Standard Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his wondrous world belong to J.K. Rowling. This story is just for fun.
Summary: Snape's position as a spy is compromised when Harry's life is threatened. The beginnings of a journey together...
Spoilers: For all the books since I've read them all at least once… by the way, this story "takes place" after book five… but before book six, which leads me to...
Warning: This story is rated R (or by this site's rating system, M) for previous and upcoming chapters, including child abuse, graphic violence and the like. If you are bothered by such themes, I suggest that you do NOT read this story.
Please note that this story is NOT HBP COMPLIANT.
Chapter 27: Journey Home
Harry couldn't believe it. No, it definitely had to be another dream. But Fawkes was as real as anything, Harry thought as he stroked the phoenix's plumage, suddenly feeling a pang of longing for Hedwig.
Snape was downstairs at the front desk, arranging their checkout for the morning while Harry had been instructed to pack. But so far all he could do was sit on his bed and stroke Fawkes' feathers. Not that he had anything to pack anyway, which was probably why Snape had set him the task.
After their long journey together, avoiding magic and Death Eaters, the journey home was to be simple and straightforward.
They would take a ferry across to the UK where a portkey had been arranged to take them as close to Hogwarts as the protective wards would allow.
Harry had laughed bitterly when Snape had relayed the coded message carried by Fawkes—their journey had been grueling, nearly running them both threadbare, and now Dumbledore had arranged for quick and easy transport when it suited him.
Snape had been quiet for a moment, listening to Harry rant on angrily about Dumbledore and the games he played with everybody.
"It's like we're nothing more than pawns in a game of chess he's playing with Voldemort!" Harry fumed.
"Harry," Snape said calmly. "He has a lot to consider—."
"How can you defend him?" Harry shouted. "He played chance with your life! He put a spell book in my hand and instructed us not to use magic and only hoped that it would be enough to save you from that awful parasite and us both from those Death Eaters."
"He did that for me," Snape said. "I would just as soon have died."
So incredulous at that admission, Harry could only shake his head and shoot Snape an angry look of disbelief.
"Things are different now," Snape said simply. He was quiet a moment more before he added, "Now that Hogwarts is secure, it's the best place that you can be. Don't you want to return to Hogwarts, Harry?"
Something twisted inside causing Harry to hesitate. Turning away from Snape, he said, "Of course I do."
That was when Snape left to make arrangements for their departure.
Fawkes chirped pleasantly, nudging Harry's still hand with a wing, prompting him to resume stroking the soft feathers.
He thought of Ron and Hermione— this was the longest period of time that he'd been without contact from them since he met the unlikely pair. He missed them so much, but why was he uneasy about returning to Hogwarts? That he had not immediately shouted out a resounding yes when Snape had asked troubled Harry immensely.
"I don't know what's wrong with me, Fawkes," Harry whispered. "Of course I want to go back to Hogwarts. Of course I do." But he sounded as if he was trying to convince himself.
For weeks and weeks, Harry had obsessed about this moment—the instant when he would be sent for and could escape Snape's miserable custody. He remembered the angry disappointment he'd felt when Dumbledore told him that he'd have to seek refuge in Ireland with Snape for many weeks. The sliver lining had been ripped away. But now that the moment had finally arrived—he would most likely be in Gryffindor Tower in a little more than 24 hours—Harry wasn't ready.
At that instant, the door opened and Snape walked through, a brown wrapped package in his hands.
"Do we need to sneak out the back?" Harry asked, forcing a smile.
"As a matter of fact—no," Snape said.
"How did you arrange it?" Harry studied him. "You didn't use magic." It wasn't a question, for Harry would know through the link whether Snape had used magic or not.
"A Mr. Dumbledore has taken care of our bill," Snape replied. "He's taken care of everything."
"So we're leaving in the morning, then?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Snape said. "We'll be back at Hogwarts by tomorrow night."
Fawkes flew from Harry's arm to Snape, who set him with the message that they'd be leaving in the morning and back on school grounds by evening. Snape crossed to the balcony doors, stepping out with Fawkes. The phoenix chirped as if to say goodbye and took off in flight towards Hogwarts.
Snape stepped back into the room, closing the doors behind him. There was an awkward silence between them, neither wanting to start a conversation about the obvious—we'll be going our separate ways.
