Title: Taking life in your own hands

Author: Star Polaris

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters.

Challenge 21: Harry gets an O on his potions OWLs. Snape doesn't want him into his class nevertheless. Harry shrugs and decides not to fight. Snape gets suspicious.

Betas: Leena Asakura, Vinnie and Frizzy.

Warnings: There's mention of a relationship between Severus and Minerva, but it's not detailed. Also the Dumbledore lovers are not going to like this much.

A/N: Well, it was fun to write this, I wasn't sure what would come out of it when I got the challenge. There's going to be a sequel since I've already been told that at least Leena and Vinnie will be most unhappy if I leave it like this ^.^ I hope you like it.

"What the hell are you doing down here, Potter?"

Harry calmly met the other man's furious gaze. He had expected something like this to happen from the moment he got his OWL results and had decided to go down to the dungeons before the rest of his classmates. If he was going to get into an argument with the man, he wasn't going to do so in front of a class full of Slytherins.

"I'm here to take Advanced Potions, Professor."

Snape's glare became even more incensed. "Only students with an O in their potions OWL are allowed to take this class, Potter!" Harry was about to extend the letter that contained his results when the Potions Master continued with his rant. "And even in the unlikely case of you getting those results, I would never accept a Potter into my class when having a choice about it."

Harry lowered his hand, which was still holding the letter, and regarded the other man for a minute. His refusal didn't annoy him as much as it would have done a year ago. In fact, he had been hoping that the man would refuse to teach him. Harry blinked and noticed he was still standing in the potions' classroom and that Snape was looking at him with a challenging glint in his eyes, no doubt waiting for his complains about the unfairness of his actions. For an instant, Harry thought about answering him back and telling him exactly what he thought about him, but noticing it was nearly time to start the class, Harry merely shrugged, turned around, and left the classroom. While making his way out, the boy was already planning what he was going to do now that he had a free period.

For his part, Snape was left looking blankly at the closed door, torn between suspicion and disappointment at the boy's actions. He had expected Potter to throw a fit at his words, but the teen had remained calm, and if he didn't know better, he would say that Potter had even looked pleased and relieved at his refusal to take him into the class. Shaking his head, he returned to his papers. The boy couldn't be happy about what he had just done, after all, if he didn't take his class, he wouldn't be able to get into auror training, and everyone knew that that was what the boy wished more than anything.

Just before the other students started to fill his classroom, Snape decided that the Potter boy had probably gone to complain to McGonagall, or maybe even Dumbledore. In his head, the Potions Master started to make a list of things he could say to both Gryffindor teachers to keep his most hated student out of his classroom.


After leaving Snape's classroom, Harry hurried towards the Gryffindor tower to drop off his things. He made sure to avoid the other students that were hurrying towards their own classrooms since he wasn't in the mood to chat with them. Once he was safely back in his room, he put away everything and opened his trunk. There, carefully tucked away among his robes was the box that contained his passion, maybe even his future if he lived long enough to realise his dreams. With careful hands, he took out the box and opened it. Lying in there were his two sketchbooks, several paintings, and drawings and all of his painting materials.

He had learned how to paint and draw early on in his life. There was not much to do when he was locked up in his cupboard, and he had taken to entertaining himself with that. He could easily hide his drawings from his relatives, and since he used his school's materials, he had always had plenty of paper and pencils available to him. He had never shown any of his paintings to anyone before going to Hogwarts since he knew that had the Dursleys found out, they would have tried their best to ensure that he could never draw again. Once he started to go to the Wizarding School, his classes and newfound friends had taken up all his time, not to mention trying to stay alive, and he had forgotten about his hobby. Even during the summer, his time was completely occupied by the Dursleys' chores and his own homework.

No, it hadn't been until that past summer that he had taken up on drawing and painting again. He looked down at the drawing on top, and he remembered what the driving force had been behind his sudden urge to draw again.


That year, it seemed the summer was going to be worse than ever. After the OWLs, they hadn't been given any homework since they didn't know which courses they would take come September. Harry also suspected that the teachers wanted to give them a break, but that thought wasn't very cheering to the raven-haired boy. The Dursleys were terrified of the wizards that had met them at Kings Cross and hadn't given him any chores to do, and that meant that Harry had a lot of free time to think, which, as he soon found out, was not the best way to deal with Sirius' death.

For the first week, the Gryffindor was a mess, not knowing what to do; he just stayed in his room, looking out of the window or reading one of his older schoolbooks without interest. His thoughts were constantly straying to his dead godfather. One night, while lying on his bed, he had tried to picture Sirius' face in his mind as he always did before going to sleep. He had nearly panicked when he couldn't manage to remember the way that his godfather used to smile when he saw him. Throwing the sheet covering him aside, he had hurried to get his album and looked through the pictures there; none of them were right. The man standing next to his father in the picture was not his godfather, he was not the man he had come to know and love like a father. In his panic, he threw the album to a corner of the room, not caring how much noise he made, and without a second thought, he took some ink and parchment out of his trunk and started to draw the beloved face.

It was like coming home. While drawing, he was not only able to forget all his troubles but also to express the deep pain he was feeling. After a few weeks, Harry had made nearly fifty drawings of Sirius and he finally felt at peace. He knew that in order to heal the deep pain his godfather's death had left, he had to let go of him first. He would never forget Sirius, but it was time to put his memories of him to rest. After choosing the three best drawings he had, he gathered all the others and went to the living room where he burned them, watching as they slowly became ash.

To Harry, that marked a new beginning; no one would ever manipulate him again. Not Voldemort with his mind, not Dumbledore with his veiled words, no one. Filled with new determination, he sent Hedwig out with a letter to Flourish and Blotts to order a few books on Occlumency. He needed to stop Voldemort first and Occlumency was the only way he could stop the Dark Lord from manipulating him. Then, taking out some money Hermione had sent him a few days ago, he left the house and went to the nearest Art shop. There he bought everything he thought he would need to seriously continue with his paintings and drawings. He walked out of the shop a few hours later carrying two sketchbooks, pencils, brushes, paints, and a few other tools he thought would be useful.

From then on, it was not strange to see Harry sitting in the front lawn, making sketches of people or painting landscapes he had seen at the Burrow. From time to time, he felt people looking at him, but he didn't care. He was happy that way.

