Tango At the End Of Winter
Sequel to Dance In The Dark Of Night (go to my profile page and choose it from there) make sure you check out that story first or this one will make no sense.
HP/SS Slash MPREG. The Dark Lord has been defeated; Harry and Severus return to Hogwarts to start a new life together and help rebuild the wizarding world, but will Sev's past allow them? Sequel.
Title: Tango At The End Of Winter
Disclaimer: Non-original characters are the property of JK Rowling etc and no money is made from this little amusement. This story has nothing to do with the play of the same name, which at one point starred Alan Rickman in a lead role.
Main Characters: HP, SS, HG, RW. Loads more Hogwarts characters than in the prequel including Draco eventually. Voldie is dead and so is Lucius Malfoy (or is he?).
Feedback: Yes, please, lots and lots. Author writes more quickly when praise is abundant.
Warnings etc: This is the MPREG sequel to Dance In The Dark Of Night and will therefore include extensive aspects of MPREG as well as other plot details. There will also be accounts of past bad events regarding Severus' past, so warning for rape themes. Characters who weren't in Dance In The Dark Of Night but were referred to may well be featuring in this story. The characters are mainly back at Hogwart's and are using magic, a much more familiar environment than the previous story.
Chapter One - Behind The Door
Harry let go of the portkey but stayed still, clinging to Severus, feeling a bit churned up after their eventful evening and the now unfamiliar travelling method. He was just pleased that he had managed to remain upright, despite their weighty rucksacks and the curse he was only just recovering from. They had killed the Dark Lord on the northern section of Drumossie Muir, known as Culloden Muir, named after the town nearby, and now they had successfully returned to Hogwarts to pick up the pieces of their lives. They now stood at the main door to the castle.
Harry and Severus were pleased to see that there still was a castle and that it had a door, which didn't look like it had been blasted open recently. It was even more pleasing to see that it seemed to be the same door that had always led to the main entrance hall at Hogwarts and was not some cheap substitute erected since their departure.
For the first time in at least eight months, Harry looked up at the towering architecture of the castle that he had learnt to call home. It appeared to be unchanged. Harry couldn't see any obvious damage though he was sure that if he looked at it from the right angle he might see that the headmaster's tower had been destroyed.
Harry then looked closer to him, to the man he had his arms wrapped around, his Kin, his Sev. With a bolt of initial nerves Harry realised that all anybody else would see was Harry Potter inexplicably entwined around the hated dungeon monster of a Potions and Psychic healing master. The very reason most students avoided the hospital wing like the Muggle plague. Be personally responsible for using too many potions and Snape would be psychotically grumpy for days, Harry remembered this very well, but he could hardly bear to connect the memory with the man who now held him in his arms.
Harry again looked up at the castle doors, for which he held fond memories. At the age of eleven he had entered Hogwarts for the first time through these very same doors. At the end of his seventh year he had left by them to go into an uncertain future. Now he had returned.
Harry stood before the doors now, with no idea what lay in store for him beyond. Severus was looking at the doors too; no doubt he was having similar thoughts, Harry imagined. They both stepped back across the grass together and tried to appraise the situation by looking up. The castle remained intact, except for the one significant tower, as Harry had seen in his visions.
Harry pointed up to where he could see the wreckage of the destroyed tower and Severus indicated that he had noted it, it confirmed at least one of the visions for definite. There were some torch lights visible through the many windows but the majority of the rooms appeared to be in darkness, not at all unusual as it was still very early in the morning.
"Well this wasn't such a brilliant plan." Harry commented. "We're not going to be able to tell who is inside until we open the door and go in."
Severus stepped back further across the grass, he had a better idea than Harry, of which tower was which and he looked up, "There's a light on in Gryffindor common room." He announced. "I can't see the Slytherin rooms from here, too low down, there is light coming from the hospital wing and all the classrooms that I can see are in darkness. What you might expect normally. You are right, we can't really tell anything, with the castle intact like this, I think we will have to just go in and see." Severus responded.
"We'll take out our swords." Harry announced. "I find that I prefer to give out nasty surprises, not receive them."
Harry drew his sword and they both approached the closed door. Severus reached a hand up to the door and tried to open it, it wouldn't budge. Severus tried a few things with his wand but the door still wouldn't open.
