Chapter Three - Uncovering the Lie
Harry looked at the room - his room - and knew that he shouldn't be happy about it, but he was. The Dursleys had said, "You're going to sleep here." That wasn't the same as someone telling him "This is your room." The fact that it had been Sna - Severus saying that was a bit odd because it seemed out of character for the man. The room itself wasn't special. It was obvious, despite the spells that he'd used, that it hadn't been used in a long time. The spells had taken out some of the old and musty smells that he could have sworn he smelled. The bed was obviously old and disused, but so was the one that Harry had currently slept on over at the Dursleys. It didn't bother him at all.
It was HIS room.
They stood there in silence. The awkwardness was palpable. What were they even supposed to say to each other? Harry's mind was still reeling. First of all, to find out that Severus was his father, and then… well, to say the other man had acted a bit oddly was putting it mildly. He had been so sure that he would just put him in a room and tell him to stay there, or at least just leave him be and ignore him. He was doing nothing of the sort. He had come back; he had pointed out twice that he wasn't going to ignore him… It was a lot to take in.
Severus spoke again. "Do you want to play chess?"
Harry looked at him, kind of shocked at what he had even suggested. Chess? "Er, yeah, sure." What else were they supposed to do? Stare at each other? Oh, yeah, that would work out so much better than what they were already doing which was standing with a good distance between them, speaking in short sentences and not looking at each other. That was no way to go about things; even he knew that.
Severus nodded, and Harry followed him back into the living room. The older man waved his wand, and a wizarding chess board appeared on the table. He waved his wand again and moved the chair so that he was across from the couch. Harry only noticed then that both letters had been covered up. He gestured to them. "Do you mind if I -?" Severus shook his head, and the young man pulled them out from underneath the chess board, letters, envelopes and all.
Harry set aside his own letter, before grabbing the one addressed to Severus. The letter addressed to him was only one page, instead of two, but the handwriting was clearly the same. There was also the same letter from the goblin from Gringotts.
I sincerely hope that I have already told you the truth, and if not, you must know that I never meant to hurt you.
I know that you remember our night together, but you must know that we conceived a son that night. I admit that I felt ashamed that I cheated on James and that I had not given birth to his son and that I hid it. I have disguised Harry with a complicated glamour set to fail on his fifteenth birthday. That is why I have sent this letter to you, and a letter to him as well.
James and I named him Harry James Potter, but the truth is that he is your son.
I cannot apologize enough for this, and if this is taking you by surprise, it means that I did not survive or have chosen not to tell Harry and James the truth. I hope that James is still alive, but regardless of who is raising Harry, please know that I never meant to hurt you. I am already, as I write this, planning on telling you and James the truth when the war is over and removing the glamour I put on. If I didn't, then I have hurt all of you terribly.
If James and I have both died, then Harry is probably feeling very hurt and confused. Please be a part of his life, if anything do it for the friendship we once shared. I never meant for this lie to go so far, or to hide our son from you… but he is our son, and he deserves to have his father - his real father - in his life. Also, if I am dead, then I never told you, and for that, I cannot apologize to either of you enough for what I have done.
Harry couldn't imagine what he had gone through reading that, finding out that a boy you had hated for the past four years was your son. It wasn't until he looked up that he noticed Severus had been reading the letter his mother had written for him. He gave a sigh, and around that time, the older man looked up from the letter and handed it back. He tried to hand him his own letter, but he simply put a hand to stop him.
"I do not need it," he told him simply. "What is says is quite evident. I do not need to keep it."
"Do you mind… I mean, do you mind if I keep it?" Harry asked. Severus gestured that it was okay, and Harry set all the parchment and envelopes aside. It was then that he heard a growling from his stomach, and realized that he hadn't eaten all day. "Er, I might be… getting a bit hungry now. Sorry."
Severus just nodded and got up. Harry sat there for a second before following him into the kitchen. It was just as worn down as the rest of the house. It was truly a horrible house, even for someone who didn't live there very often. He wondered why Severus even put up with it. They ate in silence before going back out to the living room.
