A/N: Yes, I have caved in to reader pressure (and my muse) and present to you the sequel of "Duel".I had originally planned to make this a series of one-shots, but that did not work out. Instead, this shall be the first chapter of "Dumbledore's Men," my post Half-Blood Prince story,and it is the tale of Harry and Snape's efforts after the end of the war to destroy one last lingering remnant of Voldemort still in the world—a remnant that would not have existed if their loyalty and trust in Dumbledore during the war had been enough to overcome their hatred for each other. Enjoy!
Plug: I am proud to announce that my dear Mum has begun a solo story, beginning shortly after Half-Blood Prince ends. It is called "Tea and Sympathy," and may be found under her username "Jocemum." Go read it! Mum's first fic is a heck of a lot better than my first one was!
And now, without further ado…
Chapter One: Flight
"Why have you spared no thought for your friends, Potter?" Snape asked Harry as they made their way through the woods surrounding Little Hangleton.
"I'll let them know I'm all right once I'm out of the way," Harry said dismissively. He thought it was rich, Snape acting concerned about his friends' feelings.
Having retrieved their wands, they had slipped quickly from the battlefield into the concealment of the trees, making their way on foot beyond the massive anti-apparation wards that Voldemort's forces had placed over the village. They kept a close eye out for any Death Eaters who might be fleeing that way as well. Both of them were wounded—from battling each other as much as Voldemort's followers. At one point, Harry tripped over a root and landed on his knees. Grunting in surprised pain as he tried to right himself, he felt Snape catch his arm to pull him up.
"Get off!" he exclaimed, startled and embarrassed, and Snape snorted and let go—so quickly that Harry didn't have a chance to get his balance back and wound up on the ground again. He glared over his shoulder as he heard Snape laugh at him. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, he mused, stumbling on and imagining the days ahead with no one but Severus Bloody Snape for company.
Harry hated Snape. Finding out the real reason the one-time professor had killed Albus Dumbledore hadn't changed that. If anything, it had made Harry hate Snape even more. He understood now why Snape had gotten so angry the night Dumbledore had died when Harry had called him a traitor. Snape had been the person Dumbledore trusted more than any other—even more than Harry. Snape had been the only one with the courage to fulfill the headmaster's hardest request…to kill him.
Harry would always hate Snape for it. Dumbledore had asked Snape to kill him, that night in the Astronomy Tower, and he'd done it. Right before Harry's eyes. Harry had loved Dumbledore and been loyal to him above all others, and he'd had to watch him die. He didn't know if someone like Severus Snape was capable of loving at all, but one thing was certain: Snape had only ever done what Dumbledore asked. He'd been loyal to Dumbledore above all reason too.
Loyal enough to kill him. And for that, Harry would always hate him.
Almost as much as Snape hated Harry.
Harry knew Snape hated him, of course—not that he cared. But it had been for Harry that Dumbledore had sent Snape to spy, to suffer, and finally, to murder his own mentor. At least that was how Snape viewed it. Dumbledore hadn't asked of those things for himself, but for Harry, so Harry could win the war, but also…because he had loved Harry too. Snape had always hated Harry for that.
Yet here they were. Because when it came to it, Harry and Snape would both rather spend the days in the aftermath of the war with someone who hated him but would at least leave him alone than among the Ministry and reporters of the whole bloody wizarding world with their questions and gushing and fawning.
Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One, the great wizard who defeated Voldemort…
Ugh. No, he'd much rather deal with Snape. The devil you know, and all that.
They had reached the edge of the woods by dawn, and looked wearily out over the rolling hills. "Where are we going?" Harry asked.
"That's for you to decide, isn't it?" Snape said sourly.
Harry would have snapped at him if he hadn't been so tired. Instead, he just muttered, "No, I don't have anywhere to go. Don't know anywhere either."
He felt Snape's eyes on him, but didn't look up. After a moment, Snape said, "There was a place Dumbledore had prepared, in case I was ever found out. I do not believe the Order knows of its existence. It should suffice." Harry sighed. "Does that meet with your approval, Master?"
