Dance In The Dark Of Night
Disclaimer: Non-original characters are the property of JK Rowling etc and no money is made from this little amusement. This story has nothing to do with the play of the same name, which at one point starred Alan Rickman in a lead role.
Pairings: HP/SS (others later on but telling now will spoil it, 1 more slash, 1 more het).
Rating: R (for some bed scenes but mostly for dark things)
Feedback: Yes, please, lots and lots. Author writes more quickly when praise is abundant.
Listed as AU. In response to some queries: My Severus and Harry exist in an alternate dimension to canon and will in the sequel visit canon by way of a magical device. The two universes depart noticeably from each other from OOTP onwards, it was completed before either of the last two books were written! There are very notable differences to Severus's upbringing and the curse words used ie gaelic instead of latin, this will all become relevant in the sequel when it begins to lead the plot.
Chapter One - Inside The Silence
Severus glanced into his cauldron; the liquid swirled and bubbled merrily. He dropped in the final ingredient and noticed, with unsurprised satisfaction, that it turned a deep iridescent purple colour. It was well past midnight, his favourite hour for potion brewing and other personal pursuits. The calm and stillness occurred at no other time of day, even the students prone to late night wandering where in bed by this hour. There was no better time for sensitive and private research.
He allowed the potion to simmer a little longer and then turned off the heat, it was perfect even if he said so himself. It was a pretty colour and it even tasted nice, what more could a man want from his creation. It was peaceful oblivion and merciful release, one single sip and everything would melt away with blistering speed and he knew of no antidote, he had named it 'Blissful Death'. He would bottle it first thing in the morning; he didn't want to leave it unattended while he dealt with the last of his duties.
Severus went through to his study and sat at his private desk, his potion book lay open at the correct page and he updated the notes on his most recent creation. Ever considerate of him, he thought, to leave behind instructions in case some other potions brewer might find his work useful after he had gone.
He sat back in his chair after he had finished writing and rubbed his eyes wearily, allowing the feeling to come upon him now that his work was done. He felt the weight of his existence upon him; nobody could call it a life. He was sick of being the Potions Master, sick of Hogwarts, sick of the Order and all the duties and most of all, sick of Harry bloody Potter.
There was no amount of sleep that could shift this kind of weariness; he felt like little more than a walking corpse, dead already for however many years it had been now; seven of them with Potter relentlessly taunting him, many more before that. His only consolation was that it was nearly all over, one more exam and Potter would be gone from his daily existence. He would still be a member of the Order, but Severus had a plan for avoiding those duties.
One more exam and it would all be over, the practical Potions exam had been left to last for the first time ever. No doubt part of Albus' ongoing plans to annoy him, he couldn't possibly let him be free of Potter before he was due to leave for good. Severus got up and crossed the room, slumped in the chair by the fire and reached for a smoke. Soon it would all be over, everything, all of it. Harry bloody Potter, all grown up and graduated from Hogwarts was only part of it. His specific duties were all discharged, somebody else could take on the rest.
At last, after all these years, Severus thought, Albus couldn't keep him at this school any longer, not this time, the Headmaster had run out of reasons at last. It was time for him to join his beloved Kin.
Harry looked up from his cauldron; Snape was still staring at him. Did that man ever give it a rest? He was almost finished the exam and would then be leaving in the morning a free man, whether his potion succeeded or not, yet Snape was still mercilessly trying to put him off. Someday, when nobody could deny that he was an adult and an equal, he would tell Snape exactly what he thought of him, maybe. He would wait till he was successful at something first, then he wouldn't be able to throw his failure back at him, would have no excuse to sneer at his words. If you live, the thought came into his head and he pushed it away as best as he could, there was no time for that, he couldn't allow defeatist thoughts to get a hold of him. The thought nagged on reminding him what a fantasy it all was, unless he did something soon he was doomed and he knew it.
Snape started to do a sweep of the room, the sort where he looked over shoulders with a disdainful expression and sent nerves flying. Harry knew he wouldn't be spared. Sure enough Snape was soon stood behind him, thinking of something nasty to say about his work, no doubt. He could feel him, he always could. Snape didn't say anything but continued to stand behind Harry. Any closer and they would be touching, Harry shivered inside at the thought. His spoon suddenly developed a mind of its own and flew out of his hand, splattering potion all over the table.
