Magic hummed all around him as he walked into the room. Magic that sung of secrets long lost and of powers he would never know. The Department of Mysteries was aptly named and in spite of what had brought him there, Albus could almost long for a different life where he had lost himself in the study of such things.
“Are you sure about this, Headmaster?” Madam Bones asked. It was long after hours, and it was only the two of them gazing upon one of the most closely guarded relics hoarded by the Ministry.
“I am sure that I must do this,” Albus said. “I cannot, of course, be certain that it will work.”
“That it will work?” Madam Bones asked. “You mean you cannot be certain that you’ll survive.”
“Countless others have faced worse odds in the fight against Voldemort,” Albus said.
“We need you alive,” Madam Bones said.
“It is not I mentioned in the Prophesy,” Albus said. “The one who will destroy Voldemort was only just born. He will have to survive for some time before he can fulfill the prophesy, and there is all the more chance that it is he that will die at Voldemort’s hands. He is already being hunted. There is too much uncertainty.”
“The Pillars weren’t meant for this,” Madame Bones said.
Albus turned towards the Pillars, through which he was about to step. The ancient magical construct held the answers. “We need this clarity,” he said, striding forward. “If this goes well, we will have a path forward. Perhaps I can see some way where we can hold Voldemort off long enough for this boy to win. Even if he survives long enough, there’s no telling what state the world will be in when he is ready to fulfill his role in the Prophesy.”
Albus walked through the pillars and learned what there was for him to learn.
Being a wizard who wasn't allowed to do magic, Harry thought, must be like being a fighter pilot who'd been grounded. Considering his racing broomstick locked up in the cupboard under the stairs, along with most of his other magical items, Harry felt he had a very good idea how a grounded fighter pilot felt. Harry was a wizard: he performed spells with a wand, flew high up in the sky at dangerous speeds on a broomstick, brewed potions in a cauldron, and occasionally went on adventures with his best friends. He even went to school in a magic castle, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, having only had two years of magical training under his belt, he was relegated to being about as magicless as his muggle relatives, the Dursleys. Over the summer holidays, the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery dictated that he wasn't to perform any magic whatsoever.
The Dursleys were the family that Harry had lived with since he had been an infant and his parents had been killed. However, the Dursleys had never treated Harry like he was a child in their care, much less like he was family. The Dursleys had an obsession with being normal, especially with being perceived by their neighbors as being normal. The problem was that they had an extreme intolerance of anything they perceived to be abnormal. Thus magic, and by extension their wizard nephew Harry, was likely at the top of the list of things they considered to be unwelcome in their house. Why his Aunt Petunia and his Uncle Vernon hadn't sent Harry off into the foster system the moment he had been left on their doorstep, Harry didn't know. There were certainly times he wished that they had.
At the moment, Harry was lying on his bed in his bedroom, or rather Dudley's second bedroom, which Harry had been moved into when his first Hogwarts acceptance letter had arrived when he was soon to be eleven. Prior to that, the cupboard under the stairs had been his bedroom, and it was days such as the one he was dealing with at the time that made him sort of almost wish he could still fit down there. At the very least, it kept him out of the way. It was a rainy day and Harry had decided to stay inside with a book. Not one of his magic books of course. As far as the Durselys knew, all of those were locked up in the cupboard. Harry, however, had several of his schoolbooks under the loose floorboard next to his bed. It had been a risk, picking the lock on the cupboard and sneaking them out, but he had summer homework to do, and didn't feel like telling his professors that he hadn't done it because his relatives hated magic. Not that they'd been able to tell that a few books were missing, it was his wand that his uncle checked for regularly, to make sure it was still locked up in the cupboard. The book that he was reading was an old worn book that he had pulled out of the grab bin at the library. It wasn't the peak of literature, but it kept him from going stir crazy on a rainy day with nothing else to do.
Unfortunately, at that moment, his cousin Dudley also felt that he had nothing to do while stuck inside on a rainy day. This was quite untrue though, Dudley had just about every toy imaginable, several computer games, and a host of books that he had never read sitting in his room. Yet for the boy who had everything, it seemed, there was only one form of entertainment that never seemed to grow old.
"Hey Potter," he said in the same manner his mother occasionally said the word freak.
"Hmm?" Harry said, not looking up from his book.
"Let's play a game Potter," he said. "Come on, it'll be fun."
"Fun for you, I'm sure," Harry said. Dudley's games didn't really allow for fun for all. Harry continued to keep his face in his book, as though he wasn't concerned that his very large cousin was standing in his doorway. "What did you have in mind? Harry hunting, smash the ponce, cops and robbers, or have you come up with another excuse to rough me up?"
Harry wasn't a little kid, he'd faced down a dark wizard, slew a basilisk, and saved his best friend's sister's life. He knew he was in a precarious position at the moment, but he thought he should be well past putting up with Dudley's horrid games.
"Well if you'd rather just skip to the end..." Dudley hefted his meaty fist nonchalantly.
"The end where you wind up with another pig tail, you mean?" Harry asked. "Or maybe it's donkey ears this time."
Dudley's hands flew to his backside for a moment before he regained his composure. With a smirk he said, "You can't, Dad locked up your wand, he checks for it now and then, you can't do anything."
"Didn't stop me that time at the zoo, or any of the other times I didn't have it. We can do magic without, you know. The wand just makes it easier. No, I shouldn't have any trouble dealing with you." He was pretty sure that Dudley shouldn’t be able to tell that his heart was pounding in his chest.
Dudley hesitated a moment before, "Then what? you'll be expelled. You can't do that stuff out of school. That letter said so."
"That was last year's warning," Harry said. "If I'd done magic again then, sure, I'd have been in some trouble. But this is a new summer. I've still got one warning this summer."
