Severus came to in a small room with only a small amount of illumination coming from under the door crack. He couldn't move without feeling pain from the myriad of bruises he accumulated. He closed his eyes as he took stock of his injuries and was surprised. He wasn't as damaged as he thought he should be given that he's in Death Eater hands. Most of what happened wasn't clear, but he remembered telling Harry that he didn't think the Death Eaters would act so soon. Harry definitely will be glaring at him the next time they met. He closed his eyes waiting for the rest of the day's events to organize themselves into a coherent whole.
Severus recalled being attacked by all those missing students and he remembered seeing Harry racing into the fray with his friends at his back. Minerva went down towards the end and Severus found himself pinioned between Crabbe and Goyle. Harry was eliminating targets at an astonishing rate as he made his way steadily towards Severus and as the remaining student activated the portkey the young man occupying his body had the oddest look in his eyes. Harry lunged and took out on of the two holding Severus in place. Severus still couldn't get away as the portkey activated, but he noticed that Harry grabbed the key too.
Remarkably both he and Harry managed to stay on their feet and both of them began flinging curses at the barely seen figures in the room. They were making heavy inroads on their captors when Severus was struck from behind. That was the last thing he remembered. Severus opened his eyes and allowed them to adjust to the dim lighting of his cell. He wondered how Harry was fairing, but then winced as he remembered what happened to Regulus Black twenty or so years ago. He hoped that Harry wouldn't break, but given the Dark Lord's rage when he found out about Severus' years of spying he had done, Severus didn't have much hope for Harry's survival. Guilt ran through him knowing the fate Harry had in store, but his feelings rapidly went to rage at Albus for putting them into this position in the first place.
Severus wasn't allowed to linger in his thought for long. The door swung open and flooded his bare cell with light. Severus blinked rapidly to clear the tears the brightness caused and saw several Death Eaters leering at him. He glared at them, but those blasted glasses of Harry's negated the effect.
"Come on, Potter. Our Lord wishes you to join the party." The faceless man said with a sadistic tone.
Severus didn't say a word as they dragged him down the hallway to an ornate bronze door. Severus used the time to clear his mind, burying the facts of his spying and the switch that Dumbledore instigated deep with in his mind. He spared a split second to pray that Harry was able to hide enough behind his feeble barriers. He noticed that the doors opened at their approach as he was yanked by his captors through the doors. The audience chamber stank with the smell of blood and fear and Severus was hard pressed to stop his gag reflex. The Dark Lord was draped across his throne, his red eyes bright with a hidden emotion that Severus wasn't too keen on finding out what it was. Severus pulled his eyes away from the Dark Lord and surveyed the room. He found Harry chained to the wall and looking like he had gone several rounds with an enraged hippogriff.
They had stripped the other man of every stitch of clothing and it looked like they were resorting to Muggle brands of torture rather than the various magical ones in their arsenal. It was obvious to Severus that Harry's fate was going to be worse than his godfather's younger sibling's. Severus struggled to keep his emotions from showing on his borrowed face as he watched McNair begin to carve into the young man chained to the wall. It seemed like hours to Severus since he was forced into this chamber to watch Harry being tortured and through out the whole ordeal, Harry hadn't uttered a sound, something that made Severus very proud of the young man he'd fallen in love with.
Eventually the Dark Lord became frustrated at the lack of response from both Harry and Severus. He pulled out his wand and did his worst leaving both men to be dragged back to their cells bloodied and unconscious. Severus came to disoriented and after a few seconds realized he wasn't alone in his cell. He could hear the faint hiss of scales over stone and slowly opened his eyes. Some how Harry's glasses were still on his face and intact and he slowly turned in the direction he believed the sound came from. Once he faced that direction, Nagini came out of the straw covering the floor and made her way straight to him. Severus didn't know whether to trust the snake and was shocked when it opened its mouth and regurgitated two potion vials. One was a dose of his post-Cruciatus potion and the other a super concentrated healing potion.
"Master, I have brought you potions from the black-eyed man's stash. I will bring you your magic stick when my former Master leaves for his attack later." Nagini told him before pushing the vials closer to his prone form.
"Thank you, Nagini. How is Snape?" Severus was worried about the younger man in control of his body.
"Not well, Master. He is hurt badly. I have already hidden some of the potions in his container and will make sure he takes them when I leave you." Nagini hesitated a moment before speaking again. "When you escape, Master, please take the black-eyed man with you. He treated me kindly unlike the others here. Always brought me a treat and spoke to me when he made his potions."
"I wouldn't leave him behind, Nagini, though he may force me to leave with out him." Severus told the snake, reveling in the fact that he can now talk with the serpent and pleased that she thought so highly of him. "If he does make me go with out him would you do your best to protect him?" That got Nagini's attention as the snake rose up to taste the air around him.
"Why do you wish this, Master?" Nagini asked tasting the air as she moved closer to him. "Is he your soul-mate, Master?"
"Yes, he's the one I love, Nagini."
"Then I shall protect him as I would you, Master. I shall go and make sure he takes the potions." Nagini left with giving Severus the chance to thank her.
He hoped that Harry wouldn't cause too much of a fuss when the snake entered his cell. He also idly wondered if Harry retained any of his ability to talk to the snake since they switched bodies. He didn't hear any yells from any of the near by cells and guessed they kept the two of them as far apart as they could. Severus quickly downed the two potions, glad that he made it a habit to talk to Nagini as he brewed potions for the Dark Lord over the past few years. Otherwise she may not have known which potions to bring them. Severus made sure to hide the vials as best he could in the hay, but didn't have much hope about them staying hidden. Straw wasn't they best place to secret things. The potions made him drowsy and he retreated into unconsciousness.
When Severus woke again it was to the sound of his cell door slamming open and the shuffling of several feet into his room. He slowly cracked his eyes into the merest slits to see out of and saw the Dark Lord sneering down on his slumber form. The red eyes quickly narrowed as he noticed how good a shape Severus was in. A kick to his stomach made Severus shoot his eyes open, but not before he was able to occlude his mind. Rage filled the Dark Lord's visage and the Death Eaters that followed him into the cell took a couple of steps away from him. The sickening sound of glass being crushed filled the room and the Dark Lord's gaze left Severus' face and turned into the direction of the hidden vials. The Death Eater that stepped on the straw covered glass bent down and uncovered the remains of the vials and picked the pieces up to hold out wordlessly for the Dark Lord's perusal.
"Who gave these potions to you, Potter?" The Dark Lord snapped and Severus just looked blankly at him. "I demand an answer, Potter!" The Dark Lord circled around Severus' prone body and when his miniscule amount of patience ran out the bastard drew his wand. "Crucio."
As the pain ripped through him, Severus bit his lip in order to prevent the scream of agony from coming forth. It seemed like an eternity before the Dark Lord lifted the curse and Severus panted for air. Pain lingered in his tired limbs, causing the muscles to twitch in response. The Dark Lord glared down at him still expecting an answer.
"Well, Potter, or do you wish for another dose?"
"I haven't a clue. You've got all your idiots running around in masks so how am I supposed to tell?"
The Dark Lord went still and Severus could see the rage building to new heights in the serpent man's eyes. Knowing Harry wouldn't leave well enough alone, Severus decided to throw the cat among the pigeons.
"What's wrong Tom? Got another spy you can't identify?" Severus sneered, but inwardly he was smiling as the Dark Lord's face twisted.
"I've caught the spy!"
"Haven't you ever heard the Muggle saying 'don't put all your eggs into one basket'?" Severus smirked as the light clicked on in the snake-faced man's head.
"Who is it? Tell me!"
"I haven't a clue. I found out about Snape by accident."
With a snarl of rage the Dark Lord turned and left the room. Shortly after his footsteps stopped ringing through the dungeon hallways Nagini returned bearing a bit of parchment and a small drawstring bag in her mouth. She slithered up to Severus and placed both the bag and parchment before Severus before examining him closely.
"He has hurt you again, Master." The snake observed before settling herself into his lap once he struggled upright. "The black-eyed man asked me to bring him parchment so he could talk to you."
"Thank you, Nagini. Were you able to get him to take the potions?"
"Yes, but he wasn't able to speak. His throat may have been damaged."
"That's not a good sign. If he can't speak he can't cast a spell." Severus sighed and opened the note that Harry wrote with Nagini's assistance.
What's with Nagini? Isn't she Voldemort's pet? I'm not sure how to react to her, though from what she was saying to me, I gather that you were on good terms with the serpent? I pretended to have a throat problem since I didn't want to give away what the old man did. I always manage to speak parseltongue whenever a snake is around.
Do you have a plan to get us out? Short of tackling someone and grabbing their wand I don't see much hope of getting out. Then again I'm not the strategic thinker you are.
Severus glanced at the note a second time and looked for a means to destroy the note. There wasn't any way for him to burn it, but out of the corner of his eye he spied the small bucket of water that he had over looked earlier. A small battered tin cup sat on the floor next to the wooden container. Severus scooped out a cupful of water and placed the bit of parchment with Harry's message into it, after Severus ripped away the useable portion. As the parchment soaked in the fluid until it would fall apart, Severus opened the pouch and found the end of a quill that was snapped in half, a small bottle of ink, and some more small scraps of parchment. He quickly penned a return message to Harry explaining his prior treatment of Nagini and advising the younger man to maintain his silence around the snake for now. He also informed Harry about Nagini's plan to steal their wands and return them so they could leave. By the time he was done that little scrap of parchment looked like a Ravenclaw's essay, or Ms. Granger's. The writing was cramped and miniscule.