Damn that man! It would never happen if Snape didn't just STAND there like that. Don't say anything; just go away, Harry silently wished. Snape stayed, longer even than usual. Damn, what with the Death Eaters virtually standing in wait and this insufferable git, it was a wonder Harry had ever managed to remember anything. If there was one thing he wished for most, it was to never see Snape again. He didn't want him dead, no, that was tempting fate just a little too much. He would be quite happy if he just disappeared.
Of course, as Snape was a member of the Order there was little point in wishing for anything. As Harry was soon to be a full member of the Order himself and there was still a war to be fought, he might very well find himself encountering Snape on an alarmingly regular basis, if he didn't do something about it first, and he had every intention of doing something about it. He was done with the Order mapping out his life for him, all roads just seemed to lead to his death no matter how they tried to dress it up and conceal things from him. Of course his alternative plan had every chance of leading him to his death just as quickly but it at least seemed to make him feel like he was trying to do something about his fate.
Snape hadn't said anything about the spoon, which surprised Harry a little; it was unheard of for Snape not to take every opportunity that presented itself. He hadn't actually said anything at all, which was unheard of and very definitely worse. Eventually Snape moved away and Harry glanced up at his retreating back. Snape's cloak swished as he walked stiffly, almost like he was gliding. Harry could breathe at last, not long to go now. He repeated the words to himself like a mantra in his head. Not long to go now.
He chanced a glance at Ron and smiled across the room at his best friend.
"Potter!" The familiar voice rang out from near the front of the classroom making him jump. "May I remind you this is an exam!"
This was unbelievable, Snape had to be watching him every second to be able to catch him out that swiftly and he hadn't even turned around as far as Harry had noticed, he was still walking to the desk. His pronounced psychic abilities were supposed to allow him to heal through touch, but it was like he just knew somehow, like he was psychic in the Muggle sense. Harry shivered as much as he might have done had he just encountered a dementor. No Patronus could rid him of the nightmare of Snape it seemed. The passage of time would though, and a little planning, not to mention a bit of lying and secrecy. He would soon see if Snape could see everything.
Would he say anything to Snape before he 'left for the Dursleys'? Harry was undecided. He felt that he should want to tell Snape what he thought of him, before he left Hogwarts forever, but he couldn't really be bothered.
After all this time, Harry found that he just wanted to go. He doubted that any harsh words from Harry Potter, could wound Snape in any case. He turned to look at Snape and found him still walking away with his back turned as if he had eyes in the back of his head. Well, if his plans for tomorrow went well, Harry thought, he wouldn't have to worry about any of it any longer. He would be far away from the Dursleys, Snape, the Dark Lord, the Order and Hogwarts, far away from it all.
It was simple really, he would be getting off the train at King's Cross as normal, all he had to do was slip out onto the street, find a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere and let the Muggle world engulf him just as it had engulfed so many Muggles who were also running from something dark and terrible. Dressed in ill-fitting clothes and a bit too thin for his height, he would be just like hundreds of other young men his age, out on the streets of London, no one would even notice that he was at all different. They would never find him.
The exam finished and Severus watched them all file out silently as they were required to do after an exam, suddenly bursting into chatter as soon as they each passed over the threshold that was the door arch. Severus breathed out deeply. And so it ends, he thought; seven long years and his job was done, where the Potter boy was concerned anyway, seven long years. One spoilt, pampered, world famous brat not as big headed as he might have become. Yet again his life saved; well his chances were enhanced anyway. All done; finished with; he could relax now. But why didn't he feel more? The relief he had expected to wash over him was suspiciously absent now that it came to the moment. Potter wandered out with the rest of them and it was a terrible anticlimax.
Maybe he had lived like this for so long he couldn't feel any relief from its being over. Maybe it was because he wouldn't get the chance to stand beside Harry anymore, just feeling the warmth of his presence; barking some criticism or other so Harry would never guess how he sometimes felt when they were close, the only thing apart from Albus' hold over him that had played a part in keeping him in this world. Maybe it was because some part of him knew that Albus might never let him go.
