Chapter One - Back To School
This is the continuing story of Harry's Last Hope. I advise you to read that story first before continuing with this story.
This story starts out three days after the demise of Voldemort and right before Winter Holiday begins.
Now, on with the show …
The infirmary was cast in gray shadows, all the lights had long ago been put out for the night. The waning moon was the only weak source of light on this windy night. Harry was lying on the infirmary bed with warm blankets tucked securely around him. The sound of the wind howling through the trees and castle corridors forced him to pull the covers up over his shoulders. He was glad something woke him up, pulling him out of the nightmare he had been in the throes of reliving. He knew sleep was hopeless at this point and wished his father was here to help take his mind off this latest nightmare.
The thought of Voldemort's red lifeless eyes plagued him in his sleep like a broken record forever stuck on the same tune. Sleep would never be something he looked forward to again. Those last moments in the graveyard had taken there toll in more ways than one. Yes, Voldemort was dead now along with most of the Death Eaters but that dark bastard had been given one last chance to wreak havoc in his life.
Harry shook his head trying to rid himself of that memory to no avail. With Voldemort's last breath the evil bastard had shot out a curse that even Dumbledore had never heard of. Now his leg was filled with dark magic and he could feel it most in the dead of the night, like right now. His leg throbbed with pain so sharp it nearly took his breath away. But worse than the pain was the feeling of something alive under the skin, an entity all of its own making. He tried not to think of it because it would send him into a near panic attack but just the thought of … oh bloody hell! Yeah, it was hard not to think about.
Harry finally realized he needed his father to talk him out of this before it spun out of control. He stuck his hand in his nightstand drawer and pulled forth the tiny gold snitch. He quietly whispered Severus' name out before releasing the ball into the air. He watched it flutter out the doors before he turned to look out the window again. There was just this deep foreboding that he felt down to his core. He wasn't sure what it was all about but knew that something big was happening.
He had been staring out the window a short time before he heard the infirmary doors bang open and turned to watch the Professor hurry over to him with a look of alarm.
"What has happened?" Severus asked as he ran his wand down Harry's cursed leg.
"It's nothing," Harry quickly said, now sorry he had alarmed the man so.
"Nothing," Severus slowly repeated, incredulously. "It is three o'clock in the morning. It best be something, Mr. Potter."
"Sorry about waking you. I'm okay now," Harry quietly said wishing he had just gotten through this on his own.
"No, I believe you are not 'okay'," the Potion Master said perceptively as he sat down on the edge of his son's bed. He studied the tired teen's eyes and raised his hand to the boy's sweaty brow, "You are in pain." Without waiting for an answer he got up and crossed the room, pulling out a few vials from a cabinet.
"It's not really that bad," Harry offered out, recalling his recent training program and all the pain he had suffered in silence. It wasn't really the pain that bothered him. He took the vials his father thrust at him and drank without hesitation. "Thanks for coming, Dad."
Severus looked up from Harry's medical chart upon hearing the name Harry had called him. He didn't think he would ever tire of hearing his son call him Dad. The boy rarely called him that. He saw Harry's hands shake as he took the vials back, "The pain is not the reason you called me, is it Harry?" He watched as his son shook his head. Not wanting the reluctant teen to bottle up his fears he leaned forward and placed an encouraging hand on Harry's shoulder. "I am here for you."
Yeah, those were just the words Harry needed to hear to ask the question that had been troubling him. "How long is he going to be inside me?" he asked, hearing his own voice sound so frightened.
"The Dark Lord is not inside you, son," Severus stated firmly, knowing that was the thought that had been plaguing his son.
"Maybe not but it sure feels like something is."
Severus felt his heart beat faster at hearing those words. He and Albus had been working tirelessly on finding a cure but so far they were not any closer. "Rest assured, we will not give up until a cure is found."
"Do not dwell on those thoughts. You require sleep. I will sit with you until you go back to sleep," Severus stated and took a seat in the chair next to the bed. He pushed his son's hair back from his forehead revealing the fading scar. "Relax, close your eyes. You have a full day tomorrow."
Feeling much safer, Harry cleared his mind of all that was plaguing him. He was ever grateful for the support this man offered.
The bright morning light sent rays of colorful beams through the infirmary windows. Harry begrudgingly opened his eyes. He didn't look forward to this day at all. Today he was being released from the infirmary.
He had spent the past three days in the infirmary with occasional visits from Ron and Hermione. He had only seen Ginny once but that didn't go over so well. Other than those visits he hadn't seen or spoken with any other students from Hogwarts. But, that was all about to change today. His father was forcing him to attend the last three days of classes before they left for holiday vacation.
It bothered him to no end that he was being forced into seeing everyone against his will. It was bad enough to have to endure the adoring looks of awe from his best friends but to have everyone look at him like that would be too much to take. Why couldn't Severus understand that? He deserved to have another week of rest didn't he?