"You're bluffing," Dudley said.
Harry was bluffing, he really didn't know what would happen if he did any magic, and he certainly couldn't be certain of any accidental magic if he needed it. It had been hit and mostly miss when he was younger.
"You willing to risk a rat's nose to find out?" Harry asked, swallowing the lump in his throat.
"Dad'd beat the shite out of you. There's still a bunch of time till you go back to school."
"It'd be worth it though," Harry said lightly, his face still in his book, as though he was enjoying the prospect of seeing Dudley with a rat's nose and that his uncle's anger wasn't that much of a concern for him.
"Prove it then," Dudley challenged.
"What?" Harry asked. "You want me to waste my freebie? With most of the summer still ahead of me? No, I'll hold on to it for now, unless I need it."
"You're so full of shite Potter," Dudley said it angrily, but Harry could hear a bit of fear in his voice.
"No, I'm not," Harry said, feeling a bit bolder now that Dudley seemed to be buying it. "But you know what else I'm not full of, not anymore." Harry turned finally to face Dudley. "Fear, I'm not afraid of you anymore, not like you're afraid of magic. So why don't you get out of my room, and close the door on your way out. I'm not playing any of your stupid games."
"I'm not afraid of your stupid magic," Dudley said, clearly more angry now, and with a menacing step forward Dudley said, "I've got a good game in mind though."
"No..." Dudley's least favorite word to hear was about as far as he got before Dudley crossed the room. Harry tried to scramble up from his position on the bed, but Dudley shoved him down. Suddenly Dudley was on top of him, and Harry was vividly reminded of when they had been younger, and Dudley would pin him down and pummel him. Dudley didn't even bother to pin his arms, as scrawny as Harry was, there was very little he could do against Dudley's massive frame. Dudley punched him in the nose.
"Ouch, you stupid..." Dudley's hand clamped down over his mouth.
"I'm not stupid," Dudley said fiercely. "You're stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Poor pathetic Potter's stupider than a sack of shite. You know what Potter? You talk too much. I wouldn't want you to say anything else so stupid." The pillow under Harry's head was ripped away, and then it was over his face. Harry had trouble breathing and suddenly he felt a panic inside his chest. Harry's arms started flailing about wildly and largely ineffectively while Dudley's free hand started digging its knuckles in between Harry's ribs. He was suffocating; he couldn't breathe. He tried to turn his head to the side so that he could gasp a breath but it felt like he was pinned in place, like someone had their hand on the back of his head forcing his face into the scratchy surface of the pillow. He couldn't breath through his nose, which was currently clogged with blood and snot, and as he gasped for breath through his mouth, it felt like the material of the pillow filled his jaws. Merlin, he was going to suffocate to death. His own cousin was killing him. He started to feel faint. Suddenly the pillow was ripped off of his face.
"Just say it, I dare you," his cousin was saying through clenched teeth. "Just say I'm stupid one more time. See what happens."
Harry gasped in a breath, his vision going from dark to red. He was furious with his cousin, more furious than he felt he had ever been before, he wanted to scream and yell at him and tell him exactly how stupid he was, but in the moment, no words came out, his voice lost to him. Furious with himself now, he lashed out in about the only way he could see how. He spit in Dudley's face. Dudley quickly returned the gesture and punched Harry in the short ribs. He wiped the saliva off his own face and then started smearing it, along with his own, over Harry's face, spit mixing with blood from Harry's nose. Harry was still gasping for breath. Then Dudley's hand was clamped down over his face, and with his one uncovered eye, Harry could see Dudley's face hovering over his. His cousin gathered some phlegm from his throat and let it slowly creep out of his mouth. A line of spit getting closer and closer to Harry's eye. Harry tried to squirm out of the way, but he couldn't budge. Harry started to panic again as the disgusting contents of his cousin’s throat inched down towards his eye. Suddenly though, it felt like his cousin wasn't on top of him anymore, though he could see him still hovering over his face, Dudley now had a look of bewildered panic on his face. And Harry could see with both eyes now, Dudley's hand wasn't on his face anymore, though now it looked like Dudley's forearm was coming straight out of Harry's face. An instant after Harry noticed all of this, he realized that he felt like he was falling. His vision went black momentarily and then he landed with a thud on the floor under his bed. His cousin gave a shout of alarm. Harry didn't even think twice before rolling out from under the bed and making a dash for the door. Racing downstairs, he suddenly thought that it wouldn't be so bad to spend the afternoon in the rain.
"What's all this ruckus," his uncle said, stepping out of the kitchen. Harry could hear Dudley's thundering footsteps behind him.
"Dad, dad. Harry did you know what on me," Dudley cried out, and Harry's heart plummeted into his stomach.
His uncle gave a roar as Harry tried to squeeze past him for the front door. He had been quite good at this when he was younger. Yet as he had grown older, though he hadn't grown that much, it had become harder to slip through his uncle's grasp.
"What did you do to my son," his uncle roared, pushing Harry against the wall.
"Nothing," Harry said. He was the one with blood all over his face. "I didn't do anything to him, I swear."
His uncle smacked him in the face. "Don't you lie to me boy, now what did you do."
"It was an accident," Harry said. "It didn't even do anything to him, look at him, he's fine."
Uncle Vernon looked Dudley over with a critical eye but seeing that nothing seemed to be wrong with him, he turned his thunderous gaze back towards Harry.
"First that bloody phone call from one of your freak friends, now you're using your unnaturalness under my roof on my son. Up to your room boy, now, I'll deal with you in a minute." He let Harry go and pushed him in the direction of the stairs.
