Disclaimer: Yes I know I've been neglecting my other stuff, please forgive me! I had to get these out of my system! Well, anyways, Harry Potter doesn't belong to me, don't sue! Updated Version: 7 November, 2004


A Quiet Seclusion

Chapter One

Only Blood Can Wash Out Blood


Walking down the stone steps of Hogwarts, Harry Potter took one last, longing look at the imposing castle he had called home for so long. His look turning for moment hard and angry, he turned around and set off distractedly for the coaches that would bear him away, never to return again. Inside the warm coach, he sat alone watching the passing scenery with detached interest. After all, his life would never be the same again.

Waving to Hagrid as he boarded the train, Harry found an empty compartment at the end and sat down. Sitting on the comfortable cushions he watched with glazed eyes as the scenery flitted by in a blur. Hedgwig sat in her cage, watching him with large yellow eyes, ruffling her feathers every so often. He half-smiled at her, and she made a short happy chirruping noise back.

The door creaked open and a boy with flame red hair walked in, freckles dotting his boyish face.

"Hey, mate."

"Ron," he acknowledged, still watching the trees and sky meld together.

"Seems unreal, doesn't it? Leaving Hogwarts I mean."

"Yep." Harry sighed, watching his best friend flop on the seat across from him. For once he was wearing robes that fit him right, he'd grown so tall that nobody's robes in the family had fit right. So almost everyone in the Weasley family had pitched in to get him two nice pairs. It was left unsaid who had been the main benefactor.

"So what do you think you'll do now? Now that V-Voldemort (Harry rolled his eyes) is dead, still planning on being an Auror?"

Harry shrugged, making a non-committal noise in his throat, "You?"

"I'm apprenticing under a guy Charlie worked with. I'm thinking about going into the Dragon business."

"Sounds like fun, what about Hermione?" Harry's mind flitted back to the time the both had announced their engagement to him in the common room. Quite a nasty shocker for him though, he had always had a soft spot for Hermione. He had thought for sure…but no, it wasn't true. She loved Ron and he loved her. Harry was just a friend.

"She's going to a muggle university for four years then she's off to apprentice under that wizard genius, 'William Gates' I think his name is, then after that she's gonna want a job with the ministry, probably in something really intelligent." Rolling his eyes. After all, Minister Fudge and 'intelligence' didn't really work together well in the same sentence.

Harry allowed himself to snicker with his friend, before a companionable silence filled the compartment.

"Ron," he started, serious in his eyes, "You've been such a good friend, I want you to have something."

Ron cocked his head, staring at him suspiciously for a moment. "You don't have to Harry, you're my friend."

"You've saved my neck more than once."

"It's what any good hearted friend would do, besides I didn't want that Speedlight 500 of yours to fall into the wrong hands. Not until I was sure I was in the will, that is!" He grinned and Harry mirrored it, feeling an odd twist in his stomach.

"I'm serious, Ron, I want you to take the Speedlight and Hedgwig."

"Bloody hell, Harry! Are you mad?!"

"I don't need a broom anymore, I'm not going out for quidditch, and Hedgwig will be lonely. At least if I give her to you, she'll have Errol to keep her company." Harry shrugged, but leaning in closer with a mischievous grin whispered, "And I think she's quite taken with Ginny's new owl."

Ron rolled his eyes, "Females! Thanks mate, you're possibly the worst nutter I've ever met, but thanks."

"Your welcome, Ron."

In a cloud of grey steam the Hogwarts Express pulled into a halt at Platform 9¾, blanketing the waiting group of parents mysteriously. Stepping down, off the stepladder, Harry was met with the familiar buzz of noise as child was reunited with parent. He watched Hermione embrace her mother and father; looked on as Ron got attacked by Fred and George Weasley, and observed several others he recognised likewise greet their families.

