Friday, June 30th 1995
"Fred, come here a moment."
Fred tugged on George's sleeve and followed Harry back into an empty train compartment as the throng of students exiting around them.
"Bit suspicious," George said jokingly as he closed the door. "Do you think he intends on making us return to Hogwarts for the summer?"
Fred laughed at his brother's joke, but he turned serious when he saw Harry holding out what looked like a full money pouch.
"Here, take it," Harry said. "Don't say where it came from."
"That looks an awful lot like your winnings Harry," George said, staring at the pouch. "You might not want to tempt us, two jokesters, with that."
"It's yours, go on."
"We can't take that, Harry! You're the one that won the tournament."
"And you might have if you'd been allowed to enter. I'm telling you to take it. I don't want it. Go and start your business with it, and while I'm thinking of it, buy your brother some dress robes so he doesn't smell like mothballs next time he needs it."
"Harry, this is a lot of money."
"Yes, and I'm giving it to you. You can take it, or I'll toss it out the window into the crowd."
Fred reached out and took the money bag then, not daring to peer inside and believe his luck.
"You're sure about this?"
Then, as an afterthought, Harry withdrew a second, much lighter pouch and held it out to the twins. "Would you be able to exchange this for Muggle money and send it to me by owl?" he asked. Still looking a little shocked, George nodded, and Harry hastily left the compartment before they could say another word.
Beyond the barrier to the magical platform, Uncle Vernon waited with an irritated look on his face, perhaps because Mrs Weasley was hovering close by. When Harry got near, she hugged him tightly and pulled him close to whisper into his ear, "Dumbledore may let you stay with us later in the summer. Write and let us know how you're doing, dear."
Harry nodded but didn't say anything as Ron approached, saying, "See you, Harry," as he clapped him on the back.
"Bye, Harry!" Feeling overwhelmed suddenly, Harry turned to find Hermione and turned red as she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, something that hadn't happened before.
Taking a few steps back, Harry nearly bumped into George, who leaned in and said, "Harry… thanks, and we'll try to send it to you as soon as possible.
"What are you going to send?" asked Mrs Weasley curiously, who had stepped closer to hear what George had muttered.
"Goodies for Hedwig," Harry said quickly with a wink at the twins, and then he turned to Uncle Vernon and followed him silently from the station.
With a lot of effort, the skinny teenager put his trunk in the car's boot outside King's Cross Station.
"Don't dawdle! Get in, boy! I don't have time for this rubbish!" shouted Uncle Vernon, sitting behind the wheel.
"'m sorry," Harry answered mindlessly.
When Harry finally got into the car, sweating from the effort, his uncle shoved a stiff piece of paper at him and snapped, "Here, read it!"
Harry's eyes began to scan down the page, but then Vernon growled, "Out loud boy," and Harry started again out loud.
"Report of Adoption:
Name: Harry James Potter.
Birthday: 31st July 1980
Mother's name: Eileen Snape, nee Prince.
Father's name: Tobias Jacob Snape.
On 31st July 1980, the infant was adopted by Lily Rose Potter, nee Evans and James Harold Potter.
From 1st November 1981 to 13th June 1995, the custody of Harry James Potter had Petunia Ivy Dursley, nee Evans and Vernon Marc Dursley.
At the request of Mr and Mrs Vernon Dursley since 13th June 1995, the custody of Harry James Potter was given to the child's birth father: Tobias Jacob Snape."
By the time he'd finished, Harry had gone pale, and his voice was little more than a whisper.
"It's some kind of joke… you're lying!"
"No," Vernon said gleefully. "Petunia was cleaning in the attic and found your birth certificate. She once lived near the Snapes. We went there, and it turns out that your real mother is dead, but at least your father agreed to take you. We took care of formalities, and we don't have to quarrel with you anymore," finished Vernon with a nasty smile. "And to think that we could have gotten rid of you so many years earlier! I just have to bring you to him."
Harry didn't show that he was a little hurt by the remark.
Uncle Vernon had never allowed Harry to speak unless told to, so the journey was silent. The silence didn't annoy Harry since the overflow of his emotions was causing him a headache. He was sure that it was some trick the Dursleys had devised to finally throw him out. After all, his resemblance to James and Lily was incontestable… everyone told him so.
As if the whole lie wasn't incredulous enough, it was harder still to believe that nobody knew about the supposed adoption. From what he could remember, a pregnancy lasted for almost a year, didn't it? Unfortunately, he wasn't sure because when it had been taught in primary school, he had often had to spend his time in his cupboard as punishment instead of doing homework; moreover, his science textbook had been used as material for paper aeroplanes and then thrown into the rubbish bin. Even onlookers would know his mum was pregnant from the vast stomach. It seemed impossible that his parents' friends, Sirius and Lupin, didn't notice that Lily, who hadn't been pregnant, would just one day show up with a baby. They would have told him if he was adopted, wouldn't they?