One day, when his birthday was approaching, an elderly woman not only stopped to look at the painting he was finishing, but she also came closer. When she didn't leave, Harry sighed and looked up from his work. The woman, standing in front of him patiently waiting for him to acknowledge her presence, was tall and thin. She was older than his aunt, but he wouldn't consider her old yet. She was dressed in an elegant dress, and although she didn't wear jewellery, he could tell she had some money. Her hair was dark grey, and she held it back in a braid. Black eyes looked at him intently and he felt as though she could read all his secrets. Blinking, he shook his head slightly and returned his gaze to the painting.

"May I help you, ma'am?"

When she didn't answer, he looked back up and saw that she had a small smile on her face. The smile softened her face, making it very gentle. "I live a few streets away and have seen you sitting here often. I was curious as to what you were painting." She looked at the sheet he'd been working on. "It's very good, young man, you must attend an excellent Art school."

Harry looked at her mildly shocked. She thought he was good? "I don't go to any Art school, ma'am, this is just my hobby, my way to relax and forget about my troubles."

The woman looked him over intently. "That is even more impressive." She drew out a card and handed it over to the surprised teen. "I'm Madam Farey, Headmistress of London's Academy of Art; you have a lot of talent, and it would be easy for you to ace the entrance exams if you're interested in learning." Then, almost hesitantly, she added, "I would be very pleased if you came, it's not every day I find someone with your kind of talent."

Harry looked down at the card, a frown marring his face. How he wished to accept her offer, but even if he had decided to make his own decisions, he just couldn't drop out of Hogwarts. It would cause a riot and they would have him back to the school before he was able to say anything.

Looking up sadly, he shook his head slightly. "I would love to accept, ma'am, I really would, but I go to a boarding school and I can't simply drop out of it."

Madam Farey nodded in understanding. "How much longer will it take until you're finished?"

Harry looked at his painting with a faraway look. "Two more years."

The woman smiled, trying to hide her surprised at those words, she had thought he was much younger than that. "And have you already thought about what you would like to do after that?"

Harry briefly thought about Auror training, but he quickly dismissed that thought. He had realized during his long hours of thought that being an auror not only would mean that he had to work for the Ministry but also that he would have to go against some of his beliefs. Besides, he had already seen more than enough death and suffering in his short life, why had he even thought that was what he wanted to do in the first place? Somewhere in his mind, he knew that it was because everyone expected him to do so, but he no longer cared about that, so he had no trouble shaking his head at the woman's question. "No, ma'am, I haven't thought about it, but I would love to keep painting. It just feels so right."

The woman's face brightened at his words. Yes, that was just what she had been looking for in the teen. "Wonderful! Then what about you take some classes with me during the summer, and after you graduate, you can join my academy."

Harry was a bit overwhelmed but nodded in acceptance. This was what he wanted, and even if he hadn't expected to be able to fulfil his dreams so easily, he was not going to complain. Now, the only thing he still had to do was get rid of Voldemort and survive it.

End Flashback.


Snape was sitting in his room, a teacup next to him and a roaring fire blazing in the fireplace, warming his cold rooms after a hard day of teaching. It had been three days since he had sent the Potter boy away, and no one had talked to him about it yet. If he didn't know better, he would think that the brat hadn't complained about the unfair treatment, but that didn't make any sense. He knew that Potter needed to take Potions so he could enrol in Auror's training, so he couldn't just have given up. Snape frowned into his cup. Something was not quite right. He had seen the boy in the Great Hall and he hadn't seemed to be upset by his refusal. There hadn't been any glares sent his way nor angry mutters coming from the other Gryffindors. In fact, it seemed like the students didn't know that Potter had tried to get into his class. Shaking his head, the dark-haired man stood up and left the room. Why on earth was he so worried about this? He should be happy that no one was nagging at him about the boy. Resolutely closing the door after him, he decided to take a long walk to clear his mind.

Snape was on his way back to his rooms when he saw Potter walking with Granger. They were obviously making their way to the Gryffindor tower while quietly arguing. Curious about what they were saying, the Potions Master sunk back into the shadows and quietly muttered a spell that would allow him to hear what they were saying.

"I don't understand why you won't talk to McGonagall! Snape has no right to keep you out of his class after you got an O in your Potions OWLs. He is just behaving like a little child with a grudge!"

Her teacher flushed at those words. A small voice in his head told him that the girl was right but he ignored it. No student was going to talk like that about him. He was about to leave his hiding place and remove points from Gryffindor, when Potter spoke, stopping him.

"Hermione, while I appreciate the fact that you're worried about me, this is none of your business. Snape has his reasons, and while I might not agree with him, I won't get into a fight over it."

The Professor's eyebrow rose at that statement. Forgetting about the points, he returned to his place in the shadows. This conversation was turning out to be more interesting than he first had expected.

Hermione obviously didn't agree with her friend. She stopped walking and glared at him. "That's besides the point! He's a teacher, he shouldn't let his emotions get in the way with his job."

Harry sighed. "Do you really think it's so easy to forget about your emotions?" Without allowing her to answer, he continued. "Imagine for a minute that you become a teacher in this school. In about twenty years, you will probably have a Malfoy in your class. Tell me, if there was a fight between him and a few Gryffindors, who would you think started it?"

Hermione opened her mouth to answer, but then though better of it and just glared at the boy. He had made a very valid point, but she wasn't going to give up. "Ok, I admit I would blame Malfoy's supposed kid, but it's not the same. We're not talking about a fight between students and Snape taking Slytherin's side, we're talking about a teacher refusing to teach you his subject for no good reason."

Snape could tell by the tone of voice that Potter was starting to get annoyed. "So what? Hermione, do you have any idea how the man would treat me if he were forced to take me into his class? Can you even begin to imagine it? My life is already difficult enough with Voldemort and his constant attempts to get into my mind. I need to stay as calm as possible to block him out, and having four hours of class with Snape each week is not going to help. I don't want a repeat of what happened at the Department of Mysteries."

The girl's annoyance shifted to concern. "I thought you said you had mastered Occlumency?"

Snape frowned. The boy's words worried him. Was Voldemort really trying to get into his mind? And if he was, for how long would Potter be able to keep him out?

Harry shook his head. "I didn't say I had mastered it, I said that I knew enough to keep Voldemort out of my mind, and let me assure you, it's a constant struggle to do so."

The Granger girl looked at the boy standing at her side anxiously. "Does Dumbledore know? Why haven't you taken up your Occlumency lessons with Snape?"

Harry glared at her. "Yes, the headmaster knows. And the reason why I won't take lessons with Snape is none of your business." When the girl started to argue back, Harry stopped her. "No, Hermione, drop it."