Shrugging into his jacket he shrunk his trunk and other belongings, tucking his wand away safely. He was tempted to look at his License of Magic from the Ministry, but refrained and instead he contentedly patted his coat pocket. Turning away from the many displays of joy and happiness around him he discreetly sunk into the barrier leading to the muggle world, and walked away.

Shoes padding against the cobblestone street he walked amiably down the old road far out in the country. It was late, maybe seven at night at the latest. He considered buying a watch as he passed an old fashioned 'Trinkets and Toys' store, but cast it aside with a rumble of his stomach. Out on the country road again he pondered what he would do now. The Dark lord had been defeated; there really was no use for him now. After all, hadn't that been the only reason anyone had ever spoken to him? His heart felt slightly heavy as his feet padded softly on a dusty road. Dumbledore had waited until the school term to start to contact him, and even then he must of known that Harry was the only one to be able to kill Voldemorte. So many people had adored him for being the Boy-Who- Lived, and loved him for destroying the Dark lord, but after that everyone had deserted him. He had graduated and was now on his own. He knew Ron and Hermione would still be his friends, but they had their own lives now and their own futures to think about.

Truth be told, Harry hadn't even expected to have a future, and now that it was staring him in the face, he wasn't sure what to make of it.

Finding a barn full of livestock Harry climbed up to the loft and snuggled down in the itchy hay. Letting out a long, drawn out sigh he closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the shifting beasts below him and the ruffling feathers of owls above him.

Harry Potter felt like he was the loneliest wizard on earth. He actually didn't mind as much as one would have thought. He enjoyed the silence of walking down a deserted road, watching the shadows around him change. The feel of ice rain splashing across his face, drenching his hair, and soaking his clothes. Then finding a friendly pub where he could sit by the fire, a blanket draped over his cold, sore muscles, a cup of black tea in his hands. He liked to sit for hours, listening to the managers of the pub tell him their tale, watching the rain beat against the window panes, the quiet ticking of a clock on the mantel. He would get a room, sleep and in the morning shower, shave and be on his way. Never any complications, betrayals, or intrigue; just a simple quiet sort of life.

A bell tinkled as he opened the door to the squeaky clean pub. He smiled at the woman that came out of an adjacent room, an apron tied across her plump middle. She likewise smiled warmly, showing him to a table next to the window.

"Have you been helped?" She asked kindly. Harry shook his head.

"Black tea, if you please." She looked faintly disappointed.

"I'm sorry, we don't carry that. I've got some Earl Grey, if you'd like?"

He nodded and she bustled away.

He glanced about the fairly small room; it was empty except for himself and two other scattered customers. So far away from the big cities, he guessed business wasn't so good. He guessed the other two men were probably just going through town. "I'm Sara, by the way. Are you waitin' for anyone?" She queried when she returned with his tea.

He shook his head quietly for a moment, giving her a dry grin. "Why don't you move business closer to the city? Close to London you would be exploding with customers."

"Out here in the country it's more beautiful, and the customers aren't in as much of a hurry. During lunch we get enough to get by, and the people are generous."

"Your accent, it's familiar, you're American aren't you?" Dark brown hair was braided into a crown on top of her head, her cheeks slightly pink with all her bustling around the small room.

"Hmmm, yes I came over seas when I wanted to attend Oxford."

"Oxford? That's a very prestigious school."

She nodded her head with a shy smile.

"So why are you here? With a degree like that, you could do almost anything. Why this life?" She paused from picking up two dirty dishes from the adjacent table, a thoughtful look on her face. Harry had almost given up on an answer when... "Because if I went ahead and got my Masters and stuff, then went and became part of a big business I would be living someone else's dream. You know what I mean? This is a life that I love, I wouldn't want to give it up for anything." By her satisfied grin he could see that she was indeed happy.

But tracing the lines of her eyes with his own he could see that as happy as she was, it was hard on her. He finished his tea and got up to leave. "Is there an inn I can stay at someplace?"

"We have a spare room here, you can stay there the night." Sara offered. Harry agreed and followed as she led him up a pair of rickety old stairs.

