to say anything to Harry until he knew for certain. He was afraid of how Harry would take the news.
Harry scoffed to himself. How else would the professor expect Harry to take it? How could he be anything else but excited to find out that his real dad was alive? And that he loved him! Who would be upset about that?
Until this summer, the only thing Harry had been told about his parents was that they had died in a car crash. As desperately as he wanted his mum and dad, he had also been angry with them because they had abandoned him to the Dursleys. Because they had been stupid enough to drink and drive and not think of the consequences to Harry.
But that wasn't the truth. His mum and her husband were heroes. And they had died saving Harry. Stupid Aunt Petunia! He cursed her silently for ever making him think badly of them.
Professor Snape, his dad, had explained a lot over breakfast, which was one of the weirdest things Harry ever experienced. He had never sat across the table from an adult and have a civil conversation. The only adults he had ever shared a table with were his Muggle relatives, and those meals were usually punctuated with hateful scolding or sneering silence.
But Professor Snape allowed him to ask questions, even as Harry tucked into his eggs and bacon. Of course, Harry wanted to know how the professor knew for certain that Harry was his son. How long did he know? Why didn't he tell Harry before now? Who else knows? How is he Harry's father if his mum was married to James Potter?
Those questions had only been the tip of the iceberg. The professor seemed a little nervous as he answered Harry's questions. It wasn't obvious like Professor Quirrell with his stammering and persistent collywobbles. It was subtle. Like Professor Snape was trying to make himself talk. Honestly, it never occurred to him that Professor Snape was capable of being nervous.
The story had been complicated, but Harry thought he understood. His dad…well…James Potter, had been some kind of spy or something. Anyway, he would often go on secret missions that took him away from home. Sometimes for weeks. Harry asked what he did on his missions and Professor Snape said he did not know. He didn't even think Harry's mum knew for sure. Professor Dumbledore was probably the only person who knew for certain and as far as the professor knew, he had told no one. The only thing Professor Snape did know is that once, James Potter disappeared while on a mission and everyone thought he had died. His mum had turned to Professor Snape for comfort because they had been friends. His…James Potter returned soon after and Harry's mum went back to him. When Harry was born almost nine months later, everyone assumed Harry belonged to James Potter.
"Did you ever wonder?" Harry had asked.
Professor Snape shook his head and said, "Perhaps once," then the professor got really quiet and Harry could barely hear him when he said, "What little I had heard before your," the professor stopped and swallowed, "parents went into hiding indicated you favoured Potter. I never let myself think about it after that. She was with her husband; they had their son. And by all accounts you were a happy family." He guessed because of Harry's black hair, everyone thought he was going to grow up to look like James Potter with his mum's eyes. Most times, it's hard to tell when babies are that young.
But as soon as Professor Snape saw Harry walk into the Great Hall, he began to think again that Harry could be his son. "Other than your mother's green eyes, you are the mirror image of myself when I was a boy. But I had to be certain." The professor went on to explain that he had conducted some kind of familial test to be sure. It hadn't been that long since he got the results, he just didn't know how to best tell Harry.
Then their talk became even more serious. His newfound dad had been a double agent spy. "Harry, during the war, most of the wizarding world believed I fought for the other side."
"Why would they think that," Harry asked. If his mum liked him, and Professor Dumbledore hired him as a teacher, surely his dad had to be a good guy.
The professor closed his eyes. Harry could hear him focus on his breathing, like he was trying to steady his thoughts.
"Because, in the beginning, I was."
Harry flinched. He almost interrupted, but he kept quiet and let his professor continue to speak.
"It was later, when I realised my foolishness and learned of the danger…" Professor Snape seemed to need to breathe again. It took a moment before he continued. "The danger your family was in, I turned to Professor Dumbledore and told him everything I knew so you, your mother, and P…Potter could be safe."
For the tiniest of moments, Harry's eyes began to look for an escape when the professor told him he had been on Voldemort's side. But then he said he changed sides so Harry could be safe. That slowed Harry's pounding heart. The transition from fear to reassurance was so fast, it made Harry feel a little faint.