Silently he handed Nagini the scrap of parchment and after she refused to take the pouch back, telling him that she left another in Harry's cell for his use. Nagini slithered out of the cell through a small hole in the wall and left Severus alone once again. He checked to make sure that the bit of paper was completely destroyed and dispersed small bits of it all around the cell. Severus spent the remainder of his time alone meditating and planning their escape. His planning sessions were interrupted by the arrival of his former comrades in arms, who dragged him to yet another torture session where he was stuck listening to the Dark Lord brag about his plans. He saw Nagini near the Dark Lord's throne looking like she was ready to bite the bastard herself. After the pasty-faced git finished telling him about sending Harry in his body's corpse back to Dumbledore and executing him, still in Harry's body, in the middle of Diagon Alley, Severus was thrown back into his cell, but not before he saw Harry being returned to his own cell.
Severus laid quietly in the sparse covering of straw waiting for darkness to take him away from the pain his body was in. He didn't hear Nagini's arrival nor did he respond to her muttered curses as she tried to drag something in behind her. His next memory was of a sharp stinging slap to his face. A second one descended when he didn't respond fast enough. He blinked his eyes and groped for the glasses that he had dropped when they dragged him out for his last torture session. He put the battered lenses on and saw Nagini poised to swat him with her tail again.
"I'm awake, Nagini." He hissed before her tail could descend.
"Drink the potions and get dressed. You don't have much time. The black-eyed man is already doing so."
"I don't know how we're going to get back to Hogwarts. I don't know where the wards end around the mansion."
"I do not know, Master. The black-eyed one has been reading a parchment since I left him and he's got an odd rock in his hand."
"Really? What is he up to?"
"I do not know, Master, but you have to hurry."
Severus quickly dressed in the clothes that Nagini managed to drag into the cell. They were torn a bit, but in better shape than the shreds of Harry's school uniform. He downed the potions and fixed the glasses before turning to tackle the door. After he opened the door Nagini slithered out and dealt with the guards in the corridor. Once they were incapacitated, Severus made his way down to Harry's cell and heard him muttering under his breath.
"Harry, let's go!" Severus hissed at the other man, who looked up at the sound of his voice.
After his last torture session Harry was unable to stay under the power of unconsciousness. Every little twitch sent lances of pain through him and all he could do was pray for their chance at escape. He heard Nagini slither into his cell several times before he could gather the strength to lift his head off the sparsely covered stone. She pushed three potion vials to him with her tail and watched him closely as he swallowed the potions as quickly as he could. She then gestured with her tail to the pile of clothes she brought. It was only robes and a cloak, but it was better than the shredded remains of Severus' clothes they tossed in with him. Luckily they didn't search the clothing for anything hidden or Severus' robes had notice-me-not charms over any possible hiding places in the garment. He counted himself lucky that he had found hiding places for the diamond and the parchment with the spell before they stripped him for their entertainment. Now he slowly pulled on the stolen clothes and as he picked up the cloak he heard the sound of wood clattering on the stone floor. He looked down and saw Severus' wand, which he picked up and slid into the sleeve of the robes he was wearing.
Nagini was watching him closely as he dressed and tucked away the wand. He smiled at the snake and surprised her by planting a kiss on her head in thanks, which Nagini found unusual and rather satisfying. It was the only way he could thank the snake right now since he was ordered to keep silent around her until they were free. After giving Nagini his non-verbal thanks he went to the first of the two holes in the wall and withdrew the diamond and then to the other to retrieve the parchment. He settled down in a corner facing the door and read the sheet over and over while waiting for Severus to make his escape. Nagini slithered and rubbed against him in farewell before leaving through another hole in the wall.
With out being able to see the sun he had no clue as to how much time had passed while he re-committed the spell to memory. He didn't know why Nagini has been helping them, that was something Severus neglected to mention in his note, but he wasn't going to look cross-eyed at their luck. Hopefully the serpent would be able to meet up with them safely after their escape. After Voldemort found him fully healed the bastard went into a rage and demanded to know who the other spy was and Harry, not knowing what Severus told the thing, informed him that there were at least a half dozen spies running around posing as Death Eaters. Harry gave a small smile at the memory of a speechless Voldemort and resumed his study. He finally put the parchment away, but continued to mutter the enchantment while holding the diamond tightly in his hand. As he continued to make sure he had the enchantment firmly in his mind, he heard a muttered spell and his cell door swung open. Severus poked his head in the room and looked directly at Harry, who looked up as he spoke.
"Harry, let's go!"
Harry wasted no time getting to his feet, though he checked to make sure Severus' wand was still secure before following Severus. Since Severus was the only one who had any clue about their location, he led them through the twisted corridors of the manor. Harry kept his eyes peeled for anyone lurking in the shadows or coming up from behind them. Soon the light became brighter and Harry saw expensive looking furniture covered in dust scattered all over and yellowing wallpaper as they moved from room to room. After an agonizingly slow crawl through the mansion, Harry caught a whiff of fresh air and he couldn't wait to be outside. He didn't rush past Severus though, he wasn't that stupid. Severus touched his arm and the two hurried out of the old building as quickly as they could. Once in the cover of the trees they broke into a run, hoping to reach the end of the anti-apparation shields over the property before Voldemort returned with the rest of his followers. They took a crooked path through the trees, avoiding the worn paths that would ensure them running into Death Eaters. Harry hoped that their luck would hold out, but hope betrayed them when their heard a very, very familiar high pitched hissing voice.
"The prisoners are trying to escape. Surround them! I will deal with them once and for all." Voldemort ordered his followers and Harry could hear the Death Eaters fanning out and he heard the crack of disapparating people as well as the sound of them reappearing behind them.
"Now what?" Harry hissed at Severus as they ducked into a clump of bushes.
"We'll have to fight our way out. I don't know how to get us out of this." Severus replied quietly, his brow furrowed in thought. "Do you still have your portkey?"
"Yes, but what good is that going to do? It'll only take one of us and you never got a chance to get yours."
"It's a hopeless situation," Severus whispered. "There's no way for either of us to escape alive if we fight. Use the portkey and go. You're the only one that can get rid of the Dark Lord. You have to survive this. See if Fawkes will come for me. He's my only hope since we're still within the anti-apparation wards."
They were interrupted by Voldemort's hissing voice.
"I can smell your desperation. Come out and face your deaths like men." Voldemort called out and through a gap in the branches Harry could see the ring of Death Eaters surrounding their hiding place.
He felt Severus touch his arm and when he turned to look at the man in his body, Severus began to mouth instructions to him.
'I love you.' Severus said silently while looking him in the eye. 'Please use the key and go.'
"No, Severus." Harry whispered as softly as he could. Thankfully the crude comments by Lestrange and the resultant laughter covered his soft words.
"Harry you must." Severus insisted and fear was very visible in the man's borrowed eyes.
In Harry's hand the diamond virtually burned his hand and he knew this was his best chance to rid the world of Voldemort for good. He could just run and leave Severus alone with these raving lunatics. Even if Fawkes could arrive in the blink of an eye it could be too late to save the other man. No, he may never get another chance this good. He just had to take it.
"I can't. I found a spell and this may be the only chance I'll have to use it."
"You can die, Harry!" Severus hissed in desperation. "I'll be stuck in your body forever." For some reason Harry didn't understand that last argument didn't ring true to Harry, but he dismissed it in favour of his own arguments.
"I'll do my best to take Voldemort with me when I go. Don't brew that potion you made for Ron. Promise that you won't."
"Why Potter? What good will that do me?" Severus hissed in anger and distress.
"Because the only thing I have to give you that can truly show you how much I truly love you is the one thing the Headmaster couldn't give you."
"And what's that supposed to be?" Severus spat bitterly.
"A truly clean start. A clean slate so to speak. You can attribute your potions expertise on the revising I did in hopes of getting into your NEWT class. Think of the things you can do. The dreams you've abandoned. Now you've got the chance to make those a reality. Think of the potions you can develop and gain the credit for, that you deserve, without the taint of this following you around." Harry gestured at the Dark Mark at the end of his small speech.
"Is the ickle baby and the traitor too afraid to come out and face the bad man." Bellatrix' voice rang out followed by her insane giggles. The rest of the Death Eaters followed suit.
"Bitch." Harry swore in an undertone and refocused on Severus.
Severus seemed to be paralyzed with indecision as Harry's proposal ran through his mind and Harry took advantage of that by pulling the portkey over his head and awkwardly slipping it over Severus' on handed. The movement jerked Severus from his stupor.
"No Harry, it can't be like that." Severus said sadly and Harry wondered what he was missing that would convince Severus to see things his way.
"Either way, I've made my choice. I'm not going to stray from my path." Harry silenced any protests Severus had to make by soundly and passionately kissing the man now living in his body.
"I'm tired of playing this game. Blast the shrubbery away." Voldemort's high pitched, hissing voice rang out and before the volley of blasting charms were yelled, Harry broke the kiss and cast a shielding charm around them; one he never learned.
Severus looked up in surprise, which grew to disbelief as he noticed the shocked expression Harry was wearing. They didn't get a chance to speak again as their shelter blasted apart and splinters of wood flew into their faces. Bellatrix laughed insanely as they wood went flying and Harry spun from his crouch and whipped his wand in her direction.
"Avada Kedavra!" Harry hissed with venom and watched as the green beam unerringly sought out his target and stopped her voice mid-cackle.
Harry felt something cold and slimy deep down in his soul and vowed to never use that spell again, if her survived today. His eyes sought out Voldemort's and he cleared his thoughts and emotions from his mind as best he could. Surprisingly he felt his mind clear and guessed since he was in Severus' body he was able to do so. For the first time since he heard the phrase 'clear your mind' he understood what to do and knew he'd never forget how to protect his mind. As his eyes met the red of Voldemort's he heard some one mutter a disarming chart and felt Severus impact on the ground by his feet behind him, but he didn't dare look behind him. As his gaze locked onto Voldemort's he felt the snake-faced bastard try to probe his mind. The red eyes narrowed in anger when the bastard found his barriers firmly in place. Harry could hear Severus yelling and the sounds of pain from the adults as the other man fought back as best he could.
"You've failed, Severus. I've got Potter and you're going to die." Voldemort taunted. The Death Eaters on either side of their Lord sneered at him, pointedly ignoring the corpse of Bellatrix Lestrange at their feet.