Severus fingered the small crystal ball in his hand seeking emotion from it; he experienced relief, Potter's relief as he left. The ball was a new toy he had bought himself and he wasn't sure he liked it, he had only had it a couple of months and it gave him no comfort and little amusement. Severus tucked it away in his robes and swore not to touch it; he would leave it behind for use when encountering enemies; for use on official duties for the Order, not for spying on Potter and his friends like he had so childishly been doing. He sighed and gathered his things together; a cool dark place, that's where he was going. He could mark the exams in the morning when the castle had fallen into summer silence. And then, maybe then he could slip away.
If Albus managed to find some way of stopping him like he had so many times before, then the next time he would see Potter it would be war. He wondered how long it would take now that he was free of school and of an age. Next time Potter would stand as an adult and a member of the Order. He would know what it was all about, how impossible to defeat. How the defeat of the Dark Lord was only the beginning and not the end. Maybe he would use the Blissful Death sooner, rather than later, Severus thought, he had no wish to see the look in Harry's eyes once he knew the truth.
Severus traced the corridors back to his quarters and looked out of a window as noise attracted his attention. Certainly all the seventh years were making their way to the Quidditch pitch if not the whole school; laughing, shouting, one last impromptu game. Some of the teachers were joining them but he certainly wasn't going out there. Severus turned away and headed for the dungeons. He needed to make as much of the peace as he could.
Severus entered his chambers and approached the cupboard where he had stashed the purple potion; they all sat neatly in line, all clearly labelled 'Blissful Death'. Why had he made so much when all he needed was one phial? He took one of the little bottles up in his hand and played with it. What was he waiting for anyway? Was he going to sit around waiting for the Death Eaters to discover his treachery, as they surely must at some point, wait for them to come for him? He knew more than anybody what would happen if he failed to put an end to himself and it wasn't as if he was going to be sorely missed. It wasn't as if he had ever wanted to live this long anyway, he hadn't wanted to live since his brother had died. If Albus hadn't forced him to stay all those years ago, he wouldn't have done. The power of the Kin, within him still, made it so. Only someone as strong as Albus could have stopped him.
Severus took the phial with him to his chair by the fire. If he didn't have the exams to mark, he thought, he could drink it now. Excuses Severus, he thought, will you stop dreaming about it and just do it? Somebody else can mark the stupid exam papers; they'll be glad that it wasn't you. You have nobody, nobody sees you, Severus rationalised to himself, not since HE died. The least you can do is make sure that everything you know dies with you. He began turning the stopper in the top of the phial to loosen it. Even Albus might let him go this time, Severus thought, not quite believing it even as the words formed in his head.
Indeed it was not to be; Albus had probably even been waiting for him to try, allowing Severus to explore his intentions, but only so far. Albus could read most people quite well but, Severus recalled with a grim smile, he seemed to pride himself on setting his clocks by the ex Death Eater in his charge. As far as Severus knew he had only ever managed to keep one secret from the old man, and that was one that nobody would want to believe anyway.
A letter flew up out of the hearth and landed on Severus' lap. Severus sighed in irritation; it was from Albus Dumbledore, but he knew that before he looked at it. Even if he ignored it and drank the potion anyway, it would not have had a chance to work before Albus came out of the fire looking for him, even as quick as he tried to make it be. No doubt Albus would have a bloody antidote too even though Severus knew of none, and mysteriously, he would be carrying it with him, that was what had happened the last time. This one was faster acting but still he might make it.
The headmaster had invited him up for tea. And a chat, Severus thought, some task or other, some mission that he was required to complete for the Order. One hour of peace and now this! At least he wouldn't have to pretend to be a Death Eater for much longer, not the way the war was heading, that hardly made anything less dangerous. He was a dead man waiting to die; he knew that, he had hoped to be able to grab some kind of control over it. Some painless way out, he was done with pain.
