Sequel to Mine
"Ah, there's Mother Duck," Ali said with a chuckle. "But only two little ducks came back," he sang under his breath.
"You're weird," Freddy Thomas stated, rolling his eyes. He glanced out the window Ali was looking through and laughed despite himself. "Although you have a point."
A few others at the homework table peered out and began chuckling. Down in the forecourt soon-to-be Professor Snape was striding along, cape billowing, and behind him his two little caped shadows scampered and capered to keep up.
"Wonder what sort of Professor he'll make," Charlie Weasley said, head propped dreamily on his hands.
"He'll have to be better than Dastardly Dolly," a fourth year girl named Nancy piped up.
Bill Weasley nudged her. "You keep telling yourself that, girl," he teased and she snickered. "I heard he rousted a couple of First Years outside the dungeons the other day for making too much noise. Had Lawson's sister crying."
"Lawson's sister cries if someone frowns in the next room," Freddy snorted. "She's wet as a whale sandwich."
"All the same, it seems strange," Charlie went on thoughtfully. "I mean, Harry Potter's been this legend like, as long as I can remember, right?"
The others nodded.
"And then one day he's just this snot-nosed kid playing in the snow. It's weird."
Nancy shrugged. "I don't see what's so weird about it. He's a real person, isn't he? Did you think he wasn't?"
"Yeah, I know he's real," Charlie went on. "What I'm saying is that he's been in safe hiding for years and years and now he suddenly appears at Hogwarts calling this Snape fellow 'daddy'? That is weird."
"Yeah, and when did Harry Potter become Harry Snape anyway?"
"You've seen the scar," Bill reminded his younger brother. "D'you think it's fake?"
"Nah." Charlie waved a hand. "I think the scar's real enough. It's the daddy who's fake."
Others at the table who'd ignored the conversation up until then leaned forward.
"What d'you mean?" one of Charlie's classmates asked breathlessly.
"Isn't it obvious? Look, our dad works at the Ministry, right? Well he said the Ministry's been looking for Harry Potter since the night You-Know-Who went and got himself blowed up. Or whatever."
Gryffindors the length of the table shifted uncomfortably.
"So suddenly Harry Potter appears with this convenient father in tow. And the Ministry can't touch him."
"Yeah, but who'd come up with a lie like that?"
"Who else?" Charlie said significantly. "Dumbledore."
"Yeah," Freddy said thoughtfully. "Dumbledore'd do anything to protect Harry Potter. Even tell the world a whopper like this."
"Our mum knew the Potters," Bill said, still looking out the window. "I remember her saying how devoted they were to each other. So how could this Snape guy be Harry Potter's father?"
"If he isn't then why would Dumbledore say he was?" Nancy protested. "I mean, doesn't that suggest it's this Snape character telling all the lies? He looks a right evil git."
"Dumbledore'd see through that in an instant," Freddy said confidently. "Nah, he's in on it."
"Snape's like James Potter's second cousin or something," Charlie confided. "Dad told me when I wrote."
"Well, I've only been in the wizarding world two years," the second form girl volunteered. "And so far it seems like every bloody body is second cousins. Which actually explains a lot," she finished under her breath and then ducked as quills and parchment flew at her head down the length of the table.
"Seems to me this is too big a lie even for Dumbledore," Charlie said thoughtfully. "I mean, if the Ministry want to find out the truth, they will."
"Dumbledore is the greatest wizard of our age," Freddy reminded him, chucking a Chocolate Frog card with the headmaster's image on it at Charlie's head as a reminder. "If he's cast a spell so people will think this Snape bloke is Harry Potter's father, they'll believe it."
"I'm not so sure," Charlie said doubtfully.
"You don't think they'd take him away, do you?" Nancy said, her eyes darting to the small figures running on the grass. The others looked at her and she shrugged a little self consciously. "I mean, he seems happy enough, right? It seems kind of cruel to think of taking him away from his dad."
"It's the Ministry for Magic," Charlie said soberly. "They can do whatever they like. Right?"
Snape had one eye on his mail and one on Harry over the breakfast table. Every Saturday morning it was the same; they suffered an hour of bad humour from the five year old as he came to terms with Neville going home for the weekend. At least it was better than Friday night, Snape mused to himself, absently scanning a sale brochure from Albion's Apothecary. After seeing Neville off to his Gran's after school on Friday the little boy usually sulked right through dinner and went to bed in a funk.
