Disclaimer: I'm not J. K. Rowling, and I don't own Harry Potter or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this. Really. None at all.
Harry Potter was five years old when he discovered that there had been people in the world who had loved him. It happened after a bad beating from his uncle. He'd been curled up in his cupboard, trying to keep his sobs silent, and wishing more than anything in the world that he'd died with his parents. He knew that his parents had been worthless sods who drank too much and didn't work. And his mother was something called a hussy. He didn't know what that was, but he was sure it wasn't nice by the way his aunt's face twisted when she said it. It must have been almost as bad as being a freak.
No, he knew that his parents weren't anything to be proud of, but they were his. Maybe if they were as worthless as he was, then maybe… maybe they'd loved him anyway? He wanted to believe that was true, but it was really hard. He couldn't remember them at all. As long as he could remember he'd been told that he was a freak. That he was worthless. That he was a burden. It was hard to believe that even his worthless parents could have loved someone like him.
He fell asleep that night with that question burning in his mind alongside his wish to be dead with his parents that might have loved him.
And that night, five year old Harry dreamed. In one night's dreams, Harry Potter regained fifteen months of memories he'd never realized were still in his head. He remembered with more clarity than anyone ever rightly should, every single waking moment from the time he was born until his mother's death.
Severus Snape sneered at the perfectly manicured little matchbox houses on Privet Drive and silently cursed the annoying headmaster that had sent him to this muggle infested pit of Hades to "check up" on Potter's spawn. Merciful merlin, he had five potions under stasis in the lab, growing less potent every minute. He had much more important things to be doing than catering to the spoiled brat's delicate ego.
Of course, it wasn't possible to refuse that old meddler when he got an idea into his senile mind, so whinging about it would be no use. Much better to get it over with as quickly as possible and hopefully talk Poppy into a mild obliviate of the whole situation when he got back. Salazar knew that the last thing he wanted was to see the brat a whole year earlier than absolutely necessary.
He rapped on the door and waited while he heard the telltale click of women's shoes approach the door, pause, and then the door was pulled open. The years had not been good to Petunia Evans – Dursley now. That did make Severus feel a bit better about this whole thing. As did the look of absolute loathing that she sent his way when she recognized him. He may have managed to sour her entire week. Ah, the silver lining…
"Hello, Tuney," he greeted with a cold smile, recalling well how she'd hated that nickname.
"Snape!" she snarled. "I thought you were dead!" She looked more angry at seeing a supposedly dead man at her door than shocked.
"Sorry to disappoint," he said with some satisfaction. "I've come to see Potter. Where is he?"
"He's not here!" she spat, and attempted to close the door in his face.
He stopped it cold with one hand, and spoke in his lowest, most ominous voice, "Petunia, do not tempt me to blast this door to oblivion. It would make me only too happy. Where is the boy?"
She seemed to have a brief debate with herself before finally stepping back. "Fine, but you'll not be nattering about in my house! Go into the back garden and I'll send him to you," she snapped, gesturing sharply across to the back door.
Severus lifted a disdainful eyebrow at her, but decided that he'd just as soon be out of her presence and her disgustingly mundane home anyway. The sooner he could be done with this, the happier he would be.
"Boy! Get up, you lazy layabout! There's someone here to see you!" he heard her screech soon after the door had closed him into the back garden. It was pathetically small and simplistic – even for muggles – but it was very well tended. Considering that Petunia had never been one to dirty her hands, he assumed the husband was a gardener. Or she hired it done.
He really hadn't expected the Potter boy to be spoken to so crassly, but he supposed Petunia was on edge because of his presence. And it was the middle of the day! The boy deserved a tongue lashing if he was still in bed.
He had to wait almost five minutes and was on the point of letting himself back into the house to inquire as to what was causing the wait when the door finally opened. He sneered as a small boy stepped out, but was briefly stymied by the assumption that this could not be Potter. He didn't look more than eight or nine at most, and was dressed in rags not even suitable for sleeping.
The boy closed the door behind him, then stumbled down the step, barely saving himself with a hand on the railing. Bright green bespectacled eyes darted up to Severus' face at last, and he realized that this was definitely Harry Potter. His resemblance to James and Lily both was utterly unmistakable.
Severus opened his mouth to snap at the boy, but forgot what he was going to say when the boy spoke first.
Green eyes impossibly wide, the boy choked out half a sob, and landed hard on his knees, though he didn't seem to notice. "Dad?" he whispered.
Severus' jaw fell as he struggled to understand any possible scenario that could lead Harry Potter to react to him like that. And call him…? What in Merlin's name? "Mr. Potter!" he snapped irritably, assuming that this could only be some form of mockery, "Stand up, boy!"
The child blinked slowly at him, then climbed to his feet with insulting dalliance.
"What did you call me?" Severus snarled.
The boy looked more cautious now, which was something of an improvement. Assuming it was genuine. "What… ah. What do you want me to call you?"
"I take it your aunt never mentioned me," he couldn't help but sneer.
Again, the boy seemed to consider his response. Finally, he said quietly, "You're Severus Snape."
Severus was rather surprised that the boy actually recognized him. Probably from old pictures of Lily's, he reasoned. No doubt Petunia had filled his head with all manner of foul things about him. "That's Professor Snape, you ungrateful brat."
The child's face went absolutely stone blank at the insult, his shoulders fell, and his eyes unfocused even as they went glassy. He made a choking sound in his throat, like a strangled sob, and then he just collapsed.
Severus didn't know if he should be angry at the act or concerned that it may be real, but concern won. He resolved to be at least twice as angry if it did turn out to be an act.
He lurched forward and stooped at the boy's side where he'd fallen on the grass, and turned him enough to see his face. The boy's eyes were open, but half lidded and almost as vacant as death. He cast a quick diagnostic and gaped in horror at what it told him. He had no idea how the child had been standing to begin with. He had three broken ribs, multiple fine fractures in his forearms and shins, bruising on his skin and internal organs, internal bleeding, and a mild concussion.
All thoughts of animosity fled his mind as he reached for the emergency portkey that he'd carried since becoming a spy. He held the boy as carefully as he could without exacerbating his injuries, and activated the portkey.
There was a hooking feeling behind his navel and the world spun around him and the boy for a moment before they landed in the infirmary. "Poppy!" he shouted immediately.
"Severus!" she called, alarmed as she bustled out of her office. "What's happened?"
"It's Potter. He's badly hurt," he said briefly, stepping back while Poppy levitated the child onto a bed and began a rapid stream of diagnostics, interspersed with whispered curses that he remembered well from his own time under her care. She seemed to take every injury personally, and they made her quite livid, though she almost always curbed the cursing if there were conscious children about.
He retreated to his lab when she started demanding potions that she didn't have in the infirmary stores. The stronger healing potions and revitalizers particularly made it clear that he'd not been wrong about the seriousness of the injuries.
After several hours of Poppy's careful attentions, she finally drew away from the boy, gesturing Severus into her office. "He'll be out for a few hours. Tell me what happened, Severus."
"Albus sent me to check on the boy at his muggle relatives' house. When I first saw him, he appeared a little unstable. Now that I think about it, he may have been delirious as well, since he seemed to think I was his father," he frowned, realizing that his injuries could very well account for that behavior.
Poppy frowned deeply, but didn't interrupt.
"I didn't realize that there was anything wrong. He really was acting as normally as I could judge considering that I don't know the child. And then he just collapsed. I ran a diagnostic and concluded that he needed immediate attention."
"He most certainly did," she agreed indignantly. "The child could very easily have died from his injuries. In fact, I expect he would not have survived last night if he wasn't magical."
"Last night?" Severus frowned.
