|The Master Plan
Author: StarryGazer PM
SLASH. Complete. Harry is looking for the knowledge and training to survive the war. Only Severus Snape can give it. This is being edited for mistakes, and that is why the chapter titles and numbers don't match-I'll fix it someday.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Harry P. & Severus S. - Chapters: 36 - Words: 160,919 - Reviews: 1,025 - Favs: 841 - Follows: 91 - Updated: 06-28-04 - Published: 04-10-04 - Status: Complete - id: 1812613
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Credits to J.K. Rowling, who is a wonderful person for letting us do this (unlike that frustrating Robin Hobbs) and, in this chapter to Dylan Thomas. And how often do you get to use both at once?
Thanks to Awen, Mercury Sands (actually, I did take a psychology class in college, which was very much fun…also, I was into studying dreams and symbolism and stuff), Desdemona321 (hugs back—what an affection-fest), Chantelli, The Goddess Artemis (how do you post aff.net?…haven't really played around there, much), Agar (wow, I'm so glad you got the irony, and I was worried it wasn't depressing or angsty enough…'cause I wanted them to have stuff left undone, and all, and worried I'd wrapped too much up!), Menecarkawan (I don't think he did, but I wanted Sev's reaction to be fairly subtle, since he doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve. Also, this was about the first time I've given Snape reason to doubt Harry's love for him, which is OBSTACLE—and you know how I love those! ; )), Kudama, severus's-bane, (I love Remus, too, y'all), Unknown56, tinkita, Dreamdancer (I'm glad you liked the dreams! A lot of people seemed a little confused, but I figure; dreams are generally confusing), Pure Black, odessaspacey1 (it had to end someday…preferably now, with an actual ending, than later, more abruptly because of my death.), KittyWillow (I like Dumbledore, too…he's kind of all-knowing, so he can really screw with other people), ataraxis (yeah, I had to throw some angst Sev's way), and the ungovernable Glorfindel of Gondolin!
And thanks to my beta, Echo…who will hopefully remind me when we get to the Sev in the hospital wing part (with the Shakespeare) to also credit Thomas again, because I forgot the first time around. Hey, I'm sorry already! I'll make much sacrifices to the Gods of Literature! Burnt offerings and that…I have left over toast.
Now, this is the end. The very end. I'm sorry there is no more, but I will consider a sequel in the future. I hope it lives your expectations, and that you enjoy it thoroughly. I am so grateful to all of you for your support and encouragement. As you are probably aware, this was my first fanfic. It is probably not the best I am capable of, and kind of patchy and rambling, but I hope I have improved over the course of the story. I sure have learned a lot; I can tell you that for nothing! I have had an unbelievable amount of fun with my versions of snarky!Severus and clumsy!Harry, and I hope you liked reading about them, too.
I have two other Snarrys in the works, and a couple of other little fics tumbling around in my head, waiting to be cast like dice. Just need to finish this up. I have pics for my Blackbirds and Red Riding Hoods, and I hope I contributed something worthwhile to the world of HP fanfic. I will continue to write prolifically, and I sure hope you'll stick around and read my future works! Thank you all so much! I love you! (Sob!) We'll meet again someday!
Chapter 39: Undone and Done
That evening, the Potions Master stumbled into Hogwarts with Remus in his arms. The werewolf was unconscious, and bleeding from cuts on the head and on one of his legs. Harry rushed to the infirmary when he was informed, and made it in time to hear Madame Pomfrey tell the headmaster that Lupin should be fine—he'd likely taken a Stunning Spell to the head, and would sleep for several hours, at least. Apart from that and his leg, which she had mended easily, he seemed sound.
Harry surreptitiously gave Severus's hand a squeeze, and the man shot him a quick, tense half smile before turning back to Dumbledore, who promptly put a silencing charm around Remus's bedside. "I'm not sure what happened. I never even saw where they were keeping him. All I know is that I was returning to Malfoy Manor from a raid, and heard a commotion around the back," he explained. "I found Rookwood immobilized and head-first down a hole, and him," he gestured to Lupin, "barely coherent and lying on the ground, his leg nearly ripped to shreds. I think one of the stepping stones attacked him." Harry looked down at the werewolf, who was looking more peaceful than anyone who had gone through such an ordeal had a right to do.
"Did anyone see you?" Albus asked anxiously, and Harry felt angry. Wasn't it enough that Severus had risked so much already? When would it be enough? How could they continue to ask him to go back to that?
"No one," Severus replied dismissively. "They did not expect me back for another hour, and the grounds were otherwise empty. He must have escaped."
"And lucky thing, too," Harry remarked with relief. "Tonight's the full moon."
"Yes, although considering the swelling on his head, I greatly doubt he will awaken even through his transformation," Dumbledore added. "Well, I cannot express how it gladdens my heart to have him return alive." He gave Severus a long, calculating look. "Will you return, then?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Not with him," Severus said. Well, of course he wouldn't return with Lupin; that was just silly. Harry wondered why he even bothered to say it. Albus was biting his lip a little, and Severus assured him, "All will be well. As you are often so keen to point out, 'We are all of us exactly where we ought to be.'" His voice was slightly tinged by bitterness, but the headmaster did not seem to notice.
"Very well, then, my dear boy," he told the man heartily. "I am sure that if you hold on to that, it will all turn out right. In the meanwhile, I think I ought to be going and assisting Elphias with the modifications—having the two of you involved with other things has left the Order rather short handed, even if the Weasley boys have given us most their most welcome assistance."
"Ah, yes, and any number of exploding armchairs and objects that turn into sock puppets, as well," Severus responded dryly.
"The laughter they induced was the very thing I meant," Dumbledore told him sternly. "You will contact me at headquarters if you need me? I should be there in…oh, an hour, or perhaps a little more."
"I think I shall be fine. Harry, why don't you keep an eye on Lupin?" Snape put forth. "Poppy is going to inject his potion directly into his bloodstream, and I'd like you to take notes on what, exactly, happens during the transformation. I have never had the opportunity to try the experiment myself—Lupin hates needles, and dislikes being a guinea pig for new developments—but these are the things we ought to be watching closely, if ever we wish to produce a cure for lycanthropy."
"You? You want to make a cure for lycanthropy?" Harry asked him, flabbergasted. "But you hate Lupin."
"I dislike him, which is not the same thing. Besides, had you ever been alone in a dark tunnel and come face to face with such a slavering monster, you, too, would have a compelling impetus never to want it to happen again," Severus responded.
"Some people would just avoid werewolves and dark tunnels in the future," Harry suggested.