"But you switched sides, right?" He asked.
Professor Snape nodded, "Yes. It was even acknowledged by the Wizengamot." He then explained to Harry that was wizard's court and that he was found innocent.
"Why are you telling me this?" Harry finally asked. "That's in the past. What does it have to do with you being my dad?"
"Because," his dad said, "There are those who don't believe I turned, who still think I hold some dark agenda. Most of the wizarding world are unaware of the shared past between your mother and me. They venerate the Potters as martyred saints. Especially, your mother. And you…they revere you as the saviour of their world. The Dark Lord was considered the epitome of everything that is dark and evil in this world. As a mere infant, you somehow managed to vanquish that evil. Therefore, in the minds of most, you must be the epitome of all that is light and good.
"But I'm not!" Harry proclaimed hotly. "I'm just a kid! I was just a baby! I don't even know how to do magic now! How could I have beat him? His wand probably just backfired or something!"
A small, half-smile slowly appeared on his dad's face, that did not quite meet his dark eyes.
"Harry, I don't claim to know how the Dark Lord fell," he explained. "But I know that it had nothing to do with anything you did or did not do. Nevertheless, we must take into consideration my dubious past and your noble legend. People are likely to be angry and perhaps even cruel when it is revealed that I am your real father."
Harry felt his face grow hot. "So what? If you're my dad, you're my dad. It's none of their business now, is it?"
His father got up from his chair and came around to Harry's side of the table. He knelt before Harry and looked directly at him. Harry could feel the sadness he detected in his father's eyes. Harry felt regretful, but he didn't really know why.
"Listen to me, Harry," his dad said. "Death Eaters…the Dark Lord's followers, were known to do very bad things."
"But you were one of them," Harry quietly noted. For some reason, he felt so ridiculously small.
His dad nodded, "I was gifted at potions. I could fight. But there were others who lusted for blood where I did not. True, the Dark Lord was more than capable of brewing the darkest of potions. But there were other potions that required more 'innocent' hands. Had I stained my hands with blood, those potions would prove inert. So, I was never directly involved with anything violent. Being detached from some of the baser activities of my…associates, it was easy to turn a blind eye. It was easy to believe that the Dark Lord was trying to free wizards, not enslave them. But I eventually realised I was wrong, and I turned spy for the light. Do you understand?"
Harry had nodded and looked down at his feet. He said he understood, but he wasn't sure that he did. But Professor Dumbledore said his father was good. That Wisencourt thing said he was good. So, it must be true. Right?
Harry felt spindly fingers under his chin. The tips of his dad's fingers were rough, but his touch was still soft. "Harry, see how you doubt me?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't doubt you?"
His dad's eyes crinkled with his sad smile. "You're confused Harry, and I don't blame you. But think of it this way. No matter what I did to reform myself, no matter what I said in my defence, do you think Professor Dumbledore would allow anyone who could kill in cold blood in his school? Teaching his pupils?"
"No," Harry said resolutely. It wasn't a lie. Was it?
"Exactly," his father said. "And if you, my own son, knowing that I would die before I let any harm come to you, can have a moment of doubt, what do you imagine strangers will think?"
"Not good things," Harry confessed guiltily. Did he just say he would die for me?
"Yes, Harry, not good things," his dad echoed. "Not good at all. Many witches and wizards out there would sooner believe that I had…hurt your mother in order to conceive you, rather than contemplate Lily could possibly dishonour the heroic James Potter, even unknowingly. That's just the beginning, Harry."
Harry felt sick. He didn't know much about sex, but he knew how babies were made. And he had even heard of rape and knew enough to know that it was something horrible. Aunt Petunia and Aunt Marge couldn't stop talking about it that one time. A teenaged girl from their neighbourhood was pregnant and it was quite the scandal. According to Aunt Petunia, the girl claimed she had been 'forced upon' while making her way home after watching a football game in the park. Aunt Marge had said some ugly things about the girl and obviously didn't believe her story. Harry thought that some of those things Aunt Marge said about a girl she didn't even know, was some of the cruellest things he ever heard anyone say about anybody. Is that how people would talk about his dad? His mum!?