It felt odd to think that soon Harry would look up and Snape wouldn't be there. They'd been in each other's presence nearly every moment for over two months. Harry wasn't sure how not to think about Snape, how not to worry about him.
"We are actually not far from Cork," Snape said, breaking the quiet. "That's where we will pick up the ferry."
"Oh, right," Harry said. "What's in the package?" he asked, nodding to the brown parcel.
Snape handed it to him. "You open it. It was waiting for me at the desk. Sent by an A.D.— You'd think the Headmaster would be more creative."
As it turned out, the package was magically sealed and it took Harry five minutes before he figured out how to get it open. Inside were a set of fake muggle IDs, one for Harry and one for Snape, an envelope with more than enough muggle currency to get them home as well as a sack of 30 Galleons. There was a brief handwritten note that read simply, I look forward to your safe return –A.D.
There was a knock on the door. Harry looked up startled, but Snape raised his hands casually and said, "I had them send up some tea."
He set the tray down on the table and turned to Harry. "You best get some rest," Snape said. "Tomorrow will be a long day."
It was a bright, but blustery day, a sharp autumn wind whipping pink into Harry's cheek. Pulling his sweatshirt a little tighter around himself, he glanced over his shoulder at Snape who followed behind him into the cool fall morning with his hand shoved into his pockets.
Without a word, they left the Inn's property. They walked side by side along the long downhill slope of the dirt road leading from Rathmore House to the main road. It was early still and few people were out, though Harry could hear the distant sound of a dog barking and the wheezing of an old car engine as it puttered down the street.
"I was wrong," Snape said quietly, his gaze focused on the uneven road in front of them.
Wide-eyed, Harry could only stare back at Snape, waiting to hear the explanation that followed.
"Partially wrong," Snape amended with a slight twitch of a smile. "I told you that emotions make you weak, that you must control them."
He fell quiet, collecting his thoughts as they walked. Harry dared not interrupt him for whatever Snape was about to say was important.
"But that's not true of you," Snape admitted gently. "Each of your emotions gave you strength every time you needed impetus. Your love, just as much as your hatred, set that dormant magic within you free. Though you must learn to curb your emotions, knowing the power it can give you."
Snape paused for a moment, lost in thought. "I think it is this," he continued, "that will set you apart from the Dark Lord… it's what sets you apart from me."
"We're not so different, you and I," Harry said. "You don't believe in yourself the way you believe in me. You think you're all detached and heartless and insignificant, but I know better."
"Do you?" Snape questioned with a smirk, an eyebrow raised. "Do tell, Mr. Potter."
"You're a big softie," Harry grinned. "But don't worry, I won't tell the first years. I'll let you scare the stuffing out of them."
"Good because you have to frighten them on their first day or else you've lost them for seven years," Snape replied.
Harry laughed right out loud.
"What?" Snape demanded. "I'm completely serious!"
"I know!" Harry cried.
"Mr. Potter it is not too early, nor are we too far from Hogwarts, for me to begin taking points from Gryffindor," Snape replied.
"You'd do it, too," Harry complained, but still with a grin on his face.
There were a lot of people milling around the docks when they arrived, taking advantage of the nice Saturday before the fall weather got too cold. A seagull swooped low overhead and perched on a stack of coiled rope, looking hopefully at passersby for scraps of food.
"There are tickets waiting for us at the counter," Snape said and they joined the queue. Again, Harry felt his temper rising at how easy it all was. They were still wanted by Death Eaters, but Harry had to admit that they were no longer stalling for time. Apparently Hogwarts was safe for them now and Dumbledore wanted them back as soon as possible.
The last person in front of him moved aside and Harry requested the two tickets being held for him under the name on his fake ID.
"Here you are," said the clerk, pushing the two tickets for the ferry towards Harry. "I just need you or your Dad to sign here." She pointed to the dashed line on the receipt.
Harry looked up, startled. "He's not my Dad," he whispered.
"Oh, my mistake," she said brightly. She looked at Harry expectantly and Harry dumbly stared back.
Snape leaned over Harry, slapping his fake ID on the counter and scribbled an illegible signature on the line. He took the tickets with a mumbled "thanks", then ushered Harry away from the counter with prod at his back.
