I didn't think it would take me so long to post this, but finally, here is the last (last) installment of 'Unexpected Happenings'. It was an incredible journey, thank you to everyone who shared it with me.
x X x
When Harry woke it was to find himself in the hospital wing of Hogwarts. He did not know how long he had been there, but judging from his best friends' sleeping forms, he'd been there for quite some time.
'Ron?' he said softly. He did not stir. 'Ron!'
'I'm up! What - Harry, you're awake!'
'How long have I been here?'
'Little more than a day.'
'A whole day? What happened?'
'We don't know much. Dumbledore just told the school that you had defeated him. When we asked where you were he said you were here, that we shouldn't disturb you, but could visit for a little while. We haven't left yet. Hermione, get up! '
She jumped up suddenly, and narrowly avoided falling to the floor. 'Harry! We were so worried!'
'Why were you worried?'
'You've been unconscious since they brought you in.'
'Tell us what happened,' said Ron.
Harry filled them in on being kidnapped by Severus until he had killed Bellatrix. Upon hearing that, Hermione sucked in a sharp breath, but wisely, said nothing. Ron merely muttered, 'Good riddance to bad rubbish...'
'So he's really gone then, Voldemort?'
'Yeah, he's really gone...' The three of them exchanged tired smiles. From first to fifth years, Voldemort managed to interfere with their lives and almost kill them. Now he was really gone. Words could not express how they felt, but for now their smiles said enough. Hermione moved to sit next to Harry on the bed, while Ron sat cross legged at the foot. She took one of Harry's hands in hers and one of Ron's in the other. All in all, it was a fairly intimate scene the Headmaster walked in on. He beamed genially at the three Gryffindors.
'How did you convince Madame Pomfrey to let you stay?' asked Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling more than ever.
'We refused to leave sir,' answered Hermione solemnly.
'And told her if she forced us out we'd sneak back in,' finished Ron.
'Harry is very lucky to have you two. And Harry, my boy, how are you feeling?'
'Fine, professor, just a little tired… Why am I here?'
'You used a lot of magical energy Harry, that and the stress of taking two lives - no matter how evil - is a lot to bear.'
Harry nodded absently. 'So is everything over then?'
'Far from it I'm afraid. Some Death Eaters escaped, and dealing with the Ministry will not be easy. We will manage though, especially now that the greatest threat, Lord Voldemort, is gone for ever. However when one evil dies there is always another to take its place; we must never get complacent. Congratulations Harry. We are all in your debt.' With that he exited, leaving the three friends alone once again.
They still had a lot to discuss, but for now they were simply content to enjoy each other's company. They spent the entire day with Harry, even eating with him (a house-elf brought them all meals), until Snape came to visit. Uncomfortable could not begin to describe the atmosphere. Ron unabashedly stared daggers at him, while Hermione squeezed Harry's hand.
'Weasley, Granger,' said Severus acknowledging them. 'Harry, may I speak with you?'
'Sure,' he answered, after a moment's hesitation. Hermione got off the bed and dragged Ron out with her, but not before he told Harry very pointedly they would be right outside all the while glaring steadily at Severus.
'I just... wanted to see you.'
'Here I am,' said Harry. He was not going to make it easy for Severus.
'Yes, you are. I would have come before, but I was still recovering myself. I'm sorry I wasn't more help to you during the fight.'
'You made that battle winnable. What happened to you?'
'A rather nasty curse... however that's in the past now.' He smiled awkwardly, and then looked down as if he suddenly found the floor incredibly fascinating. Harry had never seen him unsure of himself. He was almost inclined to feel sorry for him… almost.
'What I wanted to know was, well, that is... were you serious when you said you wanted to work things out?' Harry looked at him evenly before nodding in the affirmative. Severus instantly relaxed and his demeanour changed. He seemed more like himself again.
'I am sorry for the way I've hurt you in the past. I honestly thought it was for the best. I never deserved you, but if you're really willing to give me a second chance, then I am privileged to accept it.'