The room was small, but clean, the bedding folded neatly on top of the mattress and a handful of lilies in a vase on the nightstand. Bidding her good night Harry made the bed by hand, switched off the light and crawled into the warm covers.

Harry ended up staying for two weeks in total. To pay for his room and board he worked around the pub, repairing tables or chairs, and running errands in town for Sara when she was out of something. Sara, in return for all the help, ordered a special supply of Black tea for Jon which he drank every day at precisely seven o'clock in the evening.

The second to the last day he was there, a barn owl soared into his open window carrying a thick, yellow envelope with the Ministry of Magic's seal. Ignoring for the better half of an hour Harry finally relented and tore it open to find a formal apology for all wrongs committed against him by the ministry or anyone connected with it. Harry skimmed the letter before coming to the last sheet of parchment, which gave him the figures that had been transferred to his account. Staring at the number at the bottom of the page Harry scowled.

The Ministry could go hang itself for all he cared. Who said he wanted the money anyway? Tearing the paper and igniting it he sent the owl away and went to bed. It wasn't until the next morning as he was sipping his tea and reading the paper up in his room that he noticed his slip. The Ministry now knew where he was. Chair crashing to the floor, Harry packed up his belongings and changed his clothes and boots before heading downstairs.

Several miles away Harry walked off the road a ways before he took out his wand and started a string of complicated spells that would ward off owls and prevent anyone from casting a locator charm on him. Three hours later he finished and returned to the main road and found a shady tree to climb and fall asleep in.

Five miles away Sara was humming a tune, idly wondering where Jon had run off to. He hadn't shown up all morning and she had heard a sound from his room upstairs for hours. Finished with the bar and sure that all the tables had been wiped clean and someone was wiping the floor she headed upstairs and knocked on Jon's door. Not hearing anything she knocked again, louder. Still not hearing anything, and sure something had happened she twisted the handle, surprised when the door swung open to reveal…

Nothing. The room was bare, the bed made, and the window half open to let in a cool breeze. Well, not entirely empty. On the nightstand sat a teacup half full of cold Black tea, a napkin wedged underneath it. Picking up the cup she was about to through the napkin away when she saw the something was written on its surface.

Life's a paradise where you love it most. - Jon

Something slipped from her fingers and looking down Sara nearly screamed at the five thousand-pound notes.

The next morning Harry woke to the sound of a loud engine speeding down the country road and rolled over, wondering where in the seven hells his pillow had run off to. FLUMP. Groggily he opened one green eye, and then the other, rubbing his shoulder where he had fallen from his perch in the tree.

"Owie," he whined to no one in particular.

But for Harry Potter, there can never be a quiet sort of life.

Twenty years had passed since Harry had visited the small pub maintained by a woman he knew only as Sara. It was an uncommonly cold and wet July evening he came trudging up the muddy walk, his green eye fixed on the warm glow of the windows. Pushing open the wooden door a thirty-seven year old Harry nearly sagged in relief at the warmth of the place. Peeling off his scarf, coat he hung them on the drying rack near the fire before retreating to the quietest corner he could find.

The money he had left behind twenty years ago had obviously been put to good use. The main area had been expanded to allow for more room, there was a set of stairs that hadn't been there before, as well as a sign that offered rooms for the night. The main part of the room nearest to the fire was crowded and Harry briefly wondered if it was the fire or the hospitality that drew so many patrons.

Several waiters bustled around the room, trays full of steaming mugs and hot foods.

"Sera, I'm whiskey be me needin'!" An elderly man at the bar with a shock of white hair was waving his mug about, his nose red with intoxication.

A woman's laugh answered him and he shifted his gaze to see a still plump woman with still darker brown hair, her round face merry as she gently took his mug away and escorted him upstairs. Minutes later she was back again and catching his eye made her way over.

"Have you been helped?" When Harry shook his head 'no', she brought out a wad of paper from her apron and a pen from behind her ear and commanded his order cheerfully.

