A/N: Welcome to the last chapter of Little Steps! It's been a long and bumpy journey hasn't it? I'd like to thank every person who has encouraged me in writing this. Without you guys this story would never be done. You know who you are.
On a completely sour note, what the heck is up with I mean I can't put the spacer bars in anymore. The pretty lines that divide sections of story? The button isn't functioning at all! I'm ready to cry over here. Now the spacing look tacky because also doensn't allow big spaces in the story which would look better than what I resorted to (H)(S)(H)(S). Bleh!
Well, I hope I haven't totally mucked this up. I hope you enjoy this!
Sunlight poured in through the large picture windows and bounced off the vanity mirror into his face. The pale blue walls held the shadows formed by the gossamer curtains. The sweet scent of lilacs filled the room, cloaking the anesthetic smell that came from the very sterile environment. Three single beds were arranged in a straight row, having replaced the one large king size bed. Harry groaned unintelligibly, bringing a heavy arm up over his face and covered his eyes. The light burned with more intensity then he could ever remember and something was restraining his right hand. He cracked open an eyelid and peered blearily around the room.
"Where am I?" he croaked, rubbing his eyes with his one free hand. He struggled to sit up, but a restraining hand fell on his shoulder, forcing him back down. He stared up into the burdened face of Madame Pomfrey with confusion. This most definitely wasn't the hospital wing, this was…he blinked certain he was imagining things. This was his bedroom in Godric's Hollow. He stared up at the school nurse unsure of what question to start with first.
"Mr. Potter, stay still," she ordered, hovering over him until she was certain he wasn't going anywhere. "You're in your own home as I am certain you have come to realize."
Harry stared up at the white ceiling still confused. Why was he here? Why was Madame Pomfrey here and so at home with the situation? And lastly, who was occupying or had occupied the beds on either side of him? He couldn't get a visual on either person, at least not without sitting up.
"You're awake?" A startled voice said from somewhere to the left of him. Harry looked up to see Draco looking at him with the single most amusing expression he had ever seen on the blonde boy's face. It was a mixture of shock, bewilderment, and not to mention a great deal of relief.
"Of course I'm awake. Why wouldn't I be?"
Draco stared at him oddly, his thin eyebrows furrowing with thought and his slender hand squeezed Harry's wrist tightly. He appeared to want to ask something, but he wasn't. Harry returned Draco's gaze impassively.
"You're…awake," Draco repeated slowly.
Harry nodded, wincing. His head throbbed painfully, but he wasn't sure why. He was still wondering how he got to his house in the first place along with Draco and Madame Pomfrey. He was fairly certain he had never told anyone about his home, not even Dumbledore. There was something strange about the entire situation and Harry got the distinct feeling that he was missing something huge, especially since the bedroom door opened and Pansy Parkinson of all people entered the room.
Harry pinched his arm just to make sure he was as Draco said, really awake, because there was no way he would have allowed Pansy into his home unless the world was about to end and he was feeling extra generous at the time.
"Oh, you're awake," she sneered, tossing her sleek black hair over her shoulder. Her dark eyes lighted on Draco's pensive form and she smiled coyly. "Dracie, now that he's awake you can get something to eat."
"Leave me be woman," he muttered automatically. Harry wondered how often he had said that to the girl since she didn't even flinch at his harsh tone. Instead she came forward and gently pried Draco's fingers off Harry's wrist.
"Be a good boy Dracie," she cooed, pulling him off his chair. "You must be a little hungry. You haven't left Potter's side in days now." She scented the air and pulled a disgusted face. "You also need to shower. Certainly even Potter doesn't want to have to deal with your rank scent."
It was with that remark that Harry took a good look at the blonde. Pansy had been right. He looked horrible. He wasn't even dressed in his normal wardrobe. It looked like he had raided Harry's instead. He must have as well since he knew Draco didn't own a Sex Pistols t-shirt. Harry quirked an amused eyebrow at that. He knew under no normal circumstances would Draco resort to wearing something so hideously muggle.
"Harry?" Draco queried, jerking a hand through his disastrous hair.