Harry trudged up, passed a triumphant looking Dudley, and then walked into his room. He could hear his Uncle checking on Dudley, and Dudley giving some sob story. Then he heard what he had been dreading, the sound of his Uncle coming up the stairs to his room. He'd managed to avoid this for most of the summer by staying mostly under the radar.
About ten minutes later an owl arrived from the ministry. This of course just renewed his uncle’s anger. Harry didn't get to read it for a while, and after he got over the fact that he wasn't being expelled, Harry became quite embarrassed over the overall tone of the letter. The Improper Use of Magic Office had basically written to say that they had detected anomalous magic and admonished him that a boy his age should have better control over accidental magic. Harry rather thought that, living with the Dursleys, it was a wonder he didn't lose control more often. All in all, Harry figured that it was probably the worst day of summer so far, and hopefully the rest of summer too. Yet as Harry settled in to sleep that night, sore from earlier and generally angry at life the universe and everything, he found he couldn't hold on to his misery as a feeling of peace suffused him and he felt oddly content as he drifted off to sleep.
It was a few days before Harry was allowed out of his room for anything besides chores, but once out, the fairer weather saw Harry wandering the streets of Little Whinging. Luckily, he didn't have to worry about the neighbors seeing any bruises from the events of the days prior. He had never bruised easily, something Dudley had taken full advantage of growing up, and the few small bruises he had had had already faded by the time he'd been allowed outside again.
The summer had been grinding along very slowly, but though it had seemed like ages, Harry's birthday was almost upon him. Tomorrow he would be thirteen. His birthday of course had never really been a cause for celebration, but as he worked on his homework after his relatives had gone to sleep, Harry found himself repeatedly looking at his clock as it wound its way towards midnight. After a while, Harry put his homework away, under the loose floorboard by his bed and just waited.
Harry wished Hedwig wasn't off flying; in two minutes the clock would strike midnight and he would be thirteen. He rather wished he had some company, though at least Hedwig wasn't locked up in her cage and he could keep in contact with his friends, unlike last summer. Still though, she had been gone for a few days and Harry rather missed having company at Privet Drive that didn't glare at him. Harry glanced back at the clock; only one minute to go.
He looked out of his open window and did a double take. Silhouetted against the moon was a bizarre looking creature that looked to be flying right towards his window. A moment later, Harry saw that it wasn't one creature but four, four owls flying towards Harry's window. Harry recognized Hedwig, his large snowy owl, who his friend Hagrid had given him for his eleventh birthday. She was carrying a small package bound in twine that she clenched in her talons. Also in the cluster of owls was Errol, the Weasley family’s owl. Errol was a very old owl, and he looked to be having trouble with the package he was carrying, Hedwig and a small brown barn owl carrying an envelope looked to be helping the disheveled looking owl to carry its package. The last owl, flying just below the other three, was a big tawny owl; it was carrying a largish parcel with an envelope on top.
Harry went to the window and opened it all the way. The lone owl swooped through and dropped its delivery on Harry's bed. The three tandem owls stopped at the windowsill and Harry quickly relieved poor Errol of his package before taking the exhausted owl to Hedwig's cage where he could drink some water. The brown barn owl left its large envelope on Harry's desk and flew out the window without taking a moment to rest.
Harry turned and greeted Hedwig, who preened under his attention as he took the package from her talons and offered her his other arm to latch on to. Harry grabbed the package that Errol had brought and walked over to his bed, happily chatting with Hedwig, who was affectionately nipping at his shoulder.
Harry set Hedwig to perch on his bedpost as he picked open the package that Errol had brought. Inside he found a letter, a newspaper clipping, and an odd crystal with a scrap of paper rolled around it. Harry turned the clipping over after seeing a partial article about stellar alignment and was rather surprised to see the entire Weasley clan in the photograph standing in front of a pyramid and waving enthusiastically towards Harry. Harry read the accompanying article.
'Ministry of Magic Employee Scoops Grand Prize,' read the article title. It looked like Arthur Weasley, Ron's father, had won a drawing at the Daily Prophet. The family was vacationing in Egypt where Ron's brother Bill worked as a curse breaker.
Harry grinned broadly, the Weasleys were the best family he knew; the summer prior they had taken him into their home, saving Harry from a full summer with the Dursleys. They were also, however, very poor and Harry couldn't think of anyone else who more deserved to win such a prize. Harry turned his attention to the letter, which was from his best friend, Ron Weasley.
Ron, it seemed, was having a great time in Egypt. His brother Bill was giving them tours of all the ancient tombs in the area. He would be getting a new wand as well. Harry rather wished he was in Egypt with his best friend at the moment.
Harry unrolled the paper from around the crystal and saw that Ron had sent him a Sneakoscope, a magical device that would let him know when someone untrustworthy was around. Harry grinned as he picked up the Sneakoscope and placed it on his nightstand. Next Harry turned his attention to the package that Hedwig had brought him, on top was a letter from Hermione, his other best friend
Hermione, it turned out, was in France with her parents and seemed to be enjoying herself a great deal. She too asked if he would meet up in London in the week before term. Harry didn't know what he would tell them. He wasn't even sure how he would be getting to the Hogwarts Express that year. The Dursleys had been less tolerant of him this summer than they had started out the summer before. Though it was still better than the end of his stay with them last summer when he had been locked in his room with bars on his window.
Harry smiled at Hermione's letter and then eagerly eyed the parchment around his present, though he was sure that Hermione had just sent him a book judging by the shape and weight of the package. Harry dug some owl treats out of his nightstand and gave them to Hedwig.
"What a strong girl you are, carrying this all the way from the continent, and in time for my birthday too." Hedwig looked proud under his attention and Harry started tearing at the parchment.