"Black tea, if you please." The woman named Sara got a strange look on her face.

"I'm sorry, we don't carry that-" Her voice paused and she peered at him from over her paper and pen. "It's just that…We only carry Black tea for one person around here and he hasn't been by in years. "

"Your accent sounds familiar. You're from America aren't you?" He asked smartly. His dull, green eyes catching a spark of life.

"JON!" Sara wrapped him in a warm, motherly embrace, a few tears leaking from underneath her long dark lashes. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again!" She sobbed slightly, her voice a near hysterical pitch, and her face beaming with happiness. And just as suddenly as she had embraced him she was gone, and a hand was whooshing toward his face. Almost without out a thought he caught it mid flight, and directed her toward the chair across from him.

"And where have you been!?" She asked furiously. "To just up and leave like that, why, I ought to throw you out on your rear right now! The nerve!" She huffed.

Harry grinned, and suddenly she was silent. "Jon," she whispered in shock. "Where did you get them scars?" Her breath hitched, "And your eye…" Her eyes had taken on a half-fearful, half-sympathetic stare. A hand unconsciously drifted up to feel the place where scars marred his face. One running from his hairline over his right, blind white eye to disappear beneath the collar of his shirt, and two others on his left cheek, twins, running from the top of his cheekbone to the base of his jaw bone. "Oh, Jon, what have you been up to?"

Harry smiled. "Nothing without good reason, and whole lot of help. But that's not why I'm here. How are you? You seem well off since last I was here."

"Don't you go playing ignorant on me, Jon Sawyer! You know very well how I'm 'well off', and don't you say nothing different!" Harry couldn't seem to wipe the grin off his face. It seemed almost nothing had changed. Well, maybe one thing.

"Hey, Mum, who's this then?" Harry had to turn his whole face to see who had addressed the woman before him.

"Oh, hello Kristen, this is an old friend. Jon, this is my oldest daughter Kristen, Kristen this is Jon Sawyer."

"You got married?" Harry asked, stunned.

Sara blushed scarlet. "We had been courting for almost three months before you dropped by. He had to go overseas to Canada for the month you were here. I guess we never got around to talking much about our personal lives."

"Do you have any other children?"

Sara nodded, "A boy from a previous marriage, he would be about twenty five. Kristen here is nineteen, I have seven-year-old twins but they're visiting my husband's mother in Dublin now. Kristen agreed to stay behind to help me look after the pub."

Harry nodded his head, "A commendable act, young lady." Kristen blushed almost as deep a red as her mother.

Sara sent his daughter to fetch Jon a cup of black tea and the two spent some time catching up on Sara's life. Soon Sara had to retire to bed but she said that she would have someone leave some clean linens on his bed if he wanted to stay the night.

But hours later Harry Potter had still not left his spot to either leave or go to the waiting room upstairs. Instead, his dry, callused hands were encircling a fourth (fifth?) cup of Black tea, his thumb rubbing at the circular edge. The grim set of his mouth only seemed to highlight the abnormalcy of his blind eye and most of the remaining patrons kept well away from the dark man, crowding around the welcoming hearth instead.

Randomly pulling out a pocket watch to check the time every so often Harry finally just left it on the table, open face up, the hands displaying a quarter past eleven. A movement brought him out of his thoughts and dimly interested at who had walked by, he lifted his tired head ivy green eye catching sight of a black cloak as it slid into a booth. Still facing away from him, Harry studied the shoulder length black hair, rigid countenance, and odd familiar black clothing. Somewhat mechanically he scraped back his chair, stood, and proceeded towards the familiar figure. Feeling like, for the entire world, a month being drawn to a deadly light he stopped a few paces short and stared.

"Snape?" He stood in shock at the sinister wizard sitting before him, glittering black eyes regarding his shabby form and peculiar facial scars.

"Potter." Ah, acknowledgement. Harry mentally smirked at the familiar coldness he detected in the voice. "Sit down or leave my presence before you bring to much attention to yourself, Merlin knows it's a detestable sight."