"I'm not going anywhere," Harry reassured, reaching for a glass of water that had appeared at his bedside table. He swallowed it down in two gulps and was pleasantly surprised when it refilled again. He was so thirsty; it felt like he hadn't had anything decent to drink in years.
Draco closed the bedroom door on the sight of Harry inhaling water like a dying man. He sunk against the wooden door, hitting his head lightly against it. No one had told him what it would be like when Harry re-awoke. They could have at least warned him. He let out a shaky breath as he pushed away from the door and made his way to the bathroom, ignoring Pansy's worried inquiries.
The white interior of the bathroom was overwhelming. It was too bright. He staggered over to the toilet and sunk to the floor, gripping the rug in his fingers, pulling it off the floor. The bastards could have at least said what spell it was that had taken him out, but no. They had to keep him in the dark and let him find out the hard way.
His stomach roiled and Draco could feel the acid burn the back of his throat, but there was nothing to spew forth. His body convulsed as he dry heaved over the bowl. Tears leaked out of the corner of his red-rimmed eyes.
Two weeks, two long agonizing weeks and they had as much as told him the night before that there was a decent chance that Harry wouldn't wake up. Well, Harry had woken up and was as cheerful as ever. It had been painful to see. It was the only reason he hadn't jerked away when Harry had been struggling to sit up.
Draco collapsed backwards, breathing heavily through his mouth. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to erase the image he had of Harry's curious innocence. It was almost too much. And… oh sweet Merlin… His eyes popped open again as a new fear took him. "Severus," he whispered into the echoing bathroom.
He had been informed that the brat had woken, but he couldn't bring himself to face the boy yet. Severus ran a hand down his long face, breathing out slowly. The grandfather clock facing opposite of him chimed indicating the half-hour. How long had he been sitting here since Poppy had delivered the news? How long had he been staring blankly at this particular page of this book? What was the book's title anyways?
The soft-covered book fell to the ground with a soft fluttering of pages as his hands began to tremble. He couldn't bring himself to bend over and retrieve it. Potter was awake. But there was something to Poppy's message that left him with a deep feeling of foreboding, something in her expression had suggested that something wasn't altogether right.
He slouched in the navy blue armchair, closing his eyes. He would wait, like he always did, till later that night to go visit Potter. It was only right. Potter wouldn't want anything to do with him now anyways. It would be better for all involved if he only went to observe the boy late at night, when no one was awake, especially when Potter himself wasn't awake.
Hermione had enough of waiting. She wanted to know what had happened. Two weeks had passed since Professor McGonagall had gotten the firecall from Madame Pomfrey, two weeks since she had gotten any news at all about anything.
Ron was watching her tiredly as she paced the dining room, her sock covered feet slipping on the polished hardwood floor.
"Sit down," he begged, reaching out for her arm as she walked by his chair. He grabbed it tightly, halting her progress around the long table. It could easily seat 20 people comfortably, and Ron wondered why Harry needed a table that large.
Hermione bowed her head in defeat.
"Why haven't we heard anything?" she asked. "We're his best friend's!"
"I know," Ron said soothingly, pulling her down onto his lap. He kissed the side of her neck, smiling when he heard her sigh.
"Stop it," she mumbled, leaning heavily against him. Ron grinned, wrapping his arms around her waist. He nipped at her jaw and felt the resulting tremor that raced through her. Oh, this could be fun, he thought slyly.
Harry was almost certain he was missing something. By the end of the day he had had a grand total of three visitors and each one of them had treated him like a porcelain doll that could shatter at any second. Why didn't they understand he felt fine? He was fine, Madame Pomfrey had grudgingly told him as much. Physically he was perfectly healthy. But that didn't explain why he was being taken care of by Madame Pomfrey in the first place.
He groaned. He was bored, very, very bored and lonely. It seemed odd that he was alone at all. Normally Ron or Hermione or even Draco or Ginny occasionally would be there talking his ear off and keeping him company until they were kicked out. But Madame Pomfrey hadn't kicked them out because aside from Draco they hadn't shown up at all. Draco hadn't even come back since early that afternoon. He was worried about the blonde. He had seemed so lost when Harry had first woken up. It was driving Harry insane not knowing why everyone seemed nervous around him.