When he opened the package, however, he was very pleasantly surprised to see that it was not a large book, but a broom servicing kit. Harry wished that he had snuck his broom out of the cupboard under the stairs as well. He missed flying almost as much as he missed his friends during the summer. Harry turned to the last package. On top was an envelope bearing the Hogwarts crest. Harry saw that the package was from Hagrid. Untying the package and unwrapping the paper, Harry was very surprised when whatever was inside opened up and then snapped shut before it slid off of his bed with a thud and darted under.
Harry's heart seemed to stop for a moment as he stopped to listen for any signs that his relatives had awoken. As moments passed though, the only sounds he heard was a snoring from his cousin’s room and a slight scurrying sound from under his bed. The last thing he needed was another fight with his uncle and waking the man up in the middle of the night, with whatever strange creature was under his bed, was a great way to start a rather unpleasant one.
Harry crouched down rather nervously. Hagrid would never send Harry anything he thought was dangerous. However, Hagrid had named a ferocious cerberus Fluffy, and had thought that raising a baby dragon in his small wooden cabin was a good idea. Hagrid just didn't have a normal sense of what was dangerous. Harry saw whatever the thing was huddled against the wall under his bed. Harry reached under his bed for it but had to stifle a yelp as it chomped down on his hand. Luckily, it didn't seem to have any teeth. Harry backed up as the thing started moving towards him. Once it was out from under his bed, Harry was bewildered to see that it was a book. He lunged at it, flattening the thing with his body. Harry awkwardly took his belt off and wrapped it around the book and buckled it tight. Picking it up by the strap, Harry read ''The Monster Book of Monsters' across the spine. Harry read the note that came with the book and was quite alarmed to see that Hagrid thought the biting book about monsters would come in handy in their next year. Harry frowned; he really hoped Hagrid hadn't gotten a new pet he wanted help with. Harry picked up the letter from Hogwarts and broke the seal. It started rather like he expected last years had started, if he had ever gotten that letter, until he got to the part about Hogsmeade. Hogsmeade was the village by the school which third years and above were allowed to visit during certain weekends, provided they had a signed permission slip from their parents or guardians.
Now that really did put a damper on his birthday spirits. The Dursleys never liked to do anything that made Harry happy; they would never sign the form. Harry had heard about the town of Hogsmeade from older students, and he dearly did not want to be the only third year who was stuck in the castle while everyone else was having fun in the town.
Harry got up to put the letters on his desk but had to grab his pants to keep them from falling down. Dudley's hand me downs certainly had more than enough room in the waistband for Harry, as scrawny as he was. Harry rummaged around for a spare belt and found one in his closet. Formerly Dudley's, it was of course too big for him and would need a new hole for the buckle, but for the moment Harry was content to just tie the two ends together. Harry put his birthday gifts away in the space under the loose floorboard. He was about ready to go to sleep when he spotted the envelope. In the excitement of receiving birthday presents, he had forgotten the plain brown owl that had left its delivery on his desk. Harry picked up the letter, which was addressed to Mr. H. Potter, and opened it up, removing another envelope with a piece of parchment wrapped around it.
To Mr. H. Potter,
The enclosed envelope was left with our owl service, Streep's Owl Delivery, on 14 September 1981 to be delivered on 31 July 1993. The delivery of this letter concludes this transaction, there are no pending charges. We hope that you are satisfied with the services rendered and that you will consider Streep's Owl Delivery for your future owling needs. Please find below a listing of our services.
Harry disregarded the rest of the form letter and looked at the envelope with some trepidation. 1981? What could anyone have wanted to tell him now from when he was a baby. Harry turned the envelope over. On one side, written in green ink was just the word Harry. On the other side, sealing the envelope was a red wax seal depicting a lion on a hilltop.
Harry nervously opened the envelope, choosing to tear the paper rather than break the wax seal. Inside were several sheets of parchment and a photograph. The first thing Harry noticed was that the letter had been written by two people. Some paragraphs were written with neat blocky letters, but the majority of the letter was written in smaller flowing cursive. Harry pulled the picture out of the envelope and stared at it with wide eyes. It was his parents, and in his mother's arms, smiling happily at something behind the camera, was himself, holding in his pudgy little hands a piece of board paper that said, 'Happy Thirteenth Birthday Harry'. Harry stared at the picture for a while, watching as his father looked down at the baby and then back at the camera with a grin and a wave. Harry turned to the letter.
My Dearest, Harry, the letter started, and Harry's breath hitched, because surely there were only two people this letter could have been written by.
My Dearest, Harry, he read again and cherished the words. If you are reading this, as only you can read this, then today you turned thirteen. Happy birthday my dear, you must be so big now. Though it is hard to imagine, since you are currently not much bigger than the cat.
Happy birthday Harry, the writing changed, his father's writing. I'm sorry we can't be there for your special day, but if you're reading this, then your mother and I have died. I can only hope you have had a happy childhood, though the trouble our world finds itself in now has often left me worried about your future.
Today you turned thirteen, his mother continued. Many see this as the beginning of when a young boy starts to become a young man. There are things that your father and I intend to tell you when you're older, but in case we are not there to help you process this information, we decided that this is an age when you might better handle this on your own. Though I do hope, however, that you have someone in your life who you can trust with this. Whether you are ready for this or not, though, this is when you need to know what we have to tell you.
This story started a long time ago. Your father and I met our first day at Hogwarts, we were sorted into the same house, Gryffindor. Unfortunately, we did not get along; it wasn't until our seventh year that we started to become amicable, and by the end of that winter term, we had started dating.
Your mother said I had had some growing up to do before I became tolerable. I say my overwhelming charm just takes some getting used to.