Something was warring within him— For many weeks now, Harry had been careful not to put his father and Snape together in his mind because he didn't like how the emotions about them were overlapping.
Snape wasn't his father and Harry didn't want him to be. Before, it had been very clear— James had loved him and Harry loved him back and Snape had hated him and Harry hated him back.
What the hell are we now? Harry thought. The truth of it was that they were some kind of family unit, he and Snape. Kind of like how Harry was a foster child of the Weasleys and Hogwarts was his real home. Snape was just as much a part of his family now as Ron or Hermione.
Harry snapped back to the present moment, looking up suddenly at Snape. "Professor, what I said back there," Harry began as they waited in the line to board the ferry. "I didn't mean anything by it. She just surprised me, that's all."
"I know, Potter," Snape said. And Harry saw that he did know. It made him smile.
The boat rocked pleasantly as it steadily departed from the harbor. The sea air was salty and cold and it clung to Harry's face unpleasantly. But he didn't complain. He noticed that Snape liked the sea, seemed to calm a bit while watching the undulating waves. Harry didn't know if his observational skills were improving or if it was the link he now shared with Snape that permitted him further insight, but he suspected the latter was true.
"You are very much like James," Snape said, staring out at the water. At first, Harry thought it an odd comment, but realized he must have been thinking about it since the ticket line.
"Yeah you've told me," Harry grinned, remembering all those barbed comments about his father that Snape had flung at him through the years.
"You cannot deny your constant rule-breaking and penchant for attracting trouble," Snape said. "You resemble him quiet a bit," Snape added. "Except your eyes—those are your mother's."
While Harry had heard this before, not many people had told him things about his mother. He'd heard a few things here and there, but most people he encountered had known James.
"You knew my mother," Harry said quietly. It wasn't a question. There had been that moment of delirium when Snape was bleeding out all over the Brennon's cottage floor and he'd confused Harry for his mother— and Harry had seen those memories Snape had wanted to hide, swirling clear as day in the pensieve during his fifth year. It was still a sensitive issue and they hadn't really talked about it before. He didn't think Snape would want to now.
Though it was becoming uncomfortably cold with the wind blowing through the deck as the boat made its way out to sea, Harry dared not move or say another word. If there was ever a moment that Snape might tell him about Lily, it was now.
Harry held his breath, waiting.
"Lily was clever and elegant in a way most woman will never know," Snape said softly. "It was difficult not to like her and she was kind to most everybody. She had integrity—had red hair that would rival the Weasley's and green eyes—your green eyes."
"What was she like at Hogwarts?" Harry asked, trying to ask hundreds of questions simply in one.
"I didn't really know her," Snape confessed. "I wish I could tell you what you want to know. I can tell you, however, that she knew her potions— clearly that was a skill not passed down to you. She was strong competition— she and I were constantly vying for the number one spot in advanced potions."
"Really?" Harry couldn't believe it. Not that his mother was good at potions but that anyone had ever given Snape a run for his money in potions.
"Yes, which is why it was so disappointing to discover how dreadful you are at it."
"I'm not that bad!" Harry insisted.
"Mr. Potter, I daresay a troll could do better," Snape replied, but not without a trace of humor.
"You just have ridiculously high and unfair expectations," Harry muttered. He crossed his arms over his chest, but not out of bad feeling. It was colder now that the ferry had picked up speed.
"Why don't you go inside?" Snape suggested, noticing Harry's discomfort. "Find someplace to sit. I'll join you in a moment."
Harry nodded and walked towards the door to the inside cabin. With a last glance as he reached the door, Harry saw that Snape was lost in his thoughts, no doubt remembering his long-ago past at Hogwarts and wondering about his future there.
There were still many hours to go in their voyage, but Harry was glad for this time with Snape. At first, he had wondered why Dumbledore had not just arranged for a portkey right from Cork, but thought that maybe the Headmaster was sensitive to the fact that returning to Hogwarts would be a bit of an adjustment for them after weeks of not knowing when they would be allowed to return if ever. Harry needed time to get used to the idea, to turn it over in his mind that his upside-down world would be returning to some semblance of order.
While grateful for the time, Harry's thoughts were now going round in circles of worry.