After all, he had just killed the most evil wizard of their time! It was finally sinking in that Voldemort was really dead, along with most of the Death Eaters. He looked down at his cursed leg wondering if his father would ever find a cure. Memories of last night made him cringe over his childish behavior. He wondered how long Severus had sat with him last night, feeling somewhat guilty for depriving the man of his own sleep. The Professor had been a great source of encouragement and he didn't know how he would be able to get through this without him. But it still bothered him to no end, that the professor was forcing him to go to school.
Right after Madame Pomfrey assessed him and told him he was released the infirmary doors opened and Severus walked in.
"Did you sleep well?" the Potion Master asked as he ran his wand down his son's leg. The dark magic Voldemort had shot into Harry had begun to decrease but not as fast as they hoped by this point. The boy would still require a cane to walk.
"Alright, I guess," Harry said grouchily.
Severus raised an eyebrow as he watched Harry flop back on his pillow and cross his arms over his chest in a huff. He knew the boy was resentful over being required to attend the last week of classes.
"You are angry," Severus stated impassively.
"Yeah, I am. I can't believe you're forcing me to go back to school so soon after everything that happened."
"It is for your own good," Severus stated patiently. They had already been through this yesterday. He thought it was in the boy's best interest to stop avoiding his schoolmates and begin to face the reaction people would have over the death of Voldemort.
It had only been three days since Harry had accomplished that feat but in those three days Harry had refused to see anyone. The infirmary doors had been locked to all save for the Headmaster, Poppy, Granger and Weasley. The uncharacteristically surly teen had refused to see anyone else. Dumbledore thought the sudden change in Harry's disposition was due in part to the dark curse he had received from Voldemort.
The other major concern was Harry's flat out refusal to perform any magic. Severus knew the troubled teen was under the impression that Voldemort's curse might effect his magic, possibly even turning his magic dark.
"I'm not ready!" Harry pleaded, hoping to appeal to Severus' sympathetic side. When the Potion Master just stared at him, Harry remembered that Severus didn't have a sympathetic side.
"Get showered and dressed," Severus curtly ordered then handed Harry a black cane.
"What's that for?" Harry asked as he refused to take hold of the cane.
"You will use this cane until your leg heals," Severus affirmed and grabbed hold of his son's wrist, thrusting the cane into his hand. "Stop dawdling and get up."
Harry looked down at the black cane, hating everything it represented. Even though Voldemort was dead the monster was still plaguing him. Because of Voldemort everyone would treat him differently, not just because of his injured leg but because he was a so called 'hero' now. He hated being looked up to for becoming a killer, a murderer. It didn't matter how much his father and Dumbledore tried to convince him otherwise, he knew what he had become.
He showered three or four times a day to get rid of the dark feelings that snuck up on him. It helped temporarily but then those dark feelings would be back. No, he didn't want to parade his injuries around for others to behold by using that blasted cane. He stubbornly threw the thing down on the ground and tried to stand on his own. He could tell the professor was getting fed up with him but he didn't care.
Severus watched as Harry struggled to stand on his own. He didn't offer a helping hand when his son started to fall either. The exasperating boy would need to learn the hard way… as usual.
Harry fell sideways hitting his head and shoulder on the nightstand with a loud thwack. He sat on the ground in humiliation and waited for his father to help him up.
When Severus didn't make any move to help him Harry finally spoke up, "I'll use the cane now, sir."
Severus leaned down and gently grabbed both of Harry's forearms helping him to stand. "Must you always learn the hard way?" the Potion Master admonished.
Harry shrugged not having a clever remark to offer back. He took hold of the cane and leaned heavily on it on his way into the washroom. Blasted man always got his own way!
The shower had cleansed him of all the dark feelings, which was a good thing considering what he was doing today. After dressing in his school uniform he stood leaning on the cane waiting for Severus to come fetch him for breakfast in the Great Hall. His stomach was in knots over the reaction his school mates might have towards him. He was starting to go into a panic when the infirmary door opened and Hermione walked in.
"Your dad sent me here to get you for breakfast," Hermione said and picked up Harry's book bag for him.
Harry's heart raced but he smiled at his best friend and began to follow her out the door. "What was he doing that he was too busy to get me himself?' Harry asked slightly wounded over his dad not being here.
"I don't really know. I just received an owl a few minutes ago. He wants you to bring your wand and he said if you didn't he would give you detention every night this week."
Harry groaned but went back and dug the wand out from under the mattress. He had hid it there yesterday after his dad had tried to force him into using it. He hoped his spells wouldn't be contaminated with dark magic and didn't want to find out. That wretched curse Voldemort shot at him was ruining his life. He was afraid to do even the most mundane spell in case it carried Voldemort's magic.