Obediently sitting down, the forgotten wizard watched his former Potions professor suspiciously. "Why are you here?"

"What? The famed Harry Potter not getting any attention on his birthday? Shocked anyone actually cared?"

Well this was an unexpected turn of events. Was it really July already? "I honestly don't care whether or not someone remembers. Though it is a bit of a shocker to see you of all people here."

Something flashed across Snape's eyes for a moment and Harry watched it with interest. Was it pain? Anger? Surprise? He wondered if he had ever seen the Potions Master shocked before. He decided he hadn't so sipping the hot tea that had been placed before him by the waitress, he stared out at the pouring rain that had eventually driven him to this very pub.

He thought he must look quite a sight in the eyes of his most loathed professor. His unkempt hair, which had grown to an unprofessional length, was jammed underneath a wool cap; his second hand clothes were soaked through and stained. He hadn't shaved that morning so his scratchy stubble wasn't his most attractive feature. Mud clung to his clothes and skin, and something slimy and squishy was lodged in his left boot.

"So what's the really reason you're here, professor?" He asked, not wanting to continue that line of thought.

"I am no longer your professor, Potter, you may drop the formality." A slack-eyed waiter came as Snape's bidding and took his order.

"It's the only way I've ever known you, how then, would I address you? Severus? Snape? One-Who-Hates-Me-With-A-Vengeance?" He added with a dry laugh.

"Your sarcasm is almost as atrocious as your appearance, Potter."

"As we are dropping formalities, Severus, perhaps you could call me by given name. It's Harry you know. I believe, after my grandfather. Henry Somthingorother Potter. But seeing as Henry is an awfully formal name, everyone just called him 'Harry'. Now I on the other hand, might just be named Harry…"

"Harry." The older man growled dangerously.

"Ah, very well. Back to the reason you are here, I somehow doubt you just dropped by to remind me it's my birthday. And even more disturbing is the idea you dropped by for a friendly chat."

The wizard made a non-committal sound in his throat. Harry quirked a brow and stared at him.

"You actually wanted to check up on me?" Harry asked around a mouthful of bread one of the waiters had given him. Severus looked up from his laced fingers, black eyes swirling mysteriously. "Well perhaps I'm not the only one who's cracked." Sipping his black tea Harry watched as the waitress came back, and gave Severus his cup of tea. Camomile.

"Mr. Weasley was concerned when you disappeared into thin air."

"Was?"

"Was."

"And now?"

Severus gave a barely perceptible shrug, an odd movement so out of place on the man it led Harry to wonder how much the man had changed since his release from the troubles of the war.

Severus didn't say anything for a few moments, Harry opened his mouth to prompt a response and then, "It has been largely speculated you committed suicide."

Harry choked on whatever he was about to say. "Excuse me?" Harry then had to wait until the Potions Master had taken his sip of tea.

"The work of one Reeta Skeeter, I believe you've met the woman?"

"You call that thing a woman? An insect might be more a more accurate term." Harry rose the cup to his lips but hesitated before setting it back down.

"Any other speculation I should be aware of before I ever decide to step foot in the Britain wizarding community again?"

Severus shook his head with a reflective look, "Nothing to extreme at any rate. Though it is curious how neither of your two school companions have shown that they…" Severus trailed off, seemingly lost for words.

"Don't care?" Harry finished for him, if it hurt that his own friends had forgotten him after twenty year he didn't show it. Though he must have read the thoughts bouncing around in Severus' head because he made a careless wave of his hand. "Don't worry about it Sev, (the older wizard raised a delicate brow, but didn't say anything) I figured it out quite some time ago. The fact that I was something…different. Hermione and Ron have a life of their own to live now. Especially now that the war has ended, don't you think it's the least that they deserve?" With a shrug of his shoulders he fished around in his wallet to pay the bill the waiter had set before him before walking away, shoes scraping wood as he went.