Harry took a seat on the couch in front of the chess board, and Severus took a seat opposite from him. "Just so you know, I really only play with Ron," he said, "and I'm not very good."
"Just because you lose to Mr. Weasley does not mean that you are incompetent when it comes to chess," Severus told him as they began to play. "Besides, if you do not wish to continue, we do not have to."
He shrugged. "No, I don't mind. I like chess. It's just… I lose."
"Everyone loses occasionally."
"I don't suppose you do."
A smirk crossed Severus's face. "It depends on who you are speaking of as my opponent," he said. "For instance, I lose to the headmaster, but then again, he has many years on me."
"Do you lose to anyone else but him?"
"Occasionally." Harry met Severus's eyes above the chess board. "Years of experience."
Harry nodded. He actually thought he was doing quite well for a while, and managed to take a few of the older man's pieces. However, that faded as the game went on. By the time it was over, he just leaned back and groaned. "Just like when I play Ron."
"You are not bad, actually," Severus admitted. "However, your issues come in the second half of the game, when things get more challenging. Your strategy fails, and you start being reckless." The shocked look must have shown on Harry's face because he continued speaking. "I don't suppose Mister Weasley or anyone else has ever told you this." Harry shook his head. "Well, now that you know you might be able to work on improving if that is something you wish to do."
Harry wasn't sure. He wasn't as big of a fan of chess as Ron was, but he was a competitive person. The desire to get better and actually beat someone for a change was very enticing.
"Do you wish to play again?" Severus asked.
Harry nodded. "Sure." The second game began, and Harry finally broached something that had been at the back of his mind. "You knew as soon as you saw me that it was me and that the letter wasn't fake."
Severus nodded. "I did," he said, "aside from recognizing her handwriting. I thought it was some sort of cruel joke until I saw Black and Dumbledore with you." He looked up at Harry from the chessboard. "I saw myself, and your mother as well. Your eyes are also, as they say, a dead give away. It was a bit… overwhelming to say the least."
Harry nodded. It was nice to have more of her when he looked in the mirror - not that he had been able to look in the mirror since last night when he had read the letter. He knew he would have to at some point in time. He couldn't avoid it forever. Besides, he'd never backed away from a challenge before. He wasn't about to start now.
The two played in silence for a while. It seemed that neither of them knew what to say to each other. That was understandable, though, seeing as how they were basically complete strangers despite the fact that they'd known each other for four years now. It was obvious that that they didn't, though. For instance, Harry would never have expected Severus Snape to even be trying to be a father. He had been so sure, yet he was. In his own way, he was trying, and he didn't even like him, and that was putting it mildly!
"Have you given any thought to what you're going to tell your aunt and uncle? Or Mister Weasley and Miss Granger?" Severus asked, bringing Harry out of his stupor.
"Well, the Dursleys aren't going to care," Harry said. "In fact, I'll be happy if I never have to go back there again, and I know they would too." The second question gave him a bit of pause, though. What was he going to tell Ron and Hermione? "As for Ron and Hermione, I guess it's not so much of what I'm going to tell them, but how. I mean, besides, they're coming over expecting to see Harry, and they know that's me. It's not going to be easy to explain." He paused for a bit before continuing. "I mean, what if they don't…" He couldn't even say it. What if they didn't accept the truth?
"I am not an expert in such matters, but I do believe that if they don't accept you as you are, then they were never truly your friends to begin with."
Harry looked up at Severus. It was hard, but he had to admit that Severus had a point. That wouldn't be an issue, though. This was Ron and Hermione, and even though Ron had abandoned him for a bit last year, he would be okay. This was different. He nodded. "I'm sure they will."
"Indeed," Severus said as they continued playing in silence again.
As expected, Severus beat him - again. "I am never going to beat you, am I?" Harry asked.
Severus shrugged. "There is no way to know that."
"Well, I lose to Ron, what's one more person."