"That's awful," he answered meekly. "Why would people think things like that?"
"Because," his dad began to explain, "an extraordinary event in our history revolves around you. Most people lead exceedingly mundane lives and many feel helpless. Right or wrong, the mythos surrounding you, brings them hope. And then there are others who cannot feel good about themselves without disparaging someone else."
Harry looked at his dad, not quite sure what he was saying. His dad must have read his mind, because he said, "They have to believe the worst in others in order to feel good about themselves."
"People are stupid," Harry said dejectedly.
"They certainly can be." Harry felt two strong hands gently wrap themselves around his head. Although he was caught off guard by the gesture, Harry did not resist when his dad drew him to his chest. Harry allowed himself to get lost in his dad's warm, unsolicited embrace, and to go adrift to the sound of his beating heart. Harry knew then that his dad's heart was beating for him.
Harry stood at the doors of the Great Hall just long enough to see that his dad was already at the Head Table talking with Professor McGonagall. He hadn't notice Harry walk in. Harry blinked, thinking that there must be some kind of short cut from the dungeon. Before he could think any further on it, Hermione had caught his eye with her frantic waving from where she was sitting at the table. He was glad to see her there and know she hadn't been too badly hurt with their run-in with the troll.
Ron turned away from his plate only long enough to wave Harry over. He never stopped tucking into his chicken leg.
As Harry approached his friends, Hermione nudged Lavender Brown into Parvati Patil unintentionally in order to make room for Harry between herself and Ron. As Harry took his seat, he and Hermione were both greeted with scornful glares from the two girls, which they both ignored.
A plate magically popped in front of Harry and he tucked into his roast beef straight away. Breakfast seemed like forever ago and he was ravenous.
Ron stopped chewing long enough to ask, "So how did it go? You alright, mate?"
"I'm good, Ron," Harry said. "I'm glad you guys weren't hurt. You had it pretty rough last night, Hermione. Are you okay?"
Hermione nodded as she primly cut into her broccoli. But her lips were tight with annoyance. "Madam Pomfrey said I over-extended my magic. I can't do any spell casting for a week."
Seamus leaned over from the opposite side of the table. "Forget about that, Potter. Tell us all about the troll!"
Others sitting close by turned their attention to Harry to hear what he had to say.
"Stuff it, Finnigan," Ron reproached. "Save it for the common room. You lot let the man eat, already."
Rebuked and amidst their grumbling protests, Seamus, and the others around the table returned to their own business. Seamus offered them one, last baleful glare, the continued his conversation with Dean.
Harry turned his thoughts back to his friends. Did his recklessness steal away his friend's magic? He turned towards Hermione in order to keep their conversation private and said softly, "I'm sorry, Hermione. Truly, I am. I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt."
Hermione's face softened as she forced a smile and patted Harry's hand. "I'm alright, honestly. I just have to write essays for now, and in a week, I can do my practical wand work in front of the professors and I'll be all caught up."
"Yeah, Harry," Ron joined in. "Hermione's brilliant. She'll be showing off to the rest of us in no time. You'll see."
Harry looked between his friends. Ron had gone back to his food, happily oblivious to any offence he may have given Hermione. Hermione open mouth snapped shut. She had probably come to the conclusion that Ron's off-handed remark was meant as a compliment and not an insult. So, she let it go.
Ron's used plate was replaced with a fresh one and he immediately reached for pudding, deciding upon the trifle. "Tell us honestly, Harry. You're okay? Why didn't you come to class this morning? Did Madam Pomfrey keep you in the hospital all this time?"
Harry gulped, wondering what to say without saying too much. "I was with Professor Snape all morning."
Ron's fork halted halfway to his mouth and he looked at Harry with astonishment. "He punished you that hard? I mean…McGonagall came down like a storm on us, but she didn't hold us over from class."