Harry watched the barely perceptible sign of surprise flit across his former professor's features before dispersing once again. He dimly wondered why the man was a walking box of cynical stoicism.

"Why aren't you living the luxury, Potter?" Severus finally asked. He made a motion with his hand, taking in the entire pub with his eyes, "Surely you don't expect me to believe you enjoy this life?"

"Harry," the former student corrected, Snape glared, and Harry grinned. "And what would I do with luxury?"

"Don't you think you deserve it?" He asked with a sardonic twist of his lips.

"No." Came the answer accompanied by an odd smile.

"Why not?" a little unsettled, albeit curious.

"Why, Professor Severus Snape, if I didn't know any better I'd say you were an apprentice to her sliminess Reeta Skeeter." He gave his former professor a cheeky grin before taking a sip from his cold tea.

Severus gave him a less than decent look, before taking a sip from his own tea, studiously ignoring the slip in formalities. "Just because you are no longer my student, doesn't mean I don't have the right to hex you into oblivion."

"What do you want, Severus? Or, if I'm not mistaken, what does the Headmaster want?" Harry asked, suddenly serious.

"I think the question is, Pot-Harry, why are you here?"

Harry shrugged; watching the rain hit the window pain viscously as if daring him to come out again. "I saved the world, everybody's happy now. What else matters? Voldermorte and his cronies are no long in existence, the dementors are in captivity, where else could I go? Face it, Potions Master, I was just a pawn in the wizards chess game of life. Cast away after I've played my part to help win the game"

"I'd hardly call it game," he said silkily, eyes flashing dangerously.

Harry's eyes dimmed for a moment while he watched the gales of wind and rain wreck havoc in the streets. Finally he shifted his gaze to Severus' arm, covered by the finely tailored sleeve. "Gone?" he asked.

Severus nodded his head, but Harry still hadn't looked up from his arm. With a slight movement he uncovered where the mark should have been, revealing unmarred flesh.

Harry stared at it wistfully, "The devil's own brigade," he murmured so quietly Severus wondered if he had heard him right. "And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand, the hand that held the steel: for only blood can wipe out blood, and only tears can heal: and the crimson stain that was of Cain became Christ's snow-white seal."

"The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde" Severus quipped as if in a play, reciting his lines on cue.

Harry nodded, again distracted by the falling rain. Severus covered his bare arm with the sleeve of his robe and was lost in his own thoughts.

"How are you? Still teaching?" Startled out of his thoughts Snape nodded his head, taking a sip of his now cold tea. Had they really been sitting there that long?

Harry watched him for a moment, noting the wearisome lines that once haunted his features were gone, replaced with a healthy vigour. It seemed strange to see his professor, the dark circles under his eyes gone, a new sparkle of life burning in the depths of his black eyes, his thin reedy frame filled out healthily. His hair likewise was less greasy than he remembered it, though now carried the fine silver lines of age.

After a mental check of himself he almost laughed. His muggle clothes were in worse condition than he ever remembered Lupin's robes to be, he was filthy from his travels, and thin as well. His eyes had dark circles under them, and his skin had taken on an unhealthy pallor. His own hair was limp, still drying from the afternoon drizzle, and was likewise showing the first signs of age.

"JON SAWYER!" A high, clear female voice shrieked into the morning air. Harry stuck his head out of his window where he had just thrown a bowl full of cold water to see a very irate woman, hands on hips, dripping brown hair splattering her face. "Oh dear, are you all right Sara? My, that rain just seems to come and go in these parts doesn't it?" He said, mimicking her American southern drawl. Meeting her at the bar he offered her several towels and warm mug of coffee.

"Aren't you a bit old to be playing jokes on poor, defenceless women such as myself?" She asked around her steaming cup. Harry interjected a snort at 'defenceless', but her scowl was overshadowed by the laughter in her eyes.

"Old?!" Harry nearly fell out of his chair. "How old do you think I am?!"