Severus made his way up to the headmaster's quarters with the weight of the world's salvation hanging round his neck like a lead ball. He greeted the Headmaster with the required courtesy but didn't bother animating it in any way. He was offered tea AND cakes, this was bad he realised. Dumbledore's tired eyes looked up at him from his desk. Severus wasn't going to say anything about Albus' intrusion of his most recent attempt at freedom and Albus didn't say anything about it either, but their eyes met for a fraction of a second and all that they each saw there made the words unnecessary.
"Sugar?" Albus asked.
Oh shit, Severus thought, to be sweetened up with cakes and sweet tea, this had to be the worst mission ever. Severus let Albus hand over a cup of tea containing two sugars. He accepted graciously but with mounting suspicion.
"Please sit, dear Severus." The headmaster commanded and reached inside a drawer in his desk. He brought out a packet of smokes and offered them. Severus stared at the cigarettes as if they were his excruciating death sentence, Albus didn't normally allow smoking anywhere near him.
"Am I Professor Snape today or Severus of the Order of the Golden Dawn?" Severus asked thinking he knew the answer. He had worked as a professor for seventeen years, had been at the castle for over nineteen not including his time as a student, he was in his late thirties now. The majority of his adult life had been spent teaching at the school and fighting the darkness, but still, to this day, he remained 'the Death Eater who had got away with it'. Sometimes it seemed like too long, far too long. He reluctantly accepted a smoke and lit it with the tip of his wand, mindful of the fact that it might well be destined to be his last.
"I would like you to go on a little holiday," The headmaster said by way of a response to the question Severus had asked, Severus eyed him warily; this was no time for holidays of the usual kind and he knew that Albus knew it too.
Somebody else entered the office; Severus could almost feel him without his little crystal ball. His heart turned to lead in his stomach as the possibilities started to play through his head.
"Ah Mr. Potter, Harry." The headmaster greeted warmly. Severus didn't turn to look but got a glance of Harry's face as he sat down. From the appearance of the boy, he too knew the meaning of a tea party invitation.
Although he had told himself he wouldn't, Severus slipped a hand inside his robe and held the crystal ball; apprehension immediately flowed through it, Harry's apprehension magically resonating through the crystal.
"I think it is no longer wise for you to go to the Dursleys considering our current position and your age." Dumbledore stated. Harry's reaction was one of relief and puzzlement.
"Am I to stay here then?" Harry asked.
"No, I think it's a good idea for you to go somewhere else." Albus replied, "Hogwarts is not the place for you now."
Harry looked from the headmaster to Severus and back again. Severus could feel the apprehension and the suspicion building within the young man.
"Maybe I could go to the Burrow with Ron?" Harry asked in hope but not really believing it possible.
The headmaster shook his head, "I don't think you should stay with anybody you know, not until the Dark Lord is defeated anyway, it would put them in danger."
Panic, terror, anxiety, Severus felt them and watched them on Harry's face.
"Where do you want me to go?" Harry asked, in bewilderment allowing the volume of his voice to rise.
"It doesn't really matter; I don't even want you to tell me." Dumbledore said trying to sound kind in an offhand way.
Severus wondered what any of this had to do with him.
Pain, abandonment, confusion, the feelings continued to come to him through the crystal ball, Severus felt like a dirty old pervert looking into Harry's emotions and thoughts at this sensitive moment, he didn't stop.
'He knows what I was going to do'. They were Harry's thoughts that Severus heard echo in his brain but they might as well have been his own.
"But what if something happens?" Harry asked desperately. 'Will you not let me go?' the thought continued in Harry and Severus' thoughts.
"I have a spell I will show you, you will live like a Muggle tourist, any sign of trouble and the spell will send a message to all the members of the Order, they will come to you. Be sure you know what a real emergency is and only use the spell then."
"A Muggle tourist?" Harry said laughing grimly, "I'll stand out a mile trying to be a tourist on my own, they always go away as families, at least the Dursleys always do. Not that I ever went with them."
Dumbledore gave the slightest of nods in the Professor's direction and it was as if he had turned Severus to stone as the realisation rattled about in his brain, 'I would like you to go on a little holiday', indeed.