"Silver Griffin." Harry projected his voice to activate the portkey around Severus' neck.
"Professor! No!" Harry heard Severus scream, playing his part to the last, as they enchanted object whisked his away leaving, he imagined, two stunned Death Eaters behind. He didn't dare turn his head away from Voldemort to see, though he felt rewarded by the look on the ghostly white face. It was priceless.
"Why, Severus? I could have given you power beyond belief! Why abandon me for that decrepit old Muggle-lover?" Voldemort demanded while still trying to get through his mental defenses.
"Albus Dumbledore is the greatest wizard alive, Tom. You've never managed to beat him head on and you never will. You're a pitiful example of a Slytherin. After all you only managed to kill one Muggleborn when you opened Salazar's Chamber and then you were too frightened of Dumbledore to continue. Or was it because you weren't cunning enough to figure out a way to operate around him?" Harry stated calmly, though he was far from being that sedate. Severus' body was condition to react a certain way in almost all circumstances and that was to be completely void of emotion.
"Why would you side with the Muggles and Mudbloods, Severus?" Didn't they do nothing more than tease and torment you?"
"In truth my pure-blooded peers were the ones that made my school years hell. All that time the only one that came to my defence was a Muggleborn." Harry replied, still cool as a cucumber on the outside, but tenser than a harp string on the inside. He was playing a dangerous game and he knew it. That underlying fear did nothing to diminish the pride for his mother's actions before Severus insulted her in that memory he nose dived into. His disgust as his father's actions on the other sickened him more and more each time he thought about the scene.
"Muggles should be eradicated. Look at what my father did to me! What about Potter's Muggle relatives? They didn't treat him any better than those people who ran the orphanage I was forced to live at."
"I am well aware of Potter's treatment at the hands of his relatives, though why you blame Muggles for you poor childhood escapes my comprehension. They aren't the reason why you were an orphan."
"My father rejected me. He left me to rot in an orphanage, where no one gave a damn about me!" Voldemort was growing more and more enraged by the second. If Harry could get him to go into a full blown conniption fit then he might be able to bind Voldemort's soul with the minimum of resistance.
"He never knew you existed until the day you showed up on his doorstep to kill him. It wasn't his fault. The blame rests solely on your mother's shoulders. She's the one who spread her legs before opening her mouth. If she had bothered to tell him she was a witch before sleeping with him you'd never have existed. You wouldn't have been born. She probably welcomed any man that wanted to make a deposit. It's a wonder she even knew who your father was." Harry continued to verbally attack Tom Riddle and the self-styled Lord Voldemort was reacting spectacularly to the attacks on his mother.
Unfortunately it wasn't enough to bring the man to the blinding rage that Harry wanted him to be in, despite the ringing laughter of some of his supporters and Harry wondered if they were some of those that regretted joining him, but were too afraid to go against him. Harry struggled for more ammunition to tip the other wizard over the brink while he continued to attack the beliefs that shaped his nemesis. The factor that tipped Voldemort wasn't anything Harry said or did, but came slithering silently through the grass.
As Harry struggled to put his plans in motion he noticed several of the Death Eaters flanking Voldemort, including the one holding his Phoenix feather wand, hiss in pain and shake there legs as if they were trying to dislodge insects. What ever was causing the reaction was moving from Harry's left to his right and after the last person in that row of eight reacted Harry saw a sleek black head rise above the tall grass and weeds. It was Nagini and she was making her way back to they Death Eater that disarmed Severus earlier. Harry wasn't too clear about her movements since he wasn't releasing her former master's gaze. There was no reason to let Voldemort know that he found something more interesting than him at this point in time. To the best of his ability and Severus' eyesight he kept track of the snake's movements while still trying to send Voldemort into a blinding rage. He heard the dull thud of a body hitting the ground, but didn't notice any reaction to the fallen Death Eater. When the second body collapsed he heard some whispered muttering behind him. The Death Eater holding the captured wand, fell victim to Nagini's venom and he saw a blur of black out of the corner of his eye. Unfortunately Voldemort noticed that follower's collapse and broke their inadvertent staring contest. While Harry couldn't drive Voldemort over the brink into blind anger, even with employing Severus' favourite means of making him snap, the sight of Nagini speeding towards Harry with his nemesis' wand in her mouth did the trick rather neatly.
With a shriek of rage Voldemort flung a spell at the black serpent, but missed as his rage affected his aim. Not wanting to take any chances with Nagini's life, Harry cast a summoning charm to bring the large ebony snake to him. Just in time since Voldemort's next attempt was right on target for the spot she was last in. Another spell cast by Riddle impacted off that shield he used earlier. Why it was still in place Harry didn't have a clue about. He wasn't going to question it now. The laughter of his cohorts over Harry's defamation of his mother finally penetrated Voldemort's skull and they became the next targets of his rage. As the first of those minions fell all hell broke loose around Harry and he took it as he cue to begin the ritual.
He chanted the spell three times and concentrated with all his being and magic to drag Voldemort's soul into the gem. He was vaguely aware of two small beings next to him deflecting spells from him and Nagini. He allowed his world to focus solely on the task before him. At first it was very easy to pull the soul towards the diamond, but somewhere in the rage fogged recesses of Voldemort's mind the Dark Lord realized what was going on and became to fight back. On and on they fought. Voldemort struggled to pull his soul back and Harry desperately pulled it towards the diamond. He didn't recall the book mentioning the other person fighting back, but it was too late now to worry about it. He felt his magical strength fading and sometime during his tug-of-war with Voldemort the shield he cast before sending Severus back to Hogwarts failed. He was hit with several curses despite the aid of who ever was flanking him. He did his best to ignore the blood trickling down various portions of his anatomy and the fatigue that was quickly overwhelming him. He felt a small trickle of energy entering him when Nagini wrapped herself around his ankle and it helped renew his fight.
As he struggled with Voldemort a multitude of colours flew around him signifying the various spells being cast and shouts mingled into a roar. He felt the spell's grip on Voldemort's soul slipping as the magical energy he fueled it with faltered. He slowly was beginning to panic and it caused the spell to fail quicker. He was failing and there was no way he was going to survive if he did. He'll have died for nothing. The sudden addition of phoenix song over the roar of the combatants was all that saved him from falling into despair over his perceived failure. He didn't know where he found the strength, but when Fawkes sang he dug deeper with in himself he found a well of magic that he didn't know was there. He didn't question his luck and allowed it to feed the spell. The additional power wrested Voldemort's soul away from him and securely locked it in the diamond. Now all he had to do was kill the body and they'd be free from the menace known as Voldemort.
Fawkes knew the instant he won his battle and his song rang out as he flew over the heads of the combatants with and furled piece of fabric clutched in his talons. When his path took him over Harry's head he released the fabric, which Harry caught and opened to find the Sorting Hat. He wasted no time in reaching into the hat and once again finding Godric's sword with in the fabric. At least thing time he wasn't going to have a large knot on his head from the hilt. He tucked the Hat into a pocket and staggered in Voldemort's direction. He didn't have the strength to cast another killing curse, not after the excessive amount he had to use to pull the bastard's soul into the diamond. He'll just have to do it the Muggle way. As he made his way towards Voldemort, Fawkes tried to keep the man's attention away from Harry and his movements. Voldemort looked as tired as Harry, but when he sensed Harry's approached he turned and aimed his wand."Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort hissed and Fawkes let out a squawk of dismay as another spell hit him and prevented the scarlet and gold bird from intercepting the deadly green beam.
Harry couldn't move out of the way fast enough. The struggle tired him and dulled his reflexes. The green beam struck him in the chest, but instead of killing him it burned his robes and skin and doubled back on itself. Harry watched in shock as the beam struck Voldemort. The man staggered at the impact and Harry forced his pain riddled body forward. Voldemort was still upright. It was if he wasn't aware that he was dead yet and Harry wasn't going to take the chance of finding out he was. He lifted the sword and thrust the tip into Voldemort's chest. Harry was surprised at the amount of blood that spurted out of the dead man's chest when he withdrew the blade. He stumbled to his knees as the body fell and tried to find a pulse. Satisfied that the bane of his existence was dead he pulled himself upright and backed into a tree. Now was not the time to be struck from behind. He managed to survive and he wanted to return to his own body. He wasn't going to take no as an answer from the Headmaster and he didn't think Severus was either. He just hoped that Severus would still want anything to do with him after he sent him back to Hogwarts against his will.
He took a good look around as a lull in the battle occurred. He saw Dobby and Winky standing beside him and the closest Death Eaters had stopped fighting. Then the unexpected happened. Every individual that bore the Dark Mark, including himself as Severus, stopped what they were doing and screamed. Fiery hot lances of pain ripped through him and he clutched his left arm. It felt like someone was attempting to rip the nerves from his body and it didn't seem like it was going to stop anytime soon. As suddenly as it started it stopped and Harry looked glassy-eyed over the battle field. A hand on his arm sent him whirling into a defensive crouch. He aimed and fired off a spell before he could identify who the person was.
Fortunately for him all his fatigue fogged mind could produce was a Stunning charm, which was easily deflected by the Kingsley Shacklebolt. Unfortunately since he was tired Severus' body was reacting in the ways it was conditioned to. Attack first and ask questions later and that response was like a worn dirt path that Harry allowed it to travel. He was jerked from his wit wandering by Shacklebolt shaking him and holding a vial of purple potion at his eye level.
"It's one of your Magical Level Booster potions. You look like you need it."
"Thanks, Shacklebolt. The bloody bastard confiscated everything I carry with me." Harry said as he scanned the clearing for Fawkes and Nagini. He spotted Fawkes first. "Fawkes!" He called out to the phoenix, who flew over to him before he finished calling him. He held the diamond, which was still tightly clenched in his hand, out to the bird. "Fawkes, will you take this back to Hogwarts?" When the scarlet plumed bird nodded Harry added to his request. "Don't give this to anyone but me. I'll need your help when I get back to make sure Voldemort doesn't have a chance to resurrect himself." Fawkes nodded again and took the diamond in his beak.