"That's probably not the best way of thinking about it if you ask me," Severus said. Harry shrugged. "Chess is all about strategy, thinking many moves ahead and being able to adapt your strategy when your opponent decides to change things on you. It's not something that most people can do without much practice. Your friend is what they call a prodigy in the game." He looked at him. "If you do not wish to play again, we-"
"No, let's do it," Harry said, figuring they had nothing else to do. "If you don't have anything better to do."
"I do not." Severus reset the game.
"Do you mind if we eat first?" Harry asked since he was getting rather hungry. It had been a while since lunch. Severus nodded and made them something before they went back to their third game. "So, who taught you how to play?" Harry asked out of curiousity part way through the game. He expected to hear one of his parents.
"Lucius Malfoy did, actually," Severus admitted.
That was not what Harry had expected him to say. He raised an eyebrow. "Really? That's interesting."
Severus nodded. "Quite," he said. "He was four years above me in school."
They played for a bit longer, but as dinner time neared, Severus said that he had some work to do down in his lab. He almost just went straight down without telling Harry another word but turned back to tell him to knock on the door if he needed something. He also told Harry he could read anything if he wanted to before going down to his lab. Harry appreciated that he was trying not to act like he was abandoning him like he had this morning.
Harry just nodded, remembering that he had spent most of the time he had been gone brooding. He walked around for a bit, before going to put his trunk in his room. He let Hedwig out. He looked through his school books again, his mind wandering as he wondered how life was going to be different now. Dumbledore said they had things to figure out when he came over for lunch, but how was he supposed to do this? Be someone else? How was he going to fool everyone?
Severus found himself quite distracted. He had parted ways with Harry after the last chess match. Harry's reluctance to ever go back to his relative's house, combined with being happy to have a room seemed to say quite a lot about where he lived. It was a bit worrisome if he was honest with himself. He had wanted to ask about it, but again, didn't feel as if it was the right time. When that time came, he would be questioning the boy over his feelings about his aunt and uncle's house. Now was not the time.
Severus had gone down to his lab, nearly forgetting about Harry, so he told him to knock on the door if he needed him. Due to the delicate nature of the potions lab, he really didn't want the boy down there. Besides, he was rather atrocious at potions and might end up blowing the house up because he accidentally contaminated the lab by touching the wrong ingredient.
Severus started brewing a paternity potion. It wasn't that he didn't trust the letters - or his own eyes for that matter - but he wanted to see it for himself. He wasn't planning on telling Harry about this because he wouldn't understand his reasoning. The boy seemed to have been through enough already. The paternity potion wouldn't be ready until later on that night, so he was working on a couple of other potions as well. He came back up for dinner before going back down to his lab again.
When Severus came back upstairs again, Harry was already asleep. He needed a piece of hair for the paternity potion, so he walked towards his room. The closer he got, he heard moans and words coming from the room. Listening more closely, he could make out 'Cedric' and 'don't kill him.' Part of him said that he should just leave it be, but he knew better than anyone else about nightmares. After what he'd been through, it was only understandable. He wasn't sure why it surprised him nonetheless.
He slowly opened up the bedroom door, and sure enough, there was Harry, in the middle of a nightmare. It was conflicting feeling. It was his son though in truth they didn't seem to really know each other at all. He has based all of his feelings on the boy based on who Harry's father was - on who he thought his father was. None of that was relevant now, of course. He wasn't sure what it was he was supposed to be feeling now, and that wasn't something he was used to.
Severus hesitantly walked into the room. He sat on the side of the bed, and reached out a hand and touched his shoulder. He hadn't touched Harry at all since he had come here this morning, and in fact, they had barely gotten within a few feet of each other. Harry immediately started to fight him, his touch obviously something different in his dream. He reached out another hand and tried to shake the boy awake as gently as he could. "It's me," he said. "It's me."
Harry slowly came out of his dream. "What, what happened…" he said sleepily.
"You were having a nightmare."
"I'm sorry I woke you up." Harry moved over, closer to the wall, trying to get away from him.
Severus tried not to take that as an insult since they were both in new territory. He watched as the boy curled up into a ball. "How often have you had them?"