"It was about the troll, wasn't it," Hermione said, knowingly. "Professor McGonagall did give us rather a harsh talking to. But once we explained to her why we were in the library, she said she would have been more than agreeable to give us permission had we only asked. No one could have predicted the troll, so we didn't get in trouble for that."
Harry's heart dropped. He never mentioned the reason they had gone to the library in the first place, to his dad. There he was. He had spent the night in the quarters of the one person who could tell him everything he wanted to know about his mum, and what last night had meant to him and he blew his chance.
Harry put down his fork and pushed his plate away and hung his head in shame. He had been so excited about the dad he had found, Harry nearly forgot about the mum he had lost. "He didn't punish me. We never spoke about why we were in the library last night."
"Why not!?" His friends exclaimed in astonishment, regaining the unwanted attention of their housemates.
Harry looked about and lowered his head. Ron and Hermione drew themselves closer in order to hear him. "Look, we need to talk. Just not here. Alright?"
Ron nodded and crammed a roly-poly in his mouth, then seemed to swallow it all in one gulp. "Right, then," he answered, "We can go somewhere later. We have a break between afternoon classes. How about then?"
"I know where we can go," Hermione offered. "I'm sure we don't have to worry about anyone listening in. Nobody should be there."
"Right," Harry agreed as he turned his attention to his dad at the head table. "As long as we're not late for Potions."
He just got a new dad. Harry didn't want his dad to think his new son was some sort of troublemaker.
When Severus strode through the teacher's entrance with the headmaster at his side, he noticed that Harry had not joined his housemates yet. He berated himself for not walking with the boy, but as usual, the headmaster's proclivity for interrupting private moments at exactly the wrong time, was as irritatingly skilled as always.
As a result, Severus had sent Harry to walk through the dungeons on his own. Well…mostly on his own. Severus' chamber door had scarcely closed before he summoned the Bloody Baron. He instructed the House Ghost to keep an unseen eye on Harry as he traversed through Slytherin territory. Of course, any Slytherin that happened to be in the corridors would recognise the presence of their own house spirit following the boy and rethink any foolish ideas of accosting Harry.
Severus quietly cursed his mentor as he took the floo into the headmaster's office. After assurances to Albus that Harry would live, and an assurance to Severus that the troll had been dispatched, the headmaster got to the point of his summons.
In the short time it took Albus to explain, Severus forgave the old tosser. Albus Dumbledore, through his endless chain of connections had managed to procure a local council representative who happened to be a Squib. This representative agreed to accompany Severus and Albus to the Dursley's in order to obtain their signatures granting Severus full custody rights to Harry. This custody would be just as legally binding in the Wizarding world as it was in the Muggle.
Once Severus' custody of Harry was assured, they would reveal Harry's true parentage. Severus had been legally exonerated from his Death Eater past. Despite what public outcry might be, they couldn't take Harry away on that account. After all, countless former Death Eaters had children, and no one was trying to take them away from their parents. Albus had rightfully stated that without prior legal custody, the Ministry would try to snatch Harry's guardianship from him while trying to prove Severus' claim of paternity erroneous. This would be near impossible to do if Harry's own known relatives acknowledged Severus as Harry's father. Along with the paternity tests, Severus' claim would be iron-clad.
Severus gladly followed the headmaster. They would meet on the 9th at the Dursley's and one less worry would cloud Severus' brain. After their short discussion, he followed Albus into the floo that lead to the Head Table.
Albus took his chair whilst Severus took his own place beside Minerva. He glanced over at the Gryffindor table and noticed that Harry hadn't arrived yet. As to be expected. It was a good trek from the Dungeons to the Great Hall.
"Good afternoon, Severus," his austere colleague greeted. "I hope all is well."
Severus nodded. "Harry's eye healed quite nicely."
Minerva sipped her tea as she gave Severus a side glance. "Hmm…yes. That's good to hear. Ms Granger will have to forgo any wand work for the next week. She's understandably upset, but she's a clever girl. I have no doubt she'll remain head of her class."
