Disclaimer: I do not now, nor ever will, own Harry Potter, its characters, or its ideas. If I did, then I would have much to say about the direction Harry and Severus's relationship is to take. Alas ::sighs dramatically::, that happy power belongs to J.K. Rowling and not me.
A/N: This is the final chapter of "When the World Stands Still," unless, of course, reviewers like this so much that they want me to write a sequel. Originally, I had planned to include Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort in this fic---this chapter, actually. That, however, did not seem like it belonged in this story. Perhaps the next one---we'll see. At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this fic, and please R&R!
.:When the World Stands Still:.
Chapter V: Hope Can Be Found
By Sentimental Star
(Clock Tower Garden)
Blinding pain lanced through Harry's awareness and he teetered slightly, gritting his teeth against it as his hand went to grab his scar, tears all but forgotten. He thought he heard a small cry suspiciously like Hermione's. But no matter, Voldemort, obviously, was not in a very charitable mood right now. And he knew quite well why...
Forcing the pain to the very recesses of his mind and Occluding it as best he could, the young Gryffindor removed his hand from his forehead and pried his eyes open, blinking them rapidly to clear the foggy veil which had fallen.
He was in just enough time to see Severus stagger to his feet and lurch towards the bridge, clutching his left forearm in a by-now-familiar gesture.
"Oh, no, you don't!" Harry growled, lunging forward and damning Voldemort to hell for the pain he was causing the Potions Master. The Dark Mark was torture enough for the madman's followers.
He grabbed Severus around his waist as the Head of Slytherin stumbled, forcing his teacher to sit on the ground before falling to his knees beside him. Seizing the older wizard's left hand, he jerked the arm closer to him, mentally apologizing when Severus gave a half-stifled cry of pain at the rough treatment. But he did not have time to be gentle.
Harry's attempts to pry the man's right hand off of the Mark were to no avail as the Professor refused to oblige, mustering enough strength of will to raise his head slightly and shoot the teenager a faint glare. The young Gryffindor's emerald eyes immediately snapped to his teacher's obsidian ones, returning the look with a glare of his own---ten times sharper. "Severus. Arm. Now," snarled with such force behind the words that the man started violently and quickly complied, if only out of pure reflex.
Under any other circumstance, it would have been horribly funny: the feared Potions Master of Hogwarts bested by Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. As it was, far too much was on the line for that.
Severus scowled darkly, if weakly, at his student. "I must remember to assign you lifelong detention when we are through with this. If we get through with this."
Harry's glare hardened. "And I must remember to cast an unbreakable locating charm on you!" He wrapped one hand around the Head of Slytherin's left wrist and the other tightly around the Dark Mark. "Now hold still!"
The sixteen-year-old shut his eyes and clenched his teeth. Oh, they were going to have a talk when they finished! Of that he was absolutely certain. No way in hell was he pleased with the older wizard's tendency to throw himself headlong into danger without a second thought.
Harry, of course, could be accused of the exact same thing. But that thought never occurred to him; right now his entire being was focused on getting rid of that damn Mark. Mentally, he sorted through Removing That Which Was Never Meant to be Removed:
To erase what once was and make it so that it never shall be, is a very difficult practice. A very difficult practice, indeed, the book had said. The removal is easy enough; the strength that goes into it, however...that is something else. Times will come when evil shall work its deeds through marks thought to be permanent: curse scars, and many others. And indeed, such things cannot be removed unless the remover intends it to never be needed again.
Not everything can be removed, curse scars especially so, for they become far too much a part of one's body and magic's laws intended nothing of one's body to be removed unless absolutely necessary. But for those Marks and those blemishes that evil has imparted upon a person, that is another matter entirely. These are not "natural," as it were, but brands that were never meant to be seen upon flesh. Scars are expected to appear on one's flesh, curse scars though they may be, for at one time they bled. Those Marks created and imprinted by magic, most particularly those with evil intent behind them, do not bleed. They are emblazoned upon the skin, burnt, but never bleed. And it is that which allows such magical workings as will be discussed in this book to be performed...