"I suppose Albus was giving out that you had returned to the dark side, the visions of your involvement were real, it looks as if all the visions were real. It might explain why you can't open the door." Harry said.
"Great! I'll be lucky if I'm not hexed into oblivion before we can have a chance to explain. I can't believe I agreed to this. I am 'the Death Eater who got away with it' once again." Severus grumbled quite justifiably. He drew his sword, meaning to be well prepared should anybody try to attack him. He would have to stun them quickly before Harry killed them. A few dead Order followers wouldn't be an ideal reintroduction into the wizarding world for them and he knew that Harry would defend him to that extent.
Holding the sword Severus pushed on the door again with his free hand and it swung effortlessly open. Severus cautiously entered the hallway with Harry following.
"I'll have to get that fixed." Severus commented, for all his grumbling, sounding as if he meant to stay.
"It means that we are in Light territory though." Harry added. "It only opened when you joined with me, my passage has remained valid."
"It could also be a trap," Severus added grimly.
Harry and Severus paused in the hallway not knowing what to do next, even though they were almost certain that the castle hadn't been taken over by Death Eaters. Harry could understand Severus feeling apprehensive and he felt it along with him, the last thing he wanted was to have to deal with a confrontation.
Harry looked around, the stairs rose up in front of them and the pictures on the walls were unchanged and sleeping. The area at the bottom of the stairs was free of luggage, not at all unusual since it should be the middle of term. Harry half expected to find Filch glowering at him from the top of the stairs, about to reprimand them both for being out after curfew or some other transgression that he thought them guilty of.
But he wasn't with one of his Gryffindor friends, Harry thought, he was with Snape, the very man who would have been waiting in his office when Filch dragged Harry and his friends to him, in days gone by. On this occasion Snape was standing at his side, a part of the adventure. Harry had suddenly felt like a school kid as soon as he had entered the school, but he wasn't, everything had changed, he was a Snape himself now.
Harry looked to Severus; he stood like a statue watching the staircase as if he too expected their inaction to be broken by a figure approaching them from the top.
"I suppose we can't stay here all night," Harry said to Severus, he felt the surge of power from his sword and within him, at the thought of anyone coming near his Kin with the intent to harm. Harry hastily put his sword away and took out his wand instead, he didn't want to overreact.
Severus remained frozen to the spot, his face blank and stern. "Perhaps we should just go back to Will," Severus said making no move to go anywhere.
Harry looked up at Severus and was for a brief second unnerved at the sight. It was one of those now rare moments when he looked like his former self, formidable, stiff and ready to lash out at anybody who dared cross him.
Harry tried to ignore what he was seeing and reached a hand out to Severus, Severus wrapped his fingers round Harry's hand tightly, and Harry could feel that his Kin's hand was clammy and cold; it trembled slightly. Severus was nervous and Harry wondered if that had always been behind the stony exterior.
"I'll go up the stairs first, I'll let go of your hand if I think we're in danger," Harry spoke to Severus who nodded very slightly. "If you must use your sword, make sure it's only to stun."
"It's happening again," Severus said quietly as they climbed the stairs cautiously one by one. "Death Eater Snape returns to Hogwarts. It is as it was then, in the middle of the night I stormed through the door and up this staircase, not meeting a single soul on the way to the headmaster's office; I was younger than you are now. I was going to kill Albus if he didn't tell me who had been responsible for my brother's death. He said he didn't know and as it turned out he never let me go."
"You're with me now," Harry said giving Severus' hand a reassuring squeeze. "I'll tell them what you did."
"I don't think the fact that I have corrupted and defiled 'the boy who lived' will help my case somehow," Severus snapped despite Harry's attempt at reassurance.
Harry sighed, knowing that Severus wasn't wrong; it might well be seen in that light. "I meant, that I would tell them how you helped me and how we fought together. I am 'the man who turned the Dark Lord into kebab meat' now you know," Harry explained. "I mean to tell them of how I couldn't have done it without you."
"I have done many noble things over the years, it was never well regarded before." Severus added grimly, only smiling slightly at Harry's new title for himself. "I did some cruel things too, can anyone say it would have made a real difference to my reputation if I hadn't?"
Harry knew Severus was still correct, he was guilty of thinking that way himself and he couldn't argue with his Kin on the matter. "Anyway," Harry commented, thinking quickly, hoping to lighten their mood. "You haven't defiled me properly yet."