She nodded, "His injuries had already begun to heal. I would wager that they were inflicted yesterday evening. His magic was working overtime to keep him going while repairing the damage, but it was too much. His magical core is badly drained. That in itself is not inherently dangerous, but without his magic helping him, his injuries were still sufficient to kill him had he gone perhaps two hours in that state without treatment."
"But how was he injured?" Severus asked fearfully.
She sighed sadly, "I've seen these types of injuries before. And I know you've experienced them, Severus. They are wounds inflicted by hands and feet. The state of his arms and shins suggests that he was attempting to shield himself from a beating by curling into a ball, but there are no offensive wounds of any kind, which makes me seriously doubt that he fought back at all. I would strongly wager that this was done by an adult. And that it wasn't the first time."
Severus' heart clenched painfully. So much for his spoiled brat theory. Petunia's vitriol when she'd called the child made sense now. The boy had been living in an abusive home. For all his irritation with Albus, he could only thank Merlin that he'd arrived when he had. If he'd procrastinated his trip a few hours as he'd seriously considered, he'd have arrived to find a corpse.
"Will he be okay?" he almost whispered.
To his relief, Poppy nodded, "I've healed his body. His magic doesn't need to try to do that, so it will recharge naturally. He probably won't wake until tomorrow, and he'll sleep more often than not for about a week, but he'll be fine. Physically. I can't say how he might react mentally."
Severus was woken in the middle of the night by an emergency signal from Poppy. He threw on his dressing robe and floo'd directly up to the infirmary. The commotion seemed to be centered around the rear corner of the room. Most of the staff was away for the summer, including Albus, so it was just Poppy and Minerva standing near the bed in the corner that had housed Potter when Severus had left.
He approached slowly while Minerva was speaking to the boy in a tone he'd never heard her use before.
"Harry, please calm down," she was saying very softly and gently.
"Who are you people?!" the boy demanded, his tone trembling somewhere between terror and outrage. "Where am I?"
"You're at Hogwarts, Harry," Minerva said in that same tone, like she was speaking to a frightened animal. "My name is Minerva McGonagall, and this is Poppy Pomfrey."
"That answers nothing!" he snapped.
"Hogwarts is a school, Harry," she said calmly. "This is the hospital wing. You were injured. Professor Snape brought you here for healing. Do you remember that?"
"Why?" he asked, his voice lower and full of hatred.
Severus winced, recalling the way he'd spoken to the boy. "Ungrateful brat" had been the last words he'd said before the boy had collapsed.
"You were badly injured, Mr. Potter," Poppy tried.
"That is NOT my name!" he shouted.
Severus finally stepped around the curtain so that he could see the boy, and his heart stuttered at the sight. Potter was crouched at the top of his bed. The bed and floor were littered with broken glass, as was the boy himself. He was bleeding from several places, but none so much as his right hand, which held a long, jagged shard of glass right against the vein in his throat, which explained why Poppy and Minerva were speaking as they were and not getting any closer. The child was clearly threatening to open his own throat if they didn't behave.
Severus would have taken it for the height of spoiled arrogance had he not known what he did now about the boy. Had he not been able to see in the boy's eyes that he meant it. The glass, Severus deduced quickly, came from the large windows above the bed, which had evidently shattered in. Accidental magic, maybe.
The boy's eyes landed on him immediately, and the fiery anger that had prompted his shout chilled into icy hatred. Self-hatred, Severus realized. The boy wasn't glaring at him. He was hating himself.
"Why did you bring me here?" Potter asked very quietly, watching him with hardly any interest in the answer to his question.
"You would have died if I hadn't," Severus answered evenly.
"Why didn't you let me die?" he asked as though he truly could not comprehend the answer. He didn't seem to want one either, as he went on without giving Severus a chance to say anything. "Why does everyone keep saving me? Don't you understand that I want to die?"
"Harry," Minerva said carefully, "you won't go back to your aunt and uncle's house. Not ever. You won't be treated like that again. I personally give you my word that you won't."
Harry had looked at her as she spoke, but then he looked at Severus again. His face fell toward that blankness that he'd seen right before the boy had fallen unconscious. "Why?" he whispered. "I'm a worthless freak. No one wants me. Why won't you just let me die?" he asked with complete defeat in his voice, though he still held the glass in a tight grip.
Severus felt like he'd been stabbed in the heart by a spear of pure ice. He'd felt something close to that before, but it had never been that bad. He'd had a mother who cared about him. She'd died when he was just eight, but no matter how bad things had gotten, he'd always clung to the knowledge that at least one person in the world had loved him. Harry had no one.
And then, he realized, Severus had shown up and proved that he was exactly the same as his awful relatives by being so mean to the boy. Delirious or not, he realized now what he'd seen in the child's eyes when he'd first recognized him. It had been hope. He'd obviously heard of Severus, and hoped, perhaps, that he may be a person who could care for him. Severus' words had obviously destroyed the child's last hope.
"Harry," he said gently.
The boy didn't look up at him.
Severus took a small step forward.
Bright green eyes shot up instantly and locked on him. More blood ran down his arm as he tightened his hold on the glass.
Severus stopped, "Harry," he tried again.
They boy's eyes were wary.
"I'm sorry," he said softly.
The boy blinked, clearly shocked by his words.
"I…" Severus drew a shuddering breath, not needing to act at all. "I was wrong," he said quietly, but firmly. "I'm sorry. I care about you, Harry."
Hope and distrust warred in the boy's eyes.
Severus took another small step forward. "Please, don't hurt yourself, Harry. Please. I know that I've given you no reason to trust me, but I am begging you to give me another chance. Please, Harry."
They boy's lower lip trembled, and he blinked rapidly until tears began to track down his face.
Severus took another step toward him, nearly even with the foot of the bed.
Harry finally let out a shuddering sob and dropped the glass.
Severus stepped forward rapidly and caught the boy as he nearly fell from the bed. He gathered him carefully into his arms and crossed the room to a bed not covered in glass. By the time he got there, Harry had curled his arms around his neck and his legs around his waist, and did not seem keen to release him.
With a small sigh, Severus sat on the edge of the bed himself, willing to hold the traumatized child for now. He rubbed his back gently while Poppy went to work on healing the boy's hand and then other cuts without disturbing him any more than necessary.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Harry whispered repeatedly into his shoulder.
"Hush, child," Severus said softly. "You've nothing to apologize for."
Eventually, the boy stopped his muttering and just cried himself to sleep.
When he at last managed to extract the child from his person and tuck him into a bed, Severus virtually collapsed into a chair in Poppy's office and was promptly joined by the witches.
"Thank Merlin, Severus," Poppy said quietly. "I've dealt with all manner of traumatized children in my time here, but I did not know what to do to calm the boy."
"I just hope you realize," Minerva said wearily, "that you will have to live up to the promises you made that boy. This incident will leave him worse off than before if he finds you lied to him."
Severus nodded, but didn't become upset by her words. He knew that she didn't mean them as an accusation or aspersion to his character. It was a fact that he preferred to keep to himself and had little tolerance for children. "I am well aware of the fact, Minerva. And I didn't lie to him," he admitted more quietly. It was an admission he'd not have made to anyone in the world save these two women.
"You empathize with him, don't you?" Poppy asked gently.
Severus nodded solemnly. "His life has probably been even worse than my own childhood."
"How did you know what to say?" Minerva wondered.
He shook his head. "He knew my name."
Minerva frowned curiously.
"When I was at his aunt's house. He knew my name before I said it. He recognized me, and he seemed… I didn't recognize the look on his face until after I realized the kind of life he'd had. He was looking at me with hope. A man he'd never before met, who wasn't even being nice to him, and the boy looked at me as though his every wish was being dangled before his eyes about to be granted or crushed for good. What I said to him, in my ignorance, crushed those wishes. What I said to him tonight, gave them back," he explained wearily.