Harry shrugged. "Just occasionally," he told them, "but since that night when Voldemort came back… every night." He almost seemed ashamed, which Severus didn't understand.
"I have something that might help." Severus went down to his lab and got some Dreamless Sleep. Having nightmares every night was more than anyone should have to deal with. Even he didn't have to deal with that. He brought it back up and handed it to Harry. "Don't take all of it, only a sip. You can't take it every night, either."
"Because it's addictive," Severus said simply. "Most basic forms for Dreamless Sleep and Sleeping Potions are addictive on some level. Mine is designed to be less so, but nonetheless, the effects can be addictive." He paused for a moment before continuing. "You should be careful with it."
Severus nodded. Harry took it and immediately drifted off. Part of him was sure that he would wake up tomorrow and find out this had all been a dream. He wasn't sure if he would be relieved or disappointed. He'd never wanted children. In fact, he didn't even like kids, and now he found himself a father to none other than Harry Potter. It was enough to make anyone's head spin. He looked down at the boy's sleeping form and could see the resemblances to him and Lily, how they perfectly melded to make one person - their son.
Severus concentrated on what he had to do, though. He had come up here for a reason. He reached out, his movements a bit slow and cautious and carefully plucked a hair from Harry's head. Harry stirred a bit but did not wake from his Dreamless Sleep-induced slumber. He carefully got up from the bed and closed the door behind him as he left. Going back down his lab, he examined the potion. It had sat for the proper amount of time and was the perfect shade of grey.
Severus carefully dropped the hair into the small cauldron he had used for it. For a moment, nothing happened, and then slowly the potion's color changed from grey to a bright shade of blue. He wasn't surprised that it came out positive, but nonetheless, he did feel better to actually see it himself. He would not, however, mention this to Harry - ever.
The next morning, Severus got up and started making breakfast before Harry awoke. When it was nearly complete, Harry finally stumbled in. "Coffee?"
Harry looked at him sleepily. "I can have some?"
"Of course." Severus wondered why he needed to ask in the first place.
Harry shrugged and then got a cup before sitting down at the table. They ate in silence for a while, before Harry spoke. "So, you and my mum were friends?"
Severus looked up. He was about to tell him not to worry about what didn't pertain to him, but then it occurred to him that it did pertain to him. After all, it was only natural that he would be curious about his parents. "Yes, we were," he admitted. "She grew up not far from here. We met as children before Hogwarts."
Harry nodded, a bit shocked. "I didn't know that."
"No, I don't imagine you would have," Severus said. "We stayed friends throughout most of our years at Hogwarts, despite the fact that her fellow Gryffindors were none too pleased about that. We were… very close."
"Something happened, though, right?" Harry asked. "I mean, the letters were pretty clear that something happened between the two of you, and you stopped being friends."
Severus didn't meet Harry's eyes. How was he supposed to tell him the truth of what really happened? "It's complicated," he said, but he could immediately see the boy retreating again. A sigh escaped his lips. "Towards the end of our fifth year, I said something that… I deeply regretted afterward that I do not want to repeat. She never forgave me, and I do not blame her. Our friendship had been strained before that, due to some choices I was making."
Harry nodded, and Severus had to be glad that at least the boy already knew he was a Death Eater, so he didn't have to explain what Lily meant when she said that he had made "bad choices," which was putting it mildly if he was honest with himself.
After breakfast, they played another couple games of chess, where of course, Harry lost yet again. They were eating lunch when there was a knock at the door.
"Finally," Severus muttered and got up to allow the Headmaster entry.
"Good afternoon, Severus, Harry," Dumbledore greeted pleasantly. "Ah, eating lunch, I see. Don't mind me." The two continued eating. "So, how are things?" They both glared at him. "Now now, both of you, if you would refrain from doing that while I'm here." They decided to cut lunch short.
The trio moved into the living room. Severus sat on the couch with Harry, while Dumbledore took the chair. He took some parchment out of his lavender robes and set them on the table. He then pulled out a long, eagle-feathered quill.