Despite everything Severus nearly smiled, "Give me a few hours," He said feeling the power of the sword flowing through him just a little even without Harry holding his. Severus wasn't entirely immune to the passion the Bond created, despite having had years of practise at suppressing it. Although he would have been quite happy to defile Harry anyway, he would otherwise have waited a few days till they weren't quite so exhausted.
"I will have to defile you to," Harry added.
"Such romantic words," Severus deadpanned.
They began to walk along the corridors.
"Where are we going?" Severus asked following reluctantly behind, trailing back as far as he could without letting go of Harry. Although they had flirted with each other only moments before the tension began to build again.
"I don't know, I hadn't thought beyond getting to the top of the stairs," Harry answered.
"The hospital wing always gave a good indication of the state of things at any given time," Severus suggested. "You could do with a rejuvenation potion if there are any and I'm sure you can remember the way."
Severus had spoken sarcastically, sternly and without amusement or expression in his voice but it was clearly an attempt at humour, making a playful dig at him. This was most definitely the Snape he knew before, Harry thought, people reacted to their location and the people they were faced with, their attitude towards them.
Even if their journey had been good for nothing else, it had shown that Severus was capable of responding to kindness and love just like anybody else. Severus was trying to relate to his Kin as he normally would, but it had come out as if he meant to be nasty, it wasn't going to be easy now they were back at the school.
Out in the countryside with only Harry for comfort Severus had been different to how he'd been as a schoolmaster. Now they were back between school walls and Severus was faced with the prospect of meeting people from the school, meeting other wizards who had a prejudiced view of him. Faced with being treated as he had been before, Severus had thrown up defences to protect the man that lay behind them; it was all a matter of instinctual self-preservation.
Harry had no doubt that if a person who was hostile to Severus spoke to him now; he would have no difficulty in barking back a response that was pure Snape. Of course with Severus displaying his mask there was no indication that he was anything other than what they believed him to be, thus perpetuating the problem. The only difference that anybody would see now would be the fact that Scary Snape was holding Harry Potter's hand, and that spoke more of Harry's insanity, than Severus' kindness, as far as they would be concerned.
Harry decided to make it his mission to break the circle, he had been a participant in it for seven years too many and he knew Severus Snape much better now. Severus was pulling back on his Kin's arm, if he became any more reluctant Harry would have to start dragging him.
"Yes, let's go to the hospital wing," Harry eventually answered. "You could do with a rejuvenation potion too, we're both a bit exhausted." Whoever they met there would certainly create a less volatile situation than any of the other teachers or students, Severus had worked closely with Poppy over the years.
Slowly Harry and Severus made their way along the corridors, the sound of their boots loud on the stone floor. They saw no one despite the noise that they were making. It would have seemed as if the castle was not occupied, if it hadn't been for the torches lighting the way.
The silence only heightened the tension for them both as they neared the hospital wing, Harry almost flinching at the sound of every footfall. Severus had already noted that there had been a light on there; they would no doubt encounter Poppy, or whoever had been entrusted with the duty of mediwitch, if she was no longer alive.
By the time they reached the last corridor before the hospital wing, Harry was so on edge that he carried his wand out in front of him, ready to strike as he walked. Although Severus would have liked to do the same, he kept his sword by his side, he didn't want to prompt any unnecessary confrontation and he was sure that Harry was capable of handling anything that might occur.
When at last they stood outside of the hospital wing door and peered inside there was nobody in sight, all the beds were empty. They cautiously stepped inside; checking every corner, there was nobody there. Harry jumped up on one of the beds, finally daring to relax a little.
"I'll find us some potions if there are any," Severus suggested. "I know my way round the stock room, I'm presuming that you don't."
Severus approached the chambers at the back of the hospital wing, this was where the mediwitch would have his or her quarters and it was also where the bulk of the potion stock was kept. He lifted his sword and made the tip illuminate to light his way, then pushed the door open. The first room, where the living room was, was in complete darkness. Severus continued on, opening another door and entering, the door creaked open with such a loud noise that it made Severus jump and there was no doubt that it had been designed to do it intentionally.