A flash of fire signaled his departure and Harry downed the forgotten potion and felt his magical levels increase to a point where he'd be able to cast a high level defence charm if necessary. Harry reached down to grab Gryffindor's sword and when he staggered to his feet made sure the hat was secure in his pocket. He slowly walked across the battle field looking for Nagini. He heard her hissing curses and slowly made his towards her. Shacklebolt walked beside him alert for anything and as they walked they were joined by Remus.
"Severus, where's Harry? We can't find him anywhere." Remus asked trying to hide his panic.
"I portkeyed him back to the school. I had a one person portkey that they didn't find and forced Potter to return to the school."
Remus sighed in relief and then took a deep breath. His brow furrowed in thought as he sniffed again, but close to Harry. Harry panicked a bit at the werewolf's actions, which Remus sensed and backed off in response. He was going to ask Harry something, but didn't get a chance as a bone chilling cold spread across the battlefield. He heard Dobby and Winky squeak in fear as the sensation continued. It didn't take Harry more than a moment to identify the cause. Dementors. Now that Voldemort wasn't around to control them they were going to eat their way to new stomping grounds.
The Aurors that arrived to fight portkeyed the captured Death Eaters to secure cells and turned to face the arriving menaces along side the Order of the Phoenix members. Harry raised his wand and searched for a happy memory and oddly enough he found one powerful enough to cast his Patronus. The moment Severus said 'I love you' rose forth almost instantaneously as Harry prepared to cast the charm. The Dementors broke from the cover of the trees and paused several moments to sense where to go next. Harry's hand shook and Remus turned to him.
"Are you all right, Severus?" Remus asked in a concerned voice, though he didn't take his eyes off the Dementors milling at the edge of the battlefield.
"I'm fine." Harry bit out with a hiss and wondering what Severus' Patronus looked like before pushing all thought out of his mind.
The Dementors made up their minds and charged into the semi-cleared area and reached for the nearest person. The monsters were greeted with a chorus of Expecto Patronum. Silvery forms filled the air and Harry watched the mist from his wand move away and split into two. His heart lodged in his throat when he was one of the two silvery solidified into a very familiar stag, which bounded into the fray. The other one caused his heart to ache unbearably. The colour was all wrong, but there was no mistaking the form of Padfoot as he joined the stag harrying the Dementors. He could feel Remus' shocked gaze staring at him after the two silvery forms disappeared amongst the Dementors.
"Harry?" Remus asked in disbelief once the Dementors turned and fled the area. Where they were going no one wanted to consider.
"Hi, Moony." Harry replied with a small smile.
"What happened to you?"
"The Headmaster. Who else would come up with swapping people as a means to create a better working relationship?" Harry replied and returned to his search for Nagini. As he started to move on the two Patroni returned, both stayed long enough for him to touch and then slowly dissipated, though before the Grim-like one did so he shot a triumphant look at the two men.
"I wonder what that was about." Remus said softly, a small tear trailing down his cheek.
"I don't know, but I have a small idea."
"Why did Albus do something so extreme and dangerous? Either one of you could have died. I don't know how Ron is handling having to live in his traitorous brother's body. I don't imagine he's too happy about it."
"Severus brewed a potion that transformed Percy's body into Ron's. He's back to normal. Now where is she?"
"Where's who?" Remus looked around confused.
Harry didn't answer the werewolf and turned to the two house-elves that never left his side.
"Dobby! Would you both search the area for a huge black snake for me?"
"Why does Master Harry want with the bad wizard's snake?" Dobby asked while Winky stood shocked beside him.
"I owe her a debt, Dobby. She brought us potions and our wands while we were prisoners. She helped disable the Death Eaters around him. I need to find her."
"Then we wills find her, Master Harry." Winky said with a tone of finality that shut Dobby up before he could protest more. It seems Winky ruled with an iron fist in this relationship. Both house-elves left before he could thank them.
Harry continued with his own search while Remus followed behind him as if he was guarding his back. He probably was since Harry didn't doubt that some of the Death Eaters managed to escape before their Lord's fall. Dobby and Winky didn't keep him waiting for long. Winky appeared next to him with a pop and led him to where the snake was surrounded by Aurors with Dobby standing protectively over her.
"Leave her be!" Harry shouted. The Aurors didn't look like they were going to listen to him.
"Leave the snake be." Shacklebolt ordered a few seconds later. Harry didn't realize that that man was still with him.
"Shacklebolt, this is You-Know-Who's snake. We can't let her go free." One of the Aurors protested.
"The snake helped Harry Potter escape. She'll be returning to Hogwarts with him." Shacklebolt ordered with a jerk of his head in Harry's direction.
"Don't let them hurt me. I want my Master." Nagini hissed in distress and Harry couldn't help the small smirk at her comment. She sounded like a little child. "I don't know why I'm talking to you. You don't understand me."
Harry shoved one of the Aurors aside and made his way to Nagini's and Dobby's side. He knelt beside the serpent to make it easier for her to climb him when she was ready and he offered.
"I understand you just fine, Nagini. Coil yourself around me as best you can and we'll head back to Hogwarts." Harry hissed to the snake and suppressed the snort of laughter at the odd hiss she gave. If she was human she'd be spluttering.
Nagini coiled around his waist and shoulders, tucking her head under the cloak she acquired for him much like a child would hide. Harry took an inventory and noticed he was missing Godric's sword and his… Severus' wand. He was now getting confused as to what belonged to who and he felt it was going to be happening more and more unless they were returned to their proper bodies. As he looked about the clearing, once he jerked his mind back to the matter at hand, he noticed that Dobby had picked up his…Severus' wand and tucked it into his football shorts. Now all he needed was the sword. He must have dropped it when the Dementors attacked. Moments after thinking hard about where he left the sword and trying to dredge up the energy to go and retrieve it, the blasted thing materialized in his hand setting off a wave of whispers among the Aurors and Order members. Harry sighed and addressed his long time friend, Dobby.
"Dobby, would you and Winky take us home please?" He said as a wave of exhaustion swamped him. The potion Shacklebolt gave him was wearing off quickly.
"Yes, sir. That's what Dobby and Winky are here for. We is to bring you home to Hogwarts." Dobby answered with a bounce and handed Harry the wand he recovered.
"We'll see you at Hogwarts." Remus said and Shacklebolt nodded in agreement. Harry acknowledged them with a nod of his own and at the snap of Dobby's finger the battlefield faded away.
They reappeared in Hogwarts' Entrance Hall. He thanked the two house-elves for their help and slowly made his way to the Hospital Wing.
Albus sat in his office with a crying Hermione Granger and a distraught Ron Weasley. This particular scene had been replayed every day for almost a week. Neither student could force themselves to go to class nor could none of the teachers bring themselves to teach. Albus canceled classes since Severus and Harry's abductions and the students stayed in there dorms. The entire atmosphere of the school was subdued. The three of the houses were quietly waiting for word of Harry's fate while the Slytherins were mourning their head of house, with very small group of that house gloating instead.
Albus was at a loss as to what to do to recover the two men. Harry had a port key and he didn't think he'd leave Severus in order to save himself. In desperation he ordered sleeping charms to be cast in every dorm room in the school and had the teachers check the arms of the students for the Dark Mark. Sinistra and Vector dealt with the Slytherins, Minerva and Hooch the Gryffindors, Flitwick and this year's Defence teacher checked the Ravenclaws and Sprout and Poppy checked the Hufflepuff students. Poppy was enraged and Albus kept the woman as busy as he could to keep her mind off of the situation. Once the students that bore the Dark Mark were identified, he personally cast tracking charms that he linked to crystals so the bearers could follow their suspects.
After a week of waiting the children were summoned. They first let the Aurors and Order members to the Minister of Magic's home in a small, prestigious wizarding town. They destroyed almost everything in the small city before the authorities could arrive. Their luck held as those they followed led them location that looked to be an old abandoned farm in the windswept western coast of Ireland. Hope finally began to filter in when Fawkes let out a battle cry, leapt off his perch, grabbed the sorting hat and disappeared in a ball of flame.
They all waited as patiently as they could for news, but his hopes rose even higher when Gryffindor's sword disappeared from its case. He didn't say anything to the two students or Minerva when she arrived to wait with them. He was startled from his thoughts and prayers by the excited voice of Poppy when her head popped into the fire place.
"Albus, Harry's just arrived in the Hospital Wing. You need to come down. He's upset and wants to speak with you."
Albus didn't get a chance to reply because Ron, Hermione and Minerva cheered. He didn't have the heart to tell them that it wasn't Harry. Minerva quieted a few seconds later as she remembered about the switch Albus initiated, though she didn't say a thing to the two students with them.
They made their way to Poppy's domain on foot since the Ministry locked down all the floos for travel. They went silently through the halls because they didn't was to let the school know what was going on until everything was over and settled. Rumours do enough damage as it was and Albus wanted to keep it at a minimum. Once they were at the Hospital Wing he sought Poppy's gaze.
"Poppy, how is he?"
"Better than I expected. There are very few injuries considering You-Know-Who had him for a week." Poppy replied as she led them to the bed Severus was in.
"Harry!" Hermione screamed and she launched herself at the man she thought was her friend.
Albus noticed Severus stiffening in response to Hermione's enthusiastic greeting, but allowed the contact. Ron walked up and gingerly patted his shoulder. Albus was surprised at how well Severus looked despite his captivity and Tom's obsessive dislike of Harry. After all Voldemort was not one to leave a prisoner unharmed under any circumstance.
"You're looking very well considering where you were, my boy." Albus commented quietly.
"You've got a gift for the obvious, Albus. We had an ally in the Dark Lord's camp." Severus informed him without bothering to act his part any more. Both students were looking at him in shock after addressing Albus in such a familiar way.
"Who?" Minerva asked with a puzzled frown.
