Harry lay quietly in his bed, watching the seconds tick down to midnight. It seems a lifetime ago that he had done just this in the hut on the rock, counting down to his eleventh birthday by the light of Dudley’s watch. Now, six years later, in just thirty seconds, he’d be an adult. A real adult in the wizarding world. He’d be able to do magic away from Hogwarts, get his apparition licence, and best of all, he’d be able to leave number 4, Privet Drive, never to return again. His trunk was packed, and the fare for the Knight Bus to Diagon Alley was all counted out ready.
The last few seconds counted down on the battered old clock. “Happy birthday, Harry,” he whispered to himself, and sat up, reaching for the wand on the bedside table. His hand never closed around the shaft. He was thrown back onto the bed, his head cracking against the wall with a reverberating thump. “Ow,” Harry grunted as the world swam before him and shooting pains wracked through him. He shut his eyes against the spinning world.
The early morning sun slanted across the bed, and Harry groaned, throwing an arm across his eyes. His muddled brain couldn’t quite seem to surface. When had it become morning?”
He sat up slowly, groaning as he flopped his head forwards to rest in his hands. Something was wrong, he decided. Nothing felt quite right. He forced his eyes to focus, and noticed the crisp parchment envelope on the floor, squarely between his feet. It certainly hadn’t been there last night…
My dearest Harriet, it read. Harriet? Who was Harriet? Harry wondered, scrunching his nose.
I’m so sorry that I’m not here to explain all this to you. If things had been better… but if you’ve received this letter, then I’ve died before your seventeenth birthday. I wish I was with you to explain myself, but it would seem that I can’t be. I’m sorry for the deception.
You see, dearest, your father is wonderful in many ways, but in some, he is still set in the old wizarding traditions. He was so very certain that our first child would be male. I don’t know if you know this, Harriet, but the wizarding world is still deeply misogynistic. The first born for the old families is always a boy. Firstborn girl children apparently don’t happen, but don’t believe that for a minute. They’re killed at birth, and I couldn’t let that happen to you. So I hid the fact that I was having a girl from the world, from your father, and when you were born, I cast the necessary spells to disguise you as male. Now you’re seventeen, an adult, and you’re able to protect yourself and claim your place in the world. Please forgive me, dearest.
I know you will have questions, my love, and I can’t hope to anticipate them all. One other person knows about this: my oldest friend, Severus Snape. He was there when you came into the world, and he helped me do all this. Please, seek him out. He is a good man, though dour, and he will see everything right.
I love you always and forever,
Harry stared down at the letter in confusion, and pushed a lock of hair out of his face. Out of his… his hand stilled. His hair wasn’t long enough to fall over his face like that. Slowly, fearfully he stood and ran his hands down his body. Oh Merlin. he had breasts, and hips that stuck out like a girl’s. He stumbled over to the cracked mirror on the chest of drawers- it had been in Dudley’s room until a fit of rage had seen it broken.
Even around the spidery fault lines, Harry could see the changes in his face. he was shorter still, he realised, the centre of the break in the glass over his forehead instead of his nose. His chin was more delicate, his cheekbones more pronounced, his eyelashes longer, fuller. All that paled in comparison to his hair, which tumbled down his back in a dark tumultuous waterfall. “Bloody hell,” he breathed, his voice higher. His hands came up to cup his new breasts again, tugging a little to make sure they were real. That hurt. Then, gingerly, a hand went down to feel between his legs. He pulled it away quickly. The familiar lumps and bumps down there were gone. Harry swore and sank down onto his bed again. He glanced at the clock and realised that it was only half past five. The Dursleys wouldn’t be up for a couple of hours yet. He needed to get away. They couldn’t see him like this. He shuddered to think what they would think to suddenly find a teenage girl in their house when a teenage boy had gone to sleep the night before. He stood and dragged his jeans out from his trunk. Quickly, he decided; get dressed quickly, don’t look. He managed to get as far as stripping out of his pyjama bottoms and into his jeans, belting them tightly around his newly smaller waist.
He was just about to unearth a t-shirt which might be clean when a sharp rapping came from the window. He let the owl in with surprise; he wasn’t expecting anything. His friends knew that he’d be at the burrow later, so they wouldn’t send gifts to him here.
The owl was unusually dark grey. It offered Harry the letter held in it’s beak and immediately hopped back to the windowsill. He thought it might have been glaring at him, but he couldn’t be sure. Owls usually did look grumpy.
The parchment in his hand was addressed simply to ‘Potter’, and Harry couldn’t help but recognise the flowing handwriting. Snape. He sighed. He’d never expected to receive private correspondence from Snape, but perhaps he’d get some answers.
If all has gone to plan, you will now be as you were born. I will fulfill my promise and duty to your mother; any questions you have about your situation I will answer to the best of my ability, and any needs you I have I will strive to fulfill.
I am available to meet at your convenience, be that now, later or never. I await your response by return owl.
