Forlorn Hope

Of Plots and Deceptions

13: Of Plots and Deceptions

To say the class was ordinary would be to say Severus enjoyed being put under the Cruciatus. It had taken all his self-restraint not to comment on Harold's behavior. When the dots finally connected in his mind, the professor was ready to curse himself. Who would be able to put up with his comments after having learned the truth? The boy had handled the situation better than Severus would have thought possible for a Gryffindor… the lot were usually very emotionally-driven, a quality contributing to their blind boldness and foolish trademark bravery.

"Potter…" he called the name for the first time all period, "see me after class." The boy didn't answer, a slight nod the only sign that he understood. The class soon filed out, his two constant companions obviously wondering if they ought to remain. "I said Potter, not the Golden Trio."

"It's okay guys… I'll be fine." Weasley gave him a questioning glance, whispering something Severus could not hear. Harry gave them a nod of confirmation, smiling slightly. Severus watched them leave with his eyes, casting silencing charms when the two fell out of earshot. "Now Po-" He caught himself, "Harold…" the boy raised a brow, "I believe we have things to discuss." The boy still didn't move, his silence chilling the already cold room. "Have you decided what you will do?"

"Have you, sir?" The boy asked, raising his eyes off the floor.

Have I ever… he mused, sullen at the child's passive response. The boy's tact had amazed him on several occasions, an almost emotionless or sad voice where he had expected anger.

"May I assume you are still willing to become-"

"I'm a Snape no matter what I choose." The boy cut him off harshly, "The only question is whether you want to claim me or not. I can't change who or what I am… or why. Don't treat me like a child, please, I learned too much too long ago. I've seen the death, felt the pain… I've learned to survive." The fire in his eyes clouded over at the last statement, the truth in his words making Severus' mouth twitch slightly. Who wouldn't want to claim him? Severus had not commented on the outburst, almost pleasantly noting his qualities reflected in the youth. Remus had been right, on all accounts…

"Very well," Severus casually answered, sitting back in his chair. "I will not try to baby you. You have lived through more than I would like and it would be a disgrace to your intelligence to pretend otherwise." He sighed, "That being said… I would love to be able to claim any relation to you, though I cannot fathom why you would agree to be associated with me." The boy's eyebrows shot up, obviously expecting a different answer.

"You mean… you want me?" The bewilderment was unmistakable. "Even if no one knows I'm the Harry Potter?"

"Your fame has nothing to do with my choice. If you must know," Severus hesitated, ought he to tell him? What if he thinks… "I have always wanted a child…a son…" Severus continued, hoping the boy did not take that the wrong way. "That only made me hate James all the more. He always got everything he wanted, from the House Cup to the best grades, to the girl I loved… to the perfect kid…"

"Since when am I the perfect kid?" The boy snorted indignantly, "I thought you said I was a good-for-nothing spoiled brat…"

"That would be James…"

"So 'like father like son'?"

"I did have to be mean to you, I cannot have-"

"Yeah, I know, Death Eater kids, Aspidis and the whole spying gig… I'm not stupid…" Severus stifled another 'oh'… since when does he know that fact? "I saw your arm after the third task, I heard you talking with the Headmaster…"

"The 'Dream Team' knows, I presume?" The boy nodded.

"Great."

"They won't tell anyone!" Harold instantly began to defend his comrades, "At least they don't think you're trying to kill me anymore…"

"I was never trying to kill you." Snape defended himself, "You know that- right?"

"Yes, sir…" Severus translated the meek affirmation into 'if you say so…' sighing as he did so.

"If you do not trust me we can find an alternative Harold… Dumbledore will-"

"Is that it?"

"Excuse me?" Severus drew back, dumbfounded. Was it just him or did the boy only ask half questions?

"Is that my name?" How thick can the boy get?

"Seeing as you have been using it for fifteen years, I should say so… yes." The boy's face looked crestfallen- why?

"Oh." Severus raised a brow. "I just thought… no one ever called me 'Harold' before- just Harry. I just figured it was… never mind; it would sound awful anyways…" He fidgeted slightly, breaking eye contact again. "It's… it's not Salazar or something… is it?" It took all of Severus' self restraint not to bang his head on the desk. The boy meant that name you imbecile! He mentally cursed himself, why must I always screw up? And why-oh-why must he always ask the worst questions?

"I did not know I had a son until about two weeks ago…" Severus struggled to keep the cool exterior, "if you go through with this, you may name yourself anything within reason."

"Oh."