Suddenly there was screaming, Severus quickly scanned around the room with the light from his sword and came upon a bed. He couldn't believe the mistake he had made, he was very sure that the room was supposed to be the stock room. A women in a nightgown was sitting on the bed and scrambling around looking for something on the bedside cabinet at the same time as she was staring at Severus and screaming. Severus knew that she must be trying to reach for her wand.
Severus raised his sword, thinking that he had little choice. "Don't move!" He commanded in a voice that caused the woman to freeze immediately, the hand that had been searching for the wand fell to her side. She stopped screaming and a tear rolled down her cheek as she stared at Severus in fear, awaiting his next move, thinking that she knew what he was about to do.
Harry came to the doorway of the bedchamber, having ran over as soon as he heard the scream. He observed his Kin and thought that it was no wonder that the woman was scared. There was Severus, possibly back from the dead, certainly a confirmed Death Eater, his face illuminated by an eerie glow, which cast shadows across his features in a way that made Harry feel quite unnerved too.
Harry approached Severus and put a hand on his outstretched wrist, urging him to lower the sword.
"He won't hurt you." Harry began, talking to the woman. "Don't move, he is with me, do not go for your wand and everything will be all right. You know who I am don't you?"
The woman nodded but couldn't speak.
Severus slowly lowered his sword and the woman began crying in earnest.
"Listen carefully," Harry commanded as Severus stood beside him wisely letting his Kin handle the situation. "I am Harry Potter and this is Severus Snape, we left together when the school term was over in July, Albus was doubling as Severus using Polyjuice potion to allow Severus to be with me without the Dark Lord knowing. Albus made it seem as if Severus had returned to the Dark Lord so that we would have the chance to find a way to defeat him. Tonight we killed the Dark Lord and a few hundred Death Eaters, the war is over and we have now returned," Harry explained.
Severus grizzled a little at the sound of Harry using his former name, which did nothing to endear himself to the young mediwitch. The woman merely stared with a vacant expression.
"Severus has been helping me, he has been with me for every minute of every day, we defeated the Dark Lord together," Harry continued. "We are both on the side of the Light and will not harm you, but if you try to harm either of us I will have to be defensive. Do you understand?"
The woman nodded, the crying had stopped.
"I am going into the potions store," Severus announced haughtily. "Which would appear to be in the other room now."
"I can get those for you," The woman said, suddenly finding her voice.
"I would rather get them myself," Severus snapped, leaving the bedroom and heading for the other door immediately next to the open one through which he had mistakenly entered. It was where the stores would now be, since the rearrangement in his absence.
"Who is in charge here?" Harry asked softly.
"Hermione," The woman answered.
"What is your name?" Harry continued.
"Meg, I am the mediwitch here, formally of St Mungo's."
"I couldn't have defeated the Dark Lord without Severus. He is a very good man and I will have him respected," Harry said.
"Now, I think it would be a very good idea to find Hermione and let her meet with us," Harry suggested.
Meg's face paled a little. "She'll kill me if I don't! Oh my, I didn't think. If Harry Potter came back Hermione would want to know immediately."
"I am sure she would."
"I'll fetch her right away," The young mediwitch announced dashing from the room, still dressed in only her nightgown.
It was only after Meg had gone that Harry remembered about Ron, and how he had just got together with Hermione when Harry had to leave. He was going to face Hermione in a matter of minutes and everything he had seen in the visions had been true so far. Harry didn't quite know what he was going to say to her.
Harry went to wait for Severus out in the ward area. He pulled the rucksack from his back and placed it on the floor. Severus appeared beside him with a handful of phials a few moments later.
"She's gone to get Hermione," Harry explained to his Kin with some apprehension in his voice. "Her name is Meg and I don't think she'll try anything now."
Severus handed Harry a rejuvenation potion and he drank it down.
"You too," Harry insisted. "You look terrible."
Severus gave no complaint, he already had another rejuvenation potion in his hand and he drunk it down.
Severus then held out another potion phial to Harry. "Drink this one as well, it reverses all the long term potions we used for the mission, the cleaning one and the one I gave you after you became my Kin."
Harry took the potion. "Urgh, this means I will have to take a bath tomorrow, it'll be strange waking up feeling dirty again. And our hair will start to grow again, actually I don't mind that one, I might let it get a bit longer."
Severus took one too. "Amongst other things, yes, all your body functions will now be restored."
"Hermione is in charge here," Harry told Severus, remembering to give him the news before she joined them.