Fervently hoping that Harry would grow used to the routine eventually Snape attempted to lighten the mood. "What should we do today? I have the morning free."
Harry shrugged and chewed disconsolately at his cold toast.
"Didn't you want to collect some interesting rocks for your Science Table at school?" Snape prompted, willing himself to remain patient.
"How will Neville get rocks?" Harry asked suddenly. "He said his Gran doesn't like him going outside."
"Perhaps we can get enough for both of you?"
A letter caught his eye and he frowned as he scanned it, getting to the bottom before going back to the beginning and reading it again.
"Severus," it began baldly. "As you are no doubt aware my boys Charlie and Billy are playing in a Quidditch match next Saturday."
Snape wondered why she would assume he would be aware of any such thing. Or even care for that matter.
"I am writing to invite Harry Potter and young Neville to come and eat with us at the Gryffindor table after watching the match."
Having completely failed to notice a match was being held Snape had to also why wonder she should assume Harry would be attending.
"I am bringing my youngest boy, Ronnie, who has just turned six, to watch his big brothers play. He and your boys will be good company together I'm sure."
"My boys?" Snape read incredulously.
Harry was looking at him curiously and Snape realised he had spoken aloud. He folded the letter and laid it on the table.
"Harry," he began thoughtfully. "How would you like to watch a Quidditch practice today?"
The child looked blank. "What's Quidditch?"
Snape frowned. "Hasn't Neville mentioned it to you?"
"Uh uh," Harry shook his head emphatically. "What is it?"
"It's a wizard sport, played on broomsticks."
Harry's eyes widened and brightened. "The flying children?" he breathed. "We watch them from class sometimes, flying around. Are they playing a game then?"
"Sometimes. If you're interested we can watch their practice today. If you're not interested we'll go rock hunting."
And if you lose interest I'll have a reasonable excuse to turn down Molly Weasley's offer, Snape thought to himself.
Harry stuffed the rest of his soggy toast in his mouth and downed his milk with a gulp. "I'm interested," he assured his father thickly. "I'll get my boots on."
"And your cape and gloves and hat," Snape called after him. "The snow may be gone but that northern wind's still got a bite to it."
Harry's eyes were like saucers as they climbed to the lowest tier in the stands and he immediately ran to the guard rail and peered through. "Look!" he shouted. "Flying!"
"Sit down, Harry," Snape ordered sharply and Harry backed up and shuffled onto a seat, never taking his eyes off the team that circled around the pitch, practicing their tight formations.
"Wow," Harry breathed, head craning to see everything.
So much for not being interested.
"Why do they have bats, daddy? And what are those things flying around? And why are there three big round hoops up there?"
Snape patiently began to explain the rules of Quidditch to his son, only realising as he went through them how complex the game must seem to an outsider. It was probably all too complex for someone Harry's age, Snape thought. The boy seemed to be taking it all in though, nodding his head thoughtfully and even asking pertinent questions. Snape found himself quite proud of his quick grasp.
"Being the Seeker sounds most exciting," Harry declared. "He pointed to the smallest figure on the broomsticks, flying solo high above the others. "Is that the Seeker, daddy?"
Recognising the flare of red hair even if Harry didn't, Snape nodded. He supposed he would have to bow to the inevitable and expose Harry to the tribe Weasley. Unless he conveniently forgot to mention the actual game to Harry...
"Why are they stopping?" Harry asked in disappointment.
Snape followed his gaze. "Their Team Captain is advising them on strategy, Harry." Harry tilted his head curiously and his father explained. "A plan to win the game. They'll begin again in a few minutes."
"Oh." Harry kicked the chair legs while he waited, then climbed to his knees and peered up the stands behind him, then leaned over and peeked under the seat.
"Do stop fidgeting, Harry." Snape helped him back into an upright position, dusting off the knees of his trousers which were already covered with grime. "Try to learn a little patience. Sometimes in life one must simply wait."
"Yes, daddy," Harry said obediently, sitting back in his chair. He studied his father for a moment and then carefully copied his pose, hands resting on his thighs, back straight, legs crossed at the ankles. They sat for a small while in silence.