The Gryffindor girl growled softly, amusing Snape with her anger. "You're just as bad as Professor Snape! Why can't you get over your hate for the man? You're jeopardizing your safety and your future, or have you forgotten that you need to take Potions to get into auror training?"

Harry growled right back at her, and from the look in his eyes, Snape could tell he was really starting to get angry. "First of all, I don't hate Professor Snape. I even trust him to some extent, but that does not mean I am comfortable with the idea of him getting into my mind, especially knowing how much he hates me. Occlumency lessons with him would be completely useless, just like they were last year. As for the auror training, I have no intention to get into that. In fact, the man is doing me a favour by refusing to give me those lessons. Because without them, no one is going to annoy me when I tell them that I'm not planning on being an auror."

Snape was feeling as surprised as the Granger girl looked. The notion that Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, might not want to get into auror training like everyone knew he wanted was disconcerting. Suddenly, the girl groaned and leaned her back against the wall.

"Please, Harry, don't be stupid. No matter what Ron says, Quidditch is not something you want to base your life on."

Snape shuddered at the rage he saw in the boy's eyes. For a moment, he swore he saw a red glint entering the green pools, confirming that the boy was barely keeping Voldemort out of his mind. A second later, Potter was in control again, and he was looking ahead of him. "I would have hoped that you of all people would be able to look pass the standards people seem to hold me by. I guess I was wrong." He calmly turned to Hermione and looked down at her intently. "My future is my own, Hermione. And the fact that the whole Wizarding world thinks that the only things that I'm good at are Defence and Quidditch is not going to force me to make my decisions. I'm going to do what I want, not what the rest of the wizarding world wants."

Hermione looked back at him intently and answered in a soft voice. "Harry, you're barely taking any classes this year. Even Ron and Neville have more lessons than you do. Are you sure you know what you're doing? Have you talked about it with Professor McGonagall?"

Harry shook his head and started to walk again. "Don't worry, Hermione, everything is taken care of for when I graduate."

The girl reluctantly started to follow him. "You're not going to tell me what you've planned, are you?"

Snape watched as the pair walked past him. He didn't like the conversation he had just overheard; could it be that Voldemort had already overtaken Potter's mind and was just awaiting his time to strike? But no, the boy had been himself; he had seen that in the way he held himself and in the way he spoke with Granger. Maybe he should tell Dumbledore about his concerns? But then a small voice reminded him that the old man would force him to take Potter into his class. No, he would just keep an eye on the boy and talk to the Headmaster if he thought something was amiss.

Weeks flew by, but no matter how hard he tried, Snape was no closer to finding out what was going on with the Potter boy. Not having him in his class meant that he had less time to watch him since he only saw him at meals in the Great Hall.

He had hoped to catch him after curfew, knowing the boy's fondness of breaking the rules, but it seemed that Potter was now perfectly happy to lead a calm, easy life. Digging around a bit, Severus found out that Harry's only classes that year were Transfiguration, Charms, Defence and Care of Magical Creatures, which left the boy with more free time than most of the other students. That fact worried Snape even more, especially because no one seemed to know what the boy did during those hours in which his classmates were in class. The Potions Master was seriously considering bringing the matter up with the Headmaster, even if it was only to reassure himself that everything was alright, when he got the chance to follow the elusive brat.

He had had to bring a few students to the hospital wing after one of the cauldrons had exploded in his class. He was on his way back when he caught sight of the dark-haired Gryffindor walking down the hall with a box in his hands. Seeing his opportunity, he threw an invisibility charm over himself and silently started to follow the teen. He led him quickly and surely to one of the most unused parts of the castle. Stopping in front of a door, he noticed the teen waving his wand and felt a few charms fade away. Potter entered the room without hesitating and Snape hurried to follow him. Luckily, as careful as the teen seemed to be, he didn't close the door after him. The Professor thought it to be strange but dismissed it as Gryffindor stupidity and looked through the opening to see what was in the room.

Looking inside, Snape barely managed to hold in a gasp of surprise. It was obvious that the boy had been spending a lot of time in there. The room was full of paintings, both finished and unfinished. Snape watched as Potter went to a large table and placed the box on it. He had a good view of the contents of the box when the teen opened it and was not surprised to see it full with paints, brushes, pencils and several other materials all needed to paint. The boy took a small book out of the box and sat down behind the desk, starting to scribble something with one of the many pencils.

Not able to contain his curiosity, Snape pushed the door further open and silently stepped inside. He stopped for a moment, but the Gryffindor didn't seem to notice his presence. He made his way towards some of the finished paintings and looked at them closely. He was surprised to notice that they were good. It seemed the brat actually had some talent after all. Potter had managed to flawlessly draw several people from Hogwarts; he even managed to capture their essence, from Weasley's carefree laugh to Draco's superior sneer. The man was surprised when he saw himself reflected in a drawing of the teacher's table.

"Do you like them?"

Snape froze for a moment and then turned around sharply. Potter was looking right at the spot he was standing on. He was sure the invisibility charm was still hiding him from view, but it seemed the brat was able to sense him. With that thought in mind, he removed the spell, considering it useless, and approached the table.

"You've known I was there all the time."

The teen nodded lightly. "Indeed."

Raising an eyebrow, the teacher sat down in one of the chairs that were facing the table. "So, why did you lead me to this room, when you've done your best to keep people from finding out about it?"

Harry stayed calm despite the mocking tone the man used. Snape had to admit that the fact that the boy didn't get angry at his tone of voice made this conversation much more interesting. It helped him look past the teen's father and focus his attention on the young man that Potter had become. The Potions Master was startled out of his thoughts when the teen spoke.

"I led you here to reassure you that I'm not trying to become a Death Eater or the next Dark Lord or whatever it is that you were thinking that caused you to start watching me so closely."

While his face remained impassive, deep down, Snape was impressed. He didn't think anyone had noticed he was watching the boy. Potter was proving that he was not as Gryffindor as he led people to believe. In fact, right now, he would have fit in his little fold of Slytherins, and if he was right, then the teen had some other reason for showing him this room. Settling back into his chair, Severus allowed a small smirk to cover his features.

"Very Slytherin of you, Mr. Potter. But I would like to know what other reason you had to bring me here. After all, you could care less of what I thought about you."

