Albus sighed, looking down at the-boy-who-was-all-grown-up. He had been planning everything carefully from the very beginning. Everything was in place.
But he couldn't do it.
There was too much at stake, and he loved his two boys like sons.
His lion and his snake.
They were too precious to be pawns.
"Harry…" he started, resting his withered hand on the young man's shoulder, "I think that I should tell you something."
Green eyes observed him with simple curiosity, looking far too old to belong to a boy of only sixteen.
"Can it not wait until after we get this horcux, sir?"
The headmaster shook his head gravely.
"It is a most pressing matter, my dear boy. I must share something with you."
Harry nodded seriously, turning to look the elder man dead in the eye.
"Look into my mind, Harry," he ordered in a grandfatherly tone. "I have something that must be revealed before this night's end."
Harry did so, staring deep into his light blue orbs as he dove into his offered memories.
"And what will you give me in return, Severus?"
"Anything. Please. Just protect them."
"Them, Severus? I thought you had come only for Lily's safety."
"I have put them all in danger. They should be safe."
The headmaster leaned towards the shaking death eater with curiosity.
"Why would you care for the life of James Potter?"
Severus cowed, lifting his hands in surrender.
"Lily Potter is my sister in all but blood, and I owe Potter a life debt."
"And their son, Severus? What of him?"
"He deserves death the least. He is just an innocent child. Please, headmaster. Save them. I'll do anything."
Albus nodded, satisfied.
"I will do what I can."
"You were supposed to protect them!"
"James and Lily put their faith in the wrong person, Severus. That is of no fault of my own… The boy… He lives…"
"The boy doesn't need protection. The dark lord is dead."
"I'm afraid not, my boy. He lingers."
"He is insolent! Just like his father!"
"You should stop trying to see James in him, Severus. He has more of Lily than you realize."
"Why are you allowing him to enter this blasted tournament? He is going to get himself killed!"
"It almost sounds like you care, Severus."
"I just don't want my efforts to be wasted."
"He has been ordered to kill me."
"Yes," Severus gasped, "and I have made an unbreakable vow to aid him."
"You must be the one to kill me, Severus."
"You must, Severus. I am going to die from this curse otherwise. You must not let his soul be tainted."
"And what of my soul?"
"Please, Severus. You must."
"How can I train the Potter brat if I am known as your killer? He will be without guidance."
"That is something that we will discuss later."
"You're raising him like a pig for slaughter!"
"Careful, Severus. It almost sounds as if you have grown to… care for the boy."
"Care? I've been his bloody watchdog for the past 16 years, and now you tell me that- the boy must die?"
"It is the only way, Severus."
"Nonsense. It must be extracted."
"We cannot. His mind is not stable enough."
Severus narrowed his eyes.
"I could train him."
"He will not trust you, Severus. It is all for the greater good."
The dark man scowled at him.
"What good is winning, if we all die, Albus?"
"He will be killed after Draco's mission is completed."
"You are certain that they no longer trust him?" the headmaster asked.
"Positive," said Narcissa, head bowed. "I must go before my absence is noticed."
"Thank you for your information."
Harry pulled back, turning away as he digested all that he had seen.
After a few moments, he spoke.
"Must I die, headmaster? Do you still think my mind unstable?"
"You do not know occlumency, Harry."
Harry faced him with a blank mask.
"But don't I?"
He saw many memories flash before his eyes.
Sirius falling through the veil, homework in the common room, flying, Cedric dying.
"I do not believe so," he commented, gravely disappointed at his lack of progress.
"That means that I am successful, since you do not believe so. You did not see a thing that I wished to keep hidden."
Harry turned away from him, too angry to speak.
He had a job to do.
"Come on. We have a horcux to get."
Harry led Dumbledore's apparation to the tower of Hogwarts.
"This must end," the old man rasped, pointing his wand into his chest with a shaking hand.
"No," Harry snapped, wrenching the wand from his fingers.
He then heard voices and stomping feet. Before he could react, Dumbledore had wandlessly petrified him and covered him with his father's cloak.
"Don't do this," he said to the blonde who had his wand pointed in his direction.
"I must," Draco whispered.