Flinching as if stung, Harry looked sharply at him. Then he just glared. "Oh, please," he grumbled, annoyed at having let himself be goaded. "Just get us there. Do we have to apparate?"
"Yes." Snape took his arm, and Harry suppressed a shudder. Being touched by Snape made his skin crawl. "Hold still."
Apparating with injuries was a bad idea, Harry recalled as he dropped to the ground to be sick once they had arrived. Snape was hurt too, but Harry was too distracted for several minutes to see how his traveling companion had taken the journey. By the time he'd recovered, Snape was striding toward the back door of a rather worn-looking little house.
"Where are we?" Harry asked, looking around. There were other houses on the street around them, but no one was about at this hour.
"An Order safe house, outside Belfast."
"You think nobody will come looking?" Harry said doubtfully.
"They will. But we will only be staying the night." Snape shot Harry a sneer at his confusion. "Neither of us is in a fit state to apparate across the Atlantic Ocean."
"He was going to send you to America?" Harry was surprised by that.
"There are other countries in the New World besides America, Potter," Snape informed him. "At the moment, I must see to my injuries, so I suggest you get some sleep."
Harry would have liked to point out that Snape could hardly order him around like a schoolboy anymore. He would also have liked to break the git's nose, but the trouble was that he was too tired to make the effort, no matter how tempting the thought. So he did as Snape said, retreating into one of the small bedrooms and fighting the urge to pull a face at the man as he left.
"Good gracious, Severus what are you doing up at this hour?"
"Something's gone wrong!"
"Come in, sit down, and calm down. Now, you are alive and hale as far as I can see, so that eases the worst of my fears."
"Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange came to see me."
"Interesting. Not an official visit, I take it?"
"When does the Dark Lord ever send Narcissa on anything official? No, she wanted me to intervene for her son. He has been given a mission by the Dark Lord."
"Really, Severus, I do wish you'd allow yourself to say his name—"
"Damn it, Albus, will you listen to me? I've backed myself into a corner. I'm going to be exposed. I made the Unbreakable Vow. Bella was watching…she has her suspicions aready, and I thought I could talk my way out of it…"
"Severus, please, calm down. How does this concern Draco?"
"He has a mission from the Dark Lord, here at Hogwarts. I swore to protect him, I…if he fails…to carry it out myself. But I...Headmaster, I knew the Dark Lord would order it of me one day, and they'll know now. Bella will expose me, if the Vow doesn't kill me first. God, Draco will probably wind up dead too."
"Severus, it cannot be as bad as all that. I daresay we can find a way for Draco to be aided in his quest while protecting the Order. His goal can't be that serious."
"Yes, it can."
"Would Voldemort trust Draco with a major mission?"
"No, and that is the point of Narcissa's visit. He intends to kill Draco on the pretense of his failure, but in fact it is to punish Lucius."
"Ah. I see. Well, in that case, you were right to pledge to protect him."
"Albus…his mission is to kill you."
"Oh dear. Is that all?"
"Severus, we have all known that Tom would be stepping up his attempts on my life very soon. You said yourself that you expected him to order you to do it one day. This hardly comes as a surprise."
I am glad you're not concerned for your life, but the more pressing matter is that the Order will soon be without its most valuable source of intelligence. Namely, me."
"How modest you are."
"Will you please stop mocking me and tell me what the devil I should do now? We have plans to make; we must decide what information is most vital for me to acquire for the remainder of my time among them."
'I think you're being hasty, that is all."
"You're not concerned that within the next few months, I will have to break the Unbreakable Vow, expose myself as a spy, and probably end up dead in the process?"
"Not at all. I merely think you should not be so hasty to abandon your duties. I need you among them, Severus, now more than ever."
"For god's sake, Albus, we're out of options. I wish nothing more than to protect Draco, but there isn't a bloody chance he will succeed in this mission, and I can hardly aid him in killing you."