It was very sad how well he understood. He'd been so much like that boy once. His own wishes had centered around a beautiful, bubbly redheaded witch who'd lived down the street. His wishes had been crushed by James Potter when Severus had been seventeen. Even at that age, the pain of it had nearly killed him. He suspected now that Harry's magic hadn't been depleted right at that time. It had simply stopped sustaining him because he'd lost the will to live that had been fueling it.
When Harry next woke, Severus was sitting at his bedside reading his latest potions journal. He marked his page and set it aside when he noticed the boy stirring. He waited somewhat nervously to see what kind of mood the boy would wake to.
After a few moments, those green eyes opened and his hand moved blindly to the bedside table. Wondering just how bad the boy's eyes were, Severus placed the glasses in them.
Harry stiffened at the contact and quickly shoved his glasses onto his face and focused on Severus. He relaxed only slightly at recognizing him. "Hello, Professor Snape," he said finally, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Good morning, Harry," Severus greeted with a small smile. "How are you feeling?"
They boy's eyes unfocused and his limbs moved slightly as though the child was doing a mental tally of his entire body. It pained Severus to see that. It was the kind of assessment done by someone so accustomed to injuries as to be used to ignoring them. The boy's expression became somewhat surprised as he focused on Severus again. "Very well, sir," he said.
"No pain?" Severus pressed gently. He knew well how easy it was to dismiss minor pains when you'd suffered much greater ones for extended periods of time.
"No, sir," the boy answered, his tone still quite soft. "Is it… Sir, is it true that I won't be going back to my aunt and uncle's house?"
"It's true," Severus promised.
The boy swallowed hard as though he hardly dared to hope it could be real even with that assurance. "I thought you were dead," he finally said.
Severus frowned, but answered honestly after just a brief pause. "There was a time, when you were a baby, that I was required to fake my death."
The boy didn't look nearly surprised enough at hearing that proclamation, but Severus went on without commenting on that. "There was a war going on when you were a baby. Do you know anything about that?"
"A little," the child admitted, so Petunia had told him something at least. "That's why my mother died. I'd thought that you were killed in the war too."
Severus was about to answer when he was distracted by the infirmary doors opening. He lifted his head to see Albus entering.
"Severus," the older wizard said with concern. "I received your message." He focused on Harry, "What's happened?"
"When I went to check on Harry," Severus started, choosing not to call the boy Potter considering his strange reaction to Poppy's calling him that last night. He was curious about it, but hadn't had a chance to bring it up yet. "He was badly injured when I found him. I brought him straight here. I'm sure Poppy can give you the full report."
Albus looked very troubled, as he should, being the one to place the child with those monsters. "I see," he said sadly. "Are you hungry, Harry?"
"Who are you?" Harry asked warily.
Albus gave him a bright smile, "Forgive me. I seem to have misplaced my manners."
More likely he was just used to everyone in the wizarding world recognizing him at a glance. Truly, Albus was a man who rarely required introduction.
"I am Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts. I was also a friend of your parents," he added that last with sympathy.
Harry frowned at him, glanced quickly at Severus, then focused on the headmaster again.
"Are you hungry?" Albus asked again.
"Yes, sir," Harry said quietly.
"Severus, would you see about getting Harry some breakfast? I'd like a few minutes alone with him."
Severus frowned and looked at Harry, who was looking rather nervous to be alone with Albus. He stood and gipped Harry's hand lightly. "Don't worry, Harry. The headmaster won't harm you. I'll return shortly, all right?"
Harry nodded hesitantly.
Severus gave him a small smile, ignored the way Albus was twinkling at their little interaction, and excused himself swiftly.
The headmaster took the seat that Father had vacated, and went on smiling at Harry as though they were old friends. It was making Harry very uncomfortable.
"…then, my boy," the headmaster way saying. His beard and mustache partially obscured his mouth, making him difficult to understand. "How … you –eeling?"
"Fine, sir," Harry responded guardedly. The man wanted a few minutes alone with him to engage in pointless small talk? Harry was sure that Father had told this headmaster that he could get all the details on Harry's health from the doctor woman.
"… good," Dumbledore nodded. "You –eem … be getting –long … with Professor Snape."
Harry nodded cautiously, unsure of the dynamic between his father and this headmaster, who was clearly his boss. He didn't want to say the wrong thing and get Father in trouble. "He seems pretty nice," Harry offered.
Dumbledore's brow rose as though he hadn't been quite expecting to hear that. All he said though was, "…a's good, Harry."
Then Harry felt something strange. A pressure behind his eyes, and his thoughts got jumbled for a moment. He cringed as slightly as possible and tried hard to focus. He didn't want to miss something the headmaster said. When he was able to focus on the man again, he found that Dumbledore was watching him curiously.
"…o, Harry, how much -as your aunt tol- you about -ogwa…?"
Nothing. "Not much," Harry replied cautiously, glancing around the room quickly to ensure that they were still alone and that the room still appeared to be quiet. Both seemed true.
"What about …?" Harry couldn't make out the last word.
"I'm sorry, what?" Harry asked curiously.
Dumbledore smiled. He didn't seem surprised by the question. "Magic." Harry recognized it that time. It was not a word spoken in the Dursley house.
"Magic," Harry parroted, using the moment to collect his thoughts. "Right. Um. A little." He struggled to scrape together everything he knew about the magical world from his earliest memories. "My parents are, um were magical, right?"
"-ow -ch do you know –bout your parents?" the old man pressed gently.
"Almost nothing," Harry lied, curious what this man might say about them. That pressure behind his eyes was coming back. It was starting to worry him, but it didn't seem as disorienting this time.
"Do you know their names?" It was getting a little easier to understand Dumbledore now that Harry was getting some practice, but he knew he'd have trouble again if the man wasn't focusing on him directly at close range.
"I know my mum was Lily," Harry admitted. "Aunt Petunia didn't really talk about my father."
"His name was James Potter," Dumbledore lied with a kindly smile.
Harry stared at him for a moment, trying to decide if the headmaster was mistaken or deliberately lying. Harry knew for a fact that his father was Severus Snape. He remembered the man taking him in his arms the day he'd been born. He remembered his father singing him to sleep at night, cuddling with him and his mother. Until just before his first birthday, when his mother had gotten the news that his father had been killed by Death Eaters – evidently when he'd faked his death. He still wasn't sure what to think of that. It had broken his mother's heart, though he hadn't understood what was happening at the time, or why his daddy didn't come home. He was sure his father must have had a very good reason for doing it though.
And now he realized that Dumbledore looked somewhere between shocked and intrigued. "…m sorry, Harry. This really is for the best."
Harry's chest suddenly felt tight as he began to sense that he was in danger. Father had said that this man wouldn't hurt him, but he was really afraid that Father had been wrong.
And then the headmaster drew his wand and pointed it at Harry. He gasped and drew back, but he wasn't fast enough.
Harry felt like his brains were being scrambled. The pressure increased by about a hundred, and it was almost impossible to think in straight lines. Then he became aware of the pressure focusing in on one particular part of his mind. On a group of memories that he cherished above all others. There was a tugging sensation, as though something was trying to tear those memories away. Harry panicked, and fought to protect the only happy memories of his entire life.
A sort of barrier rose between the memories and the invading force, and Harry felt those precious memories being drawn deeper into his mind, into a safer place. The pressure shifted, and a new memory blossomed in his mind. A memory of a completely different conversation with Dumbledore, in which the cheerful old man had told him all about Hogwarts and his parents. Lily and James.
Finally, the invading force was gone, and Dumbledore was smiling at him again, his wand tucked away, as though nothing usual had happened. "Well, my boy, I should be going. I believe Professor Snape has returned with your breakfast."
Harry glanced quickly over his shoulder where Father was standing with a tray of food. He looked at Dumbledore and nodded as naturally as he could, praying that the man would think Harry believed that fake memory he was clearly supposed to believe. It seemed successful, as the man left.
