12: Evidential Implications
A feeling of dread washed over Harry, his mind calculating all the possible topics and constantly emphasizing the one he really did not want it to be. The scene before him was not quite what he expected, the differences doing little to appease him. Severus was sitting with his back to them, facing Dumbledore's desk and not acknowledging them at all. Remus moved away from Harry, now taking the seat beside the professor, leaving only one vacant seat. The headmaster was not there. That was the most distressing thought. He cautiously slipped into the headmaster's chair, the reversed view of the office making him feel uneasy, as did the sudden understanding of the seating arrangement. Harry sat, outnumbered two to one, with the men he wished least to see-alone.
"Is…is this about what I said?" Harold asked, breaking the looming silence as he stared at his knees.
"No." Snape answered quickly, almost pleadingly. The boy's earlier outburst still haunted him… he had never seen the boy act so angry; so Snape-like he annoyingly noted. "That has nothing to do with this."
"Is it about what I am?" The boy asked, mindlessly rubbing his ear. He could feel his eyebrows shooting up, a brief glance at Remus proved the man's eyes, too, widened at the question.
"Harry?" Remus asked, his voice caring with the softness Severus doubted he could muster.
"Is this about Voldemort and the Asps?" The boy repeated the question, his tone tinted with anxiety. Severus was cold to the bone. The boy knew… A hundred questions raced in his mind, though Remus was the only to actually ask.
"Harry how do-"
"That does not matter, Lupin." He cut the other off, still slightly dazed, and finally realizing that the answer to that question was not as important as the answer to other questions. "The question is what he knows." The boy gulped silently. Severus calmed slightly… this was still one of his students, he reminded himself. He taught his students much more than how to mix potions. He had delivered what he promised, though most failed to realize this…
For the bottle that could capture fame was made, not of crystal or glass, but of willpower and a profound knowledge of the human and personal psyche. To understand the emotions of oneself and the emotions of others, molding them to fit their own devices is a truly great power, allowing one to command respect, command armies. The recipe for glory consisted not of dragon scales and seed ash but of tact, control, knowledge, and cunning. The stopper that could halt death was made not of cork, but of the deeds one has accumulated, for which one will be remembered forever. Thus, having oddly enough heeded these lessons, Harold knew full well when he was supposed to answer a question.
"I woke up in the hospital wing for a bit…" Half-truth, he instantly categorized, "I heard you talking about the Aspidis…" Truth "I already knew about them, from the dreams." Dreams? Severus looked to Lupin, gaining an 'I'll tell you later' look. "Then Remus checked my ear…" The boy's hand rose to his earlobe again, unnerving Severus. "What's it look like, really?"
Harry looked from one to the other, his last question having sent both adults into a stunned silence. As soon as he started speaking, he realized just how nervous they were. Now, Snape presented himself well, but it really took a lot to make the professor openly nervous…
"You aren't in Ancient Runes, right Harry? Still, have you ever seen the rune for eternity or the Muggle math symbol for infinity?" Harry shook his head. "Well, it looks sort of like-"
"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Snape snapped in frustration, grabbing a stray piece of parchment and scribbling something in his flowing script. "Here." He thrust it forward, towards Harry. "The convenient thing about symbols is that you can see them," he added sarcastically.
"Oh." The circles weren't exactly circular, though his earlier analysis was not far off. The 'circles' looked like two teardrops, connected by their points. Now that he saw it, he did remember seeing it before… probably from one of Dudley's old math books that inevitably made it into his room. He never actually studied them, but he did look through them for lack of anything else to do… it wasn't exactly safe to have a new charms book out most of the time, and they couldn't do more than confiscate a math book- big deal.
"Can we move on now? We have far more important things to discuss." Remus nodded, starting after a moment's hesitation.
"Harry, we need to talk about your parents…" Harry noticed Snape's slight grimace. Probably hates admitting to have anything to do with me…he concluded, that or how- he let the idea drop, not really wanting to think of its implications. Then again,
"Did he know?"
"What?" Harry let out a breath of frustration at Remus,
"Did Dad know… did he die protecting my mom and me, or someone who never even existed?"
"No one knew." Snape replied his voice strained as Harry's glare fell upon him. It was no death glare, but he hoped it was still somewhat potent.
"He didn't, Harry." Yeah, a stork just made a wrong delivery…
"Someone did… I'm old enough to know the process, Remus!"
"Then you are also old enough to acknowledge the irrefutable existence of memory charms." Snape countered, agitation now lining his voice.