"Nagini," was Severus' reply and the two students flanking him gasped in shock.
"Voldemort's snake helped you?" Hermione asked her voice pitched high in shock.
"Yes, Ms. Granger. The Dark Lord's pet turned on him. She knew that his power wasn't as great as he thought and abandoned him for Potter."
"Why are you calling me that, Harry?" Hermione asked in confusion.
"Because, Ms. Granger, the person you are speaking to is Professor Snape. He and Harry have been disguised as the other for a while now." Albus told the young witch and wizard.
Albus chuckled as Hermione's face went white and stammered an apology, which Severus waved off. Albus took a moment to look closely at Severus. He was pale and very upset. Albus thanked the powers-that-be for Harry's generally open face. It made the task of reading Severus easier on the elderly wizard since the young man didn't have the control over his current body's expression. Something was bothering Severus and the look in his eyes bordered on fear. Determined to get to the bottom of Severus' problem he began to question the man.
"What happened while you were held captive, Severus?"
Severus proceeded to tell them about his and Harry's time in Voldemort's hands and explained how Nagini had been helping them as well as their attempt to escape with her aid. He told of their failure to make it past the wards and when they surrounded. He told of how Harry forced him to take the portkey and the events after that. Albus was able to tell that Severus was upset about the incident. The students didn't notice, but Albus was very familiar with the slight changes in Severus' tone.
"Then the idiot activated the port key and left himself alone." Severus ended his tale bitterly.
"Harry mentioned the other day that he found a way to get rid of Voldemort once and for all." Minerva said into the silence.
"He still could be killed even if he pulled that off. He had no one to cover him as he did what ever spell he was studying. Anything able to take down the Dark Lord would be too complicated to perform without support to protect him from the Death Eaters."
"Aurors and Order members are following the marked students so he's not completely alone, Severus." Minerva told him, but it didn't dispel the man's pessimism.
"What has you so upset, Severus?" Albus asked gently as he saw signs of building hysteria in Severus' voice. He was determined to do anything in his power to stomp out the man's fear.
"I love him, Albus." Severus replied, his voice barely audible. Albus heard small gasps from Ron and Minerva, but Granger's bright smile threw him off a bit. He shook the surprise off quickly and kept his attention on the man before him.
"Everything is going to be fine, Severus." Albus comforted with a bright smile. Hearing that admission was music to his ears and solidified the plans he set in motion for the two men.
"No it won't, Albus." Severus snapped. "He is alone out there and I have no hope of the Order or Aurors getting there in time to save him. The chances of his survival are very slim."
"Fawkes went to him, Severus. There's hope he'll return to us."
Severus stared at him in a way that made Albus feel that the younger wizard wanted a written guarantee. Albus was becoming alarmed at Severus' reactions, but did his best to reassure the man with his eyes. When Severus spoke next he knew that a mere look wasn't going to be enough for the man residing in the teenaged body.
"Fawkes can't intercept more than one killing curse and if he's in his newborn stage he can't transport Harry out of there. Harry's alone with the Dark Lord and at least forty nine adult Death Eaters." Severus looked distraught and it worried Albus to no end.
Albus looked closer at the young man and knew there was more to Severus' story than he was telling. Albus stood there deep in thought trying to figure out how to get Severus to tell him the details about his blossoming relationship with Harry.
"Professor, did you tell Harry how you felt about him?" Hermione asked the man residing in her best friend's body. Albus mentally cheered her insight. It must be regret for not voicing his feelings.
"Yes, yes I did." Severus responded softly after giving the young witch a penetrating glance.
"What did he say in response?" The young witch asked and Albus wondered what the problem was since he didn't see anything resembling the hurt of rejection in the other man's eyes or voice.
"What business it is of yours, Ms. Granger?" Severus snapped at the young witch.
"Hermione." She said and when Severus glared at her she continued. "Call me Hermione. It's disconcerting to have you calling me Ms. Granger when you're in Harry's body."
"Answer my question, Hermione!" Severus ordered stressing her first name.
"Something's bothering you and we know it has something to do with Harry. We can't help if we don't know. Does he have any feelings for you too?"
"Maybe Harry didn't believe him?" Ron added and Albus could see the validity of the question though he dismissed it quickly. He noticed their changes in attitude and knew that the relationship was as close as he hoped when he set this little swap in motion. The night Severus held Harry after the younger man thought he had killed his best friends proved it with out a doubt.
"Look in the mirror, Ron." Severus spat at the red head also stressing the younger man's given name. "Tell me what you see."
Ron walked to the mirror in the bathroom and did what Severus demanded. Albus wasn't sure where Severus was going with this.
"I see myself, Professor." Ron answered from the bathroom and his puzzlement was clearly heard in his voice.
"The fact that you look like yourself and not your brother is my proof to Harry about my feelings. I certainly didn't risk my life to gather the necessary ingredients for a quasi-legal potion for you. I did it for Harry. I couldn't bear seeing him so miserable after finding you were alive, but wearing the likeness of your traitorous brother. You didn't see how he was after he thought he killed you, but I did and I didn't want to see the results of seeing you in Percy's body would do to him." Severus said in a tight voice, the most emotion laden voice Albus has ever heard from him.
Despite that Albus did a happy dance in his head. He did the first step that would return him to his body and all they needed was Harry to do some selfless act for Severus. Once that happened everything would revert to normal.
"Oh," Ron answered, stunned at the revelation. Albus chuckled at the red head's stunned expression.
"Okay, so that's settled. What about Harry? Did he give you any sort of positive answer?" Hermione asked and Severus gave the witch another long look before answering.
"He's reciprocated." Severus said his voice quiet once again.
"That's great!" Hermione gushed and Severus blinked slowly at her. That was the only sign of surprise Albus could see in his spy despite being in Harry's body.
Ron looked just as surprised by Hermione's reaction, though he didn't say anything, which was unusual for him. Albus could see a small look of curiosity blooming in Severus' eyes, but he didn't ask the question he obviously wanted an answer for. Fortunately for him Minerva wanted the same answer.
"I think Professor Snape and Mr. Weasley need an explanation about your reaction, Ms. Granger." Minerva stated dryly. "As a matter of fact, so do I." She added a moment later to herself, though Albus heard it clearly.
"That's easy enough to explain." Hermione stated with a smile. "Harry needs someone stable and reliable. He hasn't had much of either in his life and he's seen so much more than the average teenager has. He needs someone that can understand that darkness he's seen."
"The fact that I'm male and twenty years older than him doesn't bother you?" Severus asked in disbelief. Albus knew the younger man couldn't understand why the young witch was being so supportive. It wasn't something that Severus was used to and Albus cursed the man's father thoroughly.
"It bothers me." Both Ron and Minerva muttered, earning them a glare from Severus and Hermione. Albus rebuked the two silently as he listened to Hermione's answer.
"No, should it? Harry's older in his head than the rest of kids his age. I don't see a problem with the two of you being together. You're both wizards and given the fact that wizards live longer than Muggles the age difference really doesn't apply in this situation. I think you'd be very good for Harry now that you see him and not his father." Hermione told him with a shrug.
"That covers the age difference, but you failed to mention the gender issue. I know he's never mentioned his orientation to Ron, but Muggles aren't the most accepting of such pairings."
"My parents taught me to make up my own mind and not follow the rest of the populous when it came to judging people. If it makes him happy then that's all that counts in my book."
"It's a good thing that Ginny got over her crush on him." Ron said quietly. The look on his face gave Albus the impression that his fondest wish was dashed to the cobblestones.
"Indeed." Severus answered with a small smile and Hermione laughed quietly.
Severus sagged a bit when the humour at Ron's comment dried up and Albus was unable to identify what was the matter with him. He hated it when he couldn't draw conclusions and when facts were kept from him. Severus must have felt his gaze because he ducked his head to avoid meeting Albus' eyes. He then cursed and made a grab at the glasses he was wearing as they slipped off his face.
"That's it! I have had enough of these blasted things. Poppy, get me a vial of the eyesight correction potion. I know I made you a fresh batch over the summer. I should have done this the day Albus did this to us." Severus growled in frustration.
Poppy went to get the potion Severus demanded while he folded the black framed glasses. Poppy returned a few moments later with the glass filled with a amethyst coloured potion, which she didn't hand over immediately earning a scowl from Severus.
"Are you sure you should be doing this?" Poppy asked in a hesitant voice. "Harry never asked to have his eyesight corrected."
"He most likely didn't know it was possible and those relatives of his taught him not to ask for anything." Severus snapped impatiently in Poppy's direction.
"Either way it would be for the best, Poppy. There will be Death Eaters that escaped if Harry's successful and they could disable him by knocking his glasses off. Give Severus the potion." Albus knew that Severus has another reason for wanting to correct Harry's eyesight, a purely selfish one. Albus knew he wanted to get rid of the one thing that clearly reminded Severus of James Potter.
Severus downed the potion the moment Poppy gave him the vial. Both Albus and Poppy watched him closely, looking for any adverse reactions. Severus closed his eyes after drinking the concoction and gave it time to work. After a few minutes where he wrinkled his nose in discomfort as the potion fixed the lenses of his eyes, Severus slowly blinked several times before opening his eyes completely.
"That's more like it." Severus stated as he looked around the room. "I now know why Harry messed up his potions in class. He must have needed new glasses for a while now. Everything is sharper than it was with his glasses on. Damn Muggles."
That was the second time Severus mentioned Harry's relatives and neither time was it in a positive way. Albus wondered what Severus knew that he didn't. Albus knew that the Dursley's didn't care as much for Harry as he hoped, but he didn't think they deserved the anger that Albus could hear in Severus' tone. He'd have to ask later when he had Severus alone. Severus looked ready to slide out of the hospital bed with the intent to escape when he suddenly swayed and nearly fell out of the bed Poppy ensconced him in. Albus was alarmed by the terror in his eyes. He turned to Poppy, but didn't need to say anything as she was already leaping to her feet with her wand leveled at Severus. She quickly scanned him and blanched as he read the results.