"Everyone is really looking forward to seeing you again, Harry. I know Ginny misses you," Hermione exclaimed and looked towards Harry for any signs that the feelings would be reciprocated.
Harry shook his head, "Yeah, the last time I saw her was kinda weird."
Hermione waited for Harry to say more but when he didn't she didn't think she should push the subject.
It took them a full ten minutes to reach the doors to the Great Hall with Harry's leg slowing him down. He hoped this curse would hurry up and run its course. He looked up at the closed doors and heard his heart beat loudly in his chest.
Hermione opened the door and stood aside for him to enter. He kept his eyes on the ground as he walked in but was suddenly aware of the room falling into silence for a brief moment. He looked up as the room erupted into thunderous applause and hoots and shouts of praise. Everyone was staring at him and yelling out words of acclaim. Bloody hell!
He quickly turned his head and looked back at the door thinking about turning to go back out. Hermione grabbed hold of his arm and escorted him to a place at the Gryffindor table. By that time, half the Gryffindors were on their feet clapping him on the back and patting his shoulders.
Severus had just sat down when the doors opened and he saw his son walk into the Great Hall. He had intended to be by his side but an unexpected incident at the Ministry had taken him away. He pushed the ramifications of the news he had just learned out of his thoughts. There would be time to think about that misfortune later.
He saw Harry look back at the door when the cheering had begun. Severus had actually stood up to help escort his son into the hall but thankfully Granger had the intelligence to encourage the embarrassed teen to sit. He knew Harry was mad at him for not allowing him to seclude himself from his peers. It would be easier to face the reaction from the other students now though, rather than after the two week holiday.
Harry awkwardly lifted his sore leg over the bench before sitting down next to Ron. He leaned the black cane on the bench. He couldn't even hear his best friend's question to him and had to lean in closer.
"I think they want you to say something," Ron shouted into his ear.
Say something? No way. He looked back at the door wondering how stupid he would look to just get up and leave.
Dumbledore caught his attention as he stood before the podium forcing the students to quite down.
"Quiet down everyone. Take your seats please." Albus waited a moment before starting once again, "Yes, this week will be filled with celebration. We are all overjoyed to see the end of these troubling times. I know we would all like to thank our resident hero, however I kindly ask everyone to refrain from pestering Mr. Potter. No autographs or pictures are to be asked for. We must let Harry feel as if this school is his sanctuary away from prying eyes and bothersome people," Dumbledore admonished as he looked about the room.
Harry felt his face heat up with embarrassment as he studied the eggs on his plate. He couldn't bear this whole experience any longer. Damn his officious father for putting him through this!
Dumbledore went on to inform them that all owls coming and going would need to be searched in order to keep Harry safe. He also warned everyone to stay out of the forest and away from the Black Lake.
Harry shot Hermione an inquisitive look, silently asking her if she knew anything about those warnings . Hermione just shook her head. When Dumbledore finally finished everyone hurried to finish their breakfast.
Harry had his eyes pointed down at his eggs when he felt a hesitant hand on his shoulder. Ron quickly slid over and allowed Ginny to sit next to Harry.
"Hi Ginny. I was hoping to see you before classes, " Harry said and looked into her worried blue eyes.
"I'm sorry I haven't visited you in he infirmary again. I just wasn't sure how you were feeling about us," Ginny said with apprehension.
"Gin," Harry started then noticed all the stares coming his way and dropped his voice. "Gin, I'm going through a whole lot of stuff right now." He thought of that cursed leg and all the dark magic coursing through him. "Maybe we should just be friends for a while … until I can get my head cleared?"
Ginny had tears pooling in her eyes but nodded her head in agreement before abruptly getting up and racing out the door. Ron shot Harry a glare but slid back to sit next to him once again.
"Sorry," Harry said to Ron, "I think I just need a little time to clear my head."
"I don't blame you, but it's just that Ginny's been having a hard time with everyone else. The Slytherin's are teasing her mercilessly about marrying Voldemort and almost killing you," Ron watched as Harry's mouth fell open over hearing that.
Harry looked back at the Slytherin table and noticed almost half the people were missing. "You've got to be kidding me? I'll tell my dad about the Slytherins and he'll set them straight."
"It's not just the Slytherins. People from other houses are treating her poorly too because she almost killed you," Ron said with a pained expression.
"But that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! Ginny didn't try to kill me, Voldemort did!" Harry yelled out and caught the attention of most of the students sitting close by.
"We know that but not everyone understands the Imperius Curse," Ron explained in hushed tones.
Harry thought about it a moment, "I'll talk to Lupin and see if he can't explain it in more detail during DADA this week. I don't want Ginny suffering for something that wasn't her fault."
"Well it might of helped if you hadn't of just broken up with her. I mean every-one's going to assume you broke up with her because she tried to kill you."
Oh yeah, he hadn't thought of that. "I'll think of something," Harry promised and watched as most the students started to leave for classes.