Harry smiled, he knew so little about his parents, and anything they put in about themselves felt like something important about himself.
This isn't the story of how I married your father though. It is the tale of the first wizard I had ever met. When I was nine, I had done some accidental magic in the park, and a boy who lived in the area saw. He was the one who told me I was a witch, and about the wizarding world. His name was Severus Snape, and we soon became friends. A little over a year after that, we both received our Hogwarts letters. I was so excited, and so happy to already have a friend who would be going with me.
Harry certainly hadn't been expecting that, though he knew that Snape had gone to school with his parents. The thought of the man being in any way associated with his mother turned his stomach.
My first big disappointment came during the sorting. I was very happy to be sorted into Gryffindor, but sad that my friend had been sorted into another house, Slytherin. As I soon found out, our houses were supposed to be rivals. We stayed close friends, however, though this caused us some trouble from time to time. Severus was a brilliant student, and he always challenged me to do better than I'd thought I could. One of the things I wish he hadn't done well in, though, was his studies into the dark arts. Severus had had, at times, a rather traumatic childhood, and he came from a very broken home. I think he would be the first to say that I shouldn't be making excuses for him, but I do think that he always sought a power that could protect him from the many hurts in his life. Through it all I tried my best to be a good friend to him, though that often meant overlooking some of the things he got up to when I wasn't around. It was in our fifth year that we started dating. Unfortunately, this was also around the time he started to associate with some of the older students in his house.
Harry was really starting to reassess his earlier thought about learning more about his parents. Why was his mother telling him this? And how could she have dated Snape of all people?
As I said, Severus was a brilliant student, but it wasn't until our fifth year that he really gained the notice of his peers. Before then, I'm afraid, I was his only friend in the school. There were some in his house, like Lucious Malfoy and Belatrix Lestrange, who saw his skills and thought he would be useful to them.
This was the beginning of dark times for the wizarding world. You likely already know what the cause was. A dark wizard named Voldemort had started to raise followers. He preached blood purity and called for a new social order. While in the beginning, he and his followers did not commit any crimes publicly, there started to be many disappearances, and unexplained deaths. Mixed families found dead in their homes; voices for equality that suddenly went silent. Malfoy and Lestrange were supporters of this dark wizard, and they often preached blood purity in the school. Not openly, of course, but they started drawing support from within their house and from the rest of the school as well.
I suppose I shouldn't have been, but I was shocked when I first saw Severus in a crowd of Malfoy's hangers-on. Unlike the dark magic, I couldn't ignore this. I confronted him; asked him how he could listen to a man like that: a man who thought I shouldn't be allowed in the wizarding world, much less the school. He told me that he wasn't there to listen about blood purity, but that a friendship with Lucious Malfoy would be good for his future. Malfoy, he said, could get him the best apprenticeship, the best job. Of course, what neither of us said was the obvious: there was only so much study one could do into the dark arts at Hogwarts, while old families like Malfoy's had access to many books that should never have been written. He assured me that he could never hate me for being a muggleborn.
Whatever his reasons, I felt that it was up to me to save him from the dark path he was walking. In the months that followed, I felt at times closer to him that I had ever felt to anyone before. I could not stop him from following the Dark Arts though, nor could I deafen him to the words of Lucius Malfoy or blind his ambitions that led him astray.
It was a few months later, in the middle of OWLs week that our relationship ended. Severus had always had an easily bruised ego, and a need to feel that he could take care of himself. One evening by the lake, a couple of other boys in our year had been bullying him, and I came to his defense. He cried out that he didn't need my help and called me a mudblood.
I thought I would interject here, his father wrote. I was one of the boys who had been in the altercation with Snape. We had had a long rivalry, and he gave as good as he got. But I must confess that my behavior that day was abhorrent, and while I don't regret our rivalry, I do regret the side of me it brought out. If there's one bit of fatherly advice I'd like to impart in this letter, it's that you should never use another's misdeeds to justify your own. I knew that Snape practiced the dark arts, and I used it as justification to act out my own hurtful instincts. There was no justification for what I did that day, and I hope that you can avoid the regrets that I amassed in my youth.
His mother continued. After those words passed his lips though, thoughts of his defense fled my mind and I fled the scene. I was incredibly hurt, entirely betrayed. I had been called that word a number of times before, but never by someone I cared about. I started to wonder if Severus had been harboring feelings against muggleborns for a while, and I had just been in this separate class in his mind.
I refused to talk to him for the next few days, and when I was ready to listen to him, I had already made up my mind. He begged me to forgive him, swore he would never say anything like that again, and told me that I was the only person he cared about. I forgave him, though I didn't tell him so; I wanted our relationship to continue, I wanted to forget that day had ever happened, and most of all, I wanted to guide Severus away from Malfoy and his sycophants. But I couldn't. I had something far more important to do, someone else I had to protect. In the days after that evening by the lake, I started to notice some odd symptoms and a simple spell showed me that I was pregnant. I trust that I do not need to go into detail to explain how this came to be. I will only say that at that age I was easily lost in the wonder of such a relationship, and that I hope you understand the importance of responsible decisions in your youth. One indiscretion can change your life greatly.
Harry wasn't prone to cursing, but he started a quiet litany of words he had learned from Ron and his teammates, dreading what would come next.
There was only one person who could have been the father, and suddenly I was faced with a horrible dilemma. I couldn't trust that Severus would be able to handle having a child with a muggleborn. I couldn't risk raising a child with a man who felt contempt for his blood status. I wouldn't allow my child to grow up surrounded by the dark arts.