"Something is draining his magical energy. Did they force you to drink any potions, Severus?" Poppy asked in a panicked voice.
Severus shook his head and Albus began to cast several spells trying to locate the link causing the drain. No matter what he did he couldn't find the source of the drain. Severus paled as the magic drained out of him. He closed his eyes and Poppy flew to gather several potions for the young wizard. As she returned Severus' eyes popped open in surprise and his fearful expression faded quickly. Relief flooded him and Poppy did another scan. After reading the results she shook her head and looked at Albus.
"The drain is still there." Poppy said while giving Severus a puzzled frown.
"But now I know where it's coming from." Severus replied with relief.
"Severus, you're being drained at an alarming rate."
"Doesn't matter. I know who's taking it and why. I'm not going to stop it. Just leave me be until it's over." Severus' voice began to slur as exhaustion overtook him.
Severus sagged back into the pillows and closed his eyes. All the rest of them could do was sit and wait. After what seemed like an eternity Severus stirred. He didn't open his eyes, but his brow furrowed like he was concentrating on something. He frowned and slowly opened his eyes. The moment he slowly wrenched himself into a sitting position, Poppy started handing him potions. Severus drank them one by one without complaint. As he did so he watched the double doors of the Hospital Wing like a hawk. Poppy asked him several questions, which he didn't answer. Albus noticed the man's thoughts were far away, but he needed some answers and had no choice of where to go for answers. He placed a wrinkled hand on Severus' shoulder and drew the young wizard's attention away from the huge wooden doors.
"Are you all right, Severus?" Albus asked gently.
"I'm fine, Albus." Severus replied with a slight air of distraction.
"Was the magical drain related to Voldemort?"
"Yes, but I don't know the out come. All I know is there was a struggle and a small flash of relief. I don't know who won." Severus said and returned his gaze to the doors.
Time seemed to flow slowly as they all waited for what ever it was Severus expected to happen. No one made a sound and they all jumped every time a leaf brushed the window sill as they wind blew across the lake. Albus stood beside Severus' hospital bed with a hand on his shoulder as they waited for word of Harry. Albus was going insane in the heavy silence and was about to break it when the doors slammed open and two figures stumbled through. Hermione, Ron, Poppy and Minerva ran to help the two people to a bed. Neither was Harry and Severus turned his attention from them the moment he was sure Harry wasn't one of them. He returned his gaze to the door and Albus walked over to the new arrivals. One was a male Auror that Albus wasn't familiar with, but the other was Tonks.
"Tonks, how was everything going before you left?" Albus asked her desperate for some word about Harry. Dread was starting to fill him and he wondered if Severus' pessimism was starting to affect him.
"We were steadily capture or dispatching Death Eaters before I was hit with a cutting curse and was ordered to return to head quarters."
"Did you note any other injuries besides yourself and your co-worker?"
"To the best of my knowledge almost everyone was unscathed. Johnson went down just before I was ready to apparate out." Tonks was calm until this point and Albus became even more worried that he was before. "When I gather him up to portkey here I saw…"
"Tonks, what is it?"
"When I was ready to activate the portkey I saw Voldemort cast a Killing Curse. As they key started to work I saw it hit Snape."
Albus nearly collapsed on to the floor as the weight of his years landed on him all at once. He couldn't believe what he was hearing and his mind didn't want to acknowledge what it just heard. He could wrap his thoughts around the knowledge that Harry was gone and that Voldemort won. He dazedly looked through the room and noted the tear ridden faces around him and would have retreated back to his own thoughts had he not heard the racking sobs coming from Severus. Instead of retreating into his own grief, Albus throttle the emotions down; he would grieve later when he was alone, and struggled to his feet. He staggered to Severus' bed and gingerly sat on the edge. Albus tried to gather the tightly curled body to himself, but Severus was resisting. Albus could hear the younger man murmuring 'I'm not ready' over and over and he didn't have any idea what he wasn't ready for. Nothing he said or did brought the man out of his grief. Ron and Hermione came over to help and Severus ignored them all.
"Professor," Ron whispered to Severus, "you can brew that potion you made for me for yourself. You'll be able to have your body and life back."
"It won't work."
"What won't work, Severus?" Albus said in alarm. Severus' voice sounded like he was going insane in his grief.
"Making the potion would be a waste and so would what Harry asked of me. It won't work!" Severus began to repeat those last three words over and over. Albus was at a loss as to the reason why Severus was acting this way and hadn't a clue as to what to do.
"What won't work?" A voice asked loud enough to be heard over Severus sobs.
Everyone's, except Severus', heads snapped towards the door and saw the most unexpected sight.
It took a long time for Harry to navigate the stairs, though they were helping as best they could. He finally made it to the Hospital Wing and he quietly slipped through the doors. Sobbing permeated the room as two Aurors were being treated by Pomfrey. He wondered who was lost and hoped it wasn't anyone he was close to. He heard someone say 'It won't work' in a hoarse and pain filled voice and he couldn't help asking about it.
"What won't work?" Harry made sure that his question was heard over the sobbing man, he was sure it was a man who was making the noise.
Almost everyone in the room whipped around in shock and Harry wouldn't have been surprised to see Pomfrey treating them later for whiplash. He scanned the room and was concerned when he didn't see Severus. Pomfrey was treating Tons and an Auror he didn't know. Professor McGonagall was sitting next to Tonks and Hermione and Ron were hovering beside the bed that the Headmaster was sitting on. Harry took a few steps into the room, still looking for Severus as he did so.
"Professor Dumbledore, where is…" Harry began, but stopped as the elderly wizard got up and started walking towards him.
Harry paid no attention to what Albus was saying the moment he caught sight of what the older man was hiding behind him. Lying on the bed was Severus. Actually he looked like an animal waiting for Death. He was curled into a ball with his forehead resting on the mattress. Harry ignored the questions from everyone fired at him as he dropped Godric's sword and quickly made his way to Severus' side. When he touched the older man he got no reaction and he curled around the sobbing form and began to whisper.
"Severus? Severus!" Harry whispered into the man's ear. "Severus, it's all right. I'm home. Please listen."
Harry ignored the scream of terror from Hermione when Nagini made her presence known during her own bid to attract Severus' attention. Slowly the two penetrated the wall Severus built around himself. The man slowly uncurled and looked up as Harry and Nagini continued coaxing him. Harry watched as realization crept into Severus' eyes. Severus slowly raised his hand and touched Harry's face and Harry was completely unprepared for the man's next action. He wasn't even aware of what was going on until a sharp stinging pain blossomed on his cheek in the same place Severus touched gently moments before. Harry drew back in statement and watched the angry, tearstained face before him.
"If you ever do something that stupid again, I'll kill you myself." Severus snapped as he glared at Harry.
"I won't have to." Harry said quietly and rolled up the sleeve of his robe. He heard Nagini hiss in agreement from her new perch beside Harry. "Look."
"It's gone. It's really gone." Severus said with wonder as he touched the unmarked flesh. "He's gone."
"For the most part his is. There's just a loose end concerning Voldemort that has to be taken care of and it'll be over for good." Harry stepped away to the middle of the Hospital Wing. "Fawkes!"
Fawkes arrived in a burst of fire and flew to Harry's outstretched arm. Harry asked the scarlet bird if it would burn and cry over the gem to prevent Voldemort or his minions from resurrecting the bastard's soul. Fawkes trilled a positive response and took to the air. Harry set the diamond that the phoenix returned to him in the center of the room and took several steps back to make sure Fawkes had enough room to work. He didn't know how large a fire the bird would need to make, the book never said. Fawkes landed next to the diamond and quickly burst into flame. A wave of heat swept over the occupants of the wing as Fawkes worked his magic. It took the phoenix twenty minutes to render the stone into ash and Harry was surprised as the flames died to see a still fully grown Fawkes tilting his head to allow his tears to drip onto the ashes. Despite the heat of the flames the stone floor wasn't cracked or damaged in any way. Harry fully was expecting that there would be cracks in the flagstones. When Fawkes was done, the Headmaster walked to the pile of damp ashes and scooped them into a glass vial he extracted from his robes.
"Ah, Harry, you must tell me what that was all about." Albus asked, ignoring Tonks' shocked gasp.
"Voldemort's soul. I found a spell that bound Voldemort's soul into a gem in Severus' library and Fawkes consented to destroy the gem and the soul bound into it."
"Excellent work, my boy." Albus' eyes were twinkling madly and Harry grinned back at him.
"Of course Severus will be hexing the hoards of people who think he's the Heir of Gryffindor as a result of this whole mess."
"I think we'll deal with that mess when it happens."
"I do want to know one thing, Headmaster."
"Albus, my dear boy. You've more than earned that right." Albus said with a smile. "What is it you need to know?"
"You told Severus and me that we'd be each other for a week. It's been two. Why haven't we reverted to our proper bodies?"
"Did you read the note you received that first morning?"
"No, it was addressed to Severus."
"Ah, when you return to Severus' quarters read it. The same goes for you, Severus."
"I've got a question." Tonks yelled from the other side of the room as Harry returned to Severus' side. "How did you survive the killing curse and why is Albus calling you Harry?"
"That's two questions, Tonks." Harry replied with a laugh and began to answer after the witch glared daggers at him. "Albus thought it would be a good idea to switch Severus and me into the other's body. He expected us to work together better afterwards."
"It worked." Albus said smugly.
"He knows, Harry. Actually everyone in this room other than the two walking targets knows." Severus said quietly.
"Figures. The only explanation for surviving a direct hit with a Killing Curse is a wild guess on my part."
"Which is?" Minerva asked and was seconded by the rest of the room.
"Sirius." Harry responded quietly and Severus spluttered in surprise.
"You mean Black had enough brains to pull off Lily's protection?"
"I guess so. My Patronus looked a little smug before it left."
"Isn't your Patronus a stag?" Hermione asked in confusion.