As they drove closer to his supposed true father's house, Harry was surprised suddenly by a sorrowful feeling emanating from his stomach. His own family really did hate him, didn't they? He had known they weren't affectionate towards him, but deep inside, he'd always wanted them to accept him. For most of his life, he'd dreamt of being taken from that house. Sometimes he had even thought that he would feel better off in the orphanage, but all of this didn't change the fact that he felt simply sorrowful.
At the moment, he couldn't do anything about it. When they got there, he would decide what to do next. For now, he could only pray that this Snape didn't have anything in common with the Potions Master that despised him so heartily.
After driving for nearly two hours, they reached Cokeworth. According to the piece of paper he was holding in his hand, it was his birthplace. The surroundings were pretty. There were sprawling green parks beyond the windows of the car. Despite his poor eyesight, in the distance, he saw colourful playgrounds and sandbox for children. On his left, there were beautiful houses. Some of them were much nicer, and some more modern than what the Dursleys lived in. Each of them showcased the high standard of life their occupants lived. They drove on, however, and the surroundings grew dimmer. The houses grew uglier and less colourful, and even the park gave the impression that it was bleaker.
Uncle Vernon stopped the car by a grey, two-story building. The windows were old, and from behind the glass, there were dusty curtains.
"Well, boy! Get out of here and take your things with you!" Vernon ordered him with a smile of bliss on his face. Vernon hurried out of the car and went to the front door to ring the bell.
The door was opened by a tall, broad-shouldered man with scruffy grey hair, black eyes and a large nose. He was wearing a creased flannel shirt from under which, stuck out a yellowing undershirt. Harry groaned internally. There was no way he wasn't related to that Snape. 'It must be a nightmare,' he thought.
"I brought the boy. That's all from me. And I wish not to see either of you again!" laughed Vernon, not even glancing back at his nephew, who had struggled to pull his trunk out of the rear of the car and finally succeeded. Vernon got into the car and left, leaving Harry standing on the side of the road staring after him. And despite the fact the boy was well aware that his uncle had never liked him, the rejection hurt even more than when they were travelling. What had he really anticipated, though? Certainty, not a tearful and soggy goodbye.
"Hello, Harry. I'm Tobias." When the man spoke up with a low, hoarse voice, Harry could smell the alcohol curling off of him.
Not a good sign, thought Harry, but as Tobias looked calm and relaxed, it didn't bother him much. He was used to reading body language, and currently, he didn't feel threatened.
"Good afternoon," Harry said tentatively.
"Come along, I'll show you over, and then you're gonna unpack your things in your room."
The man turned around and went into the house, Harry following after him with Hedwig in her cage in one hand and dragging his trunk with the other. They found themselves in a rather cramped, dark hall, where Harry left his baggage. Directly opposite of him was a staircase leading to the second floor. On the left was a door probably leading to the basement.
"There's the loo," His hypothetical father said as he pointed the door at his right.
Between the staircase and loo was access to the kitchen, and it was necessary to walk through it to get to the living room. In the middle of the kitchen stood a table covered with a white and red checker tablecloth, and around it were four chairs. Three of them had thin pillows on the seat, but they looked as if they hadn't been laundered for a long time. The last chair was empty, but a piece of red tape knotted over the backrest, told Harry that it wasn't always like that.
To the right, under the windows, there were cupboards, a brown cooker, a fridge and a sink. Everything was equally battered and haven't been replaced or seen any repair at least for a dozen years. An annoying buzzing came from the low, yellow fridge, which had a lot of colourful beer magnets stuck to it.
When Harry glanced to his right, he cringed. There was a door to a cupboard under the stairs. Thankfully they didn't stop there. They continued on into the living room, which could be described as dirty and unkempt, just like the rest of the house. On the left side of the entrance, there was an old wooden Welsh dresser. On the right side, just under the window, there was a telly, possibly the only thing in the entire house that didn't look like it would remember World War Two. A fuscous couch and two armchairs were standing like a half-circle with a coffee table in between. There was a door on the wall across from the kitchen that leads to a small, bushy garden.
Afterwards, the man showed Harry upstairs, which consisted of a narrow hall, two bedrooms and a small bathroom. His room was the same size as at the Dursleys. There was a bed, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a desk and a bookcase. Everything was old and shabby. The room was secondhand, just like he was used to growing up with the Dursleys.
"Are you hungry?" asked Tobias. "Of course, you are. You look like they were starving you in that school of yours. When you finish unpacking, come to the kitchen. I'll make supper in the meantime." Not waiting for a response, he went down the stairs.