"Perhaps we had best start at the beginning?" Snape nodded, reluctantly albeit, Harry's stony gaze still fixed on both men. "This summer I found a journal Harry… your fa- James'. That's how any of us know."Snape had never before been so glad Remus was there. The man had been talking with the boy for hours now, only looking to him to fill gaps he himself could not. Severus couldn't have done it. He could always admit his flaws, to himself at least, and comforting people was one of the skills he simply did not possess. Not the way Remus did it anyway… he had made the matter seem neither unimportant, nor did he dwell on the severity of the issue…he seemed to know just what to say and when to listen.
"What about the Asps?" The boy asked, no longer as nervous.
"What about them?" Severus asked, careful to keep the usual bitterness out of his voice- not an easy task mind you- as he leaned forward slightly. He knew this would evolve into one of the times Remus would need his help answering, might as well take it from the start.
"I'm one of them, right? Well, what are they...we…exactly, what does being one mean? Is Voldemort going to use us like some mindless puppets any time he chooses? Will I turn into a snake or something?" He looked down again, gathering his thoughts momentarily. "All I know is that they are Death Eaters' kids so I'd appreciate someone-" He glared at Severus, making it clear just who this 'someone' was, "-shedding some light on this issue." Oh, this would not be easy…here goes.
"Aspidis can not be controlled, not directly, that is why he allowed only his 'most loyal' servants to have them." Severus stifled a snort; Harold didn't bother. "He did not want his enemies to be capable of controlling them, thus he gave up the ability himself. They were to be trained in his fortress from a young age, setting their allegiance in stone, with no pesky outside influences to sway them… obviously things did not go as planned." Because of you was implied. "He gave us a potion that would result in your abilities… he did not tell all of them to us, I doubt even he knows them all. Before you ask; no, I did not brew it nor was I able to find the instructions. I tried." Severus hoped to all the powers above that Harold believed his statement… at least that, if nothing more. He could not help it, the boy had to believe that Severus would never do that to any child, especially- He stopped the thought. "From what I do know, the oddest power is the ability to secrete different substances through the pores of your skin… he called them venoms. I know one is the chemical equivalent of a Cruciatus curse, but some of the others are far less-" He tried to look for the right word,
"cruel? Dark?" The boy offered bitterly, obviously not liking the idea.
"Harmful." Severus forced, making sure the boy realized that to be what he meant. "Some of the other abilities should include things like wandless magic and increased resistance to illness and enhanced physical abilities… things that other wizards can have. What Asps have depends on what they are. The Dark Lord chose twenty to father the Asps. Eighteen of them would be under the leadership of two others. The Alpha Asp and the Beta, the 'second in command' if you will, the Alpha is the most powerful. The others would pledge allegiance to the Alpha, thus he only has to worry about two directly. He wanted generals, not more servants. These twenty needed to be capable of making tactical decisions without his constant attention."
"Is my Parseltongue one of the powers?"
"Doubtful." Severus negated, "I would imagine he would wish to keep such an ability to himself…"
"The powers come gradually, with practice… I doubt even Draco has started showing signs and he … "
"He's the Alpha." It was not a question. "I should have known, you know, the way the others simply do his bidding… bet half the house is at his command."
"Did something happen?" Remus, always practical…
"Um…" Harold took a sip of water, looking from one man to the other. Remus was in a state of shock. Severus arched a brow at the man, whose state only worsened. The glass was now back on the table. Oh! Back on the table; a good ten feet away from the boy. "Just that."
"Since I heard you two talking, though I didn't exactly notice till Hermione returned my wand the next morning." The boy paused, as if contemplating the addition of some extra information. "It's getting easier… At first I could only do it when I was mad, now…" Severus stole a glance at the man beside him, wondering how the hell he could take all this so calmly after appearing so shocked moments prior… The mere concept of such magic made him uneasy. It was colorless and soundless, lacking all indications of magic use… perfect and undetectable. Most couldn't use such magic to do anything but simple tasks, but at the level Asps could supposedly reach, People wouldn't need to look for a green flash when they die… DAMN! The statement 'if looks could kill' suddenly took on a completely different meaning. He stifled a shudder.
A knock ended the tense moment, Dumbledore entering before the sound died away. Harry jumped out of the chair, making the elder man chuckle. The Headmaster however beckoned the boy to sit back down, transfiguring a seat for himself between the other two from the table where the water had been earlier.
"I believe," He started, eyes twinkling, "we have much to discuss." Harry would rather have remained standing, if not for the discouraging sensation his buckling knees provided. He looked to Snape- his father- almost pleading for someone to excuse him. One question had been nagging at the back of his mind, now that his identity was more or less not some prank or misunderstanding.