At the same time, I did wonder if a half-blood child could help me convince Severus to cut ties with Malfoy, and help to turn him away from the dark arts. In the end though, the choice was simple, I would protect my child. So, I severed ties with Severus, and decided to keep the knowledge of my pregnancy from him. I hoped that he would someday be the person I could trust and raise a child with, but I knew that at that moment, he wasn't.
Harry was struggling to keep quiet as he read. Did he have a half sibling somewhere? Had they been adopted; one of his older classmates? The thought of it was almost as exciting as it was disturbing, having family other than the Dursleys. He returned to the letter for answers.
There was one big issue though; magic might have helped to hide the fact that I was pregnant over the next nine months, but I couldn't have hidden the birth of my child, and the timing would leave little doubt in Severus's mind whose child it was. I started reading books about pregnancy in earnest, and in secret. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but I was desperate for some sort of solution. I found it two months later, in a book I had picked up in Diagon Alley. A potion that would halt the growth of the child inside of me, place it in a sort of stasis until I was ready to have a child.
I was relieved to have found a way to hide you from Severus, and also, becoming pregnant at sixteen was terrifying. I brewed the potion, and I took it. I carried that child for five years, until you were born Harry.
Harry's mind went sideways. That was impossible. There was no way he could be Snape's son. He started to breath heavily, the letter almost forgotten as he started to pace his room. There was just no way!
It was seeing himself in the mirror that brought him back to reality. He had pictures of his father, he had the one that had come with the letter right there on his desk, and he looked just like him. People who knew his parents commented on it even. Maybe his mother had been wrong, maybe the potion hadn't worked right, and she had lost the pregnancy, and she just happened to become pregnant again right before she decided to have him. Nodding reassuringly to himself, Harry turned back to the letter, hoping there was something in there besides this tale about Snape that he’d actually want to have read. So far, it had only been that opening line. My dearest, Harry.
After I had taken the potion though, I felt quite a bit of shame. A hidden pregnancy: I felt like I was hiding my indiscretion by lying to everyone and keeping a child from his father. But I was never ashamed of you Harry. You were my constant companion. I always knew you were there, inside of me.
In my sixth year, I avoided all contact with boys, and threw myself into my studies. In my seventh year, I was made Head Girl, and though I did not feel that I deserved it, I took the position, determined to do my best. Your father was made Head Boy.
Snape was such a bastard, Harry thought. Treating his mother horribly, hurting her like that, making her feel like that. Harry was so angry on her behalf; he couldn't understand how she could write this letter like there could still be some sort of good in the man. Like there was anything redeemable about him.
I had previously not gotten along well with James. Between his feud with Severus and a general sense of entitlement, I couldn't stand him. However, growing up changes us in many ways, and I had started to notice positive changes in your father during our sixth year. He started to treat people better, and as the conflict outside the castle walls started to affect those of us inside, he started showing true leadership to many students who were unsure of what their futures held. Still, I did not like that he was Head Boy beside me, and I still had some animosity towards him for his past. As the year went on though, as we worked together and truly got to know each other, I found his new personality to be much more than just tolerable. Though when he asked me out towards the end of our seventh year, I was still hesitant. Not because of his past, but because of mine. I was pregnant with another man's child. I told myself that it would not become serious, that it would last until the end of the school year, and end when we entered the adult world. I didn't expect to fall in love, I didn't expect to find myself planning a future that involved him, and I didn't know how it would work with you. The end of the school year came, and the end of our relationship was nowhere in sight. I knew I had to tell him about you. Figuring out how was tricky, and your father being your father completely took the matter out of my hands when he asked me to marry him. So I told him everything right then and there. I was afraid that it would all be over, but it wasn't.
I told your mother that I would love her no matter whose child she carried, and that I would love any child she bore into our marriage. I was right too.
Your father accepted you with no reservations, and I accepted his proposal without any myself. We were married four months later.
Yet the conflict in the wizarding world continued to escalate. Your father and I both worked against Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters, under the leadership of Albus Dumbledore. One night, while responding to a Death Eater revel, I was hit by a curse that hurt me badly. I made a full recovery, but I almost lost you. I couldn't carry you and fight, so I decided it was time to have you. I had wanted you to be born in a peaceful world, but I knew that if I continued to fight, it would have been lucky if you had been born at all. Five months later you were delivered, a little premature, though by now you had been inside of me for fifty-nine months.
During much of the time after we graduated Hogwarts, I heard very little of Severus, except that he was associating with known Death Eaters. Shortly before you were born though, we heard, from various contacts, that Severus was brewing potions for Voldemort. There was no question in my mind that he could never know about you.
Now, wrote his father. I can just imagine you reading this right now. You're probably thinking that you look an awful lot like me. This is by design, rather than by nature. Sirius Black, your godfather, introduced me to an old ritual, it was once commonly used for adoption, where a parent can imbue a very young child that is not theirs by birth with a part of themselves. Shortly after you were born, we gave you a potion with my blood, and I cast the charm that would make you my child by more than just marriage. This is why you look so much like me, or as much as a baby can look like his father. The point is, I am your father, forever and always, but just as there is a part of me and your mother in you, there is still everything you got from Snape too, you just can't tell anymore by looking at you. Sirius is the only one besides us who knows any of this.