"It seems that I have two now, my stag and a grim. Prongs and Padfoot."
"I've never heard or read about someone having a second Patronus." Hermione said in a distracted tone.
"It's possible." Severus replied with a knowing look on his face, which caused Harry to give the older man a questioning look. Severus answered that wordless question by mouthing 'later' to him.
"I have a question of my own, Harry. How did you make it home? I know you don't know how to apparate and I doubt that Severus found the time or patience to teach you."
"Dobby and Winky showed up to take me home. They arrived shortly after I sent Severus back to the school. They managed to cover me while I was dealing with Voldemort until the Aurors and Order members arrived. I sent Fawkes back with the diamond containing Voldemort's soul and finished helping with the mopping up. After dealing with the Dementors I found Nagini and had Dobby and Winky bring me back."
"Two house-elves left the school without permission?" Minerva asked in startled at the information.
"Winky and Dobby are free elves. They can come and go as they please." Albus answered with a smile. "I'm pleased that they took the initiative to find you themselves."
"So am I. They managed to deflect several nasty spells while I was wrestling Voldemort for his soul. If there isn't anything else I'd like to retire for the time being. I'm exhausted." Harry said quietly and turned to leave, but was accosted by Poppy before he could make his escape.
"Oh no you don't! You're not leaving this Hospital Wing without me making sure you're okay." Poppy stormed up to Harry brandishing her wand in a threatening manner. "In the bed. Now!"
Harry silently suffered the witch's attentions and by the time she was done the room became very crowded. Sometime during Pomfrey's examination, Severus had managed to sneak over to his bed. The crowd was making so much noise that Harry could barely hear Severus yelling in his ear. One voice rose above the crowd's muttering and it was one that Harry didn't want to hear. Fudge.
"Severus, let's get out of here. I have no desire to see Fudge." Harry yelled into Severus' ear, earning a glare from the man's now emerald eyes.
"Let's. There's no reason to stay and risk either one of us getting thrown into Azkaban for hexing the idiot.
Slowly they crept towards the door, doing their best to avoid the room's other occupants. Just when they thought they were going to get caught the Hospital Wing door's slammed open, revealing the greying hair of Remus storming into the room. Remus scanned the crowd until he caught sight of Albus and went right through the mob in the old wizard's direction. Harry and Severus ran for the doors in order to slip through before they closed. As the doors closed behind them they heard Remus roar at Dumbledore.
"Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, what did you do to Harry?" Both men heard Remus shout. Harry was torn between making his get-a-way and listening to Remus yell at the Headmaster.
"As much as I'd like to listen to your pet werewolf verbally flay the Headmaster, I don't wish to be with in Poppy's reach when she discovers that we're gone." Severus stated blandly and Harry gave the man a small smile.
"Yes, let's go… quickly." Harry replied and forced his tired frame to move as fast as he could get it to.
Both Severus and Harry made their way to the dungeons in record time, despite the handicap of exhaustion they were both suffering from. By unspoken agreement they searched for the letters they received the first day of Albus' little plot. Severus dug through Harry's trunk and found the letter he received right next to the letter from his abominable relations. When he returned to the sitting room, Harry was already sitting on the sofa waiting for him. In his hand Harry held a scroll, which he was giving a nasty look to.
"Ready to read what ever nonsense the Headmaster dreamed up?" Severus asked the man that had lived his life for the past two weeks.
"Yeah." Harry replied softly with no little amount of dread colouring his voice.
Severus unrolled his scroll and slowly read through the message with in.
Dear Severus and Harry,
By now you both should be learning to survive as the other and understanding the difficulties the other faces everyday. I know when I gave you the potion to swap your souls I told you you'd remain that way for a week. In actuality you'll be forced to stay in the other's body until certain conditions are met.
The potion is a true love potion, which allows the couple to obtain a deeper understanding of each other. It was commonly used to reconcile couples on the verge of divorce and I felt that the negative feelings between the two of you was hiding something deeper than the hate you professed for each other. I always wondered why the two of you feared to love each other. I'm determined to make you two see the error of your ways.
The requirements for the switch back to your proper bodies are simple, but difficult. You each must perform a selfless act of love for the other. A difficult task, but one I have much faith in your abilities to accomplish. In order to catalyze the return to your proper forms once the conditions are met is a simple as a kiss.
Good luck, my boys,
Severus was flabbergasted and from the distressed sounds Harry was making, the other man wasn't faring much better. The nerve of the old man! How dare he take such a risk with their lives? Severus dreaded the thought of what would have happened had they not found those feelings the Headmaster thought they had for each other. Severus couldn't suppress the shiver that followed hard on the heels of that fear. Next to him, Harry was obviously entertaining similar thoughts. As he mulled over the details of the potions conditions his mind sent him an image of Albus' twinkling eyes during his conversation with Weasley in the hospital wing. A smirk formed on his face when all the pieces fell together and he turned to Harry.
"Get over here, brat." Severus ordered and Harry turned towards him.
He didn't give Harry a chance to question him once the younger man was facing him. He captured Harry's mouth in a searing kiss. He didn't get to prolong it as long as he'd like. He found himself on the receiving end of the same delirium the initial transfer sent him in and he could only guess that Harry was undergoing the same. He resisted the urge to vomit before he passed out. When he regained consciousness he found himself half lying on the sofa with Harry sprawled across him. Severus sighed in relief as he registered the fact that he was once again in his familiar body. As he waited for Harry to wake up he mentally reviewed the week. A lot happened and the one thing he wanted to know the most was how Harry survived the Killing Curse in his body. Normally spells that sacrificed one life to protect a loved one, according to his research, anchored itself in the flesh, blood and bone of the recipient. There shouldn't have been a way for it to protect Harry in a body that wasn't his.
Harry stirred and slowly blinked his eyes open. He looked down at his hands and smiled brightly. He looked up at Severus and repeated the smile and Severus lost himself in the light that shown from those grass green eyes.
"It was great being tall and all, but I'm rather glad to be back in my own familiar body." Harry said with a grin.
"The same here, Harry. I know you thought the reason you survived the Killing Curse was a sacrifice made by Black, but from what I was able to find in the books I know your mother read, there shouldn't have been a way for you to utilize the protection running around in my body. I want to hear your educated guess as to why you survived."
"I think we each still had a significant link back to our own bodies. You felt your mark when I was summoned and I felt my scar when you were witnessing another Voldemort vision. The spell couldn't tell which was me and which was you. It's the only thing I can think of at this moment."
"In other words the spell considers us one person."
"Yes. I'd say that's a good explanation. Why were you so upset it the Hospital Wing?" Harry asked in a hesitant voice.
"I was told you were dead." Severus closed his eyes against the memory.
"But you'd have the chance to fulfill your dreams. You know that was what I wanted for you." Harry protested.
"Yes, I know, but I wouldn't have lived long enough to follow your request. Nagini informed me the night I went to get a sample of her venom for Ron's potion that I had found my soul-mate and was more powerful that the Dark Lord. Nagini…. That's why the protect spell work! We're soul-mates and as far as magic is concerned we are one entity. I don't believe I overlooked that fact."
"We are?" Harry asked in shock and understanding dawned on his face. "You were the additional source of energy I tapped while wrestling with Voldemort for his soul. Thanks." Harry gave him another dazzling smile and stretched up to give him a light kiss.
"We're soul-mates, but there is still one thing we must do to solidify the bond." Severus told Harry, but he hesitated before asking the question on his mind. "Are you a virgin, Harry?" Harry blushed a bright red at the question, but answered anyway.
"Yeah, I am. I either never had the time to consider it or I was afraid of my first time being plastered across the first page of the Daily Prophet." Harry said quietly and Severus didn't blame him for his fears. It was something he wouldn't put past anyone who wanted to be involved with the famous Boy-Who-Lived-Twice. "Do we have to do… you know to cement the soul-bond?"
"Yes. Do you trust me? Do you want to complete the process?" Severus asked softly, making sure he kept eye contact with Harry as he did so.
"Yes." Harry answered without hesitation. "I love you."
"I love you." Severus rested his forehead against Harry's for a brief moment before pushing the younger man to his feet. "Get up and follow me." Severus said as he locked and warded every possible entrance to his quarters as well as casting silencing and privacy wards.
Severus led the younger man to the bed room and settled him onto the bed. He headed to the cabinet he kept his supply of personal potions and pulled to energizing potions from its recesses. He handed one to Harry and watched as the younger man quickly downed the potion. He smirked at the grimace Harry gave at the potions taste and followed suit. Severus heard to thuds and looked down to see the second of Harry's shoes settling onto the floor. Severus sat on the bed to remove his stolen shoes and quickly made short work of removing their clothes.
His nerves were hyper aware of every touch he made and every one he received. Time began to move in slow motion as he worshiped at a new alter and was touched with an equal reverence from the green-eyed man sharing his bed. The mapped every inch of the others body and after that prolonged time Severus' need overwhelmed him. Slowly and thoroughly he prepared the young man and when they slowly joined he was lost in a bliss he'd never felt before. From the moans the younger man was making, the pleasure was reciprocated. The euphoria was eclipsed as their magic began to flow between them. The power began to radiate outwards as they raced towards their climaxes and when their pleasure swamped them in its wave their magic erupted outwards. By this time tomorrow the entire school will know a binding occurred and Severus really didn't want to face the Headmaster in morning.
Sleep ambushed the both of them, but Severus couldn't remember which of them cast the cleansing charm, nor did he care who did. Sleep was too important to bother with such trivial thoughts. Just before he surrendered to sleep's lure he gathered the younger man to him.
Morning arrived without Severus' awareness. He was perfectly content to remain curled around the ball of warmth next to him, but the insistent tapping of an owl's beak against his skull forced him to open his eyes. The barn owl was standing on his pillow with a huge roll of parchment attached to its leg. The bird gave him an annoyed hoot and stuck out its leg. Forcing himself to uncurl he took the papers off the owl's leg and unrolled them. They were the official paper work from the Ministry formalizing their bond. Thankfully it was an automatic system and that magic took care of registering the soul bond as well as filing the paperwork. Harry stirred beside him and slowly opened his eyes. Harry greeted him with a smile and gave the irritable owl next to him a puzzled frown.