"Yes, well, some people have no creative impulses and lack the drive to improve the world around them," Severus said loftily.
"I'm taking down the Silencing Spell now," Albus informed them. He bid them farewell, and left to speak with Elphias, his eyes glittering madly. It made both of the other wizards uncomfortable.
Harry and Severus stared at each other for a long while unspeaking. Severus uncertainly reached out to touch Harry's face, and the boy leaned into his hand, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry," they said together, and Harry's eyes popped open again. He laughed a little.
"Wait a minute, I get to go first. I'm sorry for blaming you for something you couldn't have prevented. I'm sorry for becoming so angry about the situation that I took it out on you." He looked around quickly, making certain Madame Pomfrey had still not returned, before adding, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I love you before you left, and that I made you feel like fixing this was your responsibility. I had horrible dreams all last night, and I think that was a big part of it." He thought back to Sirius, and the pain from the letters—the ones which should have formed words that were never said. He shook himself slightly. "And, by the way, I thought we agreed you weren't going to say that ever again. Right?"
"Yes, I recall now. Very well, I rescind my apology." He smiled a little. "I still should not have let such a thing happen—I let them both underestimate what they were dealing with, and it is my duty, as the only truly informed party, to make them understand. I failed to do that. I should also have kept you aware of the situation. I was…unwilling to upset you with the knowledge, and I did not feel you would have been able to change their minds. I should not have made the decision myself, though. And you needn't profess your undying devotion at every opportunity, you repugnant clown—I am more than well aware of your feelings. How could I not be, since you spout them almost as often as you breathe, like some sort of sappy, syrupy, awful, awful romantic drama?"
Harry just laughed in return. "Yeah, I know I don't have to say it. I just like to occasionally, okay? I know perfectly well that love doesn't need to be expressed for it to be real."
Severus's face softened and became more somber at the same time. "Harry, I want you to promise me that tonight you will not leave the castle."
"Why?" Harry demanded, instantly suspicious and frightened.
"Promise me, regardless of what you hear, you shall keep yourself safe, Harry. Please. It is all you can do for me. Remember, I have many crafty tricks up my sleeve, and am capable of taking care of myself. So, will you please promise me you will stay here?"
Harry looked worried, but swallowed and nodded. "Can I come to you when it's all over?" he whispered.
Severus hesitated. "I do not believe that would be a very good idea…"
"Damn it, Severus—" Harry stopped, attempting to regain control. "All right; we'll do what you think is best. But God Almighty, Severus—you are going to have to learn to let down those walls. I can't tell if I'm in or not, but it doesn't feel like it when you push me away, and I'm telling you; it's cold out here, Sev—lonely and cold."
Severus's shoulders hunched a little and he refused to meet Harry's eyes. "…always have to bellyache over something…never met anyone so needy…" Harry heard him muttering, and rolled his eyes.
"Just be careful, all right? We'll talk about it when you get back."
"The anticipation is overwhelming," Severus responded sourly. "Watch the hairy oddball; I'll return when I can."
It wasn't until almost three quarters of an hour later that Harry realized something was not right. In truth, there was no way he could have known before, because the moon had not risen before then. He was sitting next to Lupin, quill and scratch pad in hand, and watching the moon's rays crawl across the sheets when he realized that something was out of place. He'd been nervous to see Remus change—even in his sleep—but Poppy was nearby, and McGonagall as well, and both had assured him that having the potion injected shouldn't make any difference in his behaviour. Still, he was just slightly scared.
He was still edgy when the moonlight was falling across the man's arm, and that's when it hit him: Lupin wasn't changing. Was it because he was unconscious? Was it due to one of the spells he was with? Was it all the result of having the Wolfsbane potion inserted directly into his bloodstream, whatever the witches said?
Then, Lupin's nose began to lengthen, and his muscles changed shape, and Harry began to relax. Maybe the potion just slowed the moonlight's effects, then. But wait; there wasn't enough hair, and the nose was…and the jaw…in fact, the whole face wasn't really… "Poppy?" he heard himself call in a shrill voice, and the nurse hurried over. "I don't think the potion's working right…"
She rolled the man onto his side so they could see him better, and they both gasped at what they saw. "Polyjuice," she whispered.
"Shit," Harry replied.
The man in the bed was not Remus Lupin.
This wasn't Remus Lupin; it was a complete stranger. And that meant Voldemort still had Lupin. And Severus had gone and picked this guy up and brought him back here, so they must have meant Severus to find him. Which meant they knew what the Potions Master really was—and they'd set a trap.
"Oh, shit! McGonagall, get over here!" he heard himself shriek like a girl. Okay, Potter, get it together. Maybe they didn't trick Snape at all. He did keep dropping hints that he expected something to happen… But Harry didn't honestly think he expected this.
McGonagall took a deep breath after seeing the man, and announced in her fruity voice, "I shall contact the headmaster." She immediately walked briskly away, and Harry was reminded forcefully of an older Hermione—calm, cool, and logical in the face of fire. And so utterly, utterly wrong to take charge of situations like this.
Snape was out with the Death Eaters, the Death Eaters knew he was a spy, Dumbledore was on the other side of the country, and Lupin was still in captivity, on a night with a full moon. "Shit, shit, shit!" He'd promised Snape he'd be a good boy. He swore he'd stay at the school, no matter what. He couldn't let anything happen to Snape—but if he rushed out without thinking, trying to play the hero again, the man would probably die. His heart lurched. Not Snape. Not so soon after Sirius. Not again.
He tore through the castle, barreling toward Gryffindor Tower. Once there, he shook Ron roughly awake. "Get up get up get up," he grunted at him. "Get dressed and meet me in the common room—I'll go wake Hermione." It was probably a daydream of most of the males at Hogwarts to sneak into the girls' bedroom in the middle of the night, but Harry wasn't into that, and it wasn't the right time, anyhow. He practically dragged Hermione out of bed and back to meet Ron.
"…and so it isn't Lupin at all and I don't know what to do!" he finished desperately, and Ron looked tired and confused, while Hermione seemed to be weighing their options.
"He might have expected this," she allowed after a few moments. "It's clear he expected something. But I don't think this was exactly it, or he wouldn't have put so much effort into Lupin. Harry…I think this will have to be your call. This is very likely a trap; with as much time as you've been spending with Snape lately, it can't have been that hard to figure out that you two didn't hate each other. So. I really, really hate to say this, but I think Voldemort wants to kill you tonight."
"When doesn't he?" retorted Ron.