Harry laughed softly, by no means offended by the man's suspicions. "True, Professor. And while I would prefer it if you dropped your suspicions towards me, that's not the main reason why I wanted to speak to you." He stood up and went to stand in front of the window. "I am aware that you were very close to go to Dumbledore to talk about me. He knows that I'm not taking many classes, but since no one is complaining about it, he can do anything about it. I would prefer it to remain so, since it gives me time to work on my paintings." He paused for a moment, and then in a hard voice, he added. "I don't want Dumbledore meddling into this."

Snape looked at the boy, surprise clearly written in his eyes. "I doubt Dumbledore would have a problem with your activities, Potter. They're not dangerous, and you're not the first student to do it."

Harry chuckled bitterly and turned around to face the man. "You should know by now that I'm not just any student, you've reminded me that a lot of times during the last few years. This activity is dangerous, it is dangerous to Dumbledore's careful laid out plans. The-Boy-Who-Lived is not supposed to have any interests besides Defence so he will be able to stop Voldemort. He allowed me to play Quidditch because it was a way for me to relax and keep me happy, but haven't you noticed that he hasn't lifted the ban Umbridge placed on me while he easily removed all the other regulations? No, Professor, I am very well aware of my role in this war and about Dumbledore's true nature under all the faked kindness. The moment he suspects that his pet weapon is having some other interest, he will make sure that he is brought back into the "right path". I have been able to fool him for now by studying Defence harder than ever before; I believe he thinks I use this time to prepare myself for the fight. And I do so, but not all the time. I'm humouring him for now because I know that we're both needed to win this war, but the instant Voldemort dies, I'll take my life in my own hands and no one is going to stop me."

Severus sat there in shock while Harry returned his gaze to the window. How could he have misjudged the young man so much? He was nothing like he had expected him to be. Had Potter always been like that? A Slytherin hidden under a Gryffindor? Or had his Godfather's death changed him that much? Snape suspected that, to some degree, it was both.

While pondering those thoughts, he watched as the teen went to one of his half finished paintings and started to work on it carefully. Snape watched for a while, the sure motions of those steady hands dancing over the painting, calming him.

Remembering that he had a class to teach before his students completely ruined his dungeon, he stood up. The teen made no move but he knew that he was watching him closely. The Professor stopped at the door, and before leaving the room he spoke softly. "I won't tell Dumbledore about this, you have my word."

Not giving Harry the chance to answer, his professor closed the door after him.


He didn't think he had ever been this exhausted. He felt his limbs trembling under the effort of staying standing up. Harry would have gladly collapsed on the ground, but the teen knew that he had to try and make his way back to Hogwarts. Slowly, placing one foot in front of the other, he made his way out of the room, hoping against hope that he wouldn't meet any Death Eaters on his escape from the gloomy castle. He didn't know what he was going to do once he was outside, but he knew he would feel safer out there than in. After nearly half an hour, he finally found a large door that he guessed led outside. He was about to lean against them to open the heavy portals when they were blasted open, nearly hitting him in the process. The dark figure that had been about to enter the castle froze when he caught sight of him. For an instant, Harry considered raising his wand to try and defend himself but the deep weariness that wanted to overcome his body and mind stopped him. If the Death Eater wanted to kill him he wasn't going to fight. He had fulfilled his duty, now it was time to rest.


Harry watched blankly as the man removed his mask, showing his Potions Master's face behind it.

"Potter? Are you alright?"

The only thing running through Harry's numb mind was the thought that he was safe. Snape may hate him, but he had been at his side when it really mattered, protecting him, saving him. Closing his eyes, his knees finally buckled under his weight, and he toppled forward. The last thing he heard was a worried cry of "Harry!" before strong hands stopped his descent and pressed him against a strong chest.

Snape looked in concern at the unconscious teen lying in his arms. When Potter had disappeared from Hogwarts, everyone had gone into hysterics. They had searched everywhere but to no avail, the boy was not found. Finally, they had concluded that the teen had been kidnapped and had sent word to the Ministry.

The aurors that had been sent to help them had found a hole in the wards. The aurors thought it was too small to notice but Snape knew better. Dumbledore had always been very paranoid about protecting his students. He should have noticed the problem right away and made sure no one went through the breach. The fact that the esteemed Headmaster had once again set the teen in the path of danger made his blood boil. Hadn't Potter gone through enough? One look around the room told him that he was not the only one to think that way. McGonagall, at least, shared his opinion.

When a day later his mark started to burn, he immediately rushed out of the castle and Apparated away. The pain was getting dimmer as he ran, and when he looked down at the horrible mark, he nearly fell over in shock. It was slowly disappearing before his eyes, which only could mean... Shaking his head, he continued running to the dark castle, wand in hand, ready to curse any Death Eater that dared to cross his path. When he finally found Potter, he was shocked at his appearance. He was dirty and had some bruises. He looked like he was barely able to keep himself up, and when the teen saw him, he didn't even move to defend himself even if Snape was wearing his usual Death Eaters clothes. Then, just before the boy collapsed into his arms, he was able to see the deep peace into his dull green eyes. That was when he knew that his suspicious had been right. The Dark Lord had finally been defeated. Gathering the teen gently to his chest, Snape walked to Voldemort's throne room; after making sure that the snake like man was completely dead, he incinerated the body, starting a fire in the building. After hurrying out of the castle, the Potions Master watched as Voldemort's castle went up in the magical flames, assuring him that this was indeed Voldemort's end.

Sighing and holding Harry close to him, Snape got ready to apparate back to Hogwarts when something brushed against his legs. Looking down, he was very surprised to see a familiar tabby cat sitting in front of him.

"Minerva? What are you doing here?"

The woman returned to her usual form and looked down at the teen resting in his arms. "I've come to warn you, I don't think it's safe for the two of you to return to Hogwarts."

Severus frowned and looked at her questioningly. "Why not?"

Minerva's eyes shone with suppressed fury as she spoke. "Dumbledore saw you rushing out of the castle. He has told the aurors that Voldemort is dead and that you've gone to join the other Death Eaters to finish Harry off."

The words hurt more than he could imagine. He had always known that he was only a pawn in Dumbledore's plans, but he never would have thought that the Headmaster would repay all his years of service in such a way. Fighting to keep his emotion under control, he extended his arms slightly, offering the unconscious boy to Minerva. "Take him back to Hogwarts, he needs treatment."

The woman made no move to take the teen. "Severus, I'm not going to take Harry back to the castle; do you have any idea what Dumbledore would do to him? He is the Boy-Who-Killed-Voldemort; the Headmaster is going to keep controlling his life until one of the two dies. That's not fair to him; he has earned the right to lead his own life. Take him with you."