Harry couldn’t believe that he was going to have to be reliant on Snape for anything, but it seemed like it was his best option at the moment. He grabbed a muggle pen from the bedside table and scrawled As soon as possible, please. Where? Harry beneath Snape’s missive. He thrust it back at the owl, who took the note and soared out of the window without further instruction. He really hoped that Snape would respond soon.
He turned his back to the mirror, tugging his pyjama top over his head and replacing it with a mostly-clean t shirt. A glance down told him that it was stretching oddly across his newly engorged chest, but there was nothing to be done about that. When the shops opened in Muggle London, he could see about finding some clothes that fit.
It was short work to toss the remainder of his possessions into his trunk: he didn’t have much, and he’d never been a fastidious packer. The majority of his belongings lived in his trunk all summer anyway. Even so, he was surprised at how quickly the owl returned.
I am at the end of Privet Drive. We can apparate to a better location.
Harry was certainly not delighted about the prospect of going off to meet Snape, but he couldn’t just stay here. He cast charms to shrink and lighten his trunk before tucking the whole into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt along with his wand. A last glance around the bedroom he’d spent his summer holidays in since he’d first gone to Hogwarts- there were no happy memories here.
He was sure he’ make it out of the house unseen. It was still just after six. As softly as he could, he closed the bedroom door. He’d forgotten the squeak at the top of the stairs though.
“Where are you going, boy?” Uncle Vernon growled when Harry was only half way down the stairs.
Harry wanted to laugh. Even without whatever had happened overnight, he wasn’t a boy anymore; he was an adult now. And with his new body, he certainly couldn’t be described as one. He turned to face Vernon. “I’m leaving,” he said resolutely, aware that his voice was higher, and that even in the dim light of the hallway, Vernon couldn’t help but notice something odd. He was right; he watched his uncle’s face contort and redden. Harry smiled. “Goodbye. I’d say thank you, but you’ve done nothing good for me.”
He left Vernon spluttering and swearing on the landing, and unlocked the front door, shutting it quietly behind him. At least all the neighbours still had their curtains drawn, so the Dursley’s wouldn’t have awkward explanations. Harry had a moment’s thought that he should have waited until later and then had a shouting match on the lawn. It would have been satisfying to leave the Dursley’s angry and ashamed, but probably would not have done much good to him in the long run. Better to be the bigger person, he decided.
Snape was nowhere in evidence, but Harry headed for the end of the road anyway, his hand tightly wrapped around the hilt of his wand in case it was some kind of trap. Voldemort may not be likely to be lurking on Privet Drive, but Harry wasn't about to take any unnecessary risks.
From the dappled shadow of an oak tree, Harry noticed the shimmer of a disillusionment charm being lifted, and Snape stepped forwards. “Harriet,” he said softly. Harry had never heard him speak without the cold barb in his voice before.
“I suppose so,” Harry replied.
Snape looked him up and down appraisingly, taking in the jeans rolled up at the ankles, the shoes that were too big and would cause blisters if worn for any distance, the t shirt that didn’t hide the fact that he had no bra. “Of course,” he said. “You don’t have any women’s clothes. I think that we should go for breakfast, then see about getting you something that fits.”
Harry nodded, and Snape held out a black-clad arm for him to take. For a change, Snape wasn’t clad in his typical voluminous robes, but it seemed that his muggle fashion sense wasn’t as far from the mark as most wizards. He wore a pair of close fitting black jeans, a grey t-shirt and short black jacket. Harry recognised his boots as high-quality dragonhide, but muggles would assume leather. He reached out to put his hand in the crook of Snape’s elbow, and immediately felt the swirl of apparition, squeezing him tightly from all sides.
His ears were ringing from the magical travel when he landed with a thump. “Where are we?” he asked.
“Manchester,” Snape replied shortly. “This way.” Harry had to scamper to keep up with his professor’s long legs.
Luckily, it wasn’t far. A small bell on the back of the door tinkled as Snape pushed into a small cafe. A surly looking man in builder’s overalls sat in one corner with a bacon roll and a large mug of tea. The plump brunette girl behind the counter looked up and smiled at him. “Severus!” she greeted warmly. “Are you looking for Robin? He’s not in until ten…”
Snape waved her words away with a gesture of his hand. “I just need somewhere quiet for breakfast, Rosie,” he assured her. “I’ll visit Robin sometime soon. May we use the back room?”
“Of course,” she replied. “Make yourselves comfortable; I’ll bring in some breakfast for you.”
Snape thanked her and swept past the counter and into the back of the shop. Harry scrambled after him with an apologetic smile as he brushed past Rosie the waitress. To his surprise, the room he followed Snape into wasn’t a kitchen or storeroom, but a tiny little staffroom, just big enough for a table and four chairs. Snape sat and waved Harry into another chair. “You know her?” Harry asked.
“Rosie? Yes. My son works here.”
Harry almost fell off his chair in surprise. “Your son?” he asked incredulously. “You have a son?”
“Yes, Robin.” Snape didn’t even flinch at Harry’s tone. “He’s at university, but he works here to cover the bills.”