But then he lowered his wand, and Dumbledore spoke again.
And Severus did not know of Harry's knowledge, or that the dark lord no longer trusted him, and that his actions would be for naught.
Harry watched as the green light struck unforgiving against his mentor's chest, and he felt an overwhelming sadness grip him.
As the death eaters hurried from the tower, Snape being at the tail end, Harry followed them.
"Go to the Dark Lord," Snape ordered the group, "I will follow once I have made sure my tracks are clear."
Harry knew that Snape really just needed to compose himself.
He didn't move as the dour man approached the edge, looking down at the fallen body of his headmaster.
He wanted to punch the man at the same time as he wanted to join him in mourning- but then he saw the tears glistening on the potion master's face.
Harry shouldered off his cloak, and moved toward him, not surprised when the professor didn't notice him until he had gripped his shoulder.
He spun, wand in hand.
"I'm not going to hurt you, professor," Harry whispered, pressing the offending wand toward the ground. He pulled the stunned man away from the edge, toward the secret entrance to Dumbledore's office.
The professor stayed silent as they entered the room.
Harry turned to face him, hesitating only a second before reaching to wipe away his tears.
"He told me," he admitted.
Severus seemed to sag in relief.
"And Voldemort no longer trusts you."
Severus gasped, his eyes displaying a multitude of emotions- which was very much unlike him.
"So- I guess you should come with me on the horcux hunt…" he whispered, "and figure out how to extract this thing… outta my head."
Severus could only nod, confused at the turn of events. This was not what had been planned.
Harry wiped his face again with the pad of his thumb.
"He was ready, professor."
Severus opened his mouth to speak, but no words came.
Harry tugged the weary man to his chest, hugging him without reservations.
"What on earth are you doing, Mister Potter?"
Harry chuckled slightly.
"It's an offer of comfort. And a truce."
Severus snorted derisively, but he did not leave the young man's embrace.
"You need to make sure you are ready to disappear as soon as possible. You are no longer safe."
Severus seemed surprised to be given orders by the younger one before him.
"We can either fake your death, or simply have you disappear. Either way, I will have to remove your mark. I will be at your office in an hour. I'm telling them that a cloaked death eater killed him, and you should be ready to tell them that you were never summoned. I will only contact my head of house and the inner circle of the D.A. Okay?"
Severus wanted to say something snarky, but he needed a plan to follow, and Harry Potter's was as good as any, so he simply nodded his agreement and slinked off toward his office.
Harry ran to gather whom he needed to inform- and made sure to tell Hermione to make sure their things were packed. They were going to be leaving sooner than expected.
About 45 minutes later, Harry was hurrying along the dungeon halls, slipping into Snape's office without knocking first.
He held a shrunk version of his trunk in his palm.
"Hermione has this week's clothing packed for Ron and myself," he told the man who was gathering potions from his cupboard. "We will be expected to attend the funeral, but my trunk and necessities for our journey are about to be taken to Grimmauld. Moody is making certain adjustments to the wards now, so that no one but us four may enter. I have permission to obliviate him afterwards, but I would rather you do that, as I would probably cause him brain damage. Remus will be keyed in also, but only temporarily. He is making two way mirrors for us, so that we may communicate without using detectable magic. Are you ready?"
Severus nodded his head stiffly, but his potions were still mixed up and his robes awry.
Harry gave him a soft smile and waved his wand, tidying up the area. He moved toward the potions master, adjusting his collar before moving to tie back his hair.
Severus stood still as the young man pulled his hair from his face, a bit surprised that Harry was on eye level with him.
When did he get so tall?
Harry finished, and moved to hug him for the second time that day.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
Harry squeezed lightly, pulling back to close up Severus's suitcase.
"I can sense that you need it, and I enjoy being able to offer it to you."
Severus narrowed his eyes before they widened a bit in realization.
"You can sense that…?"
"Yes. I'll answer your questions later. For now, we have things to do. Kreacher!"
The ugly house elf appeared with a loud pop.
"Take my suitcase and the professor's to the Black library. I do not want them touched other than to deliver them there, is that understood?"
Harry gripped Severus's elbows.
"Time to adorn your mask again, professor. We have a game to play."