Harry followed after him once again to get his trunk, which was still near the front door. He dragged it upstairs with a lot of effort and placed it between his bed and the desk. Then, the boy returned for the cage with Hedwig and put it on top of the chest of drawers. He pulled his clothes from his trunk, and untidily threw them into the wardrobe.
Throwing himself on the bed, Harry started to think. Feeling drained, Harry wished he didn't feel bad about the Dursleys kicking him out. With the way they had treated him over the years, he didn't even know why he felt sorry. After all, he really didn't want to live with them, and he was sure that anywhere would be better than at Privet Drive. He hoped that this man wouldn't keep him in the cupboard without food as a punishment, let alone aiming at his head with a frying pan, because in comparison to his aunt, Tobias was really very muscular. Provided he didn't miss, he could seriously injure Harry.
So far, though, Tobias had welcomed him more than the Dursleys ever had, and at this moment, was even making him supper. He didn't want to let his mind wander into darker thoughts of what life might be like here if Tobias were mean.
One more positive aspect of this situation was that he was going to start anew. Nobody knew him here. He didn't reckon that his assumed father would make everyone believe that he was going to St. Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys. Besides, there wasn't Dudley, so Harry would able to make some friends. Maybe this summer won't be so lonely as the previous ones. And, of course, the twins had promised to send him money. Either way, he was going to buy himself some new clothing if he were allowed. If he had still been at the Dursleys, he would have told them that Sirius had given him the new clothes, but here perhaps, he wouldn't even have to lie about it.
For the time being, there was only one flaw besides the state of the house — Severus Snape. Harry didn't even want to think that he could potentially be somehow related to the dungeon bat. Notwithstanding, he got a chance to become a typical teenager, and he was going to use it.
"Harry, supper's ready! You can finish unpacking later!" Harry's thoughts were broken by Tobias' voice. He got up and made his way to the kitchen.
"Sit down and eat, Harry." After Tobias gave him a plate with roast, they ate in awkward silence, neither feeling comfortable in the presence of the other yet. One would think they would have an endless number of topics to discuss, not really knowing anything about the other, but neither knew how to start. After the meal, Tobias got up and negligently did the dishes, then made the tea for Harry and sat in one of the chairs with a bottle of beer in hand.
"What should I call you?" asked Harry hesitantly.
"For the time being, Tobias, until we got to know each other better."
"What do you do?"
"I'm a builder, so most of the day, I won't be at home. You'll have to occupy yourself until five o'clock because then you'll have training. I enrolled you in a football team. You'll start on Monday." The man said in a tone that left no room for any discussion.
"Yeah? What's this team?" 'Pity that you didn't ask me, I think I have something to say about it, ' Harry thought, angrily that once again somebody decided for him.
"The Mayor organized a competition. The Cokeworth Cup for teenagers." Tobias answered. "You know, different companies collect members of teams — usually they're worker's kids — and they sponsor the matches. Thanks to that, they get promotions and some benefits, and kids have fun. You have to try to be the best. I don't want to be ashamed of you. Sons of my pals are playing there too. I'll be coming to your matches."
Despite his irritation that Tobias had decided for him (without ever having met him really), Harry had to smile. It was nice to have an adult who cared enough to think of him that he might have some fun, and Tobias, for now, gave that impression. How many times as a child had Harry dreamed that his aunt or uncle would give him this sort of attention? Vernon had always been at Dudley's every contest, but he had never thought of Harry's interests.
"But I haven't played football for a couple of years, and I don't know if I'm fit for it," hesitated Harry, who liked more and more the prospect of living here.
"I'm sure you'll manage. After all, you are my son. You look like your mother, so you must have something from me."
"My mother?" wondered Harry. Everyone had told him repeatedly that he was a carbon copy of James, so how was it possible that suddenly he looked like Eileen Snape? Something was very wrong here, and he had to find out what was going on.
"Yes, after all, you don't look like the postman, although with her, we may never know. Nose, mouth, chin, and cheekbones you have after Eileen. The shape of the eyes and eyelashes after me. Okay, let's call it a night. Go to bed; I am going to sleep also. I have a job in the morning. "
Harry entered his room and opened Hedwig's cage.
"Hey, girl. Do you want to fly a little?" he murmured, letting her out.
Harry went to bed and rolled back and forth because he couldn't fall asleep. Today he had been overwhelmed with too many emotions, and besides that, too many questions still went unanswered. Did he really look like Eileen Snape? Does Dumbledore know what is going on? Tobias seemed to be okay, Harry thought. So far, he'd behaved nicely… much better than the Dursleys. He'd acted just like a father should, hadn't he? And what about Snape? Were they related? Had he known all the time, and that's why he'd hated him so much? He had, in fact, continuously repeated to Harry that he was just like his father. Had he meant James or Tobias?
He should have told me, damn it! He thought.