He pulled the puffy comforter up to his chin and rolled onto his side. It was only eight o'clock but he was exhausted. His eyes began to droop as he watched the second hand circle the clock.
Draco couldn't bring himself to go visit Harry again and he felt horrible about it. He had meant to bring up some food and eat dinner with him but he couldn't do it. He couldn't go up there and pretend that everything was ok. Because everything wasn't ok.
He pressed his cheek against the cold glass, bringing his knees up to his chest. It was raining outside, thunder rumbled in the distance sending a spike of fear down Draco's spine. There was no easy way to tell how long he had been sitting on the windowsill, just staring down at the cars passing by on the ordinary muggle street below. All of them leading normal average lives, most were rushing home from a long day of work, some were going out clubbing, some were going on nice dates, but none of them knew just who lived in this house. Draco had been allowed outside just once, well, he snuck out once. He couldn't stand being locked inside any longer. He had mingled with the people walking down the busy street, not drawing much attention to himself. It had been a relief to just blend into the background and not have to think, just observe.
These muggles had no idea that over one hundred wizards now co-existed semi-peacefully in this house. They wouldn't believe it even if they were told. From the outside, Harry's house was a lowly little run down shack and inhabitable. It looked ready to collapse.
Draco breathed out slowly, his breath fogging over the window.
Draco looked reluctantly at the door and saw Blaise standing there.
"What is it Zabini?" he asked, returning his attention back out the window. There was a good chance that Pansy had sent him to find Draco and tell him to eat again. The girl had been acting as if she were his mother and it was becoming more than a little irritating.
"No one has seen Professor Snape all day."
"Yes, and?" Draco snapped. Why did they always assume he knew what was going on? He wasn't an oracle. He wasn't all knowing. And he really didn't care that no one had seen Snape all day. It meant the man had found a place to hide and Draco was glad that at least someone had found a quiet place. Because he certainly hadn't been getting any peace in the past two weeks. Everyone had seemed determined to keep him busy and all he had wanted to do was be left alone to think. No one knew what had happened before the battle. Everyone just assumed he had been brooding over Harry's current state of affair and certainly he had been worried, but that wasn't the only thing he had been thinking on. He had been thinking of his father.
He had never really gotten a chance to discuss it with Harry. Because Harry was the only other person to have read the journal and it raised so many questions.
"Well, we were wondering if you knew where he was," Blaise finished.
"Do I look like I know where he is?" Draco snarled. The least they could have done was ask him a different question. It was becoming predictable to the point he was debating on writing in large red script on his forehead the word's GO AWAY.
Blaise scowled and backed out of the room with a mock bow. Draco rolled his eyes. He waited until the door was fully shut before slumping backwards. Because whether he cared to admit it or not, Blaise's obnoxious question made him worry. He wouldn't go searching for Snape unless absolutely necessary. He knew how much the man favored his privacy, but to have him locked away somewhere in the house and not having reappeared to at least yell at the masses seemed odd, even for him.
"Damn brat," he slurred, taking another sip of Odgen's best. The bottle was almost empty and another one rested at his feet completely drained. Severus groaned as the liquid dripped down his throat. It was like heaven. Perhaps Potter had a sense of taste after all.
"Ron," Hermione whispered, her breath hitching as Ron took this opportunity to slip a hand under her shirt. "Ron wait," she breathed, her head falling to the side as his lips attached to her pulse point. She moaned quietly, staring at ceiling.
Ron pulled off her looking at her with desire-laden blue eyes and she forgot what she had wanted to say. She snaked a hand around his neck and dragged him back down into a fierce kiss.
Draco entered Harry's room quietly. He slipped in unnoticed by the two current occupants of the room and hovered in the doorway. Obscured in the shadows the blonde stared in wonder at the sight before him. Silhouetted in the moonlight, the shape of a man bent over the furthest bed caught Draco's hold.