"My point is," Hermione continued, ruffled, "that you know you're taking that chance if you go after him. Only you can say if that chance is worth taking. I just…I don't want anything to happen to you. I don't want to do something stupid, but I don't want my best friend to live with the guilt if they killed Snape, and I was the reason you didn't go to him. And we are better at all this than we were last time—we've had Snape to teach us Defense. But like I said," she added shyly, "it's up to you."
Harry was frozen. He'd hoped Hermione would just tell him what to do—he didn't want this responsibility, not anymore. Snape told him not to. Snape didn't want Harry wasted on him. Snape wanted Harry to stay here. The man would probably never forgive Harry if Harry died trying to save him. Maybe he would hate the boy, even. But perhaps at least Snape would still be alive to feel hate. That was enough for Harry.
"I'm going," he announced softly. "If the two of you would tell—"
"Tell, schmell," Ron snapped, "we're going with you."
"Ron, if something happened to you—"
"We know the risks," Ron muttered. "Just like Sirius did. And Harry, I reckon I can tell you just what else he felt that night. He knew he could die, all right, but he knew you needed him. And it was worth it, Harry. Because he thought you were worth it."
Harry swallowed thickly, blinking back tears. He had to clear his throat a few times before managing a rusty, "Thanks, mate. Good friends…best friends…friends as good as you guys are, are rare and valuable. I don't…just…thanks."
Ron rolled his eyes, and Hermione was leaning on the redhead, grinning a little. "Sometimes if there's a conflict between logic and love…it's worth going with love," she said softly. "You guys taught me that."
They stood awkwardly for a moment, before Harry took charge of the situation. "So…ready to go do our death-defying stuff?"
"Eh, same old, same old, for us," Ron replied.
"Right," Hermione nodded. "We have a cranky old Potions Master to save. And a werewolf."
"Yeah, don't forget him," Ron responded. "Remember, werewolves are people, too!"
They crept carefully through Hogwarts, going slowly enough to be quiet, but as quickly as they dared. Hermione had suggested the first thing they do was see what they could find out from McGonagall, since it hardly made sense for them to go risking their lives if the whole situation had already been resolved.
They had invoked their Blurring Charms, and stopped outside the infirmary when they heard the woman's voice. She sounded tired. "I don't believe there is anything to be done," she was saying quietly to someone. "Albus will do what he can, but we are not hopeful. It is obvious that they put a great deal of thought into this scheme. Severus is not easily taken in. Well, it really was only a matter of time before they suspected something."
There was a muffled reply, and Harry truly wished for his cloak, so that all three of them could have shared it, and he could see Ron and Hermione's faces right now. They were really no longer small enough to fit under it together, anyway. Still, he felt strangely alone, being unable to look at his friends. Then McGonagall's voice broke in again, distracting him. "…was told he must bring Harry tonight. Well, of course it was unthinkable. They both would have been killed. He assured us that he would merely be…punished, but I cannot believe this will not be the last time Voldemort allows the man to fail him. The thing I worry about is the fact that they're so close. It's extremely upsetting to know that the Dark Lord has managed to set up shop in our own Forest—that close to Hogwarts! If not for Severus, we might never have known."
Harry was having difficulty breathing, and reached out blindly, trying to connect with Ron and Hermione. Tugging quietly, he tried to let them know they needed to move. When the were well enough away from the room, Hermione softly pointed out, "Dumbledore is doing what he can. Surely he—"
"He went," Harry whispered. "They told him to bring me to them, and he went without me—even though he knew what they would do. And he thinks he can handle it, but he doesn't know about Lupin. They're going to let Lupin kill him. Lupin won't be able to help himself, and then, when he realizes what he's done—"
"They probably won't bother with that," Ron commented in a flat voice. "They'll either just wait until he's served his purpose, and then give him a silver bullet for payment, or they'll keep him around to feed other people to on the full moon. I'm with Harry. We can't just walk away from this," he added.
Hermione sighed. "We're well trained in the art of stealth, I suppose," she said. She let out a shaky breath. "We can see if we can get close enough to find out what's going on, and leave if they don't need us. And if they do need us…we'll do what we can. All right?"
Harry hesitated. "Are you guys sure you want to come? After what happened to you last time…"
"Harry, don't think of that now. And don't feel guilty. We aren't even doing this for you, exactly. We're doing this for Lupin, and for Snape. We're doing this because we're Gryffindors, and that's what Gryffindors do. Right?"
Ron and Harry nodded, and they reactivated their Charms, ghosting out into the night.
They passed Hagrid's hut, dark and empty while he and Fang were out doing something for the order. They entered the Forbidden Forest, which seemed much quieter and darker than it normally was. They started with slow sweeps of the perimeter, working their way in deeper. They went past the grounds Snape had used to train them, and Harry felt his resolve harden as he remembered the exercises the man had put them through. He had prepared them for times like this. And he was Snape—demanding and relentless. Harry knew he had prepared them well.
Deep in the heart of the Forest, past every place they had been before—beyond where they'd encountered centaurs, spiders, and Grawp, they finally had some indication they were on the right track. There were yells up ahead, and they moved toward the sound with greater certainty. Then, a dim, maroon light penetrated the branches ahead. Harry stopped when he felt a hand on his arm.
"Wards," Hermione whispered. They paused. "Specillum Sparsonis," she hissed, and a sprinkling of dusty gold light fell from the tip of her wand, spreading a short ways across the forest floor. A web of glowing beams stood out—the Death Eaters' wards to insure no one stumbled across their part of the woods. It was much more complex than any of the wards Snape had shown them.
"Mutare," Harry murmured, and the beams began shifting and changing, rearranging themselves into a new pattern—one that would bend around them.
"Good one, Harry," Ron muttered.
They slipped closer and closer to the yells. It was very difficult to tell what was going on. Someone was shouting at someone else to keep back, or maybe to keep someone else back. Another person was screaming unintelligible orders—Bellatrix, it sounded like. The sound of a werewolf snarling and snapping filled the background, and above the other noises Voldemort's high, cold voice was directing them all.
"You fool, you fool, get him; he is merely a man on a broom!" An explosion rang throughout the woods, and then a flash of purple. "Force the traitor closer! I refuse to wait until he is rescued!"
The trio cautiously peered around a tree. There was a small clearing before them—not much of a gathering place, just a little, strange fire and a fenced-in enclosure. Harry looked closer. It seemed at first to be a regular chain-link fence, the kind you could buy in any Muggle hardware store. It seemed very odd—especially because at one end there was a monstrous werewolf, tossing its head and biting at the ropes being shot at it from someone's wand. They weren't catching the werewolf, but they did, at least, keep him distracted from the man at the other end of the enclosure.