"I do not want you to do anything you may have qualms over… now or in the future- understood?" The boy nodded. "Do not rush into this for my sake; we all acknowledge your temerity- you do not have to prove anything to me or anyone else. If you do this, you will be giving up too many things you would never be able to reclaim."

"I never wanted fame." The boy said abruptly, Merlin could he be naïve at times!

"What of your family, your 'youngest seeker in a century' status, Gryffindor Golden Boy… what of your things, your broom, your friends? A transfer student cannot miraculously act exactly like Potter, people would see through the charade in days. Even your owl- "

"Leave Hedwig out of this!" the boy snapped suddenly, his eyes clouding over, making the potions professor wonder what he did wrong. The small sniffle amplified his curiosity, mixing it with awkward concern. "I haven't seen her since summer… she's not coming back… she's never coming back…" Severus stood at the uneasy explanation, taking only a moment before Voldemort's involvement became apparent.

"I'm sorry." He said, cautiously placing his hand on the boy's hunched shoulder… he did not dare do more.

"You didn't know." Came the weak reply, "Hagrid gave her to me when I first got my letter… she was my first birthday present- and friend. I miss her… you know, when Pig comes, or at breakfast. Pig always agitated her, but she'd always help the little thing… when he really needed her at least. Smart too; she always could figure out what to do and where to go… she was devastated when I couldn't send her to Sirius anymore- she stood out too much, being white and all. She even went to Hermione without even being told to so that she could send me her birthday present for me over the summer- Hermione doesn't have an owl." Sounds like Echidna Severus noted, remembering his own owl.

"They say it becomes easier- with time."

"Not if time brings ever-worsening things." Severus squeezed the boy's shoulder lightly, unable to refute his words. That lesson Severus had learned from Voldemort as well, though he was in his twenties. The boy should not know about that… not yet. He had never experienced real innocence, courtesy of his father, but he had hoped Harold could… at least to some extent. That was the point of keeping him with the Muggles- right? Severus left his musings, instantly pulling his hand off the boy. Harold had calmed by now, he would have soon probably pulled away himself…

"You had best return before your friends die of worry." He stated, sobering up. "You ought to enjoy them while you can, no matter what you eventually choose. If you are still certain you wish to remain here, come to the Headmaster's office after supper … consider this carefully."

"I will sir…" Severus nodded, seeing the young man leave. He earnestly hoped the boy knew what he was getting himself into; he hoped both of them were ready for it. Harold seemed so different now that Severus put his perceptions aside. He no-longer looked like the perfect Gryffindor with the perfect life. He could, at times, see the boy's true character seep out of the protective shell Harold had erected. Severus smirked, noting the mask he himself made so long ago.

Could it be all for the better, he wondered, the change would allow him to start over, shed the shell perhaps… without all the expectations people place on the poor boy

"That being settled, let us move onto the details of all this… My uncle's grandson, Nathaniel Thrundon, has lent his hand to this situation. He is the headmaster at a small Wizarding school in Wales, and has agreed to help validate our story. Several of his students wish to return to their Muggle lives, one of which being a fifth year boy Nathaniel has become rather fond of. His mother, a Muggle, does not want to endanger him in this war so the headmaster suggested using his name as your alias Harry, which would give Severus a name to change yours from, essentially filling in your past. This would not only give Severus' story credibility, but would also allow Alex the safety of anonymity. He would be accounted for and thus saved from ever becoming a target for Voldemort… as safe as one could be, anyway. Severus would claim to have killed the mother, giving them both a clear road toward a new life."

"Isn't saying he killed the mother a bit drastic?" Harry asked timidly.

"The son would not know." Severus answered the unspoken problem, brushing it aside.

"Oh."

"You must tell Voldemort you found a strong lead on your next visit, along with what your wonderful eavesdropping skills uncovered." Dumbledore cleared his throat, eyes twinkling in amusement. "Apparently, I am planning to send Mr. Potter off for special training, though I did not disclose when or where this might occur… despite your undaunted persistence of course. I did, however, tell the staff that he will not return sooner than the start of next year and that not even the boy will know any of this before the time comes. You, clever as ever, immediately asked if your new-found-son could fill the vacant spot… bringing the boy effectively to Hogwarts and under your care. I, of course agree, allowing you a week to fetch the boy and make the necessary arrangements."

