Harry threw himself into his classes. Christmas approached and the schoolwork slowed, but he just studied harder, catching up to and passing the other students in Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, and studying advanced material in his other subjects, including Potions and especially Defense Against the Dark Arts, though he was no longer attending classes. At night, when everyone else was in bed, he sat up with owl-ordered books on animagus transformation and legends of phoenixes. The other Gryffindors muttered that he was turning into Hermione, but he ignored them, staying hunched over giant tomes until early morning, and applying glamours to hide his new appearance and the dark rings under his eyes. Hermione herself became increasingly worried and tried to make him relax, but he ignored her, though the look in her eyes when he turned away always felt like a physical blow. All he could do was stay busy. If he let his mind wander, it always took the same path. And that was something he wasn’t yet prepared to deal with.
After a month of almost no rest, one midnight found Harry in the common room with a book in his lap, sound asleep. Soon however, he began to twitch and moan, and the book fell to the floor. If any decent soul had seen him they would have woken him from what was obviously a nightmare, but he was alone.
He was in the graveyard. James was there, and Sirius and Remus. He saw Hermione and all the Weasleys, and Patrick, Padma, Parvati, Neville and most of his friends from Hogwarts. Draco and Blaise stood there as well, and many of his professors, including Dumbledore. They stood in a half circle in front of him, his friends and family. Turning around, he saw a sea of black hoods, Voldemort in front, flanked by Pettigrew and Bellatrix Lestrange. Behind them were Death Eaters, and an army of dementors. He tried to draw his wand but realized he didn’t have it.
“Are you looking for this Mr. Potter?” He whirled around again, to see Snape standing with him in the center of the circle. Lily Potter stood next to Snape and he had an arm over her shoulders. “Idiot boy, can’t even keep track of his own wand.” Lily smiled at him and looked up at Snape.
“He’s just a child, Severus.”
“Yes. And he would do well to remember it.” Snape sneered down at him and tossed back his wand. As soon as the wand touched his hand Harry felt himself change. His glamours fell and everyone could see his true appearance, but nobody seemed surprised. James Potter stepped forward.
“You’re obviously not my son. You never have been. Now that I can see what you really are, it’s obvious you were always the bastard of Snivillus.” He spit on the ground and walked off into the night. Remus and Sirius shook their heads and glared at Harry before following James.
“He’s right you know. You should have let the hat put you in Slytherin. I can’t believe I ever called you my friend! And all this time you weren’t anything like what we thought you were. What else are you hiding? What will everyone think when they find out their precious savior is a dark wizard?” Ron turned and stomped away. Harry tried to call him back, but found his voice wouldn’t work, and he was rooted to the spot.
“Yeah, everyone knows Slytherins turn into Dark wizards. When you turned out to be a Parselmouth it should have clued us in. You certainly aren’t a Gryffindor!” Parvati walked away, Padma following. One by one his friends left him, until only Hermione, Patrick, Blaise and Draco were left.
“Don’t look at us. Just because your father is Slytherin doesn’t mean you belong. You don’t have the cunning. Remember ‘remedial potions’? You couldn’t block your mind to save your life. And zero subtlety. So you don’t really belong anywhere Potter, do you?” Draco laughed cruelly and Blaise joined in. They turned and vanished, their laughter echoing in his head. He turned to Hermione, praying she wouldn’t leave.
“Oh Harry. How can you expect me to stay with you? I have a future to think about. A career… You have a tendency to get people hurt, and if Snape is your father, well, are we even sure you fulfill the prophesy? I mean, really, Harry, that isn’t fair, to keep me around just to use my brains every once in a while. I need to move on with my life.” She was crying, but she looked up at Patrick through her tears and smiled. He moved closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Together, they walked away. Harry felt like a knife had been plunged into his heart. He ran after them into the darkness, away from the graveyard, and arrived at the edge of a cliff. Below he could see all their bodies, bloody and broken lying in a heap. So many more people he had killed.
“Harry, come away from that edge.” His mother was behind him, beckoning. He took a step towards her when a green light flashed and she fell to the ground. Voldemort stepped out of the shadows and kicked her body over the side, and she tumbled to the bottom of the chasm.