"In Muggle stories and things, well, witches ride brooms, but wizards don't."
"Is that so?"
"Uh huh. I mean, yes," Harry corrected himself, and Snape nodded to acknowledge the attempt at correct speech. "But you know what else?"
"Wizards have wands but witches don't." Harry frowned. "At least I don't think they do."
"It just shows you what Muggles know," Snape sniffed disdainfully.
"They think magic's all pertend, don't they daddy? Aunt Petunia used to say..." Harry trailed off and shifted guiltily in his seat.
Recalling the boy's confidence to Neville a few weeks before Snape decided the time was right to correct a wrong impression.
"I don't mind you mentioning your Muggle relatives, Harry," he said, trying to keep it casual. "I know it might seem as if I do. But you must understand, I'm not angry at you. I'm just angry at the way they treated you."
Harry shrugged, managing to convey with the wordless gesture that angry was angry and he didn't much like it.
"I'll try to control my temper in future," Snape promised and Harry shrugged again.
"I don't like to 'member them much," the boy admitted. "I forget them mostly. I can't hardly remember what they all looked like now, unless I think really hard."
"I'm glad," Snape murmured, but Harry didn't hear him, the team had taken to their brooms again and Harry jumped off his seat in his excitement and was hanging onto the railing and waving at the players. A rider skimmed the stands and Harry shrieked ear splittingly as he recognised his friend.
"Hey, nipper," Charlie grinned, skimming slowly by and then doing a tight turn and skimming back.
"Ooh, Charlie, you can fly a broom! You're so lucky!"
"Not luck, squirt," Charlie grinned with a wink. "That's pure talent. Come down and talk to us after practice, all right?"
"All right!" Harry nodded enthusiastically. "Daddy! My friend Charlie likes dragons and can ride a broom!"
Harry sighed with open adoration and Snape settled back into his seat, resigning himself to many many years watching matches in these drafty old stands.
Harry was speechless with admiration as the players landed and sauntered over to where they waited. Charlie ruffled the boy's hair and introduced a few players, including his big brother, Bill.
"You look awfully smart in your uniforms," Harry said, gazing at the leather accoutrements in admiration.
"Did you get our mum's invite yet?" Bill asked, smiling innocently at Snape in a way that instantly put the wizard's teeth on edge.
"Yeah, she wants to know if you'll eat with us in the Main Hall after the big game next Saturday, Harry," Charlie added, leaning on his broom. "To celebrate our victory."
"A little cocky aren't we, Mr Weasley?" Snape couldn't resist saying silkily.
Another player nudged Charlie. "Don't you put the mockers on it, Charlie Weasley!" she said severely. She winked at Harry. "Ravenclaw have still got a chance."
"Nah, not in my book." Charlie gave Harry a wink too and the boy giggled behind his gloved hand.
Deciding he couldn't stand any more Snape deliberately took a step back.
Harry took his hand and smiled up at him. "May I eat with Charlie and Bill and their mum, daddy?"
With good grace Snape mustered a nod and Harry beamed. "I'll cheer for your team, Charlie!" he said excitedly.
The players waved as they walked away and Bill called after them. "Don't forget to invite your new little mate too!"
Harry stopped in his tracks and gazed up at his father in dismay. "Oh no! The game's on Saturday and Neville won't be here! He'll be ever so disappointed!"
Snape tugged gently on his hand and Harry followed, frowning heavily. "Poor Neville," he said mournfully. "He has to go back to his stuffy old Gran's house and now he'll miss the big game. And dinner in the big hall too!"
Snape glanced down at the child trotting obediently by his side. "Did Neville tell you he doesn't want to go back to his grandmother's house?"
Harry shook his head emphatically and Snape breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't need any further complications in the tangled web Dumbledore had woven of their lives.
"It just sounds really dull," Harry expanded.
"That's your opinion, Harry and I'll thank you to keep it to yourself," his father said sternly. "That's Neville's home you're talking about and he wouldn't appreciate hearing you speak about it in such a fashion."
Harry looked chastened. "Yes, daddy."
Now Harry was dragging his feet, his buoyant mood gone and Snape sighed and made a small sacrifice, reflecting that he was rapidly being turned into some kind of martyr.
"Perhaps we could ask Mrs Longbottom if Neville could stay for the game," he offered and immediately Harry's face brightened.