Snape had his back pressed into the links. His chin was high, but his posture was defensive. It was no surprise that he had no wand. One of the Death Eaters aimed a spell at his back, and he stumbled forward. The wolf lunged at him, and a spell from outside the fence hit its nose, driving it back.
"Get the one on the broom!" Bellatrix shrieked, following her own advice with a blast toward the sky. They could see a shadow darting around above the fence, dodging spells and keeping Lupin at bay.
"Ah, Harry, I think I shall require your assistance," a quiet voice said nearby, and the three students jumped in surprise.
"D—Dumbledore?" Harry whispered. "How can you see us with our Blurring Charms on?" He couldn't even see himself—just a vague outline of his hand if he waved it in front of his face fast enough. It had taken some getting used to.
"We really haven't time for that now. You do understand the situation, do you not? Voldemort has learned the truth of Severus. He and Remus shall both die unless something is done quickly. Kingsley is preventing Lupin from killing the man, but he cannot continue to do so without eventually being hit."
"Then why don't you do something, sir?" Hermione's voice inquired.
"I intend to. However, Voldemort is taking steps to prevent me, personally, entering the clearing, or performing any magic to affect its occupants. The spell he is using takes a great deal of concentration, but is very effective." He lowered his chin, and Harry saw his eyes gleam in the darkness.
"So if Voldemort were distracted…" he said quietly.
"Then I would be free to extract Lupin from the cage. It must be done quickly, before he is injured severely." Harry thought he was only talking about Kingsley, but then he saw that wherever Severus was touching the fence, it shone with a strange light. "The fence is enchanted silver. There is Aconite sprinkled across the ground. Before long, he will go mad with pain, and attack Severus regardless of any spells that strike him." Harry and the others were revolted. There was no surface Remus could touch that would not cause him agony.
Harry took a deep breath. "What do I have to do?"
The headmaster looked grave. "I cannot send your image into the clearing, as I did during the Hogsmead incident. You would actually have to enter the clearing. I believe your friends, Shacklebolt and I could distract the other Death Eaters, and draw them away. However, there would still be a great danger to you. You would be a decoy in the worst, most literal sense. I have no right to ask it of you, but I do not believe Voldemort's attention could be held by anything else. You are his obsession. This is…a difficult decision. I do not wish to lose Remus and Severus, but neither do I wish to lose you. I…will make the attempt to keep all three of you from harm, but there is risk involved. Will you do it, Harry?"
"No, Harry," Hermione hissed. "They wouldn't want you to!"
Harry thought for a long moment. "But I would want me to, if I looked back and knew I hadn't done anything to help. And Severus—God, Hermione. I don't want to live without him." He watched at the man was sweeping his hand across the ground, trying to clear a place for the werewolf to stand without incurring pain, even as the creature was being held back by Shacklebolt's maneuvers. "I—of course I'll do it."
Dumbledore nodded once. "Hermione, Ron, I want you to move to the east side of the clearing. I believe if you used that excellent spell for relaying and amplifying energy, you might send your voices to the north in a misleading direction. Call for Harry; tell him that Snape is not worth it, and that he must come back. Try to sound as though you are attempting to be quiet, but are desperate for him to hear you. Do you understand? I will go behind the fence, and step out the moment Voldemort's spell is dropped," he told Harry. "He cannot both keep his mind on you and continue to weave such a complicated charm. I wish you to escape at the first opportunity—leave the clearing and Apparate to the edge of Hogwarts Grounds. I believe I shall be able to distract him long enough for that."
Everyone moved off to take their places, and Harry waited nervously. The night seemed quieter, even though the Death Eaters were still yelling, and sending hexes at Kingsley. Suddenly, one of the Death Eaters shouted for everyone to be quiet. "I heard something," he insisted. "It sounded like a little girl, looking for someone."
Harry saw Voldemort smile. "That is Potter's trademark, is it not? Leading his little friends into mortal peril? Making sure those he loves are killed?" Harry stiffened at the words. "Potter? I do know that you are out there somewhere. I've plundered your lover's mind—I know all about your little—romance," he spat. "Would you like to come out now, or wait until Severus is werewolf fodder?" The man pointed his wand at Snape, but did not say any spell.
"Hermione! Watch out!" Ron's voice floated to them, followed by a bloodcurdling scream. Harry shuddered—God, how he hoped that was merely good acting. The Death Eaters seemed restless now, unable to stand still. It was clear the sound of someone in pain agitated them. Lucius Malfoy, his long blond hair glinting in the moonlight, strode back and forth, legs working smoothly. His eyes shifted rapidly, his body tense. Obviously, his punishment had not had any lasting physical affects—the man was like a great cat, muscles supple and strong, and he exuded the aura of repressed carnal power. He contrasted strangely with his master, who was so thin and frail looking, but whose very presence scintillated with madness and dark magic.
"Find Potter," Voldemort finally ordered. "Bring him to me. Bellatrix, stay and deal with the werewolf and his little friends." The other Death Eaters faded into the night, and Harry stepped out from behind the tree.
"I heard you wanted to see me?" he asked, not letting his Blurring Charm go.
"Harry," he heard Snape groan, his voice languishing with dismay.
Voldemort's eyes darted wildly. "Bellatrix," he snarled. The woman sent a flash of green light in Harry's general direction, but it went wide past his left shoulder. He sent his voice to the other side of the clearing.
"You're going to have to do better than that," he told her flatly. She sent a curse in that direction but, of course, it encountered nothing.
"If you fail me, woman, you shall know torment the likes of which has never been seen," Voldemort hissed at her. His wand was still raised, and Harry saw that a trickle of something was coming out of it; it looked like a light mist, which must have been protecting the clearing from interference. It was plain that Voldemort was not going to be distracted so easily.
Closing his eyes for a long moment, Harry gathered his strength. Finally, he opened them and revoked the Blurring Charm. He made sure to keep Voldemort between himself and the female Death Eater. Voldemort hissed, the sound a mixture of satisfaction and frustration. Harry raised his wand. "Are you going to kill me, boy? Do you really think yourself capable? He's here," he snarled at the woman. "Kill him!"
Bellatrix darted around her master, but Harry got as close to the man as he could, and stepped to the side, still keeping the Dark Lord's body between himself and Sirius's killer. "Master! I cannot reach him!" She came closer, trying to lean around the man.