Harry waited until the door was closed behind him, then waited a bit more. When Father put the tray of food at the foot of the bed and returned to the chair, he was speaking, but Harry couldn't bring himself to pay attention to what he was saying. "Sir," he whispered.
Father's mouth closed and he frowned at Harry, who was beginning to tremble all over. "What's wrong, Harry? Are you feeling well?" Father asked with concern that lightened Harry's heart a little.
"Can anyone else hear us?" he whispered, hoping it was loud enough for Father to hear.
Father glanced around, then drew his wand and spoke a couple words that Harry couldn't make out while he waved it. Then he tucked it back into his sleeve. "I've cast a silencing spell, Harry," he explained. "You and I are the only ones who can hear our conversation now."
A nervous smile twitched on Harry's lips at the irony of that statement. "Right," he nodded, still speaking very quietly despite the spell. "Sir, the headmaster cast a spell on me," he said shakily. He wanted nothing more than to crawl into his father's lap and bury his face in his robes, but it wouldn't be possible to have a two-sided conversation that way.
Father's face went curiously blank for a moment. "What spell?"
Harry shook his head, frustrated. He wasn't very good at understanding sounds that didn't form words he already knew. "Um… Obl… Oblate… Obliate…"
Father said something similar that Harry couldn't quite make out.
"Say it more slowly," Harry suggested.
"Oh-bli-vee-ate," Father pronounced slowly.
Harry nodded quickly, ninety percent sure that that was right. "It made my head feel funny."
Father's eyes widened a bit and then he turned his face away just a little. "Worthless meddling old bastard," he snarled.
Harry watched Father warily.
Father looked at him again and calmed slightly. "Harry, may I look at your mind and see if I can find out what he did?"
Harry hesitated only a moment before nodding.
Father stared at him a moment, and then Harry felt that pressure again. He jerked and looked away instinctively.
"Fuck," Father cursed. "Harry, did the headmaster do that to you, too?"
"I think so," Harry said cautiously. "I kept feeling that pressure when he was talking to me. Then he said…" He tried to remember his exact wording. "I think he said 'I'm sorry, Harry. This is for the best.' Then he used that Obliviate, and it was like something tried to go into my mind and…" his breath caught. "He tried to take some of my memories, I think. And then he put in some new memories of talking to him that didn't happen."
Father's eyes got very wide. "You remember all of that?"
Harry nodded cautiously, uncertain why his father seemed so surprised by that.
"Harry," Father said patiently.
Harry couldn't help but glance around to be sure they were still alone, but he returned his eyes to his Father quickly so he wouldn't miss what he was saying.
"The spell that he used on you is meant to remove memories and usually replace them with different ones. I'm surprised because, had the spell worked, you wouldn't remember anything out of the ordinary. Will you let me try to see your mind again? I promise that I'll be very gentle."
Harry nodded, chewing his lip nervously. He really didn't think that his father would try to hurt him. And if he did… Well, then Harry hoped he stole those memories because his father was the only thing he had left. He didn't want to remember a father that loved him if the man no longer did.
Severus was fuming. How dare that old coot try to meddle in Harry's mind like that?! As though the boy hadn't been through enough? What had he tried to take? The worst memories of abuse? Or something else? And why in the name of Merlin had it not worked? This was Albus Dumbledore for Salazar's sake! When he cast a spell, it bloody well worked!
Then again, Voldemort's spell had failed against Harry. Maybe he should be happy the old man hadn't Obliviated himself instead. Well, relatively happy.
He entered the boy's mind as carefully as he knew how, recognizing that he'd been traumatized even further by the headmaster's doubtlessly well intentioned meddling.
Can you show me the memories he gave you, Harry? Severus spoke directly into his mind.
The boy flinched badly at hearing his voice in his head, but then Severus could feel an overwhelmed joy that he didn't fully understand. Harry didn't pull up the memory as a skilled Occlumens would have done, but Severus felt Harry retreating to a specific portion of his mind, so he followed. Sure enough, he found a perfectly pleasant conversation between Harry and Dumbledore, all about Hogwarts and brimming with good things about Lily and James.
Okay, now show me the memories he tried to take.
The boy was still feeling very excited as he moved into an entirely different portion of his mind. As Severus followed, he was stunned to find the memories tucked away in such a way that even a very skilled Legilimens was unlikely to find them without an exhaustive search. Perhaps that's why it hadn't worked?
And then he reached the cluster of memories and came up against a shield that he had no hope of penetrating without causing the boy serious pain.
What are these memories, Harry?
Can you not see them? Harry replied in kind.
No, child, Severus chuckled.
Strangely, he felt Harry's happiness soar even higher and contentment joined with a weary sort of regret all mixed together, evidently sparked by Severus' small comment.
Wow. Can you feel my emotions the way I can tell you're feeling confused right now? Harry wondered.
Severus chuckled again at the boy's enthusiasm, though he was impressed by the perceptiveness. Recognizing emotions through Legilimency wasn't a simple task. It wasn't really that difficult. It just took a high degree of awareness.
I can, Severus admitted. You're feeling very happy, but also regretting something. Can I ask why?
I was just thinking about what my life might have been like if my parents hadn't died, Harry admitted kind of sadly.
And why were you feeling so happy? Severus wondered.
There was hesitation and a little unease.
I don't want you to be upset with me, sir.
Why would I be upset if you answered my question honestly? I couldn't blame anyone but myself for asking it, could I?
Harry seemed thoughtful for a moment. I suppose not. Okay. I was just happy that we were doing this.
Severus sighed internally. Harry, you can't lie to me when I'm in your head like this.
Chagrin, instant and intense. I'm sorry. I… I was happy to hear your laugh, sir. It reminded me of… Of when I was little.
That admission was the truth, Severus was sure. What he couldn't figure out was why Harry would think that. Harry, he imparted gently, I never met you before yesterday.
You're right, Harry's answer came hesitantly. I can tell that you're not lying. And then he was abruptly filled with utter horror, and not a little terror.
What's wrong? Severus asked urgently, sure that the boy was approaching a panic attack.
When there was no response, Severus drew out of his mind.
Harry immediately curled himself into a ball and started sobbing uncontrollably.
"Harry!" Severus gasped, alarmed. He wrapped his arms around the boy, cradling him to his chest and released his silencing ward to call for Poppy. The boy flinched slightly at the sound of his voice and he stroked his back. "Please bring a calming draught," he said more quietly, holding Harry tightly while the boy choked on his sobs and was surely beginning to hyperventilate.
She arrived quickly and Severus carefully adjusted the child to give him the potion, which he took with little fuss. After a moment, his sobs began to ebb and he leaned back to look at Severus' face. "What was that?"
"A calming draught," Severus admitted.
"A what?" Harry frowned.
Severus looked at Harry more directly and repeated, "A calming draught." He was starting to wonder if there wasn't something wrong with the boy's ears too.
"Oh," Harry said quietly. "Thank you, sir."
Severus nodded. "Harry, why did it bother you so much what I said?"
Harry glanced at Poppy and his lips thinned in a very clear indication that he wasn't going to say a word about it in front of her.
Severus sighed, "Poppy, can you excuse us for a moment, please?"
She frowned, but nodded and returned to her office.
Severus erected the silencing ward again. "There. No one else can hear us now."
Harry nodded cautiously. "Sir, you really believe that we met for the first time yesterday?"
Severus blinked. "Yes, Harry," he said cautiously.
"You never knew me when I was a baby?" Harry checked.
Harry swallowed hard. "I'm certain that I knew you before. Which means that either my memories are fake like the ones the headmaster put in today, or someone took yours away."