"On the contrary, Severus, that is exactly what you should do."
"Aid him. Carry out his mission for him. Heaven knows, poor Draco won't manage on his own, as you, Tom, and Narcissa have all observed. You must help the boy if he is to have any chance of surviving this year."
"Help him to…"
"Kill me. Yes, Severus, you and Draco shall have to kill me."
"My dear boy, I assure you, I am not joking."
"A likely story. I cannot kill you."
"Of course you can. What is more, I am asking you to do it."
"Damn it, Albus, I despise your sense of humor.
Severus woke with a start, coming straight from sleep to alertness as he always did, thanks to decades of habit. Sunlight was streaming through the western-most windows of the safe house; it was nearly dusk again. He cautiously stretched; the worst of his injuries were mending well. They could probably reach his refuge within forty-eight hours, depending on how Potter had fared.
With the boy annoyingly in mind (and cursing Albus twice over), Severus dragged himself from his bed and went in search of him. He found Potter still asleep, so heavily asleep that he did not stir when Severus entered the room. The sight of him there, sleeping blissfully, innocent and young…Severus wanted to Crucio him out of it. An innocent appearance had little stock with Snape; Harry Potter had brought him nothing but misery all his life. For the boy's sake, at Albus's bidding, he had risked exposure time and time again, endanger himself, the Order, and the few people he might have called friends if they hadn't been Death Eaters. At Albus's bidding, Severus had killed to protect Harry Potter. He had killed Albus. And for those last six years, he had watched Albus fawn over the boy. The fact that Dumbledore had loved Harry Potter with all his heart only made it worse. He had never cared for Snape as he had cared for that boy.
Gritting his teeth against the urge to yank the ungrateful brat from sleep by the hair, or with a well-timed curse, Severus barked, "Potter!" The boy jerked back to consciousness, grabbing his wand, and Severus stepped back out of instinct. It annoyed him to have retreated from Harry Potter, but his instincts to avoid potential curses were VERY well-honed, and it was true, he had to admit, that the boy's power was nothing to be taken lightly. "Get up," he ordered. "We're moving on."
He hoped to see some sign of reluctance or irritation or any weakness at all in the boy, but to his irritation, there was only a vague nod as Potter threw off the covers, put on his glasses, and rose. Severus turned and started to lead the way out of the house, but made it perhaps three steps before the sound of the boy's breathing abruptly changed, and he looked back in time to see Potter sway. The boy's eyes lost focus and slid closed, and Severus caught him as he sagged to the floor. "Bloody hell, boy! What's the matter?"
A few slaps to the cheeks brought Potter round. "Wha…where…"
"Potter, do you have any untreated injuries?"
"Uh-uh," the teenager muttered, but Severus skeptically began performing Diagnostic Charms. Potter sat on the floor, leaning back against the bed with his eyes closed, as Severus determined that he had, all appearances to the contrary, managed to heal the worst of his physical injuries. But it did not take Snape long to determine the problem.
"You might have mentioned that you were suffering from magical shock," he observed.
Bleary green eyes opened and attempted to focus on him. "You're joking, right?" Potter sounded incredulous. "I've spent the past year chasing bits of Voldemort's soul all over the bloody wizarding world and trying to keep him from killing me before I managed to kill him first; I've been in bloody magical shock for months!"
"And I thought he fell rather easily," Severus sneered. Potter tried and failed to shove him away. "Sit down, you stupid child. Your power must recover before we can risk traveling anywhere. Go back to sleep. I will bring you a Restorative Potion shortly." He rose, making no effort to help the boy back to bed, but Potter's protest followed him.
"What about the Order? How long can we risk staying here?"
"This house has not been used for years," Snape replied. "In any case, I cannot imagine you are that reluctant to see your friends."
"Imagine it," the boy said, hauling himself back into bed and facing away from Snape.
Severus left the room with a shake of his head. Ungrateful brat.