Snape grimaced. "Minerva, I can't take care of a teen on my own; I would have no idea how to do it. And where would I take him? I'm sure the aurors are already at my house, trying to find out where I am."

Minerva nodded in acceptance and drew an envelope from her robes. "You know that my husband never trusted Dumbledore. He made a house in the middle of muggle London, it's untraceable and the Headmaster doesn't know about it. There you can find everything you need to get settled in, including several wands that you might be able to use without the Ministry tracking you down."

Severus looked from the envelope to Minerva for a long time; finally, he spoke softly. "Come with us."

The woman blinked startled. "Severus?"

"Come with us, Minerva. Dumbledore will know by now that you've left the castle, and it will not be hard for him to figure out that you've come after me." When he saw that the woman was hesitating, he pressed the matter. "Please, Minerva, I am going to need all the help I can get, not only to stay out of Dumbledore's hands but also to protect and help Harry."

Sighing, the woman finally nodded in acceptance. "Very well, it will probably be best that way."

Smiling tiredly, Severus watched as the woman removed a small paper from the envelope. He guessed that it was the portkey that would take them all to Minerva's house. The woman reached out with the paper and he placed a hand on it, cradling Harry closer to him with his other hand. With a soft pop, both teachers disappeared with their charge.


The three of them reappeared in a large, bright living room. Looking around, Severus saw that it was homely decorated in blue and pale yellow colours. There was a large fireplace surrounded by several armchairs and a couch. At the other end of the room there were several large windows that showed a magnificent garden beyond them. There was a crystal table in front of the windows with four wooden chairs around it; the other two walls were filled with paintings and books.

Severus couldn't help but feel a bit surprised. He had been expecting something more along Grimmauld Place or even something completely done in Gryffindor colours, but he was very relieved to see he had been wrong; the room couldn't have been more different.

"So, what do you think of it, Severus?"

The man turned lightly to face the woman, and while he was not smiling, Minerva could tell he was pleased. "It's very nice, Minerva." He shifted Harry a bit in his arms; the boy was starting to get heavy. "Can you show me where the bedrooms are? We need to make sure Harry is alright."

The woman smiled. "Since when is he 'Harry' to you?"

Snape looked down at the teen pensively. "I guess it started at the beginning of this term. He has changed a lot, Minerva. Besides, if that wasn't enough, the fact that he killed the Dark Lord would be more than enough to me."

The witch's smile softened. "I understand."

Turning around, McGonagall left the room through a concealed door near the fireplace; Severus followed swiftly after her, watching his surroundings carefully. They stepped out in a hall that led to several other rooms. Minerva ignored them, and instead, she turned to the stairs and started to climb them. The Potions Master tried not to jostle his charge too much as he followed the witch up the stairs and into a room.

Snape quickly put the boy on the bed while Minerva moved to a closet and picked out some pyjamas, which she handed over to Severus before leaving the room in search of potions, the extra wands, and anything else she felt they would need to take care of Harry.

Once Minerva left the room, Snape started to gently undress the teen. He didn't seem to be overly hurt; Voldemort had obviously not wanted to risk anything and had tried to end it right away. There were several bruises and cuts on his arms, face, and ribcage, but that was probably the result of the boy fighting against his captors. The professor was just putting the pyjama pants on the teen when a knock on the door warned him that Minerva was back.

"Can I come in, Severus?"

The man covered Harry up with a warm blanket and told her to come in. She was carrying a box full of potions, and behind her floated a pail filled with warm water and several cloths. Severus took the potions from her hands and immediately started to look through the box, searching the necessary potions to make sure Harry would be alright. As he did that, the Gryffindor Head of House had approached the bed and was now sitting next to the unconscious teen, gently washing his face.

Harry remained unresponsive through the whole treatment, even when Severus sat him up slightly and poured potions after potion into his mouth; the boy didn't wake up. Once both professors were finished, they gently laid Harry back into the pillows; Minerva tucked him in while Severus went over the wands that Minerva had brought up. After several tries, he finally managed to find a match and cast a spell around the room that would warn them if Harry woke up.

They silently left the boy's room, and Minerva led him downstairs into a clean and bright kitchen. Severus sat down at the wooden table while the woman started to make some tea to calm their frazzled nerves. The Potions Master finally allowed himself to relax a bit and put his head on the table, showing how tired he really was. A cup of tea was placed in front of him and he sat back up, wrapping his fingers around the warm mug.

"What are we going to do now?"

Minerva was now sitting in front of him and sipping on her tea. "I'm not sure; I'm hoping that someone in the Order will do something to uncover the truth, but it will probably take some time."

Snape snorted; personally, he thought no one was going to move a finger to help them, but he didn't voice his thoughts. Instead, he nodded lightly and spoke softly. "That means we're stuck in the Muggle world for the time being."

Minerva nodded seriously. "Maybe we should move away from here; we'll be easy to find if we remain in London."

Severus shook his head in disagreement. "No, I don't think anyone is going to look for us in London. Besides, here, we have a safe house, and we're familiar with our surroundings, good reasons to stay where we are. We'll just need to change our appearances and act as normal as possible."

Minerva snorted. "Oh, yes, that will go over well in the Muggle world; a young teen living with a man that could probably be his father if it weren't for the fact that he hates him and with a stern old woman that doesn't look like either of them."

Severus looked up at her rather annoyed. "First of all, I am willing to drop my dislike for Harry, as I said before. Most of it was for show anyway, and I'm sure we'll be able to get along if we come to know each other better. As for the part of you not looking like us is just stupid. We'll have to change our appearance anyway; it won't be difficult to make sure you resemble us both. As for relationships, you can always pose as my mother; if that makes you uncomfortable, there are always de-aging potions."

Minerva looked at him, a shocked look on her face. "Severus! Do you even realise what you're proposing?"

The man looked seriously into his tea. "Minerva, I long ago accepted the fact that I'm not going to get married out of love, and besides, you have not had anyone in your life since you husband died all those years ago. Despite what everyone thinks, I don't fancy the thought of being alone for the rest of my days, especially now that it's no longer necessary." Severus stayed silent for a moment before looking up at the stunned woman. "And then there's Harry to consider. I agree that playing the role of his father is important, not only to keep up appearances but also because I honestly think that the boy needs some guidance and stability. But I can't do everything for him; he will need someone else to take care of him when I can't and to comfort him and calm him; you know I'm not good at those things. You've always been close to the boy, and I'm sure you could easily fill in the role of a mother."