"So, where shall we start?" Dumbledore asked. "Ah, yes, what about with a name? Do either of you have any suggestions?" They both glared at him. "Both of you stop that, right now. Glaring at me isn't going to get either of you anywhere."
Severus leaned forward, took the quill from Dumbledore's hand and wrote down a few suggestions before passing it to Harry. The boy groaned, wrote down a few names of his own, and then it was passed to Dumbledore yet again. Dumbledore added a few himself. Severus crossed out a few. It went like this for a while before it was passed to Harry yet again, crossed out a few. Severus took it and looked at the names left. He then wrote a name down at the bottom before passing it back to Harry. There was one single name suggestion left. Harry nodded, and Severus passed it to Dumbledore.
"Jacob Alexander Snape it is," Dumbledore announced, making a note on another sheet of parchment.
Severus glanced over at Harry, who had become quiet yet again. They had talked more since he had arrived here yesterday morning - had it really been just yesterday? - but he supposed that was different than designing his new life. Dumbledore's nonchalance about the whole thing wasn't helping, either. It made him want to hex the old man into next week.
"So, where do we go next?" Dumbledore asked. "Ah, yes! Schooling - where were you before? Obviously, you were not at Hogwarts. Homeschooling?"
Severus shook his head. "No, I think it's best if we stick to versions of the truth," he said. "There's a smaller school in Ireland. He went there."
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, good idea, Severus. So, Harry, you went to the Ireland School of Magic."
Harry furrowed his confusion. "Wait, there's a school in Ireland?"
"Of course. There are only twelve major magical schools in the world, but there are many small ones, typically ones created locally to avoid major travel," the old man explained. "However, sometimes, it's just so the people in a particular country can have their own school in case parents wish to keep their children closer to home. Some places also have their own unique magical history, and start their own magical school to continue with that tradition."
Harry nodded, and Severus wondered if that would leave him even more confused. "I doubt anyone at Hogwarts has been there, not even the teachers," he pointed out. "So, you shouldn't have to worry about it. Most will not even have heard of it."
Harry glanced over at him and nodded. "So, what's next?"
"The subject of your past," Dumbledore said, "or shall I say Jacob's past. Were you raised by your mother? Did you and your father have contact over the past fifteen years at all? I -"
"No," Severus said flatly. "He was not raised by his mother, and I said before, I believe a version of the truth is wisest. He should have been raised by someone else other than her, and not remember his mother, whoever we say that is. He should also not have known me until recently. That will raise too many questions that I cannot answer."
"Selene Vorchester," Dumbledore said. "She is my suggestion for the name. The family itself is pureblood, and they disappeared sometime ago. They're little known, but it might make things easier for you, as well. Besides, as far as anyone is aware, they were wiped out."
Severus nodded. "I also suggest the story of your conception stays the same as well," he told Harry. There was no reason to pretend that the boy wasn't there. This involved him. "The best lies are those that are simple and easier to remember. You will get fewer questions, and they'll be easier for you to answer."
Harry nodded. "So, who raised me, then?" he asked. "Saying that it was my aunt and uncle, which is the truth, would be too suspicious? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but we can't have too many similarities to… well, me."
"Very astute," Dumbledore agreed. "You are quite right… so then? Some distant relative? A cousin perhaps?"
"Yes, an elderly distant cousin," Severus said. "She recently passed away. If we also stick to the truth - that his mother knew of my ties to the Death Eaters and didn't trust me to have any contact with my son - then she gave him to her cousin to raise when she died. He was young, so he doesn't remember her. Then, when the cousin was dying, she had no choice but to tell both of us the truth. We don't need explanations, I think, as to why he has my last name or anything of the short… They're both dead, and his mother - who made the decisions - has been dead for a long time. If there is anything that we don't know, we can leave it open-ended and simply say that we don't know because she didn't tell anyone."
Dumbledore nodded, making some scribbles on his parchment. "Any particular name for this cousin?" They shook their heads. "Valerie Daleman it is, then. The name is from no one, so you should not receive any questions. Next, I believe, is your birthday, Harry."