But he submitted to Potter's wishes and made no attempt to signal the Order, even when he managed to obtain a Daily Prophet with a blaring headline about the search for the wizarding world's missing hero. From the paper, he learned that most of the Order with whom he had worked closely were alive, as were all of Potter's friends. But to his alternating puzzlement and irritation, Potter only gave the paper a cursory glance and showed no outward reaction to it.
He is as selfish as his father was.
After forty-eight hours, Potter insisted they move on. Severus apparated them to another safe house in the Irish countryside, then was forced to watch the boy be sick again. "I did warn you it was unwise to travel so soon."
"Shut up," came the gruff reply as Potter staggered back to his feet. Severus shoved another vial of Potion into his hand and as before, left him to his own devices for the remainder of their stay.
The only time Harry had returned to Hogwarts last year had been to talk to Dumbledore's portrait. All that the headmaster kept telling him was that there was something important he needed to know, but insisted that he had to master Occlumency first. "It is vital information, Harry, but as is often the case with vital information, the consequences if it is discovered by the wrong people would be catastrophic. You must be absolutely certain that no one can reach it in your mind."
Harry hadn't had any masters of Occlumency to practice with anymore—not that the one he had practiced with had done any good—but he had worked furiously, first to clear his mind, then to close it. To anyone. And everyone. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had practiced with him, with the help of Professor Lupin and Headmistress McGonagall.
After nearly a year, he went back to the headmaster's office. "I can protect it," he told Dumbledore's portrait.
Apparently, Dumbledore believed him, because the portrait swung out, revealing a space in the wall containing several small bottles. Harry recognized them as memories. "The Pensieve is in the cabinet," Dumbledore told him. "What you will see in my memories, they are true, Harry. I must warn you they will come as a shock, but you must try to accept them."
Harry stared at the first bottle in the line, turning it around and around in his hand. "Please, Harry," Dumbledore prompted softly. "I would never deceive you in matters so serious. You must believe me."
With that ominous warning, Harry emptied the first bottle into the Pensieve, and learned the truth.
Snape paced furiously back and forth in Dumbledore's office as the headmaster looked on. "I draw the line, Albus, I WILL NOT do it!"
Dumbledore sighed. "There is no other way to save you."
"Then I will die. We knew it was a possibility from the beginning. All the intelligence in the world is not worth your loss." Snape folded his arms. "It was only a matter of time before he gave an order I could not follow; this is it. It's over, Albus."
Severus, I am not willing to sacrifice you now," Dumbledore said, rising and attempting to put a hand on Snape's shoulder, but Snape shook him off.
"I am. I will not have you on my conscience on top of everything else."
"And Draco?" Dumbledore pressed quietly.
Snape flinched. Closing his eyes, he muttered, "I will do what I can for him."
"You can do more f—"
Snape rounded on the headmaster. "YOU could do more for him than I ever could! Damn it, Albus, you should concern yourself with getting Draco safety rather than this ridiculous death wish!"
"I cannot save Draco, Severus. He does not trust me. He trusts you."
"I distrusted you once. You could win Draco over," Snape said stubbornly.
"We do not have that time, Severus, you know it as well as I," the headmaster put a hand on Snape's shoulder again, and this time, the professor did not pull away. "Severus. I am asking this of you, as the only member of the Order I can trust with it. I have more faith in your courage than any other, even my Gryffindors," he added.
Snape turned and stared at him, white-faced, his jaw clenched. "This has something to do with Potter, doesn't it?"
"To win the war always has to do with Harry."
"That's not an answer!"
"Harry does not need me to win the war."
"THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU EXPENDABLE!" Snape roared. "You are asking me to sacrifice what is left of my humanity and my honor, to murder the only true friend I have ever had—WHY?"