Minerva didn't answer. She stared at her empty cup, letting the tense silence fill the room. Finally, she stood up. "I have to think about this, Severus. I'm going to my room; it's the one across from Harry's. You can take the one next to his. I'll see you in the morning."

The wizard simply nodded and watched as she left the kitchen, wondering if he had done the right thing. Hours later, he also made his way up to his room. He was tired, but before going to bed, he went to check up on Harry. The teen was no longer sleeping soundly; instead, he was whimpering and trashing lightly in his bed. Severus immediately walked over to him and placed a hand over the teen's forehead, noticing the flushed face. Cursing under his breath, he summoned a cold cloth and started to cool down the teen. The boy seemed to calm down, and he continued with his ministrations, wishing he could give him a potion to relieve his fever, but knew it would react badly with the other potions he had already ingested. For hours he sat at the teen's side, cooling him down and calming him when he started to move around.

Minerva got up at six, feeling very tired. She had not been able to sleep for most of the night, thinking about Severus' proposal. Finally, she had come to a decision and had managed to sleep for a few hours. After getting dressed in some muggle clothes, she headed to Harry's room to check on the teen before going downstairs to make breakfast. Minerva was very surprised to see Severus sitting in a chair next to the boy's bed. When she approached them, the man opened his tired eyes and looked at her. Minerva frowned at his exhausted appearance. "Have you been here all night, Severus? You look like you've not slept."

The man rubbed his eyes tiredly. "I haven't. Harry was running a fever and I couldn't give him a potion for it."

Minerva put a hand against the teen's cheek; it was still warmer than it should be, but at least he was resting peacefully. "Go to bed, Severus. I'll stay here."

The man looked reluctant to comply, but after a glare from the woman, he had no choice but to obey.

Severus woke up a few hours later, refreshed from his short sleep. After getting dressed in some clothes he found in his room, the man went to Harry's room. Minerva was still there, reading a book on advanced transfiguration. She looked up when she heard him enter the room. "Did you sleep well, Severus?"

The man nodded and went to sit on the bed, on Harry's other side. The teen was sweating, which was actually a good sign, and his skin was cooler than it had been a few hours before.

"He seems to be doing better."

Minerva nodded, stood up, and stretched out. "Yes, he does. He had a nightmare about an hour ago, but it didn't wake him up." Looking intently at the sitting man, she motioned to the door. "Come on, Severus, we need to get something to eat, and then we'll talk."

Sighing, the younger man used the cloth to wipe out Harry's sweaty face, and after cooling it down again, he replaced the cloth on the teen's forehead. After making sure that Harry would be alright on his own, both professors left the room.

Once back in the kitchen, Severus started to cook using the food that had been stored under preservation charms. While he was arranging their food, Minerva took care of the tea. The meal was mostly eaten in silence, and it was not until they were both sipping on their tea when Minerva broke it.

"I've been thinking about what you said last night." Severus nodded but remained silent, waiting for her decision on their future. "I'll agree to play the role of your wife if you're sure you're willing."

The man looked up. "I was not only suggesting a role, Minerva."

The woman smiled lightly. "I know very well what you were thinking, but for now, it's the only thing I'm willing to compromise; if later it becomes more..."

Severus smiled and nodded again. "In that case, I'm very sure this is for the best, Minerva. And I'm sure it's going to work; you're a very good friend of mine, I wouldn't have suggested it if I thought it was not going to work."

The woman sighed and sipped her tea. "I hope it does, Severus. I really hope it does."

After a short silence she spoke again. "After we've arranged our appearances, papers, and the lot, we'll still have to take care of our daily activities. There's some money in the house, but it won't last us more than a few weeks."

Severus shrugged slightly. "That's not much of a problem, Minerva. You don't honestly think I didn't make plans in case something like this happened, do you? While I've trusted Dumbledore to lead us in this war, I'm a Slytherin, and as such I made sure I would have ways to survive if he withdrew his protection over me."

Minerva couldn't help but laugh in amusement. "Of course, I should have known. And are you going to tell me what you're going to do?"

The man smirked at her. "I'm a Potions Master, Minerva, one of the best as you know. For years I've been making potions for several companies under a false name. I've made sure it's nearly impossible to track me down, and even the aurors would have a hard time to find the link even if they knew where to start looking for me."

The Gryffindor teacher nodded pensively. "But what about supplies? While there's a lab in the house, I don't have many supplies."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "I didn't even know there was a lab. Don't worry, I have a lab in London; I have most of my potions and ingredients there. I also often use it for the people to deliver the more dangerous items I need there. Some things I have there are just too dangerous to keep around students."

Minerva cocked her head. "And Dumbledore doesn't know about it?"

The wizard shrugged. "I said I had things ready; I have three labs, one of them Dumbledore knows, the second one I haven't told him about but I suspect he knows and is just for him to think that he knows all about me. The third one is nearly impossible to trace."

This time the woman laughed freely. "You Slytherins are some of the most amazing people I've had the pleasure to meet." Severus waited until she calmed down, a smug smile playing on his lips. Once the woman had dried her tears, she returned her attention to the amused man in front of her. "If you're busy with your potions, I guess I can find some kind of job as a teacher, but what about Harry? He can't stay at home on his own all day, and he can't go to a Muggle school because he doesn't have the knowledge to go there."

Severus looked at her a bit hesitantly, trying to decide if she should be told or if he should wait for Harry to wake up. In the end, thinking that it hardly mattered since the woman would find out soon enough, he spoke softly. "We should talk to Harry about it, because I think he had his own plans for after graduation. I wouldn't be surprised if he decided to enrol into an art school."

The witch stared at him surprised. "Harry can draw? I never knew about that."

Severus chuckled and nodded. "Oh, yes he can, quite well in fact." Seeing the troubled expression in the woman's face, he quickly reassured her. "I don't think many people knew, Minerva. I only found out because he wanted to reassure me he wasn't training to become the next Dark Lord."

The woman raised an eyebrow questioningly. "The next Dark Lord, Severus? Why on earth would you think something like that?"

The wizard was about to defend himself from her disbelieving tone when he felt a tingling sensation washing over him. He quickly stood up and started to walk to the door. "Harry is waking up."

Both professors made their way up the stairs swiftly and were already standing next to the teen's bed when he started to twitch.

Severus moved to sit on the bed, next to the teen and put a hand on his forehead to check his temperature. "Harry?"

The boy opened his eyes slightly and fixed his blurry gaze on the dark form sitting next to him. His brain was slowly starting to wake up and remember what had happened the day before.