“Yes Potter. Come away from the edge. Come along Potter… or is it Snape? You can still join me. The darkness is in your blood.” Harry backed up. His back foot went over the cliff’s edge, and he was falling. Falling. Falling with wind rushing past his ears and grateful for the end… And then he was standing in a field. Snape was in front of him.
“You really do get people killed. And then you wonder why nobody loves you. I certainly hope you don’t expect me to. As far as I’m concerned, you aren’t any relation of mine.”
“I don’t want to…” He stopped in midsentence to listen. Someone was calling his name.
“Harry! Harrrryyyy…” He woke with a start, surprised to find himself in the Gryffindor common room. Where was Snape? He took in Hermione’s concerned face staring down at him. She was alive!
“Harry, are you ok? I came down to see if you were still reading, but you were thrashing around and making awful noises…” He reached out and clutched her hand. He wasn’t going to lose her, especially not because of his own stupidity.
‘Maya, I’ve been such a git lately, and I guess really since I’ve known you, I mean, you’re my best friend, and I know it doesn’t seem like I, er, like I appreciate you, but I really do, I mean, you’re the most important thing in my life, and I really will try harder…” She cut him off by laughing and pulling him into a hug.
“Harry, relax. You’re my friend, no matter what, and you don’t have to always say things out loud for me to know them.” She pulled away and smiled, before making a face. “But you’re sweaty and you smell. Go take a shower.”
“Thanks Hermione.” By this time his breathing had returned to normal, and he was blushing at his outburst. He kissed Hermione quickly on the cheek and hurried towards the bathroom, now beet red.
When Harry stepped out of the shower twenty minutes later he felt infinitely better, and it seemed he could think clearly for the first time in days. He wiped a hand over the fogged mirror to clear a spot. Staring at his reflection, he dropped the glamour that maintained his appearance and looked closely at his new face, running his fingers over his angular nose and higher cheekbones, and noticing that in addition to his resemblance to Snape, he seemed to have inherited more of his mother’s features than had been visible. He had never been able to see any resemblance to her besides his eyes, but now he actually looked like her son. Like her son and like Snape’s.
It was too late to go back to bed, so Harry threw on jeans and a t-shirt, which used to belong to Dudley and that he had altered to fit him with some useful spells from a book of household charms. Wandlessly, he cast the glamour again and left the bathroom, walking back down to the common room, where Hermione was already dressed and waiting. Glancing at his watch he realized it wasn’t even five in the morning. Hermione grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the portrait hole. Bemused, he followed her as she made her way to the Room of Requirement, still maintaining a vise-like grip on his hand.
Glancing around, Harry noticed several changes. Hermione’s potion was gone from its place and the lab area was clear. On a low table by the fire were stacks of books and documents which looked to be arranged into organized piles. He raised an eyebrow at Hermione, who seemed to suddenly notice they were still holding hands. Quickly letting go of him, she sat in front of the table and motioned for him to sit beside her.
“What happened to that potion? Your invention that’s been occupying your mind for months? It didn’t just disappear.” He said, sitting. His mind was elsewhere, but she didn’t need to know that. Why did she grab my hand? Did she let go because she doesn’t like the idea of holding my hand or from embarrassment? Will it happen again?
“It’s finished.” She smiled at him proudly for a moment. “We just have to test it.”
“Great! That’s amazing Hermione. You really are the smartest person I know, and the only person with the dedication for this type of project. People have been looking for something like your potion for centuries.” Hermione blushes, and slapped his arm playfully.
“Stop it Mr. Potter or my ego won’t fit in the room anymore. Besides, that’s not why we’re here.” She looked him in the eye. “You’ve been withdrawing, and I won’t let you. Whatever comes, we’ll face it together, got it?”
“Yes’m. And I’m sorry I shut you out. I just needed time to adjust.” He turned his attention to the table, suddenly uncomfortable again. “Are you going to explain what all this is?”
“I’ve been doing some research…”
“Watch it Potter! Anyway, I was researching your… new look.” He glanced up at her, surprised, and then stared at the papers and books distrustfully.
“I think we should start with a paternity test.” She glanced up to gauge his reaction. Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then nodded. “Ok, I’ve looked into several tests, and I think the best one for us is this incantation. It also requires your blood and a lot of power. Thankfully, you were born with more than enough power, and between Voldy’s mistake and your own training, this shouldn’t drain you too much.”