Dumbledore came to stand directly in front of the distraught man, looking in his eyes. "Because your role in this struggle is more important than mine. And beside that, given the chance to choose between your life and mine, as I have been given now, I would always choose your life. Or Draco's life. Or Harry's life. You deserve to see the end of this war more than I. I mean that, Severus." He took both of Snape's shoulders, and Snape dropped his head with a shudder, staring at the floor. "We need you. We need your courage. We need the one who can do anything necessary, no matter how painful, to end this. For everyone. You are braver even than I, my friend. I could not face the horrors you have faced all these years in his service. Our side needs you."
"And Potter. This is about him somehow."
"Harry needs you too. Please, Severus."
"Albus.." Snape's voice dropped to a whisper, and he still did not look up. "I can't. Please, do not ask this…"
"I am. I must."
Snape wrenched away, turning his back on Dumbledore. In a voice rough with despair, he said, "It will destroy me."
"It won't. You will have Draco to care for, the war to win. I am not engaging in shallow flattery, Severus; you are the bravest man I have ever known. All the demons of hell could not destroy you," Dumbledore said softly.
Letting out his breath in a rush, Snape headed for the office door, his face still turned away. Dumbledore called after him. "Severus…please…"
Snape paused in the entrance and glanced back over his shoulder. There was revulsion and hate etched in the harsh lines of his face. "I came to you for mercy and swore to do whatever you asked. I have never broken that vow."
"And then when the time comes, and I send for you…?"
"As you wish, Albus."
And the door closed behind Snape with a hollow thud.
Harry was never quite sure how he got back to the Burrow that day, because he truly didn't remember anything in Dumbledore's office once he'd finished looking at the memories. There had been others after that, of Snape reporting what Draco and the Death Eaters were up to, Dumbledore making plans…and holding Snape to his promise anytime the Defense Professor began to waver. Harry had never seen Dumbledore quite so…bullying before. He would never have imagined Snape was the type to be bullied either.
But in the end, it wasn't bullying that had held Snape to his vow…it was pleading.
Dumbledore hadn't been pleading with Snape to spare his life as Harry had thought that night. He had been pleading with Snape to end it. While Harry had stood right there, trapped and helpless, frantic…Dumbledore had held Snape to his vow. To kill him.
It was no wonder the Weasleys and Hermione were concerned when he came back home. "Where've you been, mate?" Ron asked, sitting at the kitchen table with Hermione. "You look done in!"
Harry looked at his friends, trying to make his mind stop moving in slow motion. Ron had been standing in front of him before he managed to reply, "Hogwarts. Had to…talk to…"
Hermione grimaced sympathetically. "Dumbledore's portrait. Sort makes it like he's still around, doesn't it?"
"Are you sure you're okay?" Ron asked, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Yeah," Harry murmured, thinking that he needed to get off by himself and think, if he could just remember the way to his room… "I just need to…"
It was as if a gray fog rose up and swallowed him for a minute; his knees buckled, and in the distance, he heard Ron yelling, "Whoa! Bloody hell, mate! Are you all right? Someone give me a hand!"
He was slumped against Ron's shoulder with his friend trying frantically to hold him upright, but Harry felt too disoriented to do anything except let Ron and Hermione support him to the sofa. The world seemed to drift in and out of focus for awhile, and he came round to find his head in Ginny's lap while Mrs. Weasley tried to feed him a Potion. "Harry, dear, what's the matter? You look terrible!"
"I'm…okay," he managed to croak, and stood up in a hurry. He had to get away…had to think…
"Sit down, you've obviously had a shock," Hermione protested, as did the others, but Harry pulled away from them and ran up the stairs.
He didn't come down for dinner, and was still awake, staring out his window, when Ginny came into his room around three in the morning. "Harry. I thought you were still up."
Her voice seemed to come from a long way away. He turned to her as she crossed over to his side, but could not make a sound come from his throat. She seemed to understand, though, and said nothing more, just sat down next to him. It wasn't until he leaned toward her that she put her arm around him, letting his head rest on her shoulder.
"I don't know what's wrong," she whispered, rubbing his back. "Dumbledore told Mum it wasn't for him to say, but whatever it is…we're here, okay?"