"Well, as first years don't brew potions advanced enough to need wands. Ms. Granger will receive no special treatment from me." Severus noticed Harry enter the Great Hall from his peripheral. Satisfied that the boy was safe, he allowed himself to indulge in the fine stew the house elves had put before him.
"Try not to be too strict, Severus. It's not the children's fault a troll wandered it's way into the castle," Minerva stated. "After the children told me why they were in the library to begin with, I hadn't the heart to punish them any further."
"What? Why were the children in the library?" Severus suddenly developed a headache. The one thing Severus hated more than being branded a coward, was being proven ignorant. Why hadn't he asked Harry why they were in the library? Probably because once the boy's eye was healed, it no longer seemed a priority. There were more important things to discuss.
Minerva gave him a quizzical look. He didn't blame her. If he could cross his eyes and give himself one, he would. "You didn't ask Harr…What did you two talk about last night and half of today?" She noticed Severus' reluctance to answer and said, "Well never mind. Harry had no desire to participate in a celebration on the anniversary of his parent's death. They went to the library to see what they could find out about the Potters."
Severus lost his appetite. He put down his spoon and looked into his bowl regretfully before turning his gaze to his son. Why hadn't he thought of it? Of course, Harry would have wanted to commemorate his parents last night. Severus had his own small ritual for Lily every year of browsing through old photographs and dedicating a toast. He needed to think of a way to help Harry commemorate their death.
Harry sat at the table huddled between his two best friends. They certainly seemed to be conspiring about something. But it was just as likely they were trying not to be overheard.
Severus was startled out of his thoughts. "Hmm?"
"You didn't punish the boy too harshly, did you?" Minerva asked worriedly.
"Of course not," he countered defensively. "I didn't punish him at all."
That had caught Minerva by surprise. "Oh! What did you do during all that time, then?"
Severus thought about what he should say. He wasn't too keen on letting the kneazle out of the bag, as of yet. But Minerva was no dunderhead. She more than suspected the truth. She was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. He respected her every bit as much as Albus and trusted her infinitely more. And he could use a confidant amongst his peers.
Severus observed is colleagues along the table. They were either engaged in their own conversations or lost in their own thoughts. But he didn't want bits and pieces of what he was about to discuss with Minerva to find their way to wayward ears.
"Muffliato" Severus incanted. Once they were safe from being overheard, Severus confessed, "I told Harry the truth."
"What truth?" She inquired.
Severus gave her a, 'you disappoint me' look.
Realization dawned upon her face. "Ooooohhh…So all the speculation?"
Minerva cleared her throat as her knife began to attack the meat on her plate. "How did he take it?" she asked.
"Surprisingly well," he acknowledged.
"And how much of the truth did you tell him?" It could have been a loaded question, but to Severus' relief, it was not accusatory.
"Admittedly, I used a bit of a Glamour for some of the…uglier details, but it was the truth nonetheless." He hated lying to her because Severus did tell a glaring lie to Harry.
Lily had known very well that Potter was alive. She was lonely, her infidelity was intentional, and Severus had been a willing participant. But it was a detail that no one needed to know and no one other than Severus could prove. But that was a secret he would carry to the grave. Not even Veritaserum would drag it out of him. He would neither sully Lily's memory, nor break Harry's heart.
Minerva continued her questioning. Sometimes Severus felt he was still her student, rather than a peer. "And why are you surprised the boy would so easily accept you?"
He wanted to scream 'Well, look at me, woman!'. He said in exasperation, "Who do you think any wizarding boy would rather have for a father? Me or James Potter?"
"Well, if you'd wash your hair once in a while, smile on occasion, and maybe emerge out of that dungeon of yours and get some sun, one might consider you a rather good looking man."
Severus nearly choked on his tea. He hadn't expected to hear that!
Minerva's smile softened and she patted his hand. "There now, Severus. You're too self-disparaging. You almost sound as if you would rather Harry choose James over you."