Harry shook his head. No, that had been the Prologue. Within the book had been the different "Marks" and "blemishes" Merlin had written about, both definition and treatment were included about each. The young Gryffindor had read about the Dark Mark in a section entitled Evil's Bane. He had discovered that the Dark Mark was, in fact, a very ancient Mark, one used by the earliest Dark Lords to mark their servants as Voldemort had:
Servants loathed them, for they burned with a merciless fire, never ceasing, never stopping, forcing them to be at their Master's every beckoning call. Through these Marks, and only these Marks, could the wizard identify his followers and trace their movements should he so desire. And their fire not only burned the flesh, but burnt the soul and the heart, as well.
Long ago, Healers of both the mind and the body banded together and devised a treatment, for the Dark Mark is undoubtedly one of cruelest, most painful Marks within this entire book. To remove such a thing, a Healer need only picture the area as it once was and is truly meant to be. To douse a fire, one needs only water. In this case, the Healer pictured their magic in form of a fountain, river, waterfall...any form water took on. And it was this that they poured into their patient's veins.
Yet, Healer beware! Scale for scale, tooth for tooth! For every ounce of evil poured into the Dark Mark, an equal amount of light must be given, in truth!
This treatment is assuredly the most dangerous and most draining in this book---such enormous power goes into the Dark Mark that a Healer can only take from their life energy. Life energy is most vital to a wizard or a witch, and if taken from, any number of situations can result! Death and magical shock are but two of them. Most commonly, Healers who remove a Dark Mark will have several years of life taken from them, sheered away...
Harry, of course, was well aware of the price, but it did not stop him. Indeed, nothing short of unconsciousness or death at this point in time could have broken his will.
So he did as the book bid, shutting his eyes and picturing the area as it was meant to be: smooth, a bit too pale, perhaps, but unmarred. Keeping that image clear and firmly ingrained in his mind, the teenager took a deep breath and reached down into the very depths of his soul, finding and focusing the warm, pulsating energy which was wrapped around the very core of his being. He imagined it a mist, like that hanging in the sky some early fall morning before the birds awoke and began their morning tunes.
That mist wafted into his Potions Professor's veins and by the stiffening of the man before him, he knew Severus had felt it. Idly, he wondered if the older wizard knew of the book he had read and knew what the teenager was currently attempting. But that was only a passing thought. Nearly his entire being was focused on getting rid of that blasted Mark.
He sensed it leaving---the energy he was pushing into the man's veins---and knew without a doubt that somewhere in the future he would be dying a few years earlier than planned, but he somehow could not bring himself to care about that little fact. Not right now, and probably never again. The deed was done, and Harry could not have been more thrilled.
Dizzily, he opened his eyes and peered up at the man currently bent over him. That was odd, he did not remember falling over... "Sev'rus?" slurred. It took a moment for him to realize he was, in fact, not fully on the ground, but rather, his head was resting in the man's lap.
Severus's face looked incredibly pale, paler than usual, and fear mixed with searing worry clearly filled his obsidian eyes, causing them to look much brighter than Harry thought healthy. "Harry...gods, what were you thinking?!" croaked out, but obviously a demand.
The boy shut his eyes, trying to keep the tears---forgotten in the wake of healing---at bay. "Trying to prevent you from doing something stupid." His voice was barely a whisper, if that, and he opened his eyes again...only to find his vision was tunneling in. Go figure.
Severus, to the teenager's eternal surprise, clenched his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, leaning down and very lightly resting his forehead against the boy's own. He needed no words. Harry understood in the way his Professor's grip tightened on his shoulders how very upset the man was over this entire situation.
Unfortunately, his body decided give out on him at that particular moment...
And for Harry, he knew no more.
(Hospital Wing of Hogwarts, Dawn the Next Morning)
"ALBUS, YOUR GOLDEN BOY IS A BLOODY IDIOT!!" bellowed. It jolted Harry out of unconsciousness, making him start.
His arms felt leaden as he moved to rub his face. "Lovely wake up call, Severus," growled, not particularly pleased with the way he had been woken up.
Severus gave a cry from where he had been arguing furiously with the Headmaster for quite some time, whirling around to face the boy's hospital bed. It was early morning and the Potions Master had spent a sleepless day and night worrying and praying at the sixteen-year-old's bedside. Harry had no clue just how close he had come to dying yesterday, but his teacher most assuredly did. It was a knowledge that would not be leaving him anytime soon.