He tried, he did, but he couldn't speak. He settled for embracing her hard, burying his face in her neck, and they sat that way for a long time. No doubt she was wondering what had happened to make him sit here, shaking himself apart in her arms, but how could he tell her? Even discounting the danger to her if anyone ever found out she knew…how could he tell her? How could he tell anyone…how could any of them bear it…he felt like it was killing him as it was.
How can I tell them Dumbledore committed suicide?
He had left the Burrow the next day and not been back since. It hadn't been until just before the final battle that Harry had finally kept his own promise to Dumbledore and told Headmistress McGonagall about Snape, leaving the memory bottles for her to see. Dumbledore had been very insistent that Snape's name be cleared and "his innocence made known."
But Harry had resisted, and despite what he'd told Dumbledore's portrait, it wasn't only out of a desire not to reveal the revered headmaster's choice. The real reason was…to admit the truth about Snape would force Harry to absolve the former professor of some of the blame for everything that had happened, and Harry didn't want to.
Simply put, he had wanted to keep hating Snape.
Oh, he'd done it, of course, as Dumbledore had asked, and no doubt Snape true role in bringing about the fall of Voldemort and the Death Eaters had already captured the wizarding world's imagination. But that didn't mean Harry had to like it.
Wandering out of the bedroom the morning after they arrived at the second safe house, he found Snape staring out the window. Just the sight of the man made hate course through him. Snape had killed Dumbledore, whatever the reasons or requests behind it. Harry had loved Dumbledore, and Snape had killed him. Harry had needed him; he shouldn't have died.
Dumbledore…Sirius…Mum and Dad…he killed EVERYONE I loved!
Snape glanced over his shoulder and saw Harry standing there. Sensing the older man wanted him to leave, Harry smirked and sat down defiantly in a ragged armchair. Snape glared at him and turned away.
"So how soon do we leave again?" Harry asked, deliberately sounding almost cheerful.
"That depends on whether you can manage the trip." Another person might have meant it as concern, but given the source, Harry knew better.
"I'm feeling fine," he said. "And I want to be out of here before the Order starts checking the safe houses. The idea's bound to occur to them sooner or later."
Snape turned around and slowly advanced on him, searching Harry's face as he had back at school when convinced Harry was involved in some mischief in classes. "Why are you so determined to cut off all contact with the Order, Potter?" Before Harry could invent an excuse, he added, "And do not insult my intelligence; I had plenty of sources of information on your doings before the end of the war. You made no break with them, nothing to warrant this refusal to inform them of your fate. Your friends are undoubtedly hysterical by this point."
Damn the man. Harry avoided his prying gaze, even though he was much surer of his Occlumency skills than he had been a year ago. "I just want to forget all this, is that so hard to understand?" he sighed.
"No, Potter, forgive me if I don't."
"Of course, you don't," Harry sneered, taking the offensive. "You were always jealous of my father, Sirius, and me. You wanted that…that popularity, didn't you? The attention you always accused me of chasing—you wanted it! You can't understand how smothering it is." Seeing Snape's face go white, his black eyes flashing with rage, Harry dug a little further, feeling an odd sense of glee. "The grass is always greener, isn't it? Well, guess what, Snivellus, for all I bloody care, you can HAVE it! I wish YOU'D been the one who grew up without a family, told you were a freak for something you didn't understand, had people following you around all the time expecting you to be something you weren't, lying about you in the bloody papers, popping cameras in your face all the time!" He dodged an attempt by the former professor to slap him, and laughed bitterly. "You can have all the fame of mine you want. I wouldn't try to hold on to any of it."
Through clenched teeth, Snape growled at him, "But that does not explain your friends. As sickening as they are, their interest in you is not due to your fame, yet you have apparently chosen to abandon them to their grief and fear. Even if all the misery you describe in your self-pitying indulgence is true, your selfishness is appalling. Although considering the display you just engaged in, perhaps I should not be surprised that you are capable of that kind of cruelty even to those concerned for you."