That is why we are writing this letter, his mother continued. We did not write this letter just to tell you about your unusual heritage. I do not know all of what you have inherited from Severus, but I do know that you have a hereditary illness from him. There is no need to be alarmed. It is easily treatable. It is a magical variant of an illness called hemophilia, and it basically causes your body to produce insufficient quantities of the blood cells responsible for clotting your blood when you bleed. There is a spell that treats this, but it is not a cure. It is a fairly simple spell and lasts throughout early childhood. However, as children with this illness begin to mature magically, the magic that they use and encounter starts to wear away at the spell that acts in lieu of the cells that they are lacking. The spell has to be cast again. The older a child gets, and the stronger they become magically, the shorter this spell lasts. During early childhood, the accidental magic you perform is fairly limited, and has little effect on the spell. When you are young, just starting Hogwarts, the amount of magic that you use and is used on you is small, the spell will last an additional four and a half years, on average. By the end of your schooling when you are using powerful spells and practicing things like human transfiguration on one another in class, the spell is worn away quickly and it should be updated every year. You have only been practicing magic for the past two years, so this letter gives you quite a bit of time before you need to worry about this. Even so, you should check the strength of the charm when you get back to Hogwarts. I have included detailed instructions with this letter on how to do so, as well as how to renew the spell when the time comes. Properly managed, this illness should never affect you.
I hesitate to add this next bit, but I cannot tell you about Severus without telling you the rest of his story. Not long after we decided to have you, we went to a meeting with Albus Dumbledore. We arrived early, early enough to see Severus leaving the Headmaster's office. I asked Albus what he had been doing there, but he told me that he could not tell me. A few months later, just after you had been born, Albus told us that Voldemort had targeted our family; that someone close to Voldemort had told him so. He would not tell me who. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, I do not know if this is true, but I feel certain that it is Severus. I hope that he has turned his back on Voldemort and his hateful ways. I want him to be Dumbledore's source, but I cannot trust that he is. I wish that I could have saved him, I wish that he could know that I forgave him the moment he apologized. The mistakes he has made in life are his own, but I hope he is safe, and I hope he finds peace. For his safety, this paragraph will disappear after you read this, though again, you are the only one who can read it.
The paragraph disappeared at that moment.
Anyone else who tries to read this letter will see stories that your father and I have written about our past. If you wish to see them yourself, simply tap the parchment with your wand and say 'revelo' to change the letter back and forth.
I hope that you are well, and that you are well cared for. I hope that this letter never needs to be delivered. I hope you know that we love you so very much. Happy birthday my son, may your year be filled with joy and peace.
Happy birthday Harry, you and your mother are the best things in my life. Whatever happens, whether we're there to celebrate your birthday with you or not, know that we are with you always, his father finished the letter.
Harry stared at the letter for a moment, not really taking it in anymore.
"It means nothing," he murmured quietly. He nodded to himself. It meant nothing, nothing whatsoever. Snape wasn't his dad, not in any meaningful sense of the word. He hadn't been there when Harry had been a baby. He hadn't held him or played with him. He hadn't fed him or cared for him. He hadn't done anything for Harry. All he'd ever done was mock him and try to get him expelled. And how messed up was that? He'd spent every moment together with the man being ridiculed and glared at, and the guy was really some weird bio-dad. Harry became angry as he thought of all the times he had been locked in his cupboard as a kid, alone and dreaming of someone coming for him, of finding out that his parents weren't really dead and that they wanted to take him away. Well that dream had come true, in part, and what a nightmare it had become.
Harry was about to scream with all of the anger rushing through him, his breathing was out of control and he was ready to start pulling out his hair. But he didn't. A calmness suffused him, his eyes grew heavy, and he felt at peace, like he was lying on the grass in the park on a bright and sunny day.
"It doesn't mean anything," he said to himself again, a comfort this time, not a denial. He didn't need Snape, he didn't need a father, he wasn't that kid anymore. He just needed to sleep, and think about the rest of the letter in the morning.
Thank you for the broom repair kit. I can't use it yet, my brooms locked up with the majority of my school stuff, but for now I'm sure I'll enjoy being able to read the book that came with it. The holiday's been fairly boring so far, all I really have for company are Hedwig and my school assignments. I hope you're having fun in France. I'll try to meet you in Diagon Alley but no promises.
Like the letter to Ron he had just written, this one omitted most of the unpleasant aspects of his summer. Like the letter he wasn't thinking about. He wouldn't send the letters yet; he didn't want to send Hedwig off after she had been gone for so long. Harry got up and started getting ready for the day. He had woken early despite his late night and had started writing his friends to keep his mind from wandering elsewhere. Pulling a clean shirt on, Harry found himself glancing at the loose floorboard where the letter from his parents was hidden. Out of sight but not out of mind by any means. Harry made his way downstairs.
Before he turned to the kitchen though, he noticed a special alert on the television. Five faces appeared on the screen. Four men, and one very deranged looking woman.
"The public is warned that all five of the escaped convicts are extremely dangerous and should not be approached for any reason. Police also caution that this man," the center picture enlarged on the screen. The man was almost feral looking, and Harry was revolted to see that it looked like he had filed his teeth down to points. "Fenrir Greyback, has on numerous occasions attacked children, and has several charges of child kidnaping. Police suggest that parents keep a close eye on children playing outside."
Harry blanched at the thought of a man like that loose on the world.
"The number at the bottom of your screen is a hotline, anyone who sites any of the five escapees or has any information about their whereabouts should call immediately. For more information and up to the minute updates turn to our sister station Channel 4 News. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming." One of Dudley's programs returned to the screen and Harry walked into the kitchen. That woman had stuck out, not her deranged face, but the name below it, Belatrix Lestrange. He felt like he had heard the name recently.
"Where've you been?" his aunt asked severely. "Don't make me drag you out of bed in the mornings, you won't like it."
Harry rolled his eyes as he took over the breakfast preparations only to feel his aunt slap him upside the back of his head.
"Don't you roll your eyes at me you horrid boy. Why I've put up with you all these years I have no idea, but the least you can do is show a little respect."