Severus sighed heavily. He felt like he was talking to his mother, something that felt all-together comforting and exasperating at the same time.
"Of course not…but my reputation and his legend…"
"Are of no concern to Harry," Minerva interrupted.
"Severus Snape. Shut up and listen to me for once!"
Well that wasn't fair, he thought. He's listened to her plenty of times. He received an 'O' in his Transfiguration NEWT, did he not?
"Did it occur to you that the reason why it was so easy for Harry to cast aside James Potter's memory, is because the only thing he knew of him was his name?"
Severus just stared at her. He wondered if he looked as gormless as he felt.
"Don't be surprised that I know, Severus. As a Head of House, you know as well as I do that it is my responsibility to know about a student's home life. Albus was duty bound to tell me."
Severus reluctantly nodded his agreement. Before he could get a word in edgewise, Minerva cut him off.
"Severus, the answer is plainer than the nose on your face."
"Ex…excuse me?" he stammered.
Ignoring his offence, she said, "Harry would much rather have a real father, than an imaginary one."
That hit home. Severus' heart ached for Harry's longing, because it was a longing that he was far too familiar with.
Minerva tapped her napkin to the corners of her lips. No sooner had she placed it on her plate, they both disappeared.
"If you'll excuse me, Severus. I have my 5th year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs to attend to."
"Of course. Thank you, Minerva."
She put a comforting grip on his shoulder. "No Severus. Thank you. Now that I know Harry hasn't been punished, he's free to play Quidditch tomorrow."
As she walked away, Severus relinquished his spell and called out "Fanatic!", then turned his attention to the Gryffindor table. Harry and his friends were already gone, along with over half of the other students.
Severus pushed his chair away from the table. As he arose, he was hit with the sickening stench of garlic.
Severus turned to find himself face to face with Quirinus Quirrell. It took all of Severus' will power to keep from recoiling.
Quirinus had been a year behind Severus in their days as students. Like Severus, though he was a brilliant scholar, he was socially awkward. Unlike Severus, Quirrell had once been handsome. And he certainly did not have a stammer. But something had happened to the young man before him. He was now gaunt and frail. And the ridiculous over-sized turban only made him look more so.
Before taking a sabbatical the previous year, Quirrell had at least been somewhat confident and respected in his subject, Muggle Studies. But whatever happened to his colleague over that year, Severus was certain of one thing. Quirinus Quirrell had stumbled across something exceptionally dark. Severus didn't know if the wizard had been cursed or had suffered from PTSD after witnessing something horrific. Whatever the case, what stood before Severus was only a shell of the man that he once knew.
"Quirinus," Severus replied with a polite nod. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"N…no. N…Not at all. I only n…noticed you were l…leaving. Th…thought y…you might l…like the c…company."
A couple of years ago, Severus might have taken him up on the offer, but Severus was in a hurry. Even if he could stomach the stench of garlic, body odour, and something that vaguely reminded him of putrefaction, he simply had no time to chat.
"I'm sorry, Quirinus. I must dash off to class. Perhaps another time," Severus lied and turned to leave.
"Yes. The Potter boy missed his morning lessons too."
The hairs stood up on the back of Severus' neck. What happened to his stammer? Severus' eyes narrowed with suspicion and he strengthened his Occlumency shields instinctively. He composed his face before he turned to face Quirrell. Severus wondered where everyone had gone. The Great Hall was empty except for himself and Quirinus.
"Pardon me?" Severus ask, sounding more threatening than he intended.
"I…I'm sorry. It j…j…just seems s…strange. You b…both m…missing morning l…lessons. W…were you h…hurt by the t…t…troll, too?"
Severus was no longer fooled by the stammer. He didn't know what deep game Quirrell was playing at, but he would find out. Now a troll finding its way into the castle was beginning to make a lot more sense.
"I'm the Potions Master, Quirinus. It's my job to help Poppy treat students." Severus retorted. "You're perfectly aware of that."
"S…sorry. J…j…just a c…concerned professor asking…a…about his p…pupil's w…welfare." Quirrell gave a smile that was obviously forced.