Dumbledore pulled back slightly, the glint changing. "I plan to take Harry out two days after you leave, giving you time to prepare. He will inform his friends on that day that he is leaving and that Remus has agreed to go under Polyjuice for a week or two so that no one will try to follow him right away. This also accounts for any questions people might have concerning Harry's identity. I am confident that Ron and Hermione will be able to make Remus pass for Harry, though I urge you not to try to rekindle your old friendships too early; if possible, no contact for a month or two." Harry's face fell. "Now all that remains is for you two to fill in a few details. A trustworthy friend of mine will take care of the paperwork, but I would rather you chose the name and a few other facts yourselves."

"Um, no."

"What, may I ask, is wrong with Alexander Sebastian Snape?" Severus inquired, raising a lazy brow. Who knew choosing a name was so difficult? Everything else had gone relatively fast, leaving the basics as truthful as possible. In answer, the boy simply slid the man a piece of parchment -- the initials. "I do not see what… oh."

"Sirius has it bad enough, middle name Orion and all… I don't know how he survived it, but I'd rather not learn to deal with it first hand."

Severus, now armed with new ammunition to insult Black with (and careful to not allow his smirk to show), thought for a moment, scribbling another name on the paper.

"Latin?"

"It is a fine, strong name." Severus insisted, slightly tired of this name hunt. It fit the boy as well, from the Egyptian god to the Roman poet. He could only wish the boy would someday agree with the latter's 'I could never be ashamed of such a father, nor do I feel any need, as many people do, to apologize for being a freedman's son.' "Besides," he continued, pulling himself back to the task at hand, "many prominent families use Latin names."

"I noticed." The boy nodded drearily, re-reading the name. "Are Snapes-"

"Only slightly beneath the Malfoys, though a great deal less 'in the spotlight'. You are Draco's social equal on all accounts. The Snapes are only a generation or two younger."

"Oh." Severus could tell being compared to the young Malfoy did not appeal to the boy. "Say it."

"'Say it'?" Severus echoed in question.

"I once heard a name is only as effective as it is when screamed at the top of the parents' lungs. Since you never yell… just say it like you're mad at me… that shouldn't be too hard for you." The boy smiled slightly, making Severus uneasy. He wanted to get yelled at?

"I won't hold it against you or anything… I just want to hear you say it." Alright

"Horatius Ferox Snape." The boy flinched slightly.

"It works."

"Is that a good thing?" Severus wondered aloud, looking at the boy uneasily.

"I said I wouldn't hold it against you." The child noted instantly, "and yes… if you like it that is."

"Is everything decided then?" Albus asked, entering the office.

"Yes sir." Harold- Horatius, Severus corrected himself, answered instantly.

"Then what may I call you, Mr. Snape?" The reaction was instant. Severus could tell this was the first time the boy had been called anything besides Harry, Harold or Potter. This made it real.

"You can still back out of this, no one would think any less of you." Severus whispered gently, fighting the urge to put his hand back on his shoulder as he leaned towards his ear.

"Horatius, sir." Ha- Horatius told the headmaster instantly. Damn stubbornness! He really hoped the boy was not about to fall off the deep end on his account. However, Albus seemed unfazed.

"Very well Horris, it will be a pleasure meeting you." A ghost of a smile caressed the boy's face, somewhat calming Severus' misgivings. How the boy could be this strong Severus still could not fathom… even Lily would be hard pressed in such a situation! The boy was amazing- how in hell was he his?

"I believe so, Master…" Severus answered, feeling the cold air leach his warmth as never before. This meeting place was never warm or welcoming in any sense of the word, but never did it feel this forlorn. "His mother has hid him well. I would not have found him if not for the mark."

"Where isss he then, Severuss? Why iss he not at your ssside?"

"I could not do so before without undermining my position at Hogwarts. Dumbledore has been…preoccupied with Potter's 'special training'. Now my son will be taking his place at Hogwarts. I shall leave in a few days to bring him back, with Dumbledore's consent, away from his pathetic excuse for a mother." Voldemort seemed to consider this, a sick smile filling his face.

"Bring him here, Severusss."

"My lord… the boy's mother has-corrupted- him. I fear I will need some time to make him see the rightness of our path, Master."

"You had best do ssso Severuss. NO heir iss better than a corrupted heir- isss it not?" Severus nearly choked on his bile.

"Yes, Master." He forced himself to respond, keeping emotion as far from his voice as possible.

"Essspecially an Asssp." So that was it… Severus nearly smirked beneath the mask, can not have your little solders running around trying to destroy you- afraid they might succeed are you? "Isss the boy sshowing, Severussss?"

"If I knew what to look for, Mas-"

"If he does you would know!" Voldemort snapped, the calm almost vanishing, "The Aspian secrets are not for my servants to know."

"Yes Master." Damn!

"Do not question me…Crucio."

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