The full horror of the idea was hardly registering for Severus when he received the wave of anger and fear from the crystal ball, Harry's anger and fear as he too realised the implications of Dumbledore's latest scheme.
Harry stood up, "No, no, you cannot be serious. Can I not just go back to the Dursleys? If they get killed not that many people will mind, why him?" Harry asked not even bothering to keep the disgust from his voice.
There was desperation coming to the surface for Harry, Severus hardly needed any magical assistance to read that.
"I can assure you, the idea is not filling me with joy either." Severus said in his best Professor voice, trying to hide a strange feeling of hurt that was building in his chest.
A jolt of fear shot up through Severus' hand and through his body as Harry heard his voice; there were waves ofhate flowing through the younger man. Severus looked at Harry and found him looking up at him, his face mirroring the feelings that were shooting out of the ball. Severus tried to let go of it, but his hand wouldn't move. He felt his own heart throbbing in his chest.
"Severus is in almost as much danger as you are." The headmaster pointed out.
"I am sure they would like to get a hold of you too." Harry replied.
"Best not let them have three birds with one stone?" Dumbledore replied grimly.
"Won't we all be safer apart?" Harry continued, running out of options.
"You cannot go alone Harry, you said so yourself, and I would have to spare two more people to act as escorts, it cannot be done. Severus must go and you must go with him, there is nothing to be done I am afraid."
"Like some strange father and son thing?"
Harry gave Severus a look that showed that he didn't think HE ought to get an escort at all. They stared at each other for barely a moment and then suddenly Harry's anger was gone.
"Fine. I'll do it. Whatever." Harry said eventually, seeming to be giving up. It came so suddenly that Severus couldn't believe in it.
Harry left after a while. They had discussed possible locations that might be suitable, but had stayed well clear of compromising Dumbledore's position by agreeing on anything; anything other than the fact that Harry was leaving with the others in the morning. The spell had been taught to Harry and Severus was already familiar with it.
After Harry was gone Severus made to stand up.
"There is something else I need to discuss with you Severus, something I am sure you will come to understand will ensure that this plan goes without a hitch." Albus announced before he had a chance to leave, "If I could just have a moment more of your time?"
Severus was Severus of the Golden Dawn and Harry was Harry of the Golden Dawn. Severus couldn't play teacher when they were going to have no company but each other, for an undetermined amount of time. Damn Dumbledore. He had about twelve hours to prepare and his stupid honour wouldn't let him go away now, he would have to do this task and he had no idea for how long. Severus had to begin to treat Harry as an equal now; there was no way they would survive what was to come if he couldn't. He had thought enough about ending the animosity between them and had so far done nothing about it. Now was the time. Severus could see that he had been a fool to treat Harry as if he was a mirror of his father; backing down publicly was quite a task though.
It didn't help either, that in the past year, Severus' feelings for the boy had taken quite a different turn altogether, what was he supposed to do with that? Harry thought of their being together as some disastrous father and son catastrophe, he had said so.
Maybe they could do it, if they got away from the Wizarding world and Harry listened to him, without any of the other well-meaning people the boy had come to see as family, lending their opinions. It would help that he wouldn't have so much of an audience, so many vultures waiting to pounce, if he should manage to shift the mask from his face and show Harry what he had so carefully hidden.
Dinnertime came and the atmosphere in the hall was one of charged excitement. Severus noted, however, that Harry seemed to share his own lack of enthusiasm for it. Without looking up he placed a hand on his crystal ball and focused on images rather than emotions. He got a scene of Harry's friends chatting around him with Harry in the middle seemingly lost in thought. He decided to take the ball with them; it might be useful for anticipating attack. He stayed tuned in and saw Harry shaking his head apologetically and getting up to leave. He counted ten seconds and then looked up; sure enough Harry had left the hall.
Severus couldn't shake the feeling of hate he had felt coming from Harry, they couldn't set off on such an important journey like this, Severus thought, with feelings like that. He wished that he had known Albus' plans a few weeks ago so he could have prepared, or found a way out of it. Of course Albus would have known exactly what he would have done with more notice.