He stayed seated waiting for most everyone to leave. Some of his closer friends gave him a pat on the back or welcomed him back. Everyone else left him alone, although he could still feel the stares directed at him. When almost everyone was gone he awkwardly stood up and reached for his cane.
Hermione helped him put his sore leg over the bench but the pain shot through him like a bolt of lightening. He took in a deep breath and bit his lip. Within seconds a firm hand reached down and took hold of is arm.
"I will escort Mr. Potter to class," Severus firmly stated.
Hermione, Ron and Neville reluctantly went ahead to class.
Harry didn't look up at his dad or say anything to him. He couldn't believe how awful this whole experience had been so far.
Severus walked beside the irritable adolescent, knowing full well how angry the boy was. They were half way down to the Potion class before Severus finally spoke up, "That was the worst of it. There should not be any more announcements made regarding you."
"You told Dumbledore to do that!" Harry bit out.
"Albus and I discussed the matter."
"Well, don't do me anymore favors," Harry said and yanked his arm away from his father.
"Harry, you may not appreciate my interference however I am doing what I think is best for you."
Harry didn't say anything to that. They reached the Potion classroom door and Severus held it opened as Harry walked in.
All eyes looked up at him and Harry practically scowled back as he took his seat by Hermione. He looked down at his book bag ignoring the stares he felt on him.
Severus immediately started his potions lecture hoping to obtain the attention of the students. Most of the students turned their attention to the front of the class. The poor boy virtually cringed under the intense scrutiny his schoolmates had given him. When two girls from Hufflepuff refused to tear their eyes away from Harry, Severus finally had to threaten them with detention if they didn't keep their eyes forward at all times. That at least earned him a half smile from his son.
The rest of the day was filled with intense staring and the younger students giving Harry a wide berth in the hallways. He was beginning to think about using his invisibility cloak to get from class to class just to avoid the attention he caused.
The teachers were almost as bad as the students. He caught them all looking at him at one time or another during class. He wondered if they were spying for his father.
By the end of the day he was so fed up with all the attention that he decided to skip dinner and head down to the dungeon, against the protest of his two best friends. He walked into Severus' apartments hoping to catch a little peace and quiet only to find a meeting going on with members from the Order. He distinctly heard Sirius' name mentioned before the Order members noticed him.
Shacklebolt, Tupin, Tonks, Lupin, McGonagall, Dumbledore and Severus were sitting in the living room arguing. Upon seeing Harry they all stopped talking.
"What were you saying about Sirius?" Harry asked as his father walked over to him and silently assessed his condition.
Severus could tell that the boy was in pain and quite exhausted, "That is none of your business. You are missing supper."
"It is too my business. I'm his sole heir so I should know anything that pertains to him."
"Harry's right Severus," Remus said and stood up. "We can't keep this from him forever."
"Shut up Lupin. I will decide what is best for my son to hear and when it is best for him to hear it!"
"Come now gentlemen, we will come to a mutual understanding," Dumbledore gently admonished.
"No, I will decide," Severus firmly stated.
Harry couldn't believe they were once again deciding something important without including him on the decision. "Wait a minute! Haven't I already earned the right to be included in the Order? What the hell else do I have to do to earn the right to be in your little club!" Harry yelled out, ignoring Severus' painful grip on his shoulder.
"Your insolence will not be tolerated, Mr. Potter. Go to your room and I will have supper sent in."
"Your sending me to my room?" Harry asked in disbelief. "No. I'm staying right here until you tell me what you guys were talking about. I'm not a little kid, Severus."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt a headache behind his eyes coming on. He struggled with either forcing the boy into the bedroom or just giving in and telling him. Harry would find out soon enough anyway, "Harry, come over here and take a seat."
Lupin came to Harry's other side and helped him to the sofa. He gave the boy a tight one armed squeeze and whispered, "Everything will be fine."
Harry's heart raced a little faster now, getting a little scared over what was going to be said. He looked towards his father, "Okay, what is it?"
Severus took in a deep breath before answering, "Harry, you must promise me that you will act like an adult and not try to leave the school."
Harry was beginning to get down right panicked, this must be really bad he thought. "Okay."
Severus cleared his throat and slowly began, "When Voldemort departed this world, there was an incident at the ministry. It seems that with his passing a door to the unknown was temporarily opened. The door I am referring to is also called the 'veil'."
"You-you mean…" Harry started before Severus cut him off. Harry's heart was racing now. Was it really true?
"Yes, the veil has allowed a handful of people to come back through. The predicament is that those people are not quite normal. They seem to be rather affected by the whole experience of having gone through the veil. They are not stable and are under the care of a healer of the mind. There were only three people who made it back through the veil before it closed once again. One of those people is none other than Black," Severus flatly declared.
Lupin squeezed Harry's shoulder, "Harry it's true… Sirius is back!"