Hoping he could head her off Harry gave as about a polite "yes Aunt Petunia," as he could, but she just continued to rant under her breath, while she set the table, covering topics such as: Harry's several unsavory qualities, that freakish business under her roof, and her own saintly patience. Harry had heard it all before and did his best to ignore it while he worked on breakfast. Not wanting to dodge any frying pans, Harry kept all retorts to himself.
Uncle Vernon walked into the kitchen and his Aunt stopped her tirade. As much as she liked to complain about Harry, she wasn't about to get her husband in a lather about it.
"Wonderful breakfast Petunia," his uncle said as he sat down at the table.
"Dudley sweetums, breakfast is ready," his aunt called to Dudley who was still watching television.
Harry finished putting the breakfast on the table and went to eat his breakfast over the sink.
"Now," his uncle said, putting down his fork, a while later. "As you both know, today is quite a special day."
Harry almost choked on his toast. The Dursleys never remembered his birthday, much less treated it like something to celebrate. His aunt glared at him while he coughed a bit. "A special day?" Harry asked once he was settled.
"Don't you pay attention boy? Marge is coming to visit, her train will be coming into the station soon. Actually I want to get to the station early, I don't want Marge waiting for me with those murderers on the loose."
"Murderers?" his aunt said worriedly. "What are you talking about?"
"It was on the radio earlier when I was shaving. Five murderers escaped from prison last night. There's a large manhunt underway."
"I saw them on the tellie," Dudley said excitedly. "They looked deranged."
"My goodness," said Aunt Petunia. "Where did they escape from."
"Could be anywhere, from all the information the news report gave," his uncle said gruffly.
"They could be walking down the street right now for all we know," Aunt Petunia said, getting up to look out the kitchen window as though she actually expected to see them doing just that. "Maybe we should go with you, I wouldn't want to be home alone without you if one of those people turned up."
"That's a wonderful idea Petunia. We should head out now then," his uncle said.
"I haven't finished my breakfast yet," Dudley wailed. "And I don't want to go, I can look after myself."
Harry tried not to snicker at Dudley's complaining, he had already eaten more than Harry was going to eat over the next few days.
"Now Diddy-darling, we just don't want anything to happen to you while we're gone. Tell you what, since you're such a good boy, and you're missing out on breakfast, we can stop for ice cream and doughnuts on the way home. How about that darling?"
Dudley had to think for a moment while he shoveled some more rashers and eggs into his mouth.
"One more thing though," his uncle said, turning his attention to Harry. "We couldn't tell your aunt about that bloody school you go to, so we've told her that you attend St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys."
"What!" Harry exploded, forgetting to fly under the radar in the face of such an injustice.
"And that's the story you'll be sticking to if you know what's good for you," his uncle said darkly, standing up from the table so he could gain height over Harry.
Harry just gaped at the unfairness of it all.
"Make yourself useful while we're gone and clean up the kitchen," Aunt Petunia said as she collected Dudley and walked out of the room. Harry just stood there for a moment, listening to the Dursleys leave.
With the Dursleys gone, Harry took his time to eat his breakfast at the table before he cleaned the kitchen. At least, he decided, he got to eat a decent breakfast. Then he took a moment to pick the lock on the cupboard under the stairs, he needed a new bottle of ink. He looked longingly at his wand, but left it where it was lest his uncle notice that it was missing. It wasn't like the escapees were actually wandering Little Whinging.
Harry went upstairs to his room to put the bottle away. When he pried up the loose floorboard though the first thing he noticed was the letter from his parents. He sighed and figured that he should deal with it while he had some time to himself. He had no desire to read anything about Snape though, so he only reread the part about hemophilia, and then flipped to the pages that discussed spell work which he hadn't read the night before. By the time he had finished reading it, he was fairly confident he would be able to handle any spell casting by himself, but he wouldn't be able to check anything until he got back to Hogwarts, and that was what worried him.
The letter said that the average kid wouldn't cast or encounter enough magic to wear away the spell till they were in the middle of their fifth year, but Harry wasn't an average child. What effect had magical snake venom and Phoenix tears had on him, or fighting off Voldemort over the stone, or for that matter surviving the killing curse. That was all strong magic. Still though, after looking at the symptoms of the untreated disease, Harry doubted that the spell had worn off yet. The fact that he hadn't bled to death earlier in the summer proved that. Still though, Harry had no idea how strong the spell was or how much longer it would last. Unless he wanted to write an adult wizard and explain his predicament, though, there wasn't much Harry could do until the end of summer. In the end, he was probably being paranoid. He was fine, and he had plenty of time. He didn't need to worry about anything, besides Marge coming to visit. And the Hogsmeade permission slip, Harry realized as he put the parchment away. He had completely forgotten about Hogsmead after reading the letter from his parents the night before. Whatever hopes Harry might have had the night before for getting the form signed were shattered by Marge's impending arrival. As strict and unpleasant as Uncle Vernon was with Harry, he had always stepped things up when she visited, like he wanted to impress her with how domineering he could be with his small nephew.
Harry gathered up one of his homework assignments and went downstairs. With the house to himself, he relished the idea of working on his homework in the open. He worked until he heard his uncle's car pull up. It was time to put away his magical things and pretend to be a well behaved hoodlam who didn't speak unless spoken to. It was when he was putting his homework away that he remembered where he had heard the name Belatrix Lestrange. His mother had mentioned her, one of Voldemort's supporters. Unless there were a lot of Belatrix Lestranges out there, and Harry doubted it, then that woman on the news alert was a witch, and likely all five of the escapees were magical. That was probably why neither of the news reports had mentioned where they had escaped from. They'd escaped from a wizarding prison, and likely could be anywhere in the country. If they were all supporters of Voldemort, Harry had a feeling he would not be having an uneventful school year.