"Vulnuseris Aspere!" Harry shouted, and Voldemort bellowed with pain and rage. "Don't come any closer," Harry warned the woman. "I could kill him like this, since he refuses to use his wand. Do you like pain, Tom?" Harry taunted, using the man's Christian name. "You sure seem to enjoy inflicting it on others. Don't you like having a taste of your own medicine? Vulnuseris Aspere," he repeated, and watched as the man tried to jerk away, his clothing torn and bloody from the invisible lashes. "I'm not enjoying this," he added quietly. "But I'm not above it, either." He cast the painful spell once more, and this time held it until the man howled and aimed his wand at Harry.
"Crucio!" he snarled, dropping the protective spell. "Do you enjoy this, Potter?"
Harry was unaware of Dumbledore levitating Lupin out of the cage while Kingsley struggled, using a spell to attempt to calm the wolf down, because the only thing Harry was conscious of was pain. He didn't know how long he writhed on the ground, screaming, before the spell was removed again. "Harry—oh, God!" he heard Snape cry, and looked up to see Bellatrix hit the Potions Master with a similar curse.
"Albus!" Shacklebolt cried, and Harry saw Lupin run the tall man down before staggering into the trees, off into the same direction that Ron and Hermione were hidden.
Dumbledore helped the man back to his feet and quickly mended his wounds. "Go after him," Harry heard him order, before turning back to Voldemort and the scene at hand. "Scindere," he called out, waving his wand, and the silver fence ripped apart on one side.
Before Snape could exit the cage, though, Voldemort snapped, "Emend Calfaco," and the links meshed together once more, turning red hot and melting a seam along the break. "You meddler. I should have killed you years ago." He shot a hex at the headmaster, who calmly blocked it. Harry reached for his wand to help, but Bellatrix kicked it out of the way, laughing. "Stop playing games," the Dark Lord thundered. "Get rid of the old fool—I'm going to make Potter suffer before he dies."
Bellatrix immediately cast the killing curse at Dumbledore, who stepped out of its way. "Oh, I need to be in closer range, do I?" she smiled gleefully. She stepped forward, casting the curse again. The old man managed to elude it once more, but it was closer. The Death Eater laughed.
Dumbledore hurled a Sleeping Spell at her, but she blocked it handily, taking another several steps forward, and screaming, "Avada Kedavra!" another time. "There is no way to block the killing curse," she reminded the headmaster, and Albus knew it as well; he had no choice but to keep moving. Harry saw with despair that he was being driven back into the forest.
Voldemort's high-pitched laughter rang out, and he sang out, "Crucio!" and Harry's world was reduced to agony, until the fire in his nerve endings made him want to beg for this to stop, but he was beyond the ability even to form words. His scar was full of icy pain, and he felt blood trickling down his forehead. Finally the pain subsided, and he shuddered beneath the lunatic laughter and awful red eyes.
"Stop, damn you!" he could hear Snape demanding in the background. "He's just a boy, you unbalanced bedlamite! You would not DARE do this if I had my wand! You are a fucking coward! A filthy, worthless coward! You'd never face me like a man! You've always been afraid—frightened of Dumbledore, unmanned at the thought of death—"
Voldemort's lips twisted, but then he laughed. "See how your knight in shining armor attempts to rescue you? How very transparent of you, Severus." Then his chilling smile broadened. "I intend to punish both of you—how if I did both at once? Killed two birds with one stone…" Harry weakly tried to get up, but the man caught him by his robes and dragged him over to the fence.
He could see Severus reaching out for him, trying to touch him. "Harry, hold on. Be strong. The others will be here any moment." But Harry doubted this—the pain had made it seem like they'd already been there for hours, and no one had come. Plus, he could hear screams and explosions in the forest, as the Death Eaters fought Harry's allies.
Voldemort seemed unconcerned with all of this. "Do you love him, boy? Hmm? Answer me!" He kicked Harry in the ribs, and the boy twisted in pain.
"Yes," Harry gasped, grimacing. "I do love him. Do you realize what that means? He is loved. You can't even say the same. No one could ever love you—you're vile."
"Really?" Voldemort sneered in response. "And would you love him still, if you truly knew him? Because I don't believe you would. You have no idea—and believe me, Severus has done as many…vile things as I myself have. Would you like to know what they were? Let me show you."
"No, please," Severus croaked, but the man ignored him.
"Legilimens Transitonis!" Suddenly, Harry's mind was flooded with memories that were not his own. Snape's childhood, Snape's adolescence, all of Snape's actions and reactions were there in his head. Harry was quickly becoming confused—he was no longer certain he could tell where his own recollections ended and the Potions Master's began, and ever more were crashing down into his consciousness.
Here was a young Severus, hiding under a table, grimacing with fear and hatred as a man's legs stalked past, the end of a belt trailing threateningly from one hand. And here was an older Severus, fighting with Harry's father, getting the worse end of a Cringing Curse, and looking enraged and humiliated. And then there were visions of an even older Snape, standing beside Lucius Malfoy as he tortured a Muggle, and casting a killing curse while a younger Voldemort looked on. Then Harry saw him begging at the hem of the Dark Lord's cloak, then sobbing on the arm of a younger Dumbledore, then going inscrutably through the motions as a spy, allowing the mayhem and misery to take place, reporting to two masters, and watching, horrified, as the Lestranges sent the Longbottoms into a descent of madness. Here Severus stood watching Harry, himself, the young child of a long dead, long hated enemy…there were too many images, cluttering and confusing. Severus as a Death Eater was terrifying; the things he'd done, horrendous. It was clear Harry was expected to be revolted. Unexpectedly, Harry found himself aching with empathy, that the man had had such an exhausting, tribulation-filled life.
He heard Severus moaning in the background. "Please, stop…" The memories untwined from Harry's own, and the boy felt his head start to clear.
Voldemort laughed again. "Too degrading for you, Severus? Ah, but I should think you'd welcome the opportunity to see whether the boy truly loved you." He continued to chuckle a little, and Harry saw, beyond the man's legs, a silvery something in the woods, but it merely flashed and was gone. No one else noticed it, and nothing happened, so it may as well never have existed, for all the good it did—whatever it was. "You must have known he could never love you…who could ever love a disgusting creature like you? Slimy, ugly, gawky thing that you are…"
"Shut up," Harry rasped in ire.
"Be quiet, Harry," he heard Severus murmur. "That's quite rich, coming from a man who gives new meaning to the words 'bloodshot eyes,'" he added sarcastically, in an overly loud voice.
Harry knew that it was supposed to distract the tyrant, but Voldemort trained his wand on Harry and maliciously said, "Crucio," once more.
Pain, pain, God—the pain… He couldn't stand it, couldn't keep this up much longer. It was like he was being ripped apart, flayed alive, boiled or incinerated. His scar was an excruciating brand, and it was all too much…he wasn't sure he was remembering to breathe.