Least of all the fact that the teen had done this, all of this...for him.
The older wizard simply could not fathom it.
He moved forward...then froze in place, trying to convince his heart of what his mind already knew. His eyes were slightly wide and his face awfully pale. Underneath his eyes, Harry could see dark shadows attesting to the fact that he had gotten very little---if any---sleep. One hand came up to cover his mouth and he kept staring at the boy.
Harry struggled to a sitting position with a soft grunt, perching his glasses on his nose. A glance around confirmed that he was on a medical bed in the Infirmary of Hogwarts. The first rays of morning were already spilling in through the tall windows.
"Professor Snape?" the teenager croaked as he turned back to face his mentor, when the man did not say anything.
A quiet, amused voice spoke up from the Potions Master's left and Harry looked in that direction. "Don't worry about him, my boy. You gave us all quite a scare yesterday."
"All?" the young Gryffindor echoed, voice rasping.
Albus Dumbledore came over to the bed and sat down on the edge of it, his eyes, for the moment, twinkling. Clearly he was pleased the boy had survived his first healing attempt, even more so because of the fact that he had achieved something that the venerable wizard had wanted done for a very long time.
The Headmaster did not answer right away, instead glancing over his shoulder in ill-concealed amusement at his Potions Professor. "If you are just going to stand there, Severus, at least make yourself useful and go get Harry a glass of water. Madame Pomfrey is out at the moment and you look like you could use some." The latter part of this he directed at Harry.
His movements automatic, his mind still spinning with relief and shock, Severus did as bid, lending an ear to the two's conversation. A dozen years' worth of training was not easily forgotten.
Albus had since turned back to Harry and continued, "Why, yes, Harry." He smiled warmly. "Your three friends were here for most of the day yesterday and would have stayed the night had Poppy and Severus not shooed them off to bed. Minerva came in during the breaks between classes and stayed for most of the night after dinner. Severus just convinced her to leave a few hours ago." The smile broadened a bit as the man went on, "Although I was unable to persuade your Potions Master to go with her." He nodded to Severus with a wide grin as the man handed him the full glass.
Harry accepted the glass from the Headmaster, and then shot a timid grin up at his teacher. The Potions Professor still was unable to speak as he stood back, his eyes flickering over the teenager's face as he checked the state of the boy's health. But still, he said nothing.
The young Gryffindor did not break their gaze. Not even when he sipped the water. Nor, even, when those sips turned to gulps as the cool liquid soothed his aching throat.
A soft chuckle and the Headmaster's warm, wrinkled hand stilled his frantic guzzling. "Easy, Harry," he laughed. "We don't need you choking yourself."
Severus finally spoke up, voice unusually soft. It caught. "No, we certain...we certainly do not." He fell silent for a moment, clearly struggling with his emotions. "Headmaster, would...would you mind leaving us alone for a while? There are a few things I would like to discuss...with Mr. Potter."
Twin sighs and the two with him spoke at the same time:
"'Albus,' if you would, child."
"'Harry,' please, sir."
The Head of Slytherin only nodded, not trusting himself to speak quite, yet.
Albus smiled at Harry again. And though the boy returned it, he did not look away from his teacher's obsidian eyes.
Another sigh, this one of content and general well-being, and the Headmaster stood to his feet with a slight creaking of old bones. "I shall take my leave of you two, then." He gave Severus's shoulder a squeeze as he passed him by, and then exited the Hospital Wing through its double doors, swiftly and silently as he had come.
Once they were alone in the Infirmary, Harry placed the now empty glass on his bedside table and propped himself up more fully in his bed.
The two regarded each other in silence for a long moment, eyes expressing what words could not. Inwardly, Severus was reeling, dizzy with relief and fighting very hard to rein in his emotions. In stark contrast, Harry seemed incredibly calm---unlike his Professor.
Then the sixteen-year-old broke the stupor that had fallen over them in the simplest, most poignant way possible...
He held out his arms to the older wizard. A clear demand to be hugged.
And Severus found he was unable to hold back a sob as he complied.
The End (unless, of course, you guys want me to write a sequel)!