He stood up too and resolved to find Harry, he didn't know what he was going to say but he had to say something to the young man to dispel the strength of negative feeling towards him.
Severus let himself into the Gryffindor common room expecting to find Harry there. There was nothing but a crackling fire and half packed trunks. He looked around the room; he had never been in when it was student free, had rarely been inside the Gryffindor accommodation at all. He searched among the trunks for Harry's, first his emotions and now his possessions; he couldn't believe curiosity could get him like this. He found it easily, or rather he found Harry's Muggle rucksack similar to the one he had been forced to pack. It lay open inside his trunk and perched on top was a Pensieve, what on earth was a student doing with a Pensieve? Of course, Harry was no ordinary student, Severus had to remind himself.
He could come back any minute, he thought, they won't be back for hours a little voice inside his head told him. It might help him mend the rift, Severus tried to reason with himself; the Pensieve seemed to beckon him, he stepped towards it.
Severus was sucked into the Pensieve where he received a potted history of life with the Dursleys, all the bits that Harry couldn't bear to keep in his head, and was then unceremoniously spat back out again. He crumpled to the floor, for most of it he had been inside Harry; he had to fight to stop himself retching on the rug. He felt breathless and sick to the stomach; he had to get out of the common room. He thought that seeing Harry's life would make things easier but it made things a whole lot worse.
Severus almost ran all the way down to the safety of the cold dark dungeon. When he got there he slumped gratefully in his big leather armchair by the fire. He felt the warmth sooth his skin. He felt like he had been beaten to a pulp and the despondency and despair threatened to wash him away. These were the people Harry begged to be with instead of him. He washed, cooked, cleaned got shoved in a cupboard and they watched him constantly. Not a breath out of place went unpunished. Severus remembered Harry's fear when he was told of the arrangements, the look he had given him. Had he really been that good at his job, that bad? Severus had been positively looking forward to his trip compared to how he felt now.
The Dursleys had indulged in the odd slap to begin with, as if to test the waters, and then it had progressed. Sirius' death had seen Harry's concentration falter and his duties were neglected over the following summer, which was swiftly dealt with; his chest ached at the memory of broken ribs. Numerous instances, one after the other, all played back to him for his enjoyment, damn his curiosity. Harry had had several breaks to the arms before he had even got anywhere near a broom or a bludger.
Severus felt a flash of anger for Albus; he had placed Harry with those useless and abusive Muggles when Severus himself had been more than willing to take on the job. Yes, Albus made a great show of trusting Severus, but it had always been different when it came to the more pleasant aspects of looking after Potter. Until now, Severus thought grimly remembering all that he and Albus had discussed that day, just at the moment when the rift was too deep and ragged to mend.
When he felt recovered enough Severus walked back up to the ground floor, he turned round again though, when he heard the sound of hundreds of students leaving the hall. He had left it too late; he would never catch Harry alone now. He would have to wait till they were alone together on the mission before he could start trying to draw some kind of truce.
Harry had gone back up to Dumbledore's quarters; the Headmaster joined him there a discrete five minutes later.
"I have the rest of your things," Dumbledore wasted no time explaining, he didn't want to keep Harry long.
Harry nodded and Dumbledore passed him several parcels.
"Put these in your trunk, take the train to King's Cross, you will meet Severus and a member of the Order on the platform for the next train to Edinburgh. Your trunk will be taken to a safe location and you will take with you everything I have given you as a parcel and whatever you pack in your rucksack."
"Right." Harry said now appearing determined to live up to what was expected of him and take it all in.
"Severus will have purchased tickets for a location of his choice. You will board the train and go wherever your wills take you. You may take certain magical items but take care to only use them well out of sight. And only minor wand usage, anything much more than wand light and the magic may act as a beacon to the Death Eaters."
"Yes." Harry agreed. He didn't want to think about the danger; he wanted to focus on the mission, his first mission for the Order, and then he would know the best way to run away from it and when.
"There is strength in unity but that does not mean lining yourself up for the enemy to knock you down like dominoes."
"And don't tell anybody what I'm doing, not Ron or Hermione or anyone?" Harry hadn't been about to anyway.