It all receded again, and he dimly heard Severus's exclamations of horror and Voldemort's hateful, calculated insults, but couldn't quite concentrate on the words. He wasn't certain he wanted to. All he wanted was to go to a place where there wasn't any more pain like that. "Crucio!" God! Please! Merciful God…Breathe, Harry, remember to breathe…
Severus wanted to cry in frustration as Harry thrashed on the ground, eyes clouded by suffering. He did not appear to be seeing any longer, and the only movements he made were the jerking contortions induced by the curse. "You're going to kill him," he whispered hoarsely, and the Dark Lord gave a small smile of triumph.
He took the curse off again for a moment, watching the boy gasp, stubbornly holding on to his life and sanity. "That is my intention," he responded. "Crucio!" The boy was racked with searing fire once more, his teeth clenched against the desperate throes of torment. Voldemort cast the curse again and again, taking great pleasure at the whimpers of pain and twisting contortions. He took the spell off and examined the youth.
"Are you ready to die, Harry Potter?"
"N—no," Harry croaked, and the torture began again. Harry heard a prolonged scream, and realized it had issued from his own lips. "God, please, stop," he choked out, sobbing, when next Voldemort removed the curse.
"I think not," the man replied, and cast it again. In the midst of his affliction, Harry saw a silvery shape barrel out of the darkness and collide with the Dark Lord, who was knocked to the ground.
"Look at me. I want to see your eyes when I do this. Avada Kedavra," Lucius Malfoy grunted at the man.
Voldemort rolled, the green light sending a up spray of dirt where his chest had been. "You fucking Judas," he spat, leaping up. "You think they will honor you when this is done, you turn-coat? You think you will be rewarded?"
Lucius laughed, shaking his head and making it seem as though he had a great, silvery lion's mane. "You think I am doing this for them? I. Am. A. MALFOY. You took my heir from me. Do you still expect me to be grateful? To fear you?" He laughed again, and the sound was empty and hollow, echoing through the woods. "I have entirely too little left to lose. Avada Kedavra!" He repeated, his face twisted to bare his perfect teeth.
Voldemort eluded the spell once more, looking angrier than Harry had ever seen him. Furtively, the boy tried to regain his feet.
Severus watched in trepidation as Harry struggled. They boy managed to make it to his knees me before falling again, his body convulsing. He had never seen anyone save the Longbottoms endure so much of the Cruciatus Curse. How could Harry possibly survive with his sanity intact? Snape ignored the other men, who were directing curses swiftly and heatedly toward one another. All that mattered was Harry. The youth wrenched himself up again, managing to stand on two feet, although he was unsteady and trembling violently. "Severus," he whispered hoarsely.
Harry could barely stay upright. The effort of balancing, while the blood rushed in his ears and the earth called to him in her sweet, siren's voice, telling him to come to her and be still, was almost too much for him to bear. He fingered the gift Severus had given him. An hour really wasn't very long, but he could take no chances in this case—he couldn't cast several hours back, only to learn it could not handle the strain. Whatever else happened, he had to do what he could to save the Snape. His life, Hogwarts, the entire wizarding world—they were all just a colorless backdrop. Nothing mattered so much as the Potions Master. There was only one moment within the last hour that could be changed that Harry could think of that could do the man any good. And Lucius had Voldemort distracted. Harry would have to do what he could. Weakly, he managed to invoke the spell in the cuff link.
Severus watched as the fence split itself, leaving a clear opening from his confines. He looked back to Harry, and recognized what the youth had done. God, no. It shouldn't have been—not for him. He did not deserve this thing. There would be a better time—soon. He should not have done this. He saw the boy give him a smile sapped of all energy. The boy tried to take a step toward him, and Severus saw Voldemort turn and issue a green light at the back of Harry's head. "HARRY!" he screamed, knowing that it was already too late—that there was simply no way the boy could react quickly enough.
Harry, whose foot could not be lifted high enough to walk correctly, was in the process of trying to navigate a branch in front of him when Voldemort cast the curse. He was surprised to find himself on his knees next to his wand.
Snape blinked. He tripped. Oh, my God. He tripped. The killing curse went over his head because he tripped. He fought a wild urge to laugh, instead calling, "Harry, watch out!" Voldemort was still trying to aim curses at the boy, even while fighting Lucius. He sent a particularly damaging hex at his former follower, and it drove the man to his knees, blood leaking from behind clenched teeth.
"One more time, shall we?" Voldemort murmured, turning to Harry. "You won't make it through another round, and I should dearly like to see you broken. Crucio!"
Harry gasped, "Bibere Verbosa," at the same moment, and Voldemort looked stunned when his spell had no affect on the boy. With a roar, Lucius Malfoy launched himself at the man from behind, and the grappled vigorously with one another. Suddenly, a shout sounded from outside the clearing. It sounded as though the cavalry had arrived, and the Death Eaters were retreating.
Severus had navigated through the fence, found his own wand near the fire, and aimed a hex at Voldemort's back, causing the man to jerk in pain. Voldemort, realizing he was now surrounded by enemies, made a quick choice. His face distorted by rage, he screamed, "I'm not fucking done with you, Potter!" and Apparated. With a hiss and a hateful glance at Severus, Lucius Malfoy did the same, leaving Harry alone with the Potions Master.
Harry looked up at the man, feeling the weakness suffocating him. He knew that soon his entire body would shut down; his heart already felt sluggish and ineffectual. God, Snape had not wanted him wasted like this. He would never forgive him. Before the man could speak, Harry shuddered pronouncedly, still suffering after-effects from the Cruciatus Curse. "…m sorry," he choked, when he had some control of his muscles.
"What?" Snape gasped. He'd been busy readying the boy for the next seizure, which he knew would come soon. Alice Longbottom had only convulsed once or twice, but had seizures for much longer, afterward. He thought he was going to be sick.
"…failed you…" Harry managed weakly. "…failed everyone…so sorry…tried so hard…couldn't be…what…needed me…to…be…" A tear leaked out, sliding down towards his ear.
Severus was appalled. "Harry, that isn't true at all, you—" The boy began having another fit, and Snape slid his hand behind his head so Harry wouldn't knock himself out.
"Prof—Oh my GOD!" Hermione dropped to her knees beside the man, her face scratched and bloody. "What happened—no—what can I do to help?"
"Find something to stick between his teeth," Snape hissed, "before he bites his own tongue off. Where's the Headmaster?"