"What do I look like?" He asked his eyes falling between the Headmaster and Snape. The former answered, simply handing him an odd looking glass . "I meant what do I really look like, not what people see me as…" Harry commented, looking up from the familiar image of James Potter with green eyes.
"Look again." He did, nearly dropping the mirror. Staring back at him was a stranger. Harry had assumed his skin would be paler, his hair actually manageable perhaps, but everything seemed to have changed. Even his eyes seemed different- sharper, more potent. His nose, thankMerlin, was straight and small. His eyebrows were darker, thinner… his features more defined, smooth, yet strong. His complexion was actually normal, slightly tanned even, probably remnants of his mother… she did look tanned in photos after all. His hair, though still raven black at first glance, hid subtle amber highlights that could only be coaxed out when light hit it just so.
"Are you okay, Harry?" He heard a voice echo in his mind- Remus.
"Um… no, not really." He whispered back, looking up from the mirror. This made it real… if this was some nightmare he'd have been a mirror image of Snape with green eyes. If it was a joke, a few features would be different. What he saw was a completely different person looking back at him… someone who wouldn't automatically scream 'Snape' when someone saw him. The likeness was undoubtedly there, anyone who saw the two of them together would have seen a relation, but the likeness was not overpowering like the 'spitting image of James' he had lived with for so long. He saw his mother in him, pieces of her or some middle ground between her and Snape. His mouth was fuller than his father's, his chin more elegant, and his hair less, well… greasy…
"We're here for you, Harry…all of us." The voice stated again, a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Thanks, Remmy." He responded, putting his own hand over his."Now, Harry, there is one more thing we must discuss." The Headmaster interjected, gaining the boy's attention, "I was actually going to give you special training after this year, even if this had not been brought to my attention. Your being an Asp makes things much easier as you will no longer need to be playing catch-up. You cannot keep my illusion much longer, which gives you several options. First, you can take the special training early, getting private tutoring from several professors. You can transfer to another school and keep your name; I have a friend who has assured me he can protect you at his academy. Lastly, you may choose to remain here, Severus willing, as his son. In any case, Mr. Potter can no longer attend Hogwarts."
"You know I can't claim him, Albus… the Dark Lord-"
"Will haunt him no matter what." Albus finished, "While he is trying to kill Harry Potter, he only wants to recruit your son." The Headmaster paused, the magic twinkle vanishing from his eyes. "How much longer until he will kill you for not being able to locate him, hmmm?"
Harry loosened his jaw. He had been ready to run out when he heard Snape's reaction, but now… Did he actually want him, hindered only by the evil that had haunted Harry all his life, or was the Lord of Darkness but an excuse to pacify Dumbledore and leave Harry in the dust? The latter sounded like his potions master, but the man before him hadn't exactly acted like the teacher… he wasn't terribly different, but he seemed less vengeful somehow- less venomous and deadly.
"Not long…" Snape sighed, his tone making a shiver run down Harry's spine. It was too somber, resigned… like an old man's when death knocked.
"Do you hate me?" Harry asked. His mind was racing, trying to figure out what he should do, but the question constantly popped up like a brick wall between him and the answer. If the situation had not been so grave, even Harry would have laughed. Snape sat before him, his mouth doing a superb imitation of a fish out of water, the man's onyx eyes searching for something. Harry waited a moment for a reply, finally accepting the silence as his answer. He walked slowly to the door, mumbling, "I'll take that as a yes," before turning the handle.
"Wait…" I wish I did hate him… that would make things so much easier. "I do not hate you." Severus finally managed to whisper, his knuckles white. The boy's face calmed, replaced soon by something akin to determination.
"I'd like to stay, Headmaster…if Professor Snape agrees, that is." WHAT! Severus mentally screamed, using all his willpower to keep the remark to himself and his jaw set. He had expected Harold to say an array of things tonight, a number of which had come to pass, but that was as far from his little list as one could get! True, this was the only way the boy could stay at school, but why even ask his permission? The Headmaster would have arranged it, surely…
"I need you to think carefully about your decision, Harry," Albus cautioned, "For now please keep all this to yourself… if you must, tell your friends you may be leaving soon. Not a word about your parentage or where you might go, alright child?" The boy nodded. "Goodnight, Harry."
"Yes sir, goodnight."
"I…was not expecting that..." Severus muttered, once the door was shut again.
"You looked it." Remus commented, "But that's how Harry is…"