"Well, as you are neither Harry's parent, nor Head of House, I cannot discuss his private health matters with you. You need to take the matter up with Minerva."
Before Quirrell could answer, Severus turned on his heal and swept out of the Great Hall. He felt like he was going to retch, and it wasn't from the smell of garlic.
"Go on, Harry, tell him," Ron encouraged. "We'll wait for you outside."
Harry took his time packing his rucksack. His dad was sitting at his desk grumbling over essays. He had a red-inked quill slashing over someone's work. Harry hoped it wasn't his.
He took a deep breath and tried to find his courage. The reassurance of his two best friends helped to steel his nerves.
At first when he asked himself the question of whether he would tell Ron and Hermione that Professor Snape was his dad, Harry wasn't sure what to do. He hadn't known them long enough to know if he could trust them fully.
Harry knew that they would keep his secret. It was just something he felt deep down. He was afraid of rejection more than anything else. Not many students at Hogwarts liked Professor Snape. Ron claimed that all his brothers hated him. True, the professor hadn't been as bad as Ron feared, but would he risk having the mickey taken out of him by his brothers?
Harry wasn't worried about Hermione, so much. It was just, it would be weird having a girl as his only friend. People might think they liked each other that way. It was Ron who set Harry's worries at ease.
When it was time for their afternoon break, Hermione had suggested that they talk in the Astronomy Tower. She reasoned that no one would be there because it was too early for Astronomy lessons. Apparently, they weren't the only ones who found it a good idea because there were three upper year couples snogging in the stairwell at the top.
Hermione suggested the boat house, but Ron mentioned that it was too far away and suggested the Owlery. They could easily see if someone were coming and nobody was going up to the Owlery to snog. Eww!
As they climbed the stairs of the tower, they met Hagrid on his way down.
"What brings you lot up here this time o' day?"
"I need to send a letter to my mum and dad," Hermione lied easily. "Harry and Ron are just keeping me company."
"Right then." Hagrid smiled then took a lumpy burlap sack out of his pocket and showed it to them. "Give them a mo'. I jus' fed them." They assured Hagrid that they would allow the owls to eat in peace and plastered their backs against the wall in order to give the gentle giant room to pass down the narrow stairs.
When they reached the doorway to the Owlery, Harry and Hermione stepped just inside as Ron kept guard by the entrance. Just like Hagrid said the owls were settled on their perches too interested in their mice to notice the three students below them. Harry spotted Hedwig in a far up rafter enjoying her own dinner. He let her enjoy her meal.
"So, what happened?" Ron asked eagerly. "Why didn't Snape punish you?"
"Why didn't you tell him why we were in the library," Hermione added.
"Well," Harry said timidly." I don't know where to really begin. And to be honest, I'm a little scared to say."
Hermione looked at him with concern. "Scared? Why would you be scared to tell us?"
"Because it's pretty big. It could change everything," Harry said. "And it's a little bit dangerous if the wrong people find out before the time is right."
"Look mate, you don't have to share your secret with us if you don't want to," Ron assured him. "But it might take some of the pressure off if you do. Hermione and I won't tell anybody, even if they curse us." Hermione nodded affirmatively. "Even if you told us Snape was your dad, or something, we'd still be mates."
Harry's head snapped up in surprise staring at Ron in a state of shock.
Ron's jaw dropped in astonishment. "That's it! Snape's your dad?"
Hermione gasped and clasped both hands over her mouth. "Harry! That's wonderful!"
"Yeah! That's great, Harry!"
Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Do you mean it? You're not angry that James Potter isn't my dad?"
"Why would we be upset about that?" Hermione asked. "It's not your fault."
Harry turned to Ron for his answer. Ron shrugged somewhat sheepishly. "I knew we would be mates before you showed me your scar. You were the only bloke on the train who was nice to me. Not even my own brothers let me share a car with them. It doesn't matter to me if you're Harry Potter or Harry Snape."
A huge weight was lifted from Harry's shoulders. As nice as it was to have a dad, life would be so much harder without friends.