"We've just received the official paperwork from the Ministry Archives." Severus told the younger man.
"Does that mean the Minister's going to show up and lob accusations of corruption against you?" Harry asked, slightly alarmed.
"No living human sees these forms. There's an enchanted book at the Ministry Archives that logs all soul bonds when they're completed. The paperwork is for the inheritance laws and other nonsense. When we sign these and give them back to the owl we'll be legally wed in a manner of speaking."
"So no one sees who has been bound then?"
"Yes, the Ministry will of course learn that a soul-bond been completed and where it was formalized, but not the names of the bonded." Severus summoned a quill and ink bottle and signed the appropriate place and handed everything to Harry.
He watched as Harry read over the papers and as the younger man began to fill in the appropriate places on the papers, Severus leaned over to read what he was writing, mostly to make sure he was doing correctly. When Harry came to the part where he had to sign, Severus was shocked into speechlessness as he signed 'Harry Snape' instead of Potter.
"Are you sure about that?" Severus asked quietly, suppressing every emotion. "They'll not be happy with your name change."
"I'm very sure. I've had enough of being Harry Potter and would much rather be Harry Snape. Maybe the fawning idiots will leave me alone finally." Harry said firmly, looking directly into Severus' eyes as he did so. "If my friends don't understand and accept it, then they weren't the friends I thought they were."
"We'll see. I can't wait to see Fudge's face. He'll be livid." Severus said with smirk as he rolled up the parchments and reattached them to the owl's leg. The bird leapt to the air and flew directly to the owl flue in the sitting room.
"You do know that we'll have to deal with a twinkling Headmaster soon."
"I think we can get away with avoiding him until dinner."
"You mean he could restrain himself from meddling that long?" Harry asked with a laugh.
"Go back to sleep, brat. It's going to be a long evening."
Severus nestled back in the blankets and dozed off with the sound of Harry's laughter ringing in his ears.
They cheerfully slept through breakfast and lunch while the rest of the castle was gossiping about the sudden surge of magic that occurred the other night. Severus would have spent that time cursing the knowing twinkle in Albus' eyes, Nagini's smug one and Dobby's joyful antics. Thankfully he was asleep and completely ignorant of the three's behaviour. The two men remained oblivious to the Minister of Magic's movements and his plans to ingratiate himself to the newly bonded couple. Severus woke and began his usual routine despite it being almost twelve hours later then he normally got up.
Unfortunately the outside world intruded on their little island of isolation in the form of Albus and his infernal twinkling eyes. Severus snarled and the cheerful man who's head was bobbing merrily in the fire.
"Severus, you and Harry must make an appearance at dinner tonight. We've prepared a celebratory feast for Voldemort's defeat and the principles must attend." Albus said with a bright smile.
"If we must, but I will not be hounded by anyone for details." Severus stated baldly.
"You won't be bothered by the students though the Minister will be there tonight. He's gotten wind of a bonding that occurred last night and he's anxious to meet the new couple if he could find them." Albus gave Severus a knowing look.
"Figured it out did you, Albus?" Severus sneered at his mentor. "If he says one thing out of line I will hex him, Minster or not."
"The castle's wards were able to pin point the origin of the magical swell last night. Congratulations, my boy, though I wish you had told me earlier. I would have done things a slight bit differently if I had known. Before you and Harry go to dinner would you collect Nagini and return her to your quarters? She's been frightening the students and terrorizing Sybill."
"Ah, she may very well be reacting to my dislike of Trelawny. I've mentioned it enough while talking to her as I brewed the Dark Lord's potions."
"Ah, that's why she was willing to help you too. Even in Voldemort's camp your dislike of Harry was well known."
"I know, but Nagini enjoyed having the remaining test rats when I was done experimenting and she didn't give a damn about rank when it came to my 'colleagues'."
"Well just contain her and make sure you show up for dinner. I can't wait to see the Minister's face when he discovers who our bonded couple is. He'll be so disappointed when he finds he can't curry favour with them." Albus said with a wink and with a pop his head disappeared from the flames that immediately returned to its normal red and yellow color.
"Was that the Headmaster?" Harry asked sleepily from the door way to the bedroom.
"Yes. We've been ordered to make an appearance at dinner tonight. Albus has planned a celebration for the end of the Dark Lord and warned me that Fudge is going to spoil the evening."
"I don't want to see that twit." Harry muttered.
"Neither do I, but we can't avoid him and he's going to be seeking us out."
"Because of the bond?"
"Yes. Albus thinks he's going to attempt to gain our favour."
"He's bound to be disappointed then. Neither one of us likes him. Do you think we can run him out of office?" Harry asked with a speculative look in his eyes.
"What are you plotting, brat?" Severus asked with interest.
"Obviously there's more to the soul-bonding than you've told me. How about we use what you haven't told me to get someone competent into office?"
"How Slytherin of you, Mr. Snape." Severus replied with a smirk.
"Do you have a preference, Professor Snape?" Harry said in the same tone.
"I would suggest Amelia Bones. She's fair and she looks into everything before making her decisions."
"I'd think she'd make a brilliant Minster of Magic. Is she going to be there tonight?"
"She may be, though Albus didn't say anything about other guests. I would suppose all the Ministry Department Heads will be here tonight."
"Then we'd best get ready. I wonder if my dress robes fit me still."
"We have one task to do before we get ready. We'll have to bring Nagini down here. She's enjoying tormenting the students and Trelawny too much for Albus' comfort."
"Can't we just tell her to stick with Trelawny?"
"I would agree with that, but Albus won't be happy with that arrangement."
"Damn. Oh well, let's go get her before someone hexes her."
The two made there way to the North Tower in hopes of finding the large black snake and as they walked the halls they made their plans for this evening. As they neared the tower Trelawny chose as her domain they could her shrieks of fear and as they made their way up the silvery ladder. Nagini had not only the Divination teacher, but Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil cornered and cowering in fear. The three women found Nagini's hissing to be frightening, but Severus was having a hard time stifling the laughter that wanted to burst through. Nagini's hisses were the equivalent of laughter and thanks to the bond he shared with Harry he was still able to understand her. Nagini found their cowering funny and Harry giggled as he walked up to the snake. After admonishing her and reminding her that she couldn't entertain herself by tormenting those he and Severus didn't like. They retreated down the stairs with a depressed Nagini looped around both their shoulders and returned to their dungeon quarters. Once Nagini was settled in a comfortable spot they proceeded to get ready for the feast the Headmaster insisted they attend.
While they showered, trying very hard not to distract themselves with things they'd rather be doing, they discussed how to deal with Fudge and make their preferences for the next Minster of Magic known to the rest of the wizarding world. Their last few moments of privacy consisted of Severus telling Harry about the traditions surrounding soul-mated couples. Since they were so rare many people, especially pure-blooded families, sought the couples favour. That gave them a lot of influence, which they intended to use. After all Fudge gave the Dark Lord a lot of time to regain his footing before acknowledging his return and the wizarding world couldn't survive if it happened when the next Dark Lord rose. Better to prevent it before it could occur.
They planned their arrival to happen after everyone was seated. Severus expected his normal seat to be empty as well as a pair of seats on the Headmaster's right hand side. He guessed that Fudge would be seated at his right and said as much to Harry during the prolonged walk to the Great Hall. Harry voiced his own thought and mentioned that Hermione and Ron would be saving him a seat at the Gryffindor table. As the doors swung open Severus noticed that the set up was exactly as he predicted it would be. Reporters filled in the last few seats of each student table along with various dignitaries from the Ministry. He spotted Amelia Bones sitting next to her niece at the Hufflepuff table.
"I see our heroes have arrived." Albus' voice rang out in the silence their arrival created. There was a rumble of dissatisfaction through the adult portion of the audience. Severus hid his smirk at their reaction. He knew what they were waiting for and they didn't know that it was standing there in front of them.
Severus and Harry made the way down the space between the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor tables. They paused at space Hermione and Ron predictably left for the third member of the trio, so Harry could say hello to his friends. When they mentioned the burst of magical power that occurred the night before Severus smirked slightly, but enough for Hermione to notice and she stopped talking in midstream as she processed the meaning of the Severus' expression. Harry gave them a smile and a small wave goodbye before continuing on.
They made their way to the Head Table and managed to hide their amusement at Fudge's confused look as they closed the distance. Severus savoured the shocked silence when they sat on the two golden chairs next to Albus. They didn't bother hiding their smirks from Fudge as they man spluttered and turned white when he realized who the bonded couple was. The Minister didn't dare protest their bond in front of the press. Albus proposed a toast to them and after they drank to it Harry allowed his eyes to roam over the crowd sitting with the students as they planned. Severus watched as Harry settled his gaze on the Hufflepuff table and as if she in on their plans, Amelia Bones looked up and made eye contact with Harry. Harry gave her a brilliant smile and raised his glass slightly as if toasting her. Severus was amused as her eyes went wide before sliding over to look at him. He gave her a slight nod and watched as her eyes became predatory. The whole exchange went unnoticed by everyone, but Albus and Minerva, though Severus wouldn't be surprised if a few of his Slytherins saw they exchange.
Content that their plans for a better future for their world where in motion Severus decided to do something completely out of character. He captured Harry's attention with a touch and when they younger man turned towards him, graced him with another intoxicating kiss. He barely heard the gasps of those around the hall, the few wolf whistle and the clicking of dozens of camera. The only sound he heard was Harry's muffled giggle. For the first time in his life Severus had hope and love in his future.
A/N: Well here it is the final installment of Walking in his shoes. Hope it was long enough for you and that you all have enjoyed it. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed our tale. We at hproundrobin are looking forward to our next offering to you.