"Oh, wonderful, this just gets better, one of your friends assuming the position of headmaster." Severus said with almost a sneer.
"I don't suppose it's still a school," Harry replied ignoring Severus' attitude towards his friends. "Why don't you sit down and let me explain the situation to her when she comes."
Harry jumped up on the bed nearest the fire and lay back against a bank of pillows. Severus removed his rucksack and took a chair on the other side of the fire having pulled it back just out of reach of the glow of the flames.
Severus closed his eyes under the protection of Harry's watchful vigil on the door and allowed himself to stop for the first time in days. Harry was excited at the prospect of meeting his friend again, but he could rest now, Severus thought, he was not waiting for anybody to greet him.
"Are you all right Sev?" Harry asked as he noticed his Kin slumped in the chair with a troubled face and his eyes closed.
"I am just tired." Severus replied. "We are relatively safe, the only thing keeping me awake is the prospect of Hermione's reaction when you tell her what you've been doing with me all year."
"I thought I would just tell her the basics," Harry said. "I want to get some sleep tonight."
Severus' lips twisted in a smile. "Shame, wake me when you're ready and I'll find us somewhere to sleep."
Harry got up, searched through their things till he found what he was looking for, and then threw the dark woollen blanket over Severus to keep him warm. Their big mission was over and Harry was determined that from now on he was going to look after his Kin properly. Harry leant over and kissed Severus on the forehead before returning to the hospital bed to await his friend. It was not long before Meg returned to the hospital wing looking decidedly out of breath. Hermione rushed in behind her and the two collided and slid for a moment on the smooth stone floor.
Hermione was dressed in normal daytime robes and didn't look like she had been disturbed from sleep. She regained her footing and stood staring at Harry, frozen to the spot. Meg returned to her quarters and left the two friends alone to talk.
Harry could only stare too, Hermione didn't look much different, though she now wore longer robes and her hair was tamed in a bun at the nape of her neck.
"Are you hurt?" Hermione asked as soon as she had regained her voice.
Harry quickly sat up, recalling how it looked, since he was laid back on a hospital bed.
"No, I'm just tired," Harry replied. "A little scratch, no more."
"And you've killed him?" Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. "Yes."
Hermione suddenly screamed with joy and uncharacteristically flung herself forward. "Where the hell were you Harry bloody Potter? We thought you'd gone for good. Even Dumbledore didn't know where you were."
Hermione clung to Harry's neck, completely forgetting that she shouldn't do that to him. Harry tried his best to fight the panic back and allow her to, just this once.
"Dumbledore didn't know where I was, but he knew what I was trying to do," Harry began to explain. "I had to go away, buy some time and find a way to defeat them. You understand don't you?"
Hermione at last pulled away to stand in front of Harry. "Yes, though I wish that you could have told us instead of just disappearing like that," Hermione scolded in her old familiar way.
"I wanted to, but the less people who knew, the safer you would all be."
Hermione's eyes suddenly lit up. "You won't know what has been happening here!" She exclaimed.
"Not really, I had a few visions courtesy of the Dark Lord but I am sure they were angled to show him in his best light," Harry replied, understating as usual.
"Things have changed so much around here," Hermione went on.
"Yes, Meg says you're in charge," Harry said skirting round the subject of Ron.
"Only because so many were lost," Hermione said grimly. "And we're not a school any more anyway, more like a home for homeless wizards."
"Got room for one or two more?" Harry asked with a smile.
Hermione shrieked again, "You're staying!"
"I had intended to," Harry confirmed.
"Oh Harry! Look at you! Look at those muscles!" Hermione gushed getting more and more animated, noticing Harry's size despite all the clothes he was wearing.
"So how are things? Give me the brief sketch and then we can talk properly in the morning," Harry suggested.
Harry wasn't really feeling tired, rather he was feeling that the rejuvenation potion was doing its work a bit too well; he was beginning to feel quite energised. Harry suspected that Severus had given him a little too much and he couldn't yet figure out whether it had been on purpose or not. He intended to find out later.
"Well I suppose you saw a lot of the battle stuff in your visions," Hermione began.
"Yes, I did."
"Well, let's see, the headmaster's tower is gone, though you probably saw that on your way in. There was a big battle here just before Christmas but most of the children got away to safety because of a tip off. We lost a few teachers that night. Ron and I, well that's a whole story by itself."