Severus blinked again and commanded his jaw to stay closed. He had a difficult time understanding how either of those were possible, but the boy obviously believed that he had in fact met Severus before. But why would anyone install memories like that into the boy's mind?
"Harry," he said cautiously. "Can you show me the memories you have of meeting me before? I might be able to tell you if they're real."
Harry nodded without hesitation this time, and Severus went back into his mind. Harry directed him back to the same group of memories that Albus had evidently tried to steal, which did not bode well. If Albus wanted Harry to forget these memories, it was entirely possible that he had, at some point, wanted Severus to forget them as well.
You have to allow me access to them, Harry, Severus gently instructed.
Harry hesitated, feeling nervous. I'm really scared of losing them, sir. Will they still be safe from everyone else if I let you see them?
Yes, Harry. If you were able to protect them from the headmaster, I have no doubt you'll continue to keep them safe. And if I know the truth about whatever is in them, I can remind you if you ever do lose them.
He felt relief flood the boy at that. Okay.
A moment later, the shield around the memories flickered and a hole formed. Severus moved toward the hole and tentatively reached inside to inspect the memories.
What hit him was much more than he'd been expecting. Fifteen months' worth of memories washed over him in moments.
He staggered when he left Harry's mind, and quickly used his Occlumency barriers to prevent himself from being overwhelmed by what he'd just experienced.
He lowered the silencing ward again. "Poppy, another calming draught, please."
"No, I'm okay," Harry frowned.
"Yes, Harry. I know," Severus said numbly.
"Severus, what on earth are you talking about? How can he need another calming draught already?" Poppy asked as she joined them.
Severus took the draught from her hand, uncorked it, and quaffed it in one, ignoring the way she gaped at him for it. Then he carefully lowered himself back into his chair as the emotions began to surface against his will even as the calming draught began to dull them.
He felt tears on his cheeks, but he couldn't care. He hastily drew his wand and erected the silencing ward again, with Poppy inside it this time.
"Severus… what…?" Poppy asked, bewildered as she looked between him and Harry.
Severus pressed his hands over his face, and murmured, "They're real, Harry."
He got no response, so he moved his hands to look at the boy, who evidently hadn't heard his murmured words. "They're real," he said again. "I…" he swallowed hard around the massive knot growing in his throat. "Seeing them… it broke the block that had been put on my own memories." He took a deep breath, but it came out in a sob that he struggled to moderate. He buried his face in his hands again while he tried to quell his sobs, and didn't look up again until he felt a small hand curl around his.
He finally moved his hands and opened his eyes to see that Harry had crawled off the bed and moved to hold his hand. With another sob, he pulled the boy – his son – into his lap and held him tightly while the boy burrowed his face into his shoulder.
"Severus, what is going on?" Poppy asked in amazement.
"I was obliviated," he said, feeling rather numb now that his emotions were falling beneath that calming draught.
Harry leaned back quickly and glanced between him and Poppy. His eyes snapped to her when she spoke.
Severus nodded. "Someone rewrote two years of my life, Poppy. Seamlessly. Harry just showed me some of his own memories that broke the enchantment."
Poppy glanced at Harry, then looked at him again. "Severus, what exactly was Obliviated?"
Severus tightened his hold on Harry slightly, "The fact that I married Lily in secret," he almost whispered. "The two years that we lived together during the war. And the son we had together."
Poppy looked at Harry again and her jaw just about hit her chest.
Severus nodded. "Harry is my son. We named him…"
"Henry Severus Snape," Harry finished with a small smile.
Severus smiled at him.
"That's why you got mad when I called you Mr. Potter," Poppy said dazedly.
Harry nodded, looking a bit repentant for his little fit the previous night.
Poppy absently conjured a chair and lowered herself into it. "Severus… You're sure?" then she answered herself before he could speak, "What am I saying? Of course, you're sure if the block has just lifted."
He nodded his confirmation.
"Who could have done that…?"
"Surely you can divine the answer to that," Severus frowned.
Poppy blinked owlishly, "Severus, he wouldn't…"
"He tried to finish the job today by Obliviating Harry," Severus almost snarled despite the calming draught still dulling his emotions. It was a good thing he'd thought to take that so quickly. He was so furious on his own and Harry's behalf that he wanted nothing more than to attack the old meddler at the moment, the fact that he'd lose be damned. The thought of what Harry had endured at the hands of Lily's pernicious sister as a result of Albus' meddling was making it much, much worse.
"He didn't," Poppy choked.
"He did," Harry said almost too quietly for her to hear. "He cast the spell, but it didn't work all the way. It gave me new memories, but didn't take the old ones away."
Now Poppy looked astounded for an entirely new – entirely valid – reason. "How is that possible?" she directed at Severus.
"That was my initial reaction when Harry told me," Severus admitted. "Then it occurred to me that the Dark Lord had also failed to cast aggressively against Harry."
Her mouth opened in an "oh" of realization, and she turned her eyes back to Harry as though trying to see something about him that could thwart the spells of extremely powerful wizards.
"Harry," Severus said after a moment when his emotions had again receded beneath the calming draught. "The memories that you showed me went all the way back to, literally, the moment of your birth. How can you remember them so clearly?"
Harry shifted slightly on his lap so that he could see his face more clearly while Severus was speaking. "I didn't remember any of it until I was…" he frowned, "I think I was five. Or four or six. Something like that."
Severus smirked slightly at the demonstration of his faulty memory whilst explaining his impeccable memory, but he didn't comment.
"Um, anyway," Harry said briskly, "I was really sad one night, and I was praying so hard," he ducked his head a little in embarrassment. "I was wondering if my parents had ever loved me, since no one else did. I dreamed all of it that night. I've remembered it just like that ever since."
"Internally focused accidental magic," Poppy diagnosed.
Harry frowned a little at her.
Another thought was niggling at Severus now. "Harry," he said quietly.
The boy turned to look at him again. "She said that it was internally focused accidental magic."
Harry nodded then.
"Harry, do you have a hard time hearing?" Severus asked curiously.
The boy blushed deeply and hid his face again.
"Harry," Severus prompted.
The boy looked at him. Severus noticed that he was mostly focused on his mouth. "Please answer the question."
Harry hesitated a moment more, then nodded.
Frowning, Severus stood and placed the boy on the bed, though he didn't let go of his hand. "Poppy, could you please examine his ears?"
With a concerned frown, Poppy drew her wand to do as he asked. Actually, she did it three times in a row, then stepped back a bit and gave Harry a vaguely amazed look.
"What is it?" Severus asked warily.
"Severus," she gulped, her amazement turning toward unease. "He is very nearly deaf. I very much doubt he could actually hear you well enough to understand you unless you were literally screaming right in his ear."
Severus' stomach twisted. That was why Harry had reacted that way to hearing Severus speak in his mind. It was the first time he'd heard his voice in nine years. "His ears were perfect the last time I saw him. Actually, in all of the memories he showed me, up to fifteen months, his hearing was perfect." He turned his full attention on Harry again. "Can you tell me when you started having trouble hearing?"
Harry scrunched up his face in thought. "I think I was… Three. Or two or four."
Severus blinked at him, wondering if there was something wrong with his memory outside those his magic had accessed. "You don't remember any more specifically?" he wondered.
Harry considered the question a moment, then nodded. "It was January of 1984, so I was three."
Severus frowned. "How did you suddenly remember so much more clearly? Did you just not think about it the first time?"
Harry blushed a little, "No, I guess I didn't. You asked how old I was, so I was trying to think of that, but I did know when it happened. It was right after Christmas, and Dudley was three, so 1984. I knew that. I just wasn't thinking about it right. I'm sorry."
"There's nothing to apologize for, Harry," Severus dismissed quickly. "I was just curious. Why didn't you immediately know your own age?"