The teen groaned slightly and closed his eyes again, trying to figure out who was with him. He felt the hand move to brush his hair again and settle down on his skin again, now a comforting touch. "Harry? How are you feeling?"

Opening his eyes again, he saw that there was now another person standing next to his bed, probably bowing over him, but he wasn't afraid. His still waking brain had recognised the voices, and he knew he was safe with them. If he could only match the voices with their owners he would be able to go back to sleep. He probably had been nearly half asleep again, because he barely noticed the voices trying to get his attention back. "Harry, come on, answer us, do you know who we are?"

The hand moved to his cheek, and waked him enough to feel able to answer. "Professors?"

He knew he was right, because as soon as he said the word, those people were his teachers. McGonagall smiled down at him. "Now you only need to guess which ones you're speaking with."

For an instant, there was a small smile on the boy's lips but it disappeared quickly. He didn't need to guess, he could tell the one talking down to him was his Head of House, and he had guessed that the other one was Professor Snape since he remembered that he was the one who found him. Frowning a bit, he spoke again. "Glasses."

His voice was raspy since he hadn't had any water since he had been captured, but the other two seemed to understand him. Severus withdrew his hand from the teen's cheek and reached for the glasses that had been lying on the bedside table.

Harry felt Snape putting the glasses in place and looked up at him. The teen blinked, trying to make sure he wasn't seeing things. The dark haired professor was looking at him intently, but Harry couldn't see any of the hatred and anger that usually marred the man's eyes when speaking to him. Starting to feel uncomfortable under the penetrating gaze, Harry looked around, noticing he didn't recognise the place they were in. His gaze finally settled on his Head of House. It was strange to see her dressed in Muggle clothes. That, added to the fact that he wasn't lying in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, confirmed his assumptions that there was something wrong. Harry closed his eyes tiredly; he didn't want to think about troubles anymore. He had done what was expected from him; Voldemort was dead and he was with two people he trusted. Whatever they decided to do was fine with him, it couldn't be worse than being at Hogwarts under Dumbledore's direct watch. Even if he didn't know what had happened, he could easily sense that the old man had something to do with the fact that he found himself alone with two of his teachers. Sighing, he relaxed against his pillows. It didn't matter any more, especially not right now that he felt so tired. Later, he could ask what was going on and decide what to do.

The gentle hand was back to his face and was now carefully rubbing something cold against his aching face. McGonagall's voice reached his tired senses again. "Harry, please, tell us how you're feeling."

The boy winced slightly as Snape moved his fingers over a cut. "Tired, and everything hurts."

Severus nodded while finishing with what he was doing. "The bruises and cuts will be healed by tomorrow. You spent a lot energy killing the Dark Lord; I suspect you'll still be tired for a while. I want you to stay in bed until we say otherwise, ok?"

Harry nodded slightly; he could promise that for now, after all, he was too tired to really move. Harry was barely aware of McGonagall leaving the room and Snape putting away the blankets to rub the potion on his arms and chest. Whatever it was that the man was putting on him was really helping. The pain was going away, and Harry felt himself falling deeply asleep. Before allowing himself to be put down to sleep by the man, he opened his eyes slightly and with a sleepy voice spoke once again. "What's going to happen now?"

Severus looked up a bit startled; he had thought the teen was asleep. Keeping his fingers moving, he watched as Harry shut his eyes again. "Don't worry about it, we'll take care of everything for now, and we'll tell you when you're up to it."

Harry seemed to accept his words, for he relaxed in his pillows, and in a few minutes, Snape was sure he was completely asleep. After finishing with the potion, he tucked the teen back into bed and turned to face the door which had opened to admit Minerva back in.

They both watched their charge for a while, making sure he would rest peaceful. After a while, Severus turned to Minerva with a serious look on his face.

"I'm going to see that lab of yours. If you have all the ingredients, I'll start working on the youth potion."

Minerva nodded slightly without taking her eyes of Harry. "You should work on the potion to change our features too; that might be even more important than the youth potion. You might also want to go out and try to find out what is going on in the Wizarding World."

Snape nodded slightly; maybe he should really work on the other one first. Shaking his head, he smiled to Minerva even if she wasn't looking at him. "I'll see what I can do once I know which ingredients you have."

Finally, the woman nodded and turned to look at him. "I'll stay here for a while, after all, there not really much I can do."

Severus nodded and then left the room, mentally listing all the ingredients he would need to make the potions.

Harry could tell he was alone the next time he woke up. He was still feeling very sleepy, and he really didn't want to be awake, but his body was telling him that he needed to go to the bathroom. Sighing slightly, the teen slowly started to stand up. His tired muscles were barely obeying him, and he wondered if he would be able to stand on his own. Shaking his head, he finally managed to stand on shaky legs and very slowly made his way to the door. He was about to reach out and opened it when someone opened it from outside, sending him to the floor.


The boy groaned slightly; now, not only was he feeling tired, but his head was starting to hurt too. Firm hands took him under his armpits and lifted him on his feet. "And just where do you think you're going? I thought we had agreed that you needed to stay in bed?"

The teen looked up to the man's angry face, feeling his face flush a bit in embarrassment. "I'm sorry, sir. But I really need to go to the bathroom."

Snape felt his anger fade. He had been very annoyed to see Harry out of bed; the young man was really in no shape to be walking around, much less alone. "Next time, call either Minerva or me, we can't have you hurting yourself, now can we?"

Harry nodded, a bit flushed at the man's words. He had expected him to yell at him for disobeying him, but Snape seemed more worried than angry now, he could almost say he was a bit caring. The Potions Master led him to the bathroom, carefully allowing the teen to lean on him. Much to Harry's relief, the other wizard agreed to wait outside for him, but warned him that if he took too long he would come in. Five minutes later, Harry was back in bed, being tucked in by Snape.

While he had been feeling very sleepy, after his short walk, he felt much more awake and wondered if Snape would answer some of his questions. Not knowing if he should ask or stay quiet, Harry looked somewhat nervously around the room. Severus seemed to sense the teen's thoughts, and with a small sigh, he sat down on the chair that had stayed next to the teen's bed. "Ok, you have half an hour to ask what you want before I go fetch you something to eat and you go back to sleep."

Harry looked up, rather surprised that the man would be willing to speak with him, and he wondered if he should consider if the man was really his former professor. Shaking his head slightly at the stupid notion, he focused on the questions he had wanted to ask, after all, Snape was starting to glare at him.