'And your reasons for not us being together in the first place? What about that?'
'Maybe, just maybe, I've served my penance and deserve to be happy.'
'You're happy with me?'
'Exceedingly so, it should be illegal to feel as happy as I do when I am with you. Even though I don't show it I am. I've got so used to hiding my emotions I'm not sure I know how to express them anymore.'
'I'll help you,' said Harry. His heart was full and all he wanted to do was embrace Severus and hold him forever, but there was one more thing. 'How can we be together properly while I'm still in school? Sneaking around isn't an option anymore - not with Ron and Hermione knowing. Either way, I don't want to sneak around, it's dishonest. Are you angry that I told them?'
'I was, but I really had no right to be. When they realised you were missing they practically stormed my office.'
'They told me. You won't punish them will you?'
'No, they did nothing wrong. Although Weasley did say he would kill me. I think he still wants to actually. You are lucky to have them as friends.'
'Not that I could punish them even if I wanted to... I tendered my resignation, right before I told Dumbledore about us.'
'You what! So when he came in to talk to me he knew?'
'He did. As I said before, I believe I've served my penance - I too want to be together without subterfuge.'
'But your job? And oh my God, what did Dumbledore say?'
'As for the job, I can assure you I have never liked teaching and my prospects are not dim. I could easily find work in potion research and development and Dumbledore... well let's say it was the first time I have ever seen him look surprised. He gave me quite the lecture, one I won't share with you. We had words to say the least. He accepted it eventually, however I do think he will want to talk to you, ensure that you haven't lost your mind.'
Harry laughed and Severus closed the distance between them and sat on the edge of Harry's bed. He grasped his hand tightly.
'I love you,' said Severus in a fierce whisper.
'I love you too,' said Harry warmly, caressing Severus' hand with his thumb. 'So what happens now?'
'I honestly don't know, but I hope we can figure it out together.'
And there was much to figure out. Now that the threat of Voldemort had been extinguished would Harry still have to return to the Dursleys? What was going to happen with the Death Eaters still on the loose? And he and Severus… what about them? Now that Severus was no longer working in Hogwarts how would they see each other? Moreover, was he really ready for a fully fledged adult relationship? He and Severus would have nothing to hide behind anymore.
'I should go now. I expect your friends will want to come back in.' He leaned forward and kissed Harry. It was like breathing fresh, crisp air after holding your breath for a long time. It was like coming home. As Severus exited Ron and Hermione re-entered.
'I don't like him,' said Ron crossly.
'You don't have to. I heard you threatened to kill him, thanks.'
'Are you sure he's who you want? Professor Snape?' asked Hermione.
'I'm positive, and by the way, he isn't our professor anymore; he resigned.'
Ron let out an excited whoop.
'So we could be together.'
'Did he really?' asked Hermione.
'Yes, he did. Although I think he might have resigned even if we weren't together. He's had enough.'
'I can't say that I like this. I think he's much too old for you - you're not even seventeen yet. And he comes with so much baggage… I could think of a really long lecture with all the relative points about why you and he are a bad idea,' she sighed heavily, 'but if he makes you happy, then who am I to say anything when you've had so little happiness in your life.'
'Thank you Hermione, really. I know it's a big adjustment for the both of you, me being with him. Some days I didn't believe it myself.'
'I agree with Hermione,' said Ron reluctantly. Both Harry and Hermione stared at him.
'Yeah Harry, I do. Ever since you told us I haven't stopped thinking about it and life's short. Even for us wizards, you deserve to be happy. Why you have to be happy with him I'll never know, but I can accept that he's who you want. But if he pulls anymore crap I won't be held responsible for my actions.'
'If he pulls anymore crap, you're welcome to have your bloody way with him.'
'Boys,' said Hermione affectionately, while shaking her head.
'I don't know how Mum will feel about it though.'
'What does Mrs Weasley have to do with anything?'