"Harry, Harry snap out of it boy." The gruff but surprisingly worried command drifted across the room and Draco froze. His heartbeat picked up as he realized that Harry was in the throws of a vision. He could see the other boy's hands clenching the bed sheets, twisting and turning even as Snape held his head still. The constant stream of quiet commands to wake up, to break free continued even as Draco backed slowly out of the room having gone in complete spellbound silence.
Once outside the bedroom, he leaned against the wall heavily and sunk to the floor. One side of him wanted to run into the room and shove Snape aside and cradle the Gryffindor to him but the other was secretly cheering the two of them on. There was a chance that this vision would spark Harry's memories, he just wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
With glazed over blue eyes, Draco shakily got to his feet and headed back to his room. He needed something to distract him; and at the moment there was only one thing more thought provoking then the two people in Harry's bedroom, and that was his father's journal that was resting in the oak side table drawer by his bed.
Fire leapt across the barren grounds of Hogwarts encircling the castle and its occupants. Nothing stirred; the air was still and silent. Harry's heart plummeted as he glanced up at the North Tower and saw smoke powering from the high windows. No, he though desperately, scrambling to get to his feet but finding he couldn't move. NO! But no sound escaped his mouth. He gasped for air as tears blurred his vision. No…His fingers curled in the dead grass pulling it out of the ground as he violently tore it from the earth.
"It'ssssss mine," a low hiss echoed through the night air. A short man scurried towards the voice and kneeled before a black robe. "Wormtail, you fool."
Wormtail flinched. "M-m-master, I didn't think he would-"
Voldemort sneered down at the rat and grabbed the man by the scruff of his shirt and hefted him off the ground. "I gave you specific orders."
"Y-yes, Master," The rat faced man squeaked, his face going pale. Harry scrambled backwards quickly, not knowing if he could be seen. He didn't want to be here anymore. His stomach protested as he tried valiantly to stand once again. The contents of his stomach spewed forth from his mouth, dribbled down his chin, and landed on the dry ground below.
"Potter, just where do you think you're going," Voldemort taunted, turning on Harry with a malicious smirk. Harry froze paralyzed from shock and despair. How could this get worse? His gaze shifted back up to the tower with horror. Flames shot through the window, the glass from the stained glass panes falling in slow motion reflecting in the orange glow. He didn't have the chance to say anything in return before the Dark Lord rounded on his "faithful" follower in one fluid motion. "CRUCIO!"
"No, no," Potter whimpered, twisting in his hold, tears flowed down the pale cheeks, and dripped onto Snape's hands. Snape growled low in the back of his throat. He used to think he was a reasonably patient man but now he was half a second away from spelling the boys flailing limbs to the bed.
"NO!" And then the screaming started. Snape scowled as the thrashing increased. This was not supposed to continue happening. The potion was supposed to stop this. It was supposed to sever all ties between Potter and the Dark Lord. But obviously it only worked to a certain degree. He cupped Potter's head in his hands preventing the boy from snapping his neck and clawing at his scar.
"Harry," he barked loudly, too annoyed with the whole ordeal to care if he woke up any of the house's occupants. He grit his teeth as Potter continued to scream himself hoarse, tearing at Snape's arms because he couldn't reach his own forehead. Snape felt his bare skin begin to tear under constant attack. If Potter didn't wake up soon he would personally kill the boy in his sleep.
Then as soon as the violent writhing had started it stopped completely. Snape eyed Potter with trepidation as if he would suddenly combust without warning. He heard the boy inhale sharply and soon realized that the boy was indeed in the process of waking up. With a strange reluctance, he removed his hands from the boys face and stood up.
It was another minute though before Potter became anywhere near coherent. The boy's mouth formed unutterable words and he finally let out a tired mewl. For a brief moment, Snape thought the boy might have just fallen back asleep. He took a step forward with caution. He was about to reach out for the skinny, knobby kneed teenager when he decided to finally say something.