"At least in your late twenties. Maybe early thirties?" She hazarded a guess. "Am I right?"

Harry shook his head. "Seventeen!"

It was Sara's turn to almost fall out of her chair. "No way!" When he shook his head she leaned back as if to get a better perspective. "Weird."

old

That had been the last they spoke of it, though after leaving the small pub Harry had later researched the matter. Apparently he wasn't the only this happened too. Other people, most notably the ones who'd had an active participation in a war of some sort, always aged quicker than others did. He found a book that listed all sorts of people, muggle and wizard alike. Abraham Lincoln was a prime example, showing pictures both before and after the War he'd been involved in. He'd checked in a mirror and realised, he DID in fact look older than he'd expected to. Upon further reflection he'd realised that he'd seen it happen to people he known in his own life as well. Dumbledore, certainly; Remus, oh yes; Sirius, of course; even Severus had never looked like a thirty year old man.

Harry noted the rich fabrics from which Snape's robes were exquisitely tailored whilst his own were rags-bought half-price from a 'thrift rack' clearance sale. He almost laughed at the strangeness of it all. Here he was sitting in front of the man he had loathed for so long, sharing a cup of cold, tasteless tea, and having a civil conversation. His fifteen-year-old self would probably laugh hysterically if anyone ever told him it was possible.

His mind drifted back to the dark mark that had vanished the moment Harry had done the world's dirty work. Though Tom's mark had gone, his own hadn't. He knew under the sleeve of his tattered long sleeve sweater there were many marks, many made by his mortal enemy, while others…well. What was one to do, locked in a cell with nothing but a knife minutes before all choice was ripped from him? But he had made his choice, and he was still alive to a quarter of the world's utter displeasure.

A few were only superficial wounds, made only deep enough to watch the crimson blood surface and run in long, sinewy strands down his pale hands. Dripping off the tips of his fingers into small puddles on the cold, stone floor. He would watch, helpless, as the blood stained the winter snow, and watch it disappear without a trace when spring finally arrives. He shuddered. Five months. Five whole months he had been left to rot in Voldemort's care. Five whole, bloody, torturous, and terribly lonely months.

Now as he watched the rainfall, creating a mist on the ancient cobblestone streets he wondered if anyone would find his hidden trail. He knew a couple times someone might have casually walked by and seen a suspicious dark stain on the un-tilled ground. He might spare it a second glance but look away, shrugging it off. It had taken him almost a week to drag himself away to safety; Snape had found him and taken him away. But he had never been able to dispel the feeling of intense loneliness that had plagued him ever since.

He watched Severus take another sip of tea and grimace, quickly putting it down and taking out his wand. Muttering a spell, a thin, delicate wisp of steam carefully rose to the ceiling.

Severus was saying something now and wrenching his eyes from the steam he noticed his own cup had refilled and was also steaming hot.

"Thank you," said Harry, taking it into his hands to warm his numb fingers.

Nodding his head, Severus wondered what had happened to the golden boy he had once known. Or had he been there at all? Of course he had. Hadn't he?

"There is an open position at Hogwarts."

Harry asked with an amused smirk, "Defence?"

"Yes."

"So?" He took a sip from his cup, savouring the taste. Camomile. He briefly wondered why camomile but guessed that Severus just hadn't known what he had been drinking in the first place.

"So, in the very real chance I do not get it, I at least, want someone competent enough to handle the job."

Harry stared at him for a moment before laughing replied, "and the truth comes out."

"Pardon?" Severus apparently was used to having semi-pleasant conversation and wasn't sure how to handle this new development of 'laughing'.

"You think I am competent enough to handle the job of Defence?" Questioned Harry with an amused smile.

Severus looked uncomfortable, but grudgingly nodded. "As egotistical as you already are, I believe you would be a great asset to the faculty."

"I'm sure 'asset' wasn't your first choice of words." He received a grunt for an answer and grinned. "So who died?"

It was Severus' turn to look taken aback. "What?"