"How did you come to be at Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
"Ah well that's one of the more interesting things," Hermione began, sitting herself down on the end of the bed. "Albus owled me over the summer, said he wanted me to take over Potions as he wanted to send Snape on a mission. They both took turns to train me until September when Snape went off on this so-called mission. You remember how you always said that Dumbledore was a fool to trust him."
"Hermione…" Harry tried to interrupt.
Hermione however, was determined to tell her story. "All those who refused to accept Dumbledore's reassurances about the loyalty of that evil, greasy git, were certainly right not to do so, you were right all along."
"Oh don't start being charitable now, that's what you were always calling him, amongst many other things I might add. He only betrayed us all and returned to the Dark Lord, probably giving away every secret that we had. Perhaps it was just as well that nobody knew where you were or you might well have been dead because of him. He came back here and tried to get me to tell him where you were, it was awful, I was so glad that I didn't know. Of course nobody was surprised, most of us were expecting it. Dumbledore disappeared around the same time; I expect Snape was responsible for that too, he probably murdered him with his own wand, I wouldn't be at all surprised. Was he among the dead after the Final Battle? I really hope so."
"Hermione…" Harry attempted again almost shouting, trying to get her to shut up.
"What? I'm only speaking the truth," Hermione defended.
"I think what Mr Potter is trying to say, Miss Granger, is that I am sitting right here by the fire, listening to every word," Severus said with the menace of Snape at his worst.
Harry sighed at what he had been trying to avoid.
Hermione froze and then looked slowly past the fire and towards the dimness of the room beyond, following the origin of the voice. In the armchair she found the shadowed figure of an unmistakable Snape, staring right back at her out of the gloom.
"Harry?" Hermione said weakly. "Are you going to tell me why HE is here?"
"I told Meg, she didn't tell you this bit?" Harry began.
"No," Hermione answered.
"The evil Snape was a Polyjuice trick, this is the real one. Hermione, when I left you at the train station last summer, I wasn't meeting the Dursleys. I was meeting Severus," Harry explained keeping the name formal; he didn't think Hermione could cope with the full extent of his adventures just yet. "We had to go into hiding together."
"Severus?" Hermione immediately queried, with a frown on her face.
"Yes, Severus," Harry confirmed, berating himself for not remembering that they had always called him Snape in the most disrespectful tone they could manage, he had revealed a familiarity just by using his given name in a neutral manner. "He remains true to the Order."
"True to what's left of it," Hermione said, continuing to have trouble with the presence of Severus, eyeing him with suspicion despite Harry's reassurances. "You poor thing Harry, you have all my sympathies. When I think of everything you have had to endure to defeat the Dark Lord, I am truly glad that I am ME," Hermione said, the words said as if meant for Harry; the look she was giving to Harry's side was definitely for Severus.
"Look, we fought the battle together, I couldn't have done it without Severus," Harry said. "It's late, we'll talk about this in the morning."
"Yes, all right," Hermione said, still looking a bit bemused and suspicious.
"We both wish to stay the night," Harry continued.
"Fine, if you're sure there will be no trouble," Hermione said, obviously not very happy, and not trusting Severus at all.
"I saw what happened here at the castle in a vision," Harry said approaching a difficult subject that he never the less thought that he should mention, hoping that at least it would be successful in drawing the talk away from Severus. "I saw what happened to Ron."
"Ron!" Hermione suddenly shrieked, coming out of her daze and making Harry jump. "If I don't get him down here right away he'll kill me for not telling him."
"Ron is here?" Harry asked hardly daring to believe that his friend had actually survived.
"Yes, he's upstairs with the children. I must get him, I'll be back as soon as I can," Hermione said rushing from the room.
"Well, that went well," Severus commented grumpily from his armchair as soon as Hermione had left.
Hermione had only been gone a minute when Meg came out of her quarters carrying a large envelope. She approached Harry and handed it to him.
"Poppy was asked by Albus to give this to you if you were ever seen here alive. They always thought this would be the first place you would come," Meg explained. "She left it in the rooms with a note on it."
Severus made a noise of grim amusement from his armchair by the fire. He once more lay back with his eyes closed trying to ignore the events unfolding around him, yearning for privacy.