"Why?" Potter whined childishly, curling into a tight ball, bringing the covers with him. Snape could see he was trembling and pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation. If he hadn't come down here out of an odd sense of obligation then perhaps he could have bowed out gracefully, but Potter wouldn't let him move more than a few inches away from the bed before a hand shot out and grabbed his wrist loosely. Snape could easily break the feeble hold if he wanted to. A caustic remark resided on the tip of his tongue but he held it back. There was something pathetic in the tremulous question the boy had asked and he found himself answering despite his better judgment.
"'Why', what, Potter?"
Snape rolled his eyes and emitted a longsuffering sigh as the boy weakly tugged on his wrist. He perched on the edge of the twin size bed allowing Potter to cuddle into his side. If someone dared entered the room now without knocking they best have a death wish. His hand strayed to the mop of hair on the boy's head and gently he brushed it off Potter's pallid face.
"He's dead," came the miserable response. "We were supposed to defend the castle and now he's dead." Tears poured down the Gryffindor's face thick and fast as the boy sobbed brokenly into Snape's borrowed shirt. "We lost everything."
Snape's hand stilled its motions through Potter's hair. "Are you sure?"
"The tower was on fire," he croaked, his fingers curling into the cotton shirt. "He couldn't have survived it. Voldemort wouldn't have let him."
Snape tensed and then sagged in defeat. Potter was crying still but it was softer and muffled against his side. He wanted to pry further into the boy's vision and was almost tempted to invade his mind using Legilimency to get the full account. Two things, however, prevented him from doing so. One was the fact that Potter would most likely be able to tell even in his weakened state and the other was a tiny voice in the back of his mind telling him not to destroy Harry's trust now. Harry's trust? Snape didn't want to think on that now. He brushed it aside as a remnant of his time in Potter's care.
"Stop your sniffling, Potter, and look at me," he commanded in soft tones. He watched as Harry's eyelids slowly reopened, revealing the bloodshot jade beneath. Snape's slender, potion stained fingers curled around the boy's chin preventing him from looking away. "You're blaming yourself."
Potter averted his eyes and opened his mouth to present incompetent excuse for an argument. "But sir, I- "
"Don't," Snape said shortly, his piercing gaze drilling the demand home. Harry looked ready to protest again but Snape swiftly cut him off. "Potter, it is not your fault. You are only one person; you cannot blame yourself for this. The world is not a just or fair place. Terrible events will occur that you will have no control over. People will get hurt and die."
The raven-haired boy lapsed into silence, his face screwed up into what Snape supposed was thought. It was time the boy revaluated his views. For one so calm during battle, so mature in most aspects it was times like this that he was forcefully reminded that Potter was in fact only a seventeen-year-old boy. He still held onto a very childish set of ideals. It astounded him that despite everything the boy had been through he still held onto his selflessness and sense of righteousness. Harry was relaxing against him and his fingers vanished from the boys chin.
"I know," he finally answered with a sleepy yawn. "I jush wisht differently."
Snape wrapped an arm around the boy's slim shoulders surprised when he didn't flinch away but instead snuggled closer. Apparently he wasn't the only one still caught in the aftermath of being in one another's company for a long period of time.
"G'night Sev," Harry murmured, already half-asleep again. Snape didn't get a chance to tell Harry to not call him that because the brat just fell into a deep sleep.
With a soft sigh and a good-natured grumble, Snape carefully disentangled Harry to the best of his ability and laid the boy's head on the pillow. Harry's hand still had a stranglehold on Snape's shirt and the Potion's Master gave up trying to pry the fingers off in favor of just laying beside the boy. It wouldn't hurt either of them if he stayed just a little longer.
Draco's mouth hung open in shock as he read the line for the seventh time. He slammed the book shut with a horrified expression, the leather-bound journal slipped through his numb fingers before turning to look out the window.
"Father," he whispered roughly into the night air.
A/N: The end! I'm grinning like a maniac right now. This is the first multi-chaptered fic I have ever finished, ever! I hope everyone enjoyed reading this story as much as I did writing it.
(and yes there will be a sequel I'm not that cruel. Really, I swear!)