"The last professor. The job is cursed, as I'm sure you already knew. Why else would you offer me such an opportunity?" Harry gave him a cheeky grin.

"The job is not cursed, imp, and the last professor -Mr. Feather- resigned. He was not, as I understand it, "cursed into oblivion". Though I could see how you would come to that particular fate," Snape finished with a sneer.

"Hmmm," he replied in mock solemnity, nodding his head in agreement. "I, however, am still curious as to what secret you hold that has prevented your own demise."

Severus arched his brow again, giving Harry a burning glare.

"Will you at least make an appointment for an interview?" Snape's tones were clipped.

"Perhaps," he said lightly, taking a sip of tea and watching the rain start to recede. He squinted his eyes, trying to see into the darkness. Far off into the distance he could see a speck of light, steadily growing, illuminating all in its path. It was almost dawn and not having slept, was beginning to feel the stiffness creep into his already weary muscles. "Well good-morning, Severus. I regret to announce I must be on my way," he stood up stiffly, stretching his limbs, convincing them they really did want to stand and support him.

"Come back to Hogwarts, Harry, Merlin knows we have the room. And besides," he said to the look of subdued shock on Harry's face, "We have the only doors that will open wide enough for your inflated, sorry excuse for a mind to get through."

"Insufferable git, you said I was competent."

"To a point, Potter, but that hardly disqualifies you from being labelled as the obtuse child you certainly are."

"It's Harry, professor", he corrected, "and you say I'm the obtuse one?" Harry said it under his breath, but loud enough for his former professor to catch every syllable. "And what's this nonsense about being a child?" I'd hardly call myself a child, he thought wistfully.

Severus gave him a sour look, and Harry couldn't help but glare right back.

The two left their booth and headed out into the drizzling rain, Harry waving a farewell to the exhausted waiters who had stayed up all night, waiting for them to leave. Pulling out his wallet he scribbled another note on his napkin and placed it under his teacup with two hundred-pound notes.

Once outside both paused, just under the roof and inhaled deeply. Harry briefly thought it smelled like the quidditch pitch right after a rain. He fondly remembered the one game it had been close to sleeting and Hermione had performed a spell that helped with his vision. Suddenly his eyes hardened and he pushed the image of Hermione out of his mind.

Severus watched as Harry's eyes clouded for a brief moment, certain that a memory was now swirling in the murky green depths. He wondered what memory had been stirred in that singular moment he had taken a breath of fresh air and wet atmosphere. He traced the odd scars on his face with his eyes, wondering where they had come from. Who had inflicted them? An even better question was who could have possibly close enough to inflict any damage? But while he lingered on that thought for a moment, it was that moment in which Harry had shaken himself of his connection to the past.

"Well are we going to Hogwarts, or has your age caught up to you so that you no longer remember the way?" Snape glared at his former student and taking out his wand tapped himself and Harry and muttered a spell.

With a resounding CRACK Harry felt the familiar sensation of being shattered in a million pieces like glass. Swimming in frigid water rapids was the next, before a split second later he was standing at the entrance gates to Hogwarts: School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

He could acutely feel the tender strands of magic that hung in the air from the precious burst of magic, but even more shocking was the amount of magic emitted before him. Other wizards, who were around magic all day, every day couldn't have appreciated what Harry felt as he stood before the massive gates and even more monstrous castle. The air was alive with it, so thick Harry might have been tempted to transfigure a knife and try slicing through it.

Instead he summed up his courage and walked toward the gate. Undoing the clasp of the cast iron gates he felt a wave of the magic cast over his person. It felt cool and smooth stopping just short of actual liquid. He could feel each individual thread course through him, testing him and probing him. He knew they were searching to see if his character was true, and if he meant harm to those it held within its borders.

It seemed to take hours as his legs seemed to have lost their strength and each step seemed to be weighted down with iron. But within the time it takes to place one foot in front of the other he was through. He inhaled, not realising he had paused, and sighed. He was home.