A thousand different qualms fluttered through Harry's mind— I wonder how Ron and Hermione are—it will be good to see them— How much have I missed?— I'll need new books— the Slytherins will be even worse this year— Does anyone know where I've been?— I can just imagine what the rumors will be like— How did I do on my O.W.L.'s?— I know that I failed at least—
"I didn't tell you," Snape began quietly, interrupting Harry's worrisome thoughts. "Dumbledore's message said that it took no less than five Aurors to unseal the ruins."
Harry stared at him, caught unawares. That was the furthest thing from his mind.
"That's very powerful magic, Harry," he said. "And the Death Eaters inside were taken into Ministry custody."
"I didn't kill them," Harry said, relieved.
"I told you that if you had killed them you would have known it," Snape said.
"They got Bellatrix too?" Harry asked.
"Yes. She's back in Azkaban," Snape replied.
"Until she breaks out again," Harry mumbled.
A part of him wished for some harsher form of justice for the Death Eaters who had tormented and nearly killed Snape. But the other part of him knew that slaughtering them would not reseal the part that had been rent open when he thought Snape had been killed— tortured to death. That horror he would remember, would feel it piercing his heart until the day he died. No amount of killing could ever mend that tear or take it back.
Questions about the magic link between himself and Snape still swam in Harry's mind, but there was nothing he could do about that. They would have to take it in stride— test and measure and accept whatever the consequences turned out to be.
Feeling suddenly tired, Harry imagined his warm dormitory and four-poster bed in Gryffindor Tower and thought that he would like special permission to sleep for a week. Although, taking a long soak in the Prefects bath was also a tempting idea.
Maybe Ron can sneak me in, Harry mused.
Turning thoughtfully to Snape, he asked, "What's the first thing you'll do once you get back?"
"I suppose I'll report to Dumbledore," Snape said. "He'll want to debrief me—he'll want to see you as well, Harry."
"No, I mean, after that," Harry said. "What is it you want to do most?"
"Sleep," Snape said. "For a week at least."
Harry grinned. "And then I want the house-elves to recreate the start of term feast complete with warm pitchers of butterbeer."
Now it was Snape's turn to smile. "Mr. Potter, butterbeer is not an appropriate beverage for the Hogwarts dining hall and I highly doubt that even you would be able to get the house-elves to serve you butterbeer at the school."
"Don't be so sure," Harry said with an impish grin. "I happen to know someone who works in the kitchen."
"Of course you do," Snape replied.
They continued with lighthearted conversation, everything from the so-called sixth-year slump to uncommon Quidditch plays, until the sun began the arc of its decent and the ferry arrived at its destination.
As they departed the port, it took them a few minutes to gain their bearings and figure out exactly which way to the portkey. The sun was setting, casting warm light and blue shadows against the side of the building where they stood.
"It shouldn't be too far," Snape said looking at a city map. "It's in an alley next to Jimmy's Pub on Thayer Street."
"What does this portkey look like?" Harry asked.
Folding the map and shoving into his pocket, Snape said, "It's a burst bicycle tire."
Side by side they walked through the city streets, the urban noise jarring after weeks spent in the quiet Irish countryside.
Harry's stomach twisted nervously as he saw the sign for Thayer Street. This is it, he thought.
Looking at all the junk in the alley, Harry imagined that maybe it wasn't there—maybe there'd been a problem and a portkey hadn't been placed— but it was there, flat and decrepit, leaning unobtrusively against the brick side of Jimmy's Pub.
Snape glanced at Harry and together they reached for the tire. A lurching instant later they were at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Feeling dizzy, Harry blinked trying to find focus.
Snape braced Harry's elbow briefly before moving ahead. "Come," he said. "Let us go home."
The castle loomed overhead, large and impressive, never failing to amaze Harry with its grandeur. A few more steps and they would be on Hogwarts school grounds.
Harry stopped suddenly, staring up at the huge castle. He couldn't believe it—after all this time he was finally coming home.
Snape turned, looking back at him with a questioning look. "We're almost there, Potter. Don't stop now."
But he couldn't bring himself to move. Harry shook his head. "I'm not ready," he declared, quiet but resolute.
"Of course you are," Snape said.
But Harry took two steps backward, shaking his head in a vehement no.
"We could just go," Harry whispered. "You and I— We could just disappear."
"Harry," Snape chided softly.