“How come no one ever mentioned him?” Harry wanted to know. “Didn’t he go to Hogwarts?”
Snape shook his head. “Robin’s a squib,” he explained, without a touch of malice. Harry had to shut his mouth, hanging open with shock, when Rosie nudged the door open with her hip, her hands full with a large teapot and mugs. Snape thanked her, and only when she had shut the door behind her did he continue speaking to Harry. “His mother was a muggle,” he explained, “and as I am a half-blood, it’s not surprising that he didn’t inherit the ability to practise magic.” He poured milk into both mugs, then tea, and pushed one towards Harry. “As fascinating as you may find my family situation, I feel that you must have more pressing concerns at the moment,” he told the girl in front of him.
Harry made a little shaking motion with his head, not to disagree, but to clear the thought of Snape having a son, much less a son with a muggle woman, from his head. “Yeah,” he said. “I don’t really understand. Am I a boy or a girl?”
Severus sat back, cradling his mug of tea, his long fingers curled around the warmth of the heavy earthenware. “You were born female,” he told Harry. “Think of all the old Wizarding families you know, and think of how many have first born females. The Malfoys, the Blacks, the Longbottoms, even the Weasleys. All have a first born male in the major line. The magical world can hide it well, but it is inherently misogynistic. Girls cannot inherit in the same ways as their male siblings, so first born females are often killed in the womb as soon as the sex of the child is known. Your mother wouldn’t do it. She lied to everyone about you. I was the only one present when she gave birth, and I helped her with the spells necessary to hide you as a male. Even James was sure that you were a son.”
“So I’d be dead if she hadn’t pretended I was a boy?”
Snape inclined his head. “You would have never been born,” he agreed. From an inside pocket of his jacket he pulled some papers. Silently, he passed them across the table.
A birth certificate for Harriet Jane Potter, born 31st of July at seven minutes past midnight. “I changed the Hogwarts records to read Harry instead of Harriet,” Snape said quietly. Harry sat staring at the official documents until Rosie disturbed them again, this time with a tray groaning with two huge full English breakfasts and a toast rack.
“I’ll be in the front if you need anything else,” she said cheerfully.
Snape pushed a plate towards Harry. “Eat first,” he instructed, “questions after.”
Harry had never been a big eater. Ron as always stealing the food he hadn’t finished from his plate at school. He’d never had much food at all living with the Dursley’s. They hadn’t normally starved him, but he never quite got enough. Nevertheless, he made a valiant effort at the massive plate of food. Only the fried mushrooms didn’t even get touched- he hated them. Snape, he noticed, didn’t appear to like tomatoes, but his mushrooms were eaten with gusto.
How was he ever going to tell his friends all this? Harry wondered. How did you just turn up and say: hi, I’m a girl now?
Eventually, both had pushed their plates away from them. “What would you like to do?” Snape asked.
“What do you mean?” Harry wanted to know.
Snape steepled his fingers under his chin. “Well, you can reveal yourself as female to the world. Now that you are of age, no one can contest your right as the heir of the Potters; you came into your inheritance at midnight. On the other hand, you can choose to present to the world as male. The spells that were used to give you a male body can only be used on a newborn child, but you can use glamours to give the appearance of masculinity.”
“I… I don’t know,” Harry admitted quietly.
“Well,” Snape pressed, what do you feel like? A man or a woman?”
Harry looked at him helplessly. “I just feel like me,” he explained. “Just the same as always. How am I meant to know what it feels like to be something I’m not?”
“I don’t mean to pressure you,” Snape pressed on, “but this is a decision that you should make quite quickly. You must tell your friends something, and I know that you are expected at the Burrow later on today.”
Harry nodded. He tried to imagine life as a woman, tried to imagine hiding something this big from the world.
“If I used glamours to look like a man, would I be able to, erm, well, have sex?” he asked hesitantly. He couldn’t believe he was discussing sex with the scariest teacher! It would have been more uncomfortable with McGonagall, though, he thought.
“No. It’s a glamour only, it doesn’t change your anatomy. I don’t know of any spells that can do that on an adult. Muggles have surgeries that can give an approximation, though.”
Harry nodded. He’d expected as much. He sank back into thought for a few moments. eventually, he said, “The last couple of years I figured out that I was gay. I tried to fancy girls. It was what you were meant to do, you know? But I had my first crush on a guy in first year.”
Snape didn’t laugh, or even look surprised. “Homosexuality happens in the wizarding world, but it’s viewed with suspicion,” he informed Harry. Harry already knew that. He’d heard the whispers, the taunts about boys suspected of being gay. He’d kept it to himself.
“I think I should be a girl,” Harry informed the professor.
“I think that’s wise,” Snape replied. “It’s good to finally meet you, Harriet Potter. I hope that we can make a fresh start, and that you can bring yourself to forget the way I have treated you in the past.”
Harriet smiled, thinking of how Snape had gone out of his way to help today, how he’d gone to such lengths to keep the secret made by Lily Potter. “I’d like that.”