"I didn't know about my birthday until I got those memories," Harry admitted. "That was in April of 1985, by the way. So I guess I was four. I remember because I was just putting in the garden, and I always do that in April. And my aunt was planning for Dudley's fifth birthday, which is in June."
Severus ground his teeth. So the boy did have a good memory – quite good to remember such details after so long – but evidently, Petunia had never bothered to tell Harry his birthday… His anger tried to surface again, but he was able to curb it with the aid of the calming draught. "I see," he sighed. "Tell me about when you lost your hearing. Did you hurt your ears, or did you get sick?"
"I was sick," Harry replied without hesitation. "Dudley locked me out of the house on Christmas morning, and they didn't let me back in until after lunch. And I didn't have a coat. Then, a few days later, I got really sick. I couldn't leave my cupboard for three days, and my ears hurt really bad until summer. Then, when they finally stopped hurting, I realized that I still couldn't hear very much at all. My aunt and uncle didn't like it when I didn't listen, so I learned to see what they were saying really fast."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. Hard. "Poppy," he said quietly. "I'm going to need another calming draught soon."
She nodded and went to the potion cupboard. She was back less than a minute later. She handed one to him and quaffed the other herself. Severus wasn't surprised. She took injuries and senseless illnesses personally, and Harry's so-called family had left him go with what may have been a severe ear infection for half a year. If not for his magic, he may very well have died. As it was, he may never be able to hear again. As soon as he could find a way to do it without ending up in Azkaban, Severus fully intended to tear the Dursleys into tiny shreds, Lily's blood be damned.
"Harry," Poppy said as though she'd not just dosed herself with a calming draught in order to endure this conversation. "Considering what we've just learned about your hearing, I would like to check your eyesight as well."
He just nodded.
She stepped in front of him and removed his glasses. The boy shifted a little as though this made him quite uncomfortable, which Severus supposed was quite understandable. Without his hearing, his vision was twice as important. Depending on how bad it was, he may not even be able to read lips at all without his glasses.
A moment later, that was confirmed by Poppy's sulfurous curses declaring that his eyesight was utterly abysmal and that he wouldn't be seeing more than indistinct shapes without his glasses. She then checked his glasses and cursed some more – not bothering to keep her voice down since Harry couldn't hear her and couldn't see her without his glasses – because his eyeglasses were evidently not even a proper prescription and he probably had untold difficulty seeing clearly even with them.
When the calming draught had gotten hold of her emotions again, she calmly placed the glasses back on his face, then cast a charm to make them automatically adjust to his visual needs.
Harry blinked several times after she'd done that, and his mouth opened in complete wonder. "Thank you," he finally breathed, looking at her, Severus, and the room in general as though he was really seeing it for the first time.
"Considering that neither of your parents had need of glasses," Poppy speculated, "I am willing to bet that your relatives are to blame for your vision problems as well. Were you often made to skip meals or not given enough to fill you at meals, Harry?"
"Yes, ma'am," he answered in that too quiet voice. Severus now suspected that Harry spoke so quietly because he was overcompensating for the natural propensity to shout when it was so difficult to hear oneself.
She nodded, satisfied. "Believe it or not, Harry, that is actually a good thing. Malnutrition, even as chronic as yours, can be corrected through potions. Depending on the severity, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years to completely correct, but it will be corrected. That goes for your eyesight and physical size, which is considerably smaller than usual for your age.
He nodded as though he wasn't surprised to hear that.
"Severus can brew the potions for you, but you'll have to take them with every single meal – probably for years."
"You don't mind, sir?" Harry asked him cautiously.
"Of course not, Harry," Severus said quietly, since he realized the volume of his voice didn't matter to Harry.
The boy beamed at him.
"And…" Severus added a little more tentatively. "If you don't mind, I would like it if you would call me father. Or dad. Whichever you're comfortable with."
Harry's smile grew considerably larger. "Thanks, dad," he said quietly.
Severus swelled at hearing that. The last time he'd been called "dad", it had actually been "dada" by his one-year-old son before he'd been forced to fake his death in order to keep Lily and Harry safe. That was when he was obliviated. Why it had not been removed when Lily had died and Voldemort was destroyed, and Harry desperately needed his father…
Best not to think on that too much at the moment, he concluded, downing the second calming draught Poppy had brought for him.
"I think," Severus said when that began to take effect, "that it is time to discuss this with Albus," he decided. "But first…" He conjured two small jars and extracted two copies of the memories that had so long been lost to him. He placed the memories in the jars and sealed them so that only he or someone of his blood could open them, then gave one to Harry and banished the other to his bedside table where he wouldn't be able to miss it should he forget doing so. Putting another into his Gringotts vault soon may not be a bad idea either. "That, Harry," he explained, "is a copy of the memories that I had lost. If I ever forget again, you need to give those to me and be sure that I watch them."
Harry nodded dutifully and tucked it under his pillow.
"The other copy is in my quarters next to my bed. And if worse comes to worst and both are lost, make me look at your memories again."
Harry nodded, "Yes, Father."
Severus smiled slightly at the affection, then conjured his patronus and sent it to Minerva. "The more trusted witnesses the better, I should think," he offered as explanation.
While they waited for her to arrive, Poppy ran more in depth diagnostics on Harry to determine some of his past abuse that had left a lasting mark. The result was not good for either of their tempers. The boy had endured broken bones more than a hundred times. Poppy suspected and Harry confirmed that they'd never been treated by a doctor or healer. If the boy wasn't so magically powerful, he'd have been dead many times over. If he hadn't found those memories of his infancy, Severus suspected he may have taken his life or at least run away long since. Only the ironclad conviction that there had once been someone who'd loved him had kept that boy sane and whole.
And it was all Albus' fault.
Minerva arrived then. Severus noticed that Harry became aware of her presence almost instantly despite being the next thing to deaf. He was a very perceptive boy, which was why he'd been around him more than a full day before suspecting his hearing problem. He saw Severus and Poppy glance up when the door opened and followed their gazes, then surreptitiously resituated himself so that he could keep everyone more or less in sight.
Severus declined to explain anything to Minerva while he summoned Albus. He told her only that he needed to have a discussion with Albus and wanted for her and Poppy to be there to witness it. She looked greatly concerned by that statement – her glances at Harry confirming that she suspected the source of the problem – but she held her questions.
Albus arrived a few minutes later.
Severus turned his back on the old man and mouthed his words silently to Harry. I need to speak with the headmaster. I'm going to go behind the curtain, but I promise that I will not leave you. Do you understand?
Harry nodded mutely.
Severus gripped his shoulder briefly, then stepped away from the bed and flicked his wand to draw a curtain between Harry and the adults.
"Severus, what seems to be the problem?" Albus asked amiably.
"Allow me to enumerate," Severus snarled while Poppy glared at the headmaster and Minerva stood by neutrally, waiting to find out what was happening as well. "Harry has been neglected and abused for the last nine years because you placed him with those foul muggles and did not until now think to so much as check to make sure he was alive!"
Minerva went slightly pale during the course of that. Severus was absolutely certain she was going to need multiple calming draughts by the time she heard the full list of Albus' crimes with respect to Harry.
"Severus," Albus said in that indulgent way that suggested everyone else was overreacting in a very silly manner, "I am glad that you've taken a liking to the boy, but I'm sure you're overstating…"
"Albus!" Poppy interjected, "Did you even read my report on his condition upon arriving here?"
"Of course, I read it," he soothed. "I simply meant that we have no proof as to the source of the abuse, nor are we aware of any possibly extenuating circumstances…"
"Albus, he was beaten, starved, neglected, verbally brutalized, and Merlin knows what else!" Severus all but shouted.
"Severus," Albus cautioned. "I'm certain that Harry is listening…"
His attempt to shame Severus into calming down failed spectacularly.
"Well, that would be rather difficult," Severus sneered, his voice absolutely dripping disdain, "as he is DEAF!"