"Where are we?"

The old man leaned back in his chair. "We're at Minerva's house."

Harry waited for a moment to see if the man would continue, but when it was clear that Snape wasn't going to say more unless he asked, he spoke again. "Why are we here and not at Hogwarts, has something happened?"

Harry frowned as he saw the man visibly tense, his dark eyes glittering in anger. With soft, controlled tones, Severus started to explain what had happened. "After making sure that Voldemort was dead and burning down his manor, I was about to apparate us back to Hogwarts when Minerva appeared at my side. It seems the headmaster told the aurors that you had killed Voldemort and that upon feeling it, I had gone to join the other Death Eaters to kill you."

Harry was looking in front of him. His fists were clenched around the sheets. He wasn't as surprised at the man's words as he would have been a few years back. Nonetheless, he was shocked. He knew that Dumbledore was manipulative, but to cast aside in such a way a man who had been risking his own life for years only to spy for him was more than he was able to comprehend. Slowly, the shock he had been feeling turned to anger and that quickly transformed to rage.

Snape noticed the changes immediately and moved to sit on the bed, next to Harry, just when the windows started to rattle. Severus couldn't help but be very happy that the teen's magical reserves were still so depleted; else he could easily have done a lot of damage to their new house in his anger. For an instant, the professor sat there, unsure of what to do, but then the moment passed, and he wrapped an arm around Harry.

"Calm down, you're only going to hurt yourself if you lose control."

Harry snapped out of his haze, and the windows stopped rattling as suddenly as they had started. From the corner of his eyes, Snape saw Minerva standing at the door, watching them. He was very much aware of the fact that he still had an arm around the teen, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He had no reputation to keep. Not here, not around these two people that was on the way of becoming the two most important people in his life. He felt Harry start to tremble under his arm, and he pulled him closer, pressing him gently against his side.

"Dumbledore... he... he..." Harry took a deep breath, finally leaning against his teacher's chest and closing his eyes in hurt and betrayal.

Snape gently petted the boy's hair. "Minerva can take you to Hogwarts if you prefer to be there, Harry."

The boy shook his head forcefully and pressed his head deeper into the man's strong chest, arms coming up to hold the Potions Master in a death grip. "I don't want to go back there. Please, don't make me, I don't care if you take me to the Dursleys or to an orphanage, I don't want to stay there, under Dumbledore's watch again, not after this."

Minerva silently joined them on the bed and started to rub the boy's back. "Calm down, Child, we won't force you to go anywhere, you can stay here with Severus and I."

Harry moved his head so he was watching his Head of House. "Did Dumbledore betray you too, Professor?"

The woman smiled sadly. "We're not sure, Harry, but he knows I left to warn Severus. I don't think it would be a good idea for me to go check what the man is up to right now."

"What about the Order? They know you've been spying for our side and that you're not a Death Eater anymore."

Severus gently brushed the boy's hair out of his face. "We don't know, Harry. Even if they went against Dumbledore, it would still be their word against his."

They all stayed silent for a long moment, both adults comforting the teen to the best of their abilities. Finally, Harry broke the silence.

"What's going to happen now?"

Minerva and Severus shared a long look before the woman answered. "We're going to live here as Muggles. This house is protected and has strong Notice-Me-Not Charms to repel wizards. Dumbledore doesn't know of its existence, which gives us additional protection." Taking a deep breath, she continued. "Also, as soon as Severus has finished, we're all going to take a potion to change our appearance; it's a stronger modification of the Polyjuice Potion which will not fade until we take the antidote. I'll also be taking a youth potion since I'm going to be playing the role of Severus' wife."

Harry looked at her astonished before moving his gaze to the man who was still holding him. Was that why the older wizard had made such a change? Was that the reason why he was being so gentle and comforting? He had to know. "And I will be?"

Snape smiled down at him a bit uncomfortably. "We would both like it if you took the role of our son. But if that makes you uncomfortable, we can just tell people you're our nephew or our ward."

Harry looked at them both thoughtfully. "I have never had proper parents."

Minerva chuckled gently. "And we've never had a child."

Harry gave her a small smile in return. He knew he had made his decision the moment Snape had told him about his options. After all, how could he let such an opportunity to have a family pass?

"Would I have to go to a muggle school?"

Both adults shared a quick look. "Severus thought you might want to go to an Art school."

A brilliant smile blossomed on the teen's face as he looked up at his soon to be father. "Really? You would really allow me to go to an art school?"

Snape couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the teen's eagerness. "Of course, my boy, if you want to."

Suddenly, he found he couldn't breathe as the two arms around his waist tightened and held him in a death grip. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Severus gasped. "Harry, air."

The boy quickly let go of his waist, blushing slightly as Severus took several deep breaths. Both turned around to watch as Minerva fell back on the bed, laughing at their antics. Soon, both joined her, and after a while, they calmed down. They all settled down once again comfortably, with Harry leaning against the pillows of his bed, and one Professor at either side. He hadn't laughed in such a long time that he had nearly forgotten how good it fell. Minerva looked at him once again serious. " You didn't tell us what you want us to be, Harry. I'm sorry if we're pressing the matter, but Severus really needs to finish the potions."

The teen looked at them both hesitantly. "I would like you to be my parents, to finally have a family. That is, if you don't mind."

Minerva smiled at him comfortingly. "If we minded, we wouldn't have proposed it, my child." They hugged for a long moment before Minerva drew back slightly. "You know that you'll have to call us Mom and Dad if this is really what you want, don't you?"

Harry nodded seriously. "I know, Mom."

It sounded strange, but he was sure he could get used to it. Minerva smiled brightly and kissed his forehead before he turned to watch Snape. The man immediately saw the question in his eyes and immediately took him in his own arms. Softly, the Potions Master started to speak against his ear. "Harry, I know we've never got along and that I've never done anything to make you trust me, but I promise that things are going to change between us. I accept you as my son, and from now on, I'll always treat you as such."

Harry moved out of Minerva's arms and hugged the man around the neck so he could whisper his own promise. "While I've not always trusted you, I know now that you always had my best interest in mind. I've grown to admire you and respect you, and I'm sure I'll grow to love you, because from now on, you'll be my father, and I place what little remains of my childhood in your hands."

They both hugged for a few minutes before Harry opened one arm and motioned Minerva into the hug. Both adults drew back when they felt Harry go limp between them. Looking down, they saw that the teen was peacefully asleep, a small content smile on his face.

The End.