His voice quickening with insistence, Harry said, "We could go where no one would find us. You could train me—we could figure this link thing out."
"You know we can't do that," Snape said. "What about the Dark Lord? I can't protect you—I wish to God that I could—but I know I'm not strong enough… not now. I can't risk you—I won't."
Harry knew he was right, knew that Snape would die protecting him if they left, and Harry couldn't bear that, but he still said stubbornly, "I'll protect us."
"I understand that you're nervous—."
"Things will change!" Harry shouted. "Once we go through those doors this will never be the same," he said angrily, gesturing between himself and Snape. "Five years of sneering and antagonizing and looking down your nose can't be reversed— what was it for? How can you expect me to just—just accept this—just allow everything to—to—."
"What are you frightened of?" Snape asked softly.
"That this will stop. You'll forget," Harry whispered. "We'll forget. You'll hate me again… we'll hate each other. I don't want to go back to that, not after this, not after everything..."
"Harry," Snape said with a gentle laugh. "I assure you that I won't forget. How could I ever— there is literally a piece of your magic within me, keeping me from falling apart— I couldn't forget you or what happened even if I wanted to. You'll always be with me."
"You can't treat me the same as before—as if nothing at all happened this summer," Harry insisted.
"If you're asking for special treatment then you shall be disappointed," Snape replied. "I will not favor you over the other students."
"Yeah, because you've never done that before," Harry retorted.
Snape paused, and then asked, "What is it you want from me, Harry?"
"I want—," Harry paused, thinking. "I want you to come to my Quidditch practices."
Despite Snape's puzzled look he went on. "I want you to acknowledge me if you see me in the hallway—you don't have to say anything, just a look will do. I want to be able to visit you without the guise of remedial potions. I want to know that I can talk to you and that you'll be there to listen."
Snape studied him seriously, his black eyes searching Harry's green ones before saying, "I can do all those things."
An easy smile spread across Harry's face.
"But don't expect me to root for Gryffindor," Snape added.
Harry's smile broadened into a grin. "You still want to back the losing side? Face it—Slytherin is never going to win the Quidditch cup."
"Oh ye of little faith," Snape said. "I'll be sure to take detailed notes during your practices and give full reports back to my little Slytherins." Then he added with a hint of seriousness, "Are you sure you don't want to reconsider?"
He's giving me a backdoor, Harry thought. A way to change my mind about him…
"No. There's no reconsidering," Harry replied. "I want you there." I want you in my life.
Reaching out, Snape surprised him by affectionately cupping his cheek. It took no thought at all; Harry launched himself at Snape, throwing his arms around him and Snape hugged him back.
"Why does this feel like goodbye?" Harry asked quietly, cheek pressed against Snape's chest.
"Because in a way, it is," Snape answered, brushing his fingers through Harry's hair. "You must understand, Harry, that circumstances will not be as they are now."
"I know," Harry admitted.
"It's all right, Harry," Snape whispered. "It will be all right."
Harry nodded, pulling away from him. It would be all right. Snape wasn't going anywhere.
Harry was ready now.
They approached the large doors of the Great Hall in silence, looking up at the massive expanse of castle looming before them. It was late and most everyone was asleep. No one was there to receive them. Dumbledore had not told anyone of their coming so that they could arrive safely in secret. Harry suspected that the Headmaster had refrained from coming down to avoid arousing suspicion, though he was sure that Dumbledore knew the second they had set foot on the grounds.
Snape glanced at Harry as the doors opened. He gently gripped his shoulder before walking past Harry into the castle.
Harry cast a final look behind him, savoring the last moment, and then he took a deep breath before disappearing behind the solid wood doors into the start of a new journey.
It's all done. Finally, right? First off I want to give a huge and heartfelt thank you to every person who reviewed, emailed me, commented on my LJ, or read this story. I have come into contact with so many wonderful, wonderful people because of this fic. At times the outpouring of response just overwhelmed me! Your patience and support has meant more to me than you know.
As of this writing (April, 2007) I'm not sure if a sequel will happen. All I can say is check back here, or drop by my LJ (griseldajane . livejournal . com) from time to time because I'll most likely post my intentions there.
I hope we all have a great Book 7 experience! (You know I'll be a basket case come July!)
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