Harry groaned. "Of course, I have to change even the day of my birth. It's not as if Jacob Snape and Harry Potter can have the same birthday though many people do."
"It would be too suspicious," Dumbledore says. "We need as few similarities as possible. Do you have a preference as to a date?"
Harry seemed to think about it for a second. Severus fully expected to hear him say no, and shrug it off. His response, therefore, surprised him. "June twenty-second."
Both men stared at him. "Any particular reason?" Severus asked.
Harry looked over at him. "That's the date I started to notice changes," he explained. "Hermione noticed, too. That next week, I noticed that my hair was lying a bit flatter, my fingers were longer, and I was a bit taller, too. It all sort of… fell into place, when the spell completely disappeared the night before last."
"June twenty-second, 1980, it is then," Dumbledore said, making another scribble. I believe I have everything I need. I will make the necessary documents, make sure that they are in the proper places. I will send you the copies that you will need. I have a contact or two at the Ministry that I can trust to put the papers in. I will make the proper excuses so that no one suspects anything. I will make sure your name is at the proper places at Hogwarts as well, along with a letter from your mother, dated long ago, saying she wishes you not to attend. No one will question it. You should receive your Hogwarts letter soon along with everyone else attending."
"How are we going to sort him?" Severus asked. He saw Harry glance over at him, before looking back at Dumbledore.
"I think a public sorting will be best," Dumbledore said. "That way, there can be no arguments about what house he is supposed to be in."
Severus groaned and then leveled Dumbledore with a glare. "Really, so my son sorted into Gryffindor isn't going to raise eyebrows?"
"He already is," Harry said.
"That's not my point."
"Severus, a public sorting is the best option," Dumbledore said. "Everyone else is sorted publicly, after all. There should be no difference in this situation."
"Except I've already gone through it," Harry said. "And actually, the hat wanted to put me in Slytherin. I heard from Hagrid that all Slytherins were evil, so I told it no."
That was something that Severus had never known before. Was the boy implying that the hat would use this opportunity to put him back where it always thought he belonged? Lily was a Gryffindor, after all, but for the purposes of this charade, it would be easier for him to be a Slytherin.
"What do I say about friends?" Harry asked, changing the subject before Severus had a chance to reply. "Teachers? People I used to know?"
"I think it's best if you say as little as possible, but when you do need to say something, answer simply," Severus suggested. "As for friends, it's best if you say were a loner. Being my son, no one will question that, and therefore, you do not have to fake letters from friends or give a reason as to why you are not speaking to them any more."
"Your father is right," Dumbledore agreed. "I think I have what I need. If I need more, I will be in contact."
"Speaking of friends," Harry said, "do you know about Ron and Hermione?" Dumbledore averted his gaze as he gathered up his pieces of parchment. "I haven't heard a word from them all summer. Is everything alright?"
"I'm sure they are fine," Dumbledore said. "I'm sure they have their reasons. Perhaps they were busy -"
"There's no reason not to write me," Harry said. "Why would they do something like this? Do you know something? What's going on?"
"Trust me when I say that everything is fine -"
"Why haven't they been writing to me?"
Dumbledore got up and headed for the door. "I did what I thought was for the best," he said. "I will let them contact you in due time." With that, he walked out the door, and he was gone.
Severus could tell that Harry was frustrated, and he didn't blame him. "My first piece of fatherly advice, and take it from what you will," he told him. "Don't trust anyone and take everything you're told with a grain of salt, especially if it comes from Albus Dumbledore."
With that, Severus walked into the kitchen, because after that, he really needed a drink. After quickly downing his drink, he came back out to the living room to find Harry still sitting there, looking thoroughly confused at his words. Harry didn't seem to notice that he'd walked back in, and said, "What in the world is that supposed to mean?"
"You'll figure it out," Severus said, and Harry looked up at him, finally noticing that he'd walked back in the room. "I wouldn't expect anything less from Lily and my's son." Harry blinked at him, before nodding, but he didn't say a word.