"With Tonks," she promptly replied. "Almost disemboweled by Avery. This stick is filthy—shit—we need something—"
"Here—give me that—next to your foot." When Harry shuddered into a more relaxed state again, Snape pried his jaw open and shoved something in his mouth, careful to make certain the boy hadn't swallowed his tongue. "He can bite down as hard as he likes on that."
Harry was beginning to shake again, arching backwards, his heels gouging the forest floor. Harry's teeth dug into the man's wand. "Has he any chance?" Hermione whispered.
Snape didn't want to say no, so he said nothing. Even if his body did not fail, his psyche surely would. The Longbottoms had not suffered as long, he was certain. How could anyone go through what Harry just had, and still keep their mind? As an afterthought, he slipped off the ring Harry had given him, and forced the boy's fist open so he could place it on one of Harry's fingers. It would help with the aftershocks, at least. "I can't imagine anyone wanting to stay in reality, when they've been subjected to that," he sadly commented. He shook his head. "It starts out as a spell to harm the physical body, but what it breaks is person's sanity. The mind simply retreats from the world." They were silent a moment, as Harry's violent spasms diminished into quavers and twitches. "Get Dumbledore—no; he isn't skilled enough at healing. Find Pomfrey—wherever she is."
Hermione stood. "You can't Apparate?" she questioned.
"Not while he's like this," Snape responded shortly, and the witch hesitated.
"Severus…if there was anyone that could make Harry want to stay…or want to come back to reality…it would be you," she told him quietly, and vanished.
Harry shivered a little, blinking. His mouth was slack, and Severus's saliva-coated wand was spilled to the ground. The man moved to put it back, but he heard the boy's harsh, dry-throated voice say, "Sev…"
"H—Harry?" The teen's eyes were covered with a film of agony, but Severus thought he still saw a spark of lucidity there. "Harry…I'm here." Gently, he cupped the boy's jaw and peered into his eyes. "Stay with me, Harry. Please. I…I love you." Something in those green eyes flashed, and Severus continued with greater confidence. "I don't think I could begin to express how much I love you. It's been building all year, since that moment you came to me, that moment your laughter broke the enmity between us…" Harry's limbs quaked again, and the light seemed to fade from his eyes. Severus desperately went on. "I don't care if the world ends, so long as I have you in my arms. You are worth it. You were worth everything—every moment, every sacrifice, and every injury. God, Harry; don't blame yourself for tonight. I made many poor decisions in my past; this is merely a culmination of those. You saw the things I did, the person I was. You looked right into me and saw the bitter, horrible, disgusting person I am, and all of the despicable, atrocious, unforgivable acts I committed. God, Harry; I'm so sorry. I could never ask you to love me still, after having seen that. All I can ask is that you stay. Please, God. Please. Harry." He pressed his forehead to the boy's own. "I love you so very much."
Soft lashes brushed against his lids, and he pulled back a little, to see Harry valiantly holding on, raging against the dying of the light. Those lips smiled a little. "…love…" he whispered. "…forgive…"
Severus stared. "You…forgive me?"
Harry swallowed several times, and Snape cast a wetting spell on his sleeve, and let the boy suck the moisture from it. He seemed to have a stronger grasp on reality, and continued. "Yes…forgive you, and…God…all you've been and done…so hard for you… I couldn't have rejected you because of that. You are so strong…so incredible. I love you all the more, for knowing everything you were…everything that happened…for you to become…Severus Snape."
"You love me still?" the man whispered, eyes gleaming.
"I love you forever," Harry corrected, managing another small smile.
Severus took a gulping breath, finding he had not been breathing. His eyes shone with tears as he fought for something to say—something worthy of Harry, but for once, his inexhaustible vocabulary failed him. He shook his head, cradling the boy in his arms.
"I am undone."
Harry could not leave the hospital wing for almost a month. It was deadly dull, especially as, though he spent a great deal of time with Snape, he was never completely alone with the man. Madam Pomfrey was always there, muttering about the strength of Harry's heart—which Severus pointed out had been tested and not found wanting—and getting the boy too excited, and how Harry needed to be careful not to overexert himself.
Snape was protective when it came to the boy now, which caused Harry no little amusement. He growled whenever Ron got too close, and fought with Lupin (whose own recovery was much shorter than Harry's, and who of course, didn't even remember what happened) over minor things such as Harry's diet and schoolwork, and whether Harry was getting enough sleep. Lupin was pleased that the man was taking an interest, but he had no idea why the man's demeanor had changed toward the boy.
Harry didn't mind. Between his injuries and the fact he was recovering his energy very slowly, he didn't feel ready for the sort of fight that outing his relationship with Snape was likely to bring. Sometimes he thought he'd never feel normal again.
By spring, however, he was finally allowed to walk the grounds, and had rejoined his friends in their classes. Few of them knew what had happened that night; apparently a rumor had overrun the school that Harry, mad with grief over being dumped by Blaise, had tried to kill himself. Blaise, of course, knew better. He'd spoken with Harry, and apologized for everything that had happened between them. Harry found he could look on the boy as a friend, but the hormonal attraction was gone. Blaise seemed too busy for love, in any case; he was quite occupied by his quest to mold Slytherin house into one worthy of the same acclaim Gryffindor received.
Harry toddled up the stairs one day to find a group of his friends waiting for him, and looked at them in confusion. "What's going on?" Ron just rolled his eyes and looked helpless; evidentially conveying that although they were doing something he didn't agree with, he couldn't really stop them.
"You'll see," Seamus told him with a wicked smile, and they proceeded to blindfold him and lead him down the stairs and outside. He was glad Seamus was happier—he and Jack had not spoken it more than a week, and it really looked like this time it was over for good. As far as Harry could tell, Jack had been spending time with Pansy Parkinson, and looked to be settling down. It wasn't right, but it was very Slytherin.
Chattering people surrounded him, and it seemed like they walked a very long ways before they went through a door and into an exuberantly noisy building.
Seamus whipped the blindfold off. "Ta-dahh!"
Harry was in the Three Broomsticks. There was a banner over the bar. "You see, we felt really bad that Blaise treated you like that," Seamus told him, making Harry have to fight the desire to smack his hand over his forehead. "We wanted to remind you there are lots of other gays in the sea…er…whatever—so we decided to throw you a 'We're happy you're single again!' party." The banner overhead proclaimed exactly that.
Harry laughed a little. "Ah. Um. I see…thanks, guys." They dragged him to a table and began filling him with butterbeer. Harry was actually happy to be there—he had missed having normal days, time with his friends, laughter and conversation. It was honestly wonderful—all that it lacked was Severus. He must have given a slightly disconsolate sigh at this thought, because Seamus immediately gave his arm a bracing squeeze.