Albus' eyes grew satisfyingly wide. "He spoke to me quite candidly…" he said somewhat distantly.
"That's because he's been deaf for six years, Albus," Severus growled. "He lost his hearing because those filthy muggles locked him outside for more than five hours on CHRISTMAS, then failed to get him help when he spent the next six months with a severe ear infection! That's right, you sanctimonious old fool! My SON is deaf because of you!" He was only preventing himself from physically attacking the old bastard by the narrowest of margins when Poppy pressed a potion into his hand. She gave another to Minerva.
Severus downed the calming draught without even looking at it and vanished the bottle wandlessly while he continued to stare Albus down.
Minerva seemed too shocked to realize she should drink her potion. Instead, she merely murmured, "Son…"
"That's right," Severus glared at the headmaster. "I remember everything, thanks to your failed attempt to complete your crime by obliviating Harry earlier."
"Failed," Albus said distantly, as though it was the first time he'd ever heard the word used in relation to him and he wasn't quite sure what meaning it could have in that context.
"Failed!" Severus spat again since it seemed so effective.
"Severus, please allow me to explain…" Albus attempted to rally.
"Yes. Do," Severus snarled.
"I had to Obliviate you. It was the only way to protect Lily and Harry…"
"Be that as it may," Severus bit out, since he could accept that, and knew he'd have even agreed to it – after gaining an Unbreakable Vow to remove it when it was safe to do so, "You did not remove it when Voldemort was gone and Harry needed his father!"
"Lily's death nearly destroyed you, Severus," Albus ventured. "And that was when you recalled nothing more than a boyhood friend and unrequited love. I feared that if you remembered your marriage, you could not endure."
"IT WAS NOT YOUR CHOICE TO MAKE!" Severus roared. "Lily's death may have been harder, but I would have endured for the sake of MY SON! THOSE MUGGLES ALMOST KILLED HIM!"
"Dad," a quiet voice intruded.
Severus forcibly bit off his anger and stuffed it behind his shields. He was still feeling it, but he'd stopped wearing it openly. When he felt he didn't look murderous, he snapped open the curtain to face his son. "Yes, Harry?"
The boy gave him a small, worried smile, "Are you okay?"
"Of course, Harry."
The child looked a little doubtful, "I could almost hear what you were saying you were yelling so loud," he said cautiously.
Severus sighed, letting go of some of his anger as he moved to the bed and sat down next to Harry. He put his arm around the boy's shoulders and drew him close without making him face away from the room. Considering Albus was there, he was sure Harry wouldn't be comfortable with that. "We were just discussing some of the headmaster's poorer choices," he explained, leaning away from Harry a little so the boy could see his face.
Harry nodded, "But you're okay?"
Severus leaned down to kiss the top of the boy's head. As long as you're here, Harry, I will always be okay, he mouthed once he'd drawn away. There was no need to tell the whole class exactly how hopelessly in love with his son he now remembered he was.
The boy smiled and nodded.
Severus looked back at Albus wearily. "Now, where were we?" he mused. "Ah yes. Good intentions be damned, Albus, you should have told me. You took my life away from me. You stole from me my wife and my son. I will never forgive you for that oversight. And you tried to take Harry's most prized memories, for which you've lost my trust. Since I believe in your good intentions, I will remain your potions' professor, but if you ever attempt to manipulate myself or Harry magically again, it will be the last time you see either of us. And I promise you that I've already taken precautions to ensure that you don't succeed – even if you could take Harry's memories, which I'm not certain is possible.
"Harry is my son, and he will be treated as such. He will be staying with me. Anything concerning him will go through me. I implore you not to test my resolve. I am quite certain that Harry and I could disappear into the muggle world in a matter of hours and you would never be able to find us there for all your connections in this world."
He stopped speaking and the boy slid closer to his side as he turned his gaze on the headmaster and the witches.
Albus looked like he'd been at the less favorable every-flavor beans as he considered the list of ultimatums. Finally he nodded, "Very well, Severus. I can see that I've wronged you both terribly, and I apologize, though I know it means little. Thank you for your patience with the follies of an old man."
"Albus," Severus sighed wearily, "Just leave before Minerva recovers enough to curse you."
Albus glanced at the witch in question and heeded the advice. "Yes, of course." He looked like he considered saying more, but thought better of it, leaving without another word.
"That was brilliant!" Harry enthused quietly when the door had closed behind Albus. He wrapped his arms around Severus and held him tightly while Severus returned the favor.
Minerva finally realized what she was holding and quaffed it before making her unsteady way closer to the bed and conjuring a chair to sink into. "Let me be sure I'm understanding this correctly," she said after a long moment. "You secretly married Lily during the war. Not James. You had a son with her. Then you faked your death and Albus Obliviated you to keep them safe. When Lily died, Albus failed to remove the obliviation, and sent Harry to live with those awful muggles rather than his own father. Then he obliviated Harry? Or tried to? Why?"
"Because I remembered my dad," Harry said quietly. "He used…" he frowned and leaned back to look at Severus. "What's it called?"
"Legilimency," Severus pronounced slowly and clearly so Harry would get it.
Harry nodded and looked and Minerva again. "He used Legilimency to learn that in my mind when he talked to me earlier. Then he tried to obliviate the memories away, but it didn't work right, and I told my father what the headmaster did. Then he used Legilimency to figure out what happened, but when he saw the memories, then his memories of it got unblocked." He glanced up at Severus, as though for approval of his summation, to which Severus nodded approvingly, earning himself a beaming smile.
Minerva blinked slowly. "Illegal obliviation. Illegal use of Legilimency on a minor. Attempted illegal obliviation of a minor. Kidnapping," she quietly tallied. "And all to the detriment of the Boy-Who-Lived… If this got out, he'd be lynched."
"Boy who lived?" Harry asked uncertainly. "Me?"
Severus blinked as he realized that Harry had no idea he was the most famous wizard in Britain – maybe the world. He sighed and Harry leaned back to see if he'd speak.
"Harry, after your mother died… when Voldemort was destroyed… The wizarding world heard all about the little boy who'd survived the Killing Curse and destroyed the dark lord. They venerated you as their hero. You are very famous."
Harry frowned at the absurdity of that idea. "But I didn't do anything. You and mum did the ritual. That's why I lived right? That ritual?"
Severus nodded, "Yes. That's why you lived. But no one knew that. And your mother was gone. They didn't know about me. You were the only one they had to give credit, and they wanted a hero to celebrate. I'm afraid it's much too late to set the record straight even if we wanted to."
"What ritual?" Minerva interrupted curiously.
"Minerva asked what ritual we're talking about," Severus explained, since Harry hadn't been looking at her. The boy nodded and continued to watch Severus as he explained. "Lily and I had quite a few contingency plans in place should things go wrong. One of them was a ritual. It was an ancient blood ritual that we managed to adapt. We weren't sure if it would work, though clearly it did. Had Voldemort not…" he grimaced faintly, "killed Lily immediately before turning his wand on Harry, it would not have saved either of them. Honestly, it was a last resort. We didn't want to think about either of us dying, but we were prepared to do anything to protect Harry. I'm eternally grateful that it did work, and I know Lily would be as well."
"I miss her," Harry whispered.
"So do I," Severus agreed quietly.
"But I'm glad I have you, dad," he added, hugging Severus again.
Minerva shook her head dazedly and Harry turned his face to watch her without moving his arms. "I'm still adjusting to your paternal side, Severus," she admitted quietly.
Severus snorted quietly, which caused the boy to lean back to watch him again. "Honestly, Minerva, I'm still attempting to align all my varied memories into a recognizable pattern, but there is one thing that is absolute for me right now, and that is how much I love my son."
Harry's eyes became suspiciously moist at hearing that. "I love you too, dad," he said quietly.