Harry pricked his finger with the pin and let three drops of blood fall to the parchment in front of him. Almost silently he read the incantation off a slip of paper, and a reddish glow emanated from his wand. In fascination they both watched as the blood rearranged into a likeness of Harry, the Harry under the glamour. Two lines spread upwards as his face faded from the page. At the end of each line a new face formed, revealing his mother, and what was unmistakably a younger Snape. He gasped and ended the spell, and tossed the parchment in the fireplace.
“I don’t get how… how Snape could be my father!” He turned his face away from Hermione and began to pace. “I mean, was it a mistake, like a one-night stand? Was she cheating on my dad? Was it… I mean, he was a Death Eater… What if he had to… ?” He looked down at Hermione, who was still sitting on the floor. She looked at him sympathetically.
“I think the only person who could answer that is Professor Snape,” She paused, seeing his look. “But I have a theory. You won’t like it. Come over here and sit down.” He sat. Taking a deep breath, she began. “I started looking through old yearbooks in the library, looking for pictures of your mom. I found quite a few of them, but only one with your dad, and Professor Lupin, Sirius, and Pettigrew were all in it too. Several were pictures of your mother and Professor Snape, along with Professor Vector and Marala Chopra, now Marala Patil, the twins’ mother. In her seventh year there were several pictures of just your mom and Professor Snape. I think they were a couple.” She pushed several copies towards him.
The first was a picture of the two of them in the library, heads bent together over a book, Snape pointing something out on the page. Harry started, realizing this younger version of his professor was actually smiling. In the next picture they were only in the background, but they seemed to be holding hands and his mother was obviously laughing. There was a picture of them at the lake, having a picnic with a pretty Indian girl and a brunette with glasses who Harry recognized as a young Professor Vector. He saw a picture of Snape in Slytherin Quidditch robes. He had his arm around Lily, who wore jeans and a gold top, and a green sheer scarf around her neck. Behind them several other Slytherin team members were glaring. There was another picture of Snape, Lily, Marala Patil, Remus, and Septima Vector studying under a tree. James and Sirius flew around above playing with a quaffle while Pettigrew watched.
“Yeah, I guess they do.” There were tears in his eyes as he looked at his mother’s smiling face and Snape next to her. “But eventually she married my da… James.”
“Yes. And she had you well over nine months later. But I found this.” She held up a role of yellowed parchment. “Teachers put exemplary pieces of student work into a section of the library. When I mentioned to Madam Pince I was looking for information on your mother for you, she gave me this. Your mother wrote it in her seventh year for credit in potions and charms. It is the idea for contained time warping. She theorizes that with a potion to limit the area and prevent the effects from overflowing, you could charm an area’s time flow to be faster or slower than real time. For example, you could go into the charmed room and spend three hours there, but outside the room everyone else would have only lived ten minutes.”
“I’d like to read that, but I don’t understand what it has to do with me.”
“ Harry, I think she cast the spell on herself while she was pregnant with you. If she got pregnant while still in school, well, it would be scandalous! She might have cast the spell, and later, when she married James Potter, she cancelled it, and had you. Maybe she told Professor Snape, and he didn’t want a child, or maybe when he became a spy, she broke up with him and never told him, or they broke up and she didn’t want to have the baby out of wedlock, so she waited until she got married.” He looked at her for a moment.
“I guess it’s possible. Slightly far-fetched, but possible. It makes me feel better that they were friends, or more, at one point. I didn’t want to think I was an unwanted baby born of rape. But that doesn’t mean my mother didn’t simply cheat on James Potter. If she had a relationship with Snape once, that only makes that scenario more likely. But I don’t want to think about it right now. Thank you for this Maya. It helped.”
“Oh Harry, you don’t have to thank me. You’re my best friend in this world, and I don’t like to see you hurting. Now come on, I want you to take a look at my potion and my final notes.” She smiled and stretched before getting to her feet. Harry stuffed the pictures into his bag and followed her to the shelf containing the vials of orange-gold potion. They fell into a deep discussion, ignoring the time that passed, and ended up having to run to the Great Hall to grab breakfast before Arithmancy.