"And now it's almost time for your gift!" Harry's eyebrows shot up. Seamus pointed to Dean, who had taken out a magical pocket watch, and was following the time closely. "Well, you see, we noticed that you had kind of a crush on Snape."
"What?" Harry squawked.
Dean rolled his eyes. "You only turn three shades of red whenever he looks at you, Harry."
"And every time he calls on you, or even says your name, you go and grin like a doofus," Seamus added. "So, we decided that if you can't have one Slytherin, we'd just have to get you another."
Harry was starting to feel panicky. What had they done to Severus? He'd finally come to an agreement with the man about being discreet—at least, for the rest of the year. He was going to kill Harry.
Now Dean was holding up the pocket watch, and counting down with evident delight. "Ten…nine…eight…"
"Mind you, it's a gift to me, too, really. And the rest of the house. It is rude to think you're the only one who can play a decent prank, you know. Three…two…one!" Seamus gestured to a group of Slytherins at a nearby table, whose robes were changing colors.
It looked as though they'd stepped in a puddle of something, and it was soaking their hems and bleeding upwards. As they noticed, everyone began pointing and laughing, and the Slytherins were looking down at their outfits with growing dismay. Soon, every single one of them was decadently arrayed in red and gold. Bold print began forming across their chests.PROPERTY OF GRYFFINDOR
Harry almost choked on his butterbeer. Jack came tearing in, fury written across his face. "D'you think this is funny?" he demanded of Seamus. The words seemed very proud on his robes, contrasting brightly with his embarrassed visage. His face was very red, and Harry wondered if he'd ever been on the receiving end of a prank before.
"Actually, I rather do," Seamus told him coolly. He took hold of the front of Jack's robes and pulled him close. "Plus, there is a certain element of property marking involved."
Jack slowly surrendered up a wry grin, though his face was no less flushed. "Stupid Gryffindor," he grumbled. "I can't believe you put one over on me. And I told you; there's nothing going on between me and Pansy! Idiot! In case you hadn't noticed, I'm gay. I'm one of only two actually gay Slytherins, and I'm yours. All right?" Seamus gave a funny smile and buried his face in Jack's shoulder.
The front door flew inward, and Severus stood framed there, wearing Gryffindor colors and a very incensed look on his face. "And it was just wrong to put Severus Snape in Gryffindor red!" Harry heard Jack complain. "He doesn't have the right complexion for it!"
Snape stomped into the room, making the students around him fall silent as he passed. His hands were clenched, and he came to a halt in front of Harry. "I can only assume this was your idea?" he hissed. He was absolutely blazing with magical energy. "I expect this is your way of expressing that you are dissatisfied with our arrangement?" he growled, his eyes flashing. His chest read,PROPERTY OF HARRY POTTER
Harry gaped; trying to form the words that this was Seamus's fault, and he'd had nothing to do with it.
"Very well, then," the man spat. He grabbed hold of Harry's arm, yanking him out of his seat, and Harry found himself crushed against the man, lips caught in a sizzling, simmering kiss. If he hadn't been somewhat weak before, he found himself that way now, and flung his arms around the man's neck, holding on for dear life. That heated, talented tongue was rolling around his own, and all his attention was taken by Severus feeding his hungry mouth. He barely heard the gasps and catcalls around him.
Severus finally pulled back, and Harry collapsed into the crook of his arm, gulping for air. "I thought you said you didn't want anyone to know yet…and that Lupin would be upset," he panted. "What are you going to do if he confronts us?"
"Hex him, perhaps," the Potions Master responded. "Refuse to make his potion until he agrees to behave…Harry…" He leaned down to the boy's ear, breathing, "I've decided I don't care what they think. Besides, I'm not the one making graphic, hyper-dramatic statements about how proprietary I'm feeling."
"That wasn't me!" Harry protested. "That was Seamus! He thinks he's funny!"
Severus looked surprised and stepped back, finally taking in the whole scene. "Oh. Well then. I advise you to change that sign," he told Seamus in a dangerous voice.
"Sure thing. Doesn't seem quite as appropriate as I thought it would," Seamus said, waving his wand. WE'RE HAPPY YOU'RE SINGLE AGAIN instantly became WE'RE HAPPY YOU'RE SCREWING PROFESSOR SNAPE, and Harry buried his face in his hands. "And did you want me to change what it says on the back of your robes, too?" Seamus cheerfully asked the Potions Master, whose face had lost all expression.
"What does it say on the back of my robes?" He asked, developing a slight tic under one eye.
"'Screw you, Blaise: more for the rest of us,'" the student promptly revealed.
"Seamus! That's! That's really bad!" Hermione choked at him. Ron was singing again, a pained look on his face. "How did you even do that—to all the Slytherins?"
"Did a deal with the house elves. You're leaving them alone next year, by the way."
Hermione began berating him severely, and Harry looked up. "Can we please leave?" he asked in a small voice.
The man glanced down at him, considering. "Don't tell me; you want to be carried," he said flatly.
Harry pouted. "My legs aren't completely up and running yet. The muscles get tired."
"Ah. Mustn't let that happen…so early," the man responded, raising his brow. Harry grinned incredulously, and the man sighed. "In for a penny, in for a pound," he ceded, lifting the boy carefully.
"In for anything at all, and I'm happy," Harry replied.
"Yes, I thought you'd say that," the dry voice intoned.
"I love you," he muttered in the man's ear.
"I love you, too, you thoroughly troublesome brat," Severus smiled, and carried Harry home.
So, was it okay? I worried that the denouement was too long…it's always supposed to be short and punchy, but I hate them worse when they're too short… Well, anyway, the stuff I worry about is generally not the stuff that gets criticized the most…I'm thinking you're all disappointed in the lack of a sex scene, but I just couldn't see it working with what I had! I didn't want it in before the climax, because having them achieve that level of intimacy would shoot the shit out of my OBSTACLE, which was kind of all about whether they could even achieve intimacy—on a more emotional level. How the hell did a two page outline become an almost 40 chapter book, anyhow? I'm gonna scan my outline tomorrow and put it on my website, so y'all can check out how sketchy this whole thing really was in my head. Except for a few detailed points, I don't know how I got this from that…anyway… I hope you will all let me know what you think of it! I do hope it was pretty good, for a first effort! (I just sound pathetic now, don't I?) At any rate, remember that I have other Snarrys in the works, and probably also a Remus/Harry, and a Ron/Harry drabble that I might post in the next few days, just because it's so short it'll take the least work. Thank you all for everything, I hope I've given you all something worth keeping!