Harry kicked a dusty foot stool out of his way as he paced around the room. "They don't understand either. Hermione's got all these great ideas for how I can use my fame to make the wizarding world a better place, and Ron still doesn't understand why I don't like signing autographs. I just want to be left alone." He sneezed amid the grime he was kicking up, and turned to glare at Snape. "You said you'd do what I wanted. This is it. I want to go away. I want to be left alone."
"You are mistaken as to the nature of my promise to Dumbledore, Potter." Snape waved his wand to blow the dust away from him—back at Harry, causing the younger man to sneeze again. "My vow to him was to aid you and protect you, not to mindlessly obey you."
"I knew you'd find a way to wiggle out of it. You do that a lot, don't you?"
"Spare me your cheek. If I am of the impression that you are acting against what ought to be your better judgment, then I will not hesitate to exercise my own in your place." Harry gave up trying to spell the dust away and spelled the windows open instead, glaring sideways at Snape in annoyance. "We will not depart this country until you have communicated to the Order your condition and your intentions sufficient to reassure them of your safety."
"Like looking out for me will make up for all the Order members you got killed," Harry retorted. Snape's lips thinned, but he did not respond. With a furious snarl, Harry stalked out of the house.
A few hours later, they were ready to go. Potter had refused to allow Severus to read the missive he was sending to the Burrow, but permitted Severus to Legilimize him sufficiently to satisfy the older man that he was in fact complying with the terms of their agreement.
They went first to an owl post office to send the letter, then departed away from all civilization, wizard or Muggle, to attempt the intercontinental apparation necessary to reach their final destination. "Why didn't you just use a Portkey?" Potter wanted to know.
"Because, you ignorant child, Portkeys can be lost or disabled. Not to mention that if it were taken from me, the effectiveness of the safe house's hidden location would be compromised. Only Dumbledore and I could have found the place," Snape took the boy's arm. "Now. Do NOT move."
It gratified him just a bit to feel Potter's pulse accelerate before they took off.
The rest and expertly-made Potions over the past few days had healed the boy sufficiently to prevent him from being debilitated by the long apparation, but he was still disoriented for several moments after they arrived. When Potter straightened up, his irritation at the lingering weakness dissolved into frank curiosity as he took in their new surroundings.
Severus had to admit he had reacted in much the same way when he had first been brought here.
The safe house was a pleasantly-kept cottage on a tree-covered mountain that broke off into a rough cliff above frigid northern waters. The slope could only be navigated with great caution around boulders and weathered rock to its base, either in the forest behind them or the pebble-covered beach on the expanse of shore between theirs and the next mountain. The beach eventually gave way into more evergreen forest, the dark, towering trees hiding any trace of human habitation in the area. The water wearing away the mountainside was no ocean, but capable of its own brand of ferocity as it wore the stones of the beach into smooth flatness.
Potter rose from inspecting the reds and browns of the stone beneath his feet to take in the small waves on the freshwater sea that appeared to be their new neighbor. "Where are we?"
"Agawa Bay, Ontario, Canada," Snape informed him. "On the northern shore of Lake Superior. Wizarding habitation in this part of the world is sparse at best, and even Muggles seldom frequent this area outside of the summer." He watched the boy for any sign of dismay at their near total solitude, but there was none.
Watching a railway train winding its way around one of the other peaks further down the shoreline, Potter's eyes darkened. "I certainly don't want to deal with Muggles either."
Something in the boy's voice made Severus glance at him sharply, but his face revealed no further information. Selfish brat. With that thought, Severus turned toward the house and left Potter alone on the mountaintop, taking in their new home.
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger
Ottery St. Catchpole, England
I'm fine. Just want to be left alone.
Stop looking for me.
No Return Address.
To be continued...
Coming Soon: Harry and Snape may have found a hiding place from the rest of the wizarding world, but there is nowhere they can hide that the demons they carry within themselves will not find them. All that and more in Chapter Two: Refuge!
Please don't forget to review!