The compartment door opened and Harry breathed an internal sigh of relief when Draco poked his head in. "There you are, Harry!" he said dramatically. "I've been looking everywhere for you!" He glanced at the Granger girl as he stepped in and closed the door behind him. "Who's this?"
Harry smiled a little at the girl, "Um, her last name's Granger." He gave her an apologetic look. "You said your first name really fast and I didn't quite catch it," he admitted.
She smiled, not insulted, and said it again.
Harry shook his head and looked at Draco. "Again, I didn't get it."
"Her-my-oh-nee," Draco pronounced slowly.
Harry nodded, "Thanks."
"Granger, huh?" Draco said thoughtfully while Hermione was still trying to figure out what had just happened.
"Draco," Harry said meaningfully.
"What?" Draco asked innocently.
"Hermione's a muggleborn," Harry offered, hoping he wasn't over-pronouncing her name. It was decidedly unusual and it was difficult to lip-read the perfect inflections after only seeing it a couple of times.
Draco smiled, still looking too innocent. "I didn't say a word, Harry."
"Right," Harry smirked ruefully. Draco had had a difficult time dealing with muggleborns when he and Harry had first started spending time together – they were godbrothers, after all – but Harry had been working with him diligently and he was getting used to it.
"I think I'm … …," Hermione said uncertainly.
Harry sighed and shook his head, resigning himself to the inevitable, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Could you talk a little more slowly?"
She blinked at him. "I'm sorry," she said slowly.
"Harry's deaf," Draco supplied baldly, as though he hadn't had a hell of a time getting used to it himself.
"Oh!" Hermione gasped, then looked at Harry and said very slowly, "I'm… so… sorry… I… didn't… realize…"
Draco was laughing, so Harry figured she'd done the typical thing and started shouting at him very slowly. "He's deaf, Granger. It doesn't matter how loud you speak, he can't hear you," but he was careful to keep his face tilted enough toward Harry that his lips were visible.
She blushed, and muttered, "Right."
"It's okay," Harry offered. "I'm really good at reading lips. When I don't know you really well though, it helps if you speak just a little bit more slowly. Like I am now, and don't over-enunciate. That just makes it harder to get used to the way you talk."
She nodded, still a little pink, but beginning to relax. "Okay. I'm sorry. I've never known anyone who was deaf."
"Well, you do now!" Draco said cheerfully.
"How do you two know each other?" she wondered.
"His father's my godfather," Draco explained, exceedingly proud of that fact and hiding it poorly, as always. He'd been thrilled to learn that the Boy-Who-Lived was his godfather's son, and that hadn't changed. Harry didn't hold it against him though, because he believed that Draco honestly liked him as "just Harry" too.
"Oh, that's neat," she mused. "I'm an only child, and I don't have any godbrothers or sisters either. Are you two … … then?"
"You're talking a little fast again," Harry pointed out.
"Sorry!" she said immediately. "You talk completely normally, it's really easy to forget you can't hear me."
Harry shrugged, "I didn't lose my hearing until I was three, and I can still hear a tiny bit. I can hear the tone of my own voice faintly, and I can hear yours if you shout really loud, but I couldn't make out the words unless you were shouting right in my ear."
She nodded, evidently fascinated by his lack of hearing. "I think it's really neat that you can lip-read. So you can eavesdrop on conversations across a room… or through a silencing spell!"
Harry grinned and nodded, "Yeah, and people that can hear fine don't often remember that I can tell what they're saying when they lower their voices. You wouldn't believe how often grownups swear under their breath in front of kids."
She giggled at that.
Draco sighed dramatically, never a fan of being left out of a conversation. "Yes, Harry and I are very close."
"Draco," Harry smirked and waited for the blond to focus on him. "Your Malfoy is showing."
The blond sneered at that. He always got annoyed when Harry used that expression to denote his being a pompous arse, but Harry had met Lucius. He thought it was fitting, even if he thought the elder Malfoy was an okay sort.
"Malfoy is his surname," Harry explained for Hermione, who looked confused. "He comes from one of the ancient and aristocratic – sorry, noble – wizarding families. It means he was raised to think he's better than everyone and should always be the center of everything."
"That is not what it means to be from an ancient and noble family, Snape!" Draco scowled. "Not that you could understand it…"
Harry just snickered at him. They'd gotten past any sensitivity about Harry's abuse with the Dursleys. He looked at Hermione conspiratorially, "Did I mention he's touchy about it?"
She giggled a bit again.
Draco heaved a put-upon sigh and focused on Hermione again. "So have you read ahead in potions at all?"
"Oh yes, I've read through all my course books-"
"Good," Draco interrupted before she could get into full rant mode – thankfully. "You'll want to keep ahead in potions. The teacher is really strict- Hey!" he ended in a yelp when Harry launched a very mild stinging hex at him. "He is strict!"
"You don't have to make him sound scary, Draco," Harry chastised.
"He is scary, Harry."
The raven-haired boy just rolled his eyes and explained to Hermione, "The potions teacher is Professor Snape. My dad."
"Oh," she nodded. "It must be kind of neat to have your parent as a teacher."
"I'm glad that I get to see him all year," Harry nodded.
Draco snorted inelegantly, "Yes, Harry. But just wait until you have to deal with your father when you get caught copying my essays."
Hermione looked scandalized, which made Harry laugh while he threw another hex at his godbrother. "You ponce!" he grinned. "Much more likely we'll be getting in trouble for you copying me!"
"Malfoys do not copy anyone's work," Draco said haughtily.
"Really," Harry deadpanned. "That's not what my dad said about your father's school days."
Draco drew his wand and Harry quickly blocked the stinging hex sent at him. "Mind your tongue about my father, Snape. Don't forget that my father could get your dad fired in less than a day."
Harry just grinned evilly in return, "And don't you forget, Draco, that my dad knows how to brew untraceable poison."
They both broke down laughing at that. The My-Father-Is-Better-Than-Your-Father game was one they'd been playing as long as they'd known each other. It had started out with serious arguments and degenerated into a game.
Hermione looked like she didn't know if she should be laughing or concerned by the conversation, and the exchange of hexes.
"Sorry, Hermione," he offered. "It's kind of an old joke. Let's talk about something we can all relate to. You said you've read all your course books."
She nodded enthusiastically.
"Now," Harry smirked, "in words slow enough that I can understand them, what do you think of our classes?"
She blushed a little at being so predictable, and they quickly devolved into a discussion of their classes. Thanks to their fathers, they'd both read all the course books as well. Harry had actually read through the third year books, and a lot of other material as well, since he'd spent more than a year at Hogwarts thus far and his father was quite the academic.
Hermione seemed nice enough for such an obvious Ravenclaw, and Harry was quickly getting used to the way she talked, so he had little trouble understanding even as she began to speak faster. He knew that his father worried for him starting school with his hearing problem, but Harry knew he was ready. Between Father and Draco, they helped him to get the incantations down, and he already knew he was good at silent spells with some of the simpler things like the light stinging hex.
Honestly, his only concern for the coming year was the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing, but he was sure he'd manage between having Draco as a best friend and the scariest teacher in the school as his dad.
He could hardly wait to get started.
Author's Note: Okay, first off, the medical stuff. I have no idea how accurate that is. It's just conjecture and supposition on my part, so if you're a medical professional, just assume that Harry's magic and a possibly magical illness complicated the entire thing until it makes sense as I've written it.
Additionally, I realize that this is wide open for a sequel, but I don't know if I'll ever get around to writing one. If, however, you would like to write a sequel or sequels based on this, please let me know so I can add a note directing readers to it. And because I want to read it.
[Edited: 21 May 2014]
Please don't forget to review. Even if it's been years since the story was posted, I still read every review, and they may even inspire me to write that sequel some day!