"Just one thing, though, Harry?" Hermione asked. "How did it happen?"
"Hermione!" Ron exclaimed.
Harry almost burst out with a fit of giggles when Hermione retorted, "I didn't mean that, Ronald."
Ron crossed his arms defensively and asked loftily, "Then, what did you mean?"
Hermione pursed her lips and gave Ron a quick glare of annoyance before she regained her composure and turned to Harry. "What I meant to ask was, how is it Professor Snape is your dad if your mum was married to James Potter? Did James Potter adopt you, or something?"
Harry scratched the back of his head, trying to figure out how best to get on with it. "Well…the story's a bit complicated…"
Harry did eventually tell his friends everything his dad had told him, the best he could remember. When Harry finished, his friends had agreed that it was best if Harry's secret were to remain secret. There were too many wizards and witches who wouldn't understand. By the time Harry finished his story, it was time to head off to Potions class.
Before they reached the dungeons, Ron and Hermione finally talked Harry into telling his dad the reason they had been in the library. If Harry asked politely enough, perhaps Professor Snape would tell Harry more of his mum.
Harry watched as his dad methodically graded papers. He was still hesitant to approach. What if last night had been some sort of strange dream? Before he took his first step he was startled when his dad broke the silence. "What is it, Harry?"
"I…I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to interrupt."
His dad put down his quill and looked to Harry. "No need to be sorry. You apparently have something on your mind."
Harry took a hesitant step forward. When it was obvious his dad wasn't going to chase him away, he became bolder and approached the desk. "It's just that I never told you last night…the reason me, Ron, and Hermione were in the library, I mean"
His dad folded his hands, steepling his long fingers. "Harry, you have nothing to confess. I know why you and your friends were in the library last night."
Harry blinked. "You do?"
"Of course, I do." The professor arose from his chair and approached Harry. He rested his hands on Harry's shoulders. "I blame myself. I should have realized you would want to commemorate your mother. Perhaps, we can do so together."
"Honestly?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Yes," his father answered with a nod. "I am shamed to say, but it has been years since I laid flowers at your mother's grave. Would you care to join me this Sunday?"
"Yes!" Harry flung himself at his father and hugged him tightly around his waist. He felt his father's body tense at the sudden embrace and let him go. "Sorry."
"Don't be," His dad said as he patted Harry on the back. "You merely took me by surprise."
Before Harry realized, he was being led towards the door. "If I'm not mistaken, your friends are awaiting you in the corridor," his dad said.
"Yeah," Harry acknowledged. "It's getting late and I have Quidditch practice right after dinner. You are coming to the game tomorrow, right?"
"I wouldn't miss it for all the galleons in Gringotts,"
"Good!" Harry said excitedly. "I'm going to make you proud and catch that Snitch!"
His dad's face tightened with a sour expression, but his eyes were smiling. "Yes, but just make sure Slytherin is up by 160 points before you do so."
Harry laughed, "Ha! Fat chance!" Then he ran out the door to meet Ron and Hermione.
OMG! She's back!
Once again, I give my humble apologies and beseech your forgiveness. To confess, after the passing of my brother, most of my muses flew away. Basically, because my brother is who I patterned my interpretation of Severus after. So, it has been hard to find my inspiration. Then when my father died…well, the rest of my inspiration flew away with him. It's been a while, but my muses are finally making their way home and I hope they decide to stay, this time.
Please, forgive any mistakes. After brainstorming with Luck (thank you for not abandoning me) I hurried to get this chapter out and I did not send it out to beta. I'm having major back surgery tomorrow and I'll be in the hospital 3-4 days. The good side (if you can call it that) I will be home 6-12 weeks to recover. Lots of time to write. So, I hope you enjoy this chapter. Luck and I have already outlined the next chapter, so as so as I'm able to sit in a chair, I'll be typing away.
On behalf of both Luck and myself, thank you for your interest and encouragement. Please, review and encourage those pesky muses to stay put.
Love to you all,