Harry took the envelope from Meg and observed that it seemed to hold two separate envelopes inside it. Harry opened the envelope and tipped out the contents onto the bed. Two envelopes and a separate parchment fell out and Harry unrolled the parchment. He read for only a second before turning the remaining envelopes over. Harry noted that one was marked for his own attention, and the other was meant for Severus. He put all the items back together in the larger envelope, deciding to read them later when he and Severus were alone.
Soon Harry could hear footsteps coming down the corridor outside. Harry was curious in a grim kind of way. It could only be Hermione returning with Ron but the pace was so slow, they were walking more slowly than a person would normally walk. Ron had always walked so briskly; Harry could hardly bear to think what it might mean.
Harry sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the door to the hospital wing. Eventually Hermione and Ron walked through it and entered. Ron looked no different either, he looked towards Harry with a broad smile but he didn't throw himself towards the bed as Hermione had done.
Ron continued to walk towards Harry slowly and eventually sat on the side of the bed facing him. Hermione let go of him but remained close by.
"Hermione filled me in on a few details," Ron said. "It's good to have you back mate."
Harry reached a hand out to one of Ron's and squeezed it lightly before letting go. He was getting the feeling that something wasn't quite right but he couldn't figure out what it was. Ron seemed withdrawn and not very like the Ron Harry remembered. Although Hermione had been close to Ron and had helped him, Harry thought that he could feel a tension lying between them.
"I had a vision of the castle being attacked." Harry began. "I saw you fall Ron, I thought you were dead."
Ron smiled grimly. "In the hall with the children just before Christmas," Ron confirmed. "A hex hit all of us, the killing curse was to follow but I fell before it was cast and it missed me, it missed a few of the children too."
"So you're all right then?" Harry asked, knowing somehow that he wasn't.
"The Death Eaters like to play games with their victims before they kill them, as you know," Ron began.
Harry suddenly remembered how he had played with Lucius that very day. "It's despicable isn't it?" Harry commented, agreeing with Ron, yet knowing exactly how they could.
"I'm not even sure they realise which of their playful little hexes are permanent and which aren't, not necessary since death usually follows," Ron continued. "It would appear that the one I got hit with that night was partially permanent, it has faded a little."
"I knew I had been hit with something, but I could see, hear and move. Suddenly I just couldn't balance, I started to fall and no movement I made seemed to stop it like it normally would. The next curse came and I knew when to stay down."
"I found him later," Hermione added. "Some of them were dead, some weren't. All those who lived had been hit with the first hex."
"Yes, much later. When I'm tired, like now, my balance is completely off," Ron explained. "The hex dampened down a little as the weeks went by, it's not usually as bad as this during the day."
"Oh Ron," Harry responded, not knowing what else to say.
"I have to keep a hold of something I know isn't moving," Ron continued.
"Rules out the staircases though," Harry added.
"Oh, we had to put a stop to that, they're only allowed to move when nobody is using them now," Ron smiled. "Still, could have been worse." He said raising an eyebrow.
Harry had the feeling that Ron would have gestured to Severus at that point had it not put him at risk of falling off the bed.
Harry sighed, he hadn't even tried to tell any of them that he and Severus were friends yet; things weren't going very well at all.
"We'll talk about things tomorrow," Harry said. "I need some sleep, killing Dark Lords is very tiring."
"Let's meet up after lunch then," Hermione suggested. "Lunch will be in the hall like it always was."
"Great, is there anywhere where we can hold a meeting?" Harry asked.
"We can use a classroom," Hermione suggested. "I'll inform the teachers who remain and Ron and I will be there."
"Good," Harry said smiling. "There's a few things we need to discuss, including how we are going to break this news, you two are the first to know."
"We can find a bed for you up in Gryffindor Harry," Ron suggested.
"What about Severus?" Harry asked.
"The hospital wing is empty, as you see," Hermione answered coolly.
"I think there's a few things Severus and I need to discuss about the battle before I turn in," Harry said starting to make his excuses. "A kind of 'debriefing'."
"Don't let him keep you too long," Hermione said taking a hold of Ron again as he attempted to stand. "The password is 'Rosicrucian'."
Harry watched as his two friends left, he had no intention of going up to Gryffindor tower later, there was no way that he was leaving his Kin alone. Sooner or later he was going to have to find a way of explaining the situation to them, Harry knew that he could never sleep in Gryffindor again.