'I've just had word from her. As soon as things were settled she marched straight up to Dumbledore and demanded he let you live with us. That is if you want to, although I'm not sure Mum would take no for an answer.'
'Yeah, I want to! That's brilliant!'
'I was afraid you might want to live alone. You'll be seventeen soon, and Grimauld Place is yours.'
'It did pass through my mind, but only because I didn't know if you'd want me to live you after what happened, because I did hope you would ask. Is it what you want, or what your mum wants?'
'Both. No matter what happened or happens, Harry, we'll always be best mates. I'm not going to let anyone, even me get between us.
Harry smiled radiantly. 'I don't think I've ever been this happy in my life, and now that I have somewhere to live I can offer Professor Lupin a house. We could all help him renovate it.'
'You want to give Lupin Grimauld Place? What about when you're older?'
'I'll get something new. My parents and Sirius left me a lot of gold. I don't need that place and I think Sirius would be happy to know his best mate was being taken care of.'
'I agree,' said Hermione.
'But will he accept it?' asked Ron. He knew how hard it was to accept charity from friends. Even poor men have pride.
'I think so. Besides, if he doesn't take it, I'm giving it away. I don't want it.'
'Why don't you want it Harry?' asked Hermione.
'Sirius was miserable there… too many bad memories. Maybe Lupin can bring it back to life…'
x X x
The next few days were hectic; Harry had to appear before the Wizengamot, give testimony and fill numerous reports, all while trying to avoid ruthless reporters and his inquisitive school mates. He was awarded the Award of Merlin, first class and although he wanted to refuse it (they offered Severus nothing but the most minimal thanks) Remus and Professor Dumbledore advise him against it. It would not be prudent to offend the Ministry (at this time), no matter how incompetently represented.
As Harry was packing up his things to go his new home at the Burrow, it struck forcibly how much his life had changed in one school year. Voldemort had been destroyed and he had fallen in love with the most hated teacher in school. Even more incredibly, the love was returned. If anyone had asked him a few years ago how his life was going to turn out, his answer could not have been further from the truth. From finding out he was a wizard, meeting Ron and Hermione, discovering Voldemort was after him, meeting and losing Sirius to falling in love with Severus, it was all a bit unbelievable.
'Ready to go mate?' asked Rom, pulling him out of his reverie.
'As ready as I'll ever be I guess. I am not looking forward to telling your parents about Severus.
'Are you sure you want to do that? That's got to be some form of suicide.'
'After all your parents have done for me, especially your mum, it would be poor thanks to lie to them. Plus I want to be able to see him without sneaking around.'
'You think she'd allow that?'
'She doesn't have a choice. My relationship with Severus is non-negotiable.'
'What can I say? You're a braver man than I. And speaking of brave… I – er, finally asked Hermione out.'
'Brilliant! What did she say?'
'Said it was about bloody time actually,' replied Ron with an embarrassed smile.
'It is about bloody time.'
'You think so?'
'Yeah I do.'
'I suppose it was…'
Hermione poked her head into their dorm. 'Can I come in?'
'Yes, it's just us,' answered Harry.
She walked in smiling. 'All packed?'
'Just about.' He looked at Ron and Hermione and was suddenly filled with emotion… they had been to hell and back together…
'It's okay Harry,' said the ever perceptive Hermione. 'We love you too.'
'I don't know about you two,' said Ron, 'but just this once, I think a group hug would be all right, yeah?'
Harry and Hermione laughed, then they all opened their arms and drew each other near. Once again Harry thought of how lucky he was to have met them how thankful he was for their unwavering friendship and support.
'So,' began Ron after pulling away, 'we still have a few hours to kill before the train comes. What do you want to do?'
'I just want to relax,' said Hermione.
'That's a first,' said Ron, sniggering. She tried to hit him but years of experience allowed him to dodge her easily.
'Come on,' said Harry, 'I know the perfect spot by this great tree…'