"Ooh, could we?"
"I'll send an owl tonight. But, mind me, Harry! If she says no then we won't mention it to Neville, understood? It would only disappoint him."
"Okay." Harry smiled sunnily. "I could draw her a picture of the Quidditch game," he volunteered. "Perhaps she doesn't know how exciting they are?"
"A fine idea," Snape praised and Harry beamed again.
Neville was treated to rapturous descriptions of the most brilliant game on earth from the moment he arrived back on Sunday night. The boy was always a trifle subdued after returning from his grandmother's home so Snape didn't attempt to curb Harry's enthusiasm, letting it cover Neville's long silences. By dessert Neville was becoming enthusiastic, although he confided that he'd never seen an actual Quidditch game before, having only listened to matches with his Great Uncle on the radio.
By the week's end Snape could hardly wait for the match to be over, although he strongly suspected that enthusiasm for the popular sport would not be waning any time soon. His only satisfaction was in imagining that Lupin must also be growing tired of the subject, seeing as how every piece of work brought to Snape in the evening to be admired seemed oddly Quidditch themed.
"I got all my letters right, daddy," Harry bragged on Friday night, beginning their evening ritual of showing off their work and craft after their baths while sipping cocoa by the fire. Neville was holding his paper up and Snape also admired the boy's neat rounded writing.
"Well done," he praised and the two boys nodded and smiled.
"See my Q, daddy?" Harry pointed out. "Q always has U after it, isn't that funny? I wrote 'quidditch', and 'quickly' and I got two ticks."
"So did I," Neville pointed out quickly.
"For homework we have to write a sentence with 'quidditch' and 'quickly' in it."
"That's pretty easy." Neville considered his page. "I'm going to draw a picture after I write it, are you, Harry?"
Wonderful, Snape thought. Because we don't have enough pictures of broomsticks, clay statues of broomsticks and sentences with broomstick mentioned six times each.
"Oh, and I forgot!" Harry said suddenly, pausing in his act of reaching for another biscuit. "Mr Lupin said my adopted daddy was a Quidditch player! Did you know that?"
Mug at his lips, Snape froze as Harry chattered on.
"And he played for Gryffindor and that was the House my mum was in as well."
"Harry thought it meant they lived in a house called Gryffindor," Neville chuckled and Harry wrinkled his nose.
"Don't laugh!" he protested with a giggle. "Anyway it sort of means that."
"No it doesn't," Neville shot back. "They live in a common room, my Great Uncle Algy told me so, and they have a fireplace and they toast crumpets and play Gobstones. Uncle Algy was in Hufflepuff, like my mummy, but my daddy was in, um, I can't remember."
"They are hard names to remember," Harry allowed. "Daddy, what are they all called?"
"What?" Snape looked down at their expectant faces. "Finish your cocoa, boys, it's nearly bedtime."
"But it's Friday!" Harry protested. "Can't we stay up late?"
"Not if you want to watch the big match tomorrow," his father said firmly and Harry turned down his mouth but obeyed.
"I'm going to go out for five minutes while you finish up," he said and Harry looked up at him in surprise. Easy to understand why when his father had never before left them alone, let alone left their rooms of an evening.
Checking that the guard on the fire was securely locked he shrugged on his coat and pulled out his wand, summoning a house elf to the room. Pickle appeared and bowed low.
"Hello, Mr Pickle!" Harry called.
"Hello," Neville said more shyly.
"Just Pickle, young masters," the elderly house elf said with a smile and a bow. "Just Pickle."
"Will you keep an eye on our quarters while I go see the boys tutor?" Snape asked politely. A house elf would never be given responsibility for a child but could be trusted to summon him if there was any trouble. And as they were the only creatures who could apparate within the school they made very good messengers.
Pickle bowed low again. "An honour, sir."
Snape paused at the door, the steam of fury that had been driving him idling for a moment as he saw the curiousity and touch of fear in Harry's face.
"I won't be long," he reassured. "I just need to see your tutor about tomorrow."
"Oh, is he sitting with us then?" Harry asked, relaxing happily. "Good."
Dinner was long over and Snape made his way to the staff common room where he understood it was Lupin's habit to spend some time of an evening. Long legs eating up the quiet halls Snape finally gave his temper free rein, playing Harry's words over in his head.