"Yes, Harry, perhaps especially your friends." Albus confirmed.
Harry sighed, "Camping with Snape? I don't suppose they would believe me anyway."
"Well, er that looks like an erm." Harry mumbled pointing to one of the parcels.
"Yes, it is indeed an 'erm'." The headmaster replied hoping that Harry wouldn't make any other slip ups. "You'll need to alter your appearance a little too. At the station before you meet Severus, change in the toilets and take this potion, wait an hour before leaving." He added handing Harry a potion and a bandana.
"What does it do?" Harry said looking a bit alarmed.
Dumbledore only smiled at him and would not offer him anything further.
The next morning Severus stood on the main stairs watching all the students leave for the train. Spirits were high and Harry put on a good show of leaving for the Dursleys with his friends. Severus had failed to catch Harry alone; his nearest attempt had been thwarted by a final call to Dumbledore's office. Why had it felt like a final goodbye? He tried to push the thought from his mind. No, he would be back here being persuaded to teach brats again before he knew it. That's right Severus, he thought; keep saying it till you believe it. Severus continued to watch Harry, if he noticed him doing so he gave no indication. Maybe he was very purposely not seeking any eye contact, making sure his friends didn't suspect anything.
Severus sighed, upon reflection he thought that he should have taken the Blissful Death while he had had the chance. Now it was too late. Albus had forced upon him another reason to live and his honour, once again, wouldn't let him go. He was stuck with Potter and that was that. At least with a magic tent, they wouldn't be in the same predicament a Muggle would be in when camping, they would be able to ignore each other reasonably well. At least till they grew more accustomed to the situation anyway, Severus thought, remembering Albus' instructions to him that morning to try and be friends with Harry.
As soon as Harry and the other students were gone Severus quickly returned to his dungeon. He was to take Harry's invisibility cloak and fly under it on an old school broom to London. He then had to meet up with their contact and transform into his new identity. He must not be in the toilets at the same time as Harry; he had to get there before. At least the process wouldn't be hampered with the need to make lengthy goodbyes to his fellow teachers; nobody was to know of his departure.
Severus had assumed he would be leaving the castle someday, cold as stone and contained within a box, now it looked like he was to seek his death elsewhere, he didn't really believe he would return. They had to defeat the Dark Lord, Harry was destined to be the one to either do or die, but they were forbidden from seeking their enemy out. It seemed like a lost cause to him, Albus was getting really desperate if he was sending Harry away.
Severus had packed a case of useful potions in the rucksack first, within which was a hidden compartment concealing several phials of 'Blissful Death'. He put in a few personal items in next and then packed up all the things Dumbledore had given him. In his cloak he held the potion Dumbledore wanted him to take, his crystal ball and his wand. He heaved the bulging rucksack onto his back, wrapped Harry's invisibility cloak around himself and left without another look back, somewhere out on the Quidditch pitch, 'someone' had left an old school broom lying about.
The journey down on the train was a hard one for Harry though his friends hardly noticed the difference. They knew a bit about the Dursleys, not the whole truth, but enough to excuse Harry's nerves at the thought of returning to them. They themselves were cheerful, happy to be going back to their families, pretending as if it were just another summer.
"I can't believe we'll never be going back." Hermione said to Ron. "I'll be starting my training come September."
"You'll have no trouble, at least you don't have to find a job yet," Ron added, "I suppose my Dad working at the Ministry will have its advantages for once, I'll probably end up joining him."
"I'll come up to the Burrow after a few weeks OK." Hermione confirmed with Ron.
Ron smiled at her knowingly and then turned to Harry, "We'll come and rescue you from the Dursleys like we usually do, OK Harry?"
"Yes, just make sure you bring something to knock the house down with." Harry responded without turning away from the window, it was easier to lie to them that way. You cannot rescue me from anything anymore, he thought darkly.
"Oh, yea," Ron laughed, "In case they put bars up again."
"They can't do that anymore," Hermione said in her know it all voice, "Harry's eighteen now, he's free of their guardianship."
"That's me, free as a bird." Harry muttered to himself.