He just couldn't resist, could he? He just couldn't wait to start filling Harry's head with tales of his hero father and his daring exploits. How long would it take before the other little hints surfaced, the sly digs at wonderful James Potter's greasy little enemy, the Slytherin, Snape?
"May I speak with you?" Snape bit out as Lupin looked up from his armchair by the fire. It was a few nights since full moon and the werewolf looked old and tired as he levered himself up from his chair. Snape could find no sympathy within his heart for his old adversary. There was too much bitterness there.
Gritting his teeth against the familiarity Snape led the way out of the room to a nearby classroom, igniting the lamps with a flick of his wand and then carefully putting it away before the temptation to do violence with it became too strong.
"Are the boys all right?" Lupin asked as he followed him into the room.
"Why shouldn't they be?" Snape asked silkily. "Don't you trust me with them? Is that the poison you're going to drip into Harry's ear next? That I can't be trusted?"
Lupin gazed at him in confusion. "Poison? What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about you!" Snape hissed viciously. "Filling Harry's head with tales of James Potter! I won't have it, do you hear me?"
"I'm sure half the school can hear you," Lupin said coolly, pushing the door closed behind him. "I assume you're talking about the fact that I merely mentioned James in passing-"
Snape snorted. "In passing? Who do you think you're fooling? I'm sure you've been dying for a chance to drop his name into the conversation, haven't you?"
"I could have mentioned James a hundred times in the last month!" Lupin challenged hotly. "But I didn't!"
"Why?" Snape pounced. "Why now and not then? Waiting to make sure your employment is secure? Seeing what you can get away with?"
"You don't employ me," Lupin said angrily. "Dumbledore does. And he never said I couldn't mention James and Lilly."
"Well I'm Harry's father and I'm saying it!"
Now Lupin snorted derisively. "Harry's father? Don't make me laugh."
Snape's instant rage rendered him momentarily speechless. He could only glare at Lupin standing before him looking triumphant. After a few moments he finally found his voice. "What?"
Lupin waved his hand in dismissal. "I don't know what scheme or spell you and Dumbledore have cooked up between you but you're fooling no one. That boy is the living image of James and you know it. Except for Lily's eyes of course."
Anger was cold within in him now, white cold. "Came to that conclusion all by yourself, did you?"
"It doesn't take a genius. Anyone who knew James can see him in the boy." Lupin leaned forward aggressively. "I don't know why you are doing this, Snape, and I don't suppose I want to know. I'm assuming as Dumbledore's involved it's for Harry's own good so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. But don't think you're going to take that boy over and pretend his real father never existed, because he did!"
"And I have the scars to prove it," Snape said hoarsely, "So you see yourself as the defender of the great James Potter?"
"Don't speak about him that way," Lupin said angrily. "You didn't even know him!"
"No but I knew his wife," Snape said with his most provoking smirk. "Intimately." He watched with satisfaction as Lupin absorbed this. The werewolf clenched his hands into fists.
"How dare you," he breathed.
"You want a truth, Lupin? Perhaps you deserve some measure of it. You are the last of that sad bunch, those famed Marauders. You ought to hear some real facts for a change."
"As if I'd believe your lies," Lupin said, but his voice was a little less sure.
"Strutting arrogant James Potter had it all, didn't he? Born under some bright star, he could do no wrong. Friend and teacher alike turned a blind eye as he charmed and bullied his way through this fine institution."
"It wasn't like that," Lupin protested, but his eyes slid away just a little as he spoke.
"I don't have to tell you," Snape said pointedly. "You were there. The only thing that saved you was that you were in his house. How many times did you wonder, Lupin, what your school life would have been like if you'd been sorted into a different house from Potter and Black?"
Now Lupin wouldn't meet his eyes at all. "You really didn't know him," he said quietly. "People change. They grow up. They even have regrets, something you wouldn't understand."
Snape leaned back on a desk and adopted a thoughtful air. "Perhaps it was regret that drove them to me that day," he mused aloud. "When they came to beg me for something that Perfect Potter couldn't provide. Seems that star he was born under had a use-by-date. All that luck ran out."
"What do you mean? What James couldn't provide?"
"What he couldn't give her." Snape smirked. "The gift that they had to turn to me to give them."
Lupin swallowed hard. "Gift?" he whispered.
"Harry," Snape said triumphantly. "My son."
"That's a lie!" Lupin shot back. "It has to be a lie! James would have told me, or Sirius..."
Snape was shaking his head, laughing unkindly under his breath. "Told his admirer and his friend that he wasn't quite the wizard he was cracked up to be? That his wife was pregnant with my child? Really, do you think he would have done that?"
Lupin groped for a chair and sat down heavily, as if his legs wouldn't hold him up any more. "He looks like James."
Snape snorted. "How like a Gryffindor," he said scornfully. "They were ever ones for judging by looks alone."
Lupin looked up at him, amber eyes dazed. "I don't understand."
"You don't have to," Snape spat. "All you have to understand is this. Harry is my son. Mine." He clenched his fists and turned away, feeling to his astonishment a sheen of angry sweat on his palms. How could he let this absurd creature make him so angry? What did he care if Remus Lupin of all people didn't believe Harry was his son?
How many other people out there didn't believe it?
"Harry has been told some simple truths," Snape went on hoarsely, mastering his unruly feelings under his calm mask. "That his mother and adopted father are dead. Until he is old enough to understand more then that is all he needs to know."
"And when will that be?" Lupin beseeched. "Can you understand how I feel about this? Whatever James was to Harry he loved him! I know that, I saw it with my own eyes. And Lily..." Here Lupin faltered and raised a hand to his eyes. "She loved him more than her life. He was their life, both of them. It feels as if you do them a disservice now, burying their memory as if they never existed."
"To Harry they might just as well not have," Snape said bluntly. "He has had a harder life than you know, Lupin, and wallowing in memories of things that cannot possibly matter to him now will only hinder his progress, not help him."
"But when the time is right," Lupin began carefully, then broke off. "I believe you care about the boy," he said unexpectedly.
"My feelings are irrelevant," Snape said stiffly, caught off guard.
"I'm just saying," Lupin said delicately. "That I'm sure your love for the boy will outweigh your desire to insult the memory of two people who are long dead, and can no longer defend themselves."
"Yes, you sound sure," Snape drawled sarcastically, then shook his head. "I have no desire to insult them. As you so rightly point out they are dead and no threat to me."
"Then why all this tonight?" Lupin asked with a brief return of heat.
"I told you. I will not have Harry burdened with the past right now." He shrugged irritably. "Any of our pasts."
Lupin absorbed this for long moments. On the wall an old clock ticked out its seconds loudly. Finally he broke the silence. "Are you talking about my past or yours now?"
"Do you think he would understand either? As you pointed out to me the day the boys began school Harry is five years old. How can he possibly hope to understand the complicated mess we all made of our lives back then?"
Lupin scratched his head ruefully. "I'm not sure I understand it myself."
Snape echoed the sentiment in his head, feeling the buzz of rage and scorn finally fading. "It was a long time ago," he said, which was as close as he could come to acknowledging that the past was finally becoming less important to him than the present.
Lupin gazed away for a moment, his eyes distant. "We all made mistakes," he whispered. "We all did things we're not proud of."
"Blathering about them now won't change them," Snape said hastily. He still hadn't forgiven the werewolf his scornful words, he certainly didn't want a heart to heart with him.
"No, but neither will brooding about them," Lupin said pointedly. "Look, can't we put the past behind us too? For the boys sake?"
"I'm willing to be civil as always," Snape returned politely.
"I was hoping for something a little warmer," Lupin said meekly.
"One may hope, I suppose." Snape smirked.
And Lupin could only shrug and agree.
"Does this change your feelings now?" Snape said abruptly. "For Harry? Now that you know whose son he is? Or isn't?"
"He's still Lily's son."
"That's not an answer."
Lupin actually smiled. "I could love Harry just for the way James felt about him," he said huskily. "Blood or no. But in truth he's an easy child to love in his own right. As I'm sure you've noticed."
Snape merely gazed at him blankly.
"Why did you give Harry his mother's photograph?" Lupin said curiously as they extinguished the lights and left the room. "When Molly sent it?"
"It was a small enough thing." Snape stared at his old enemy across the dim hall. "Harry has her picture and his name," he revealed. "But the rest of him is mine."
End of Part Four