Chapter 43: Saying Goodbye
Harry was awake before anyone else and watched as the daylight grew with the dawn. Snape had removed the silencing charms and he could hear the birds begin to sing. It all seemed so simple and peaceful, not at all the horror that had been his dream.
Snape watched Harry through lowered lashes, not wanting him to know that he was awake yet. He saw the face of a boy, etched with lines of worry well before his time. This boy had seen too much of the dark side of life and not enough of the good. It had aged him past what he should rightfully be. How was it possible that he could be the one to aid him in his journey to becoming the Wizard of the Light? As much as he had tried to reassure Harry, he felt the same way when it came to believing that this would all be right in the end; that somehow the Dark Lord would be destroyed. Everyone was headed for the biggest letdown of all. It seemed like fate would have put that possibility into a much more believable figure than this thin, abused boy, and would have put the trust of being a proper mentor into a man who did not have the dark history that dogged Snape's heels.
The back door opened and Ellen came out onto the patio. Harry sat up, and Snape slowly made his body obey the same order. His side where he had hit the table was throbbing this morning. Without his robes, he was without any of the simple potions he kept handy. He should have let Harry heal him, but he hadn't thought of it. He had been much more concerned with Harry understanding the power that he had. Maybe later…
Ellen smiled down at them. "Enjoying the sunrise?"
Harry nodded and smiled. Snape stood up and said, "One does not often get the opportunity to sleep under the stars."
"Breakfast will be ready soon. Do you have plans for today, or are you at our mercy?" Ellen asked cheerfully.
Snape said, "Harry and I will be taking care of some loose ends for part of the day. I will be going back to Hogwarts this evening."
"Well, then, I'll try to keep Hermione and Ron busy this morning. I'll call you when breakfast is ready." She walked back into the house.
Harry looked up at Snape and he saw the worry clouding the green eyes. "What if it was a premonition? Shouldn't I tell them, so they could go some place safe?"
Snape shook his head. "You cannot make yourself responsible for the safety of everyone. Until you are ready, there is nothing you can do to protect them."
"But there is! I can warn them!" Snape saw the old determination showing through and felt glad that Harry still had it after all that had happened. At the same time, there was a need to instill caution in him and temper the Gryffindor foolhardiness.
"Would you spend every day telling everyone your dreams, giving them warnings concerning things that may or may not happen? Would you have them see you as another Trelawney?" He glared at Harry. "Would that help your cause, give you what you need to know to defeat the Dark Lord?"
Harry looked at his feet and shook his head. Then softly he said, "Can't I at least help those who are close to me; those like the Grangers who have been so nice? Can't I give back instead of always taking?"
Snape put a hand on his shoulder, gripping it firmly. "We do not know whether or not your dream was in fact a premonition, or merely a fear taking the form of a nightmare." He felt the misery Harry was feeling right now and loosened his grip, making it into more of a reassuring squeeze. "If it becomes clear that you are having accurate premonitions, we will give warnings to those they concern if we can. Can you accept that compromise?"
Harry looked up at him, meeting his eyes to measure the honesty in the words. Snape returned his stare levelly, letting him see that he meant it, emphasizing the words, 'If we can.' Harry didn't like how that sounded, as if they might not give warnings should Snape decide it wasn't wise. But he nodded, his mouth in a tight line.
Ron and Hermione stepped out onto the patio then, carrying plates. "Mum said it was too nice a morning to eat inside, you two have the right idea about enjoying it." Hermione handed them their plates and took hers from Ron as they sat at the patio table.
She gave Harry a worried look. "You alright this morning, Harry?" He gave her a small smile and a nod.
Ron asked, "What are we doing today? We have to make it good, you know. Tomorrow we get on the train and who knows how long it will be before we can do this again." He looked at Hermione expectantly.
Snape dabbed his mouth with a napkin and said, "Harry and I will be seeing to some things this morning. I will be returning to Hogwarts shortly thereafter. Perhaps you could make your big plans for later this afternoon?"
Hermione looked curious, but didn't ask what they would be doing. She nodded in agreement. "Ron and I will put something together. Maybe we'll go to another movie."
Ron nodded enthusiastically, talking around a mouthful of eggs. "Yeah, that sounds good. Hurry back, Harry, so we can get started."
Harry gave Snape a questioning look. 'Where are we going?'
They finished their breakfast with Hermione making suggestions about what they might do and Ron proclaiming he wanted to do it all.
Snape stood up when Harry pushed his plate away. "We will be Apparating. Are you ready?"
Harry joined him at the edge of the patio, where Snape put an arm around his shoulder. With a soft crack, they were gone.
They were hidden in some trees and when they stepped out, Harry recognized the park that they had gone to every day for lunch during the summer. With a sigh, he watched children playing in the early sun, their laughter ringing out across the way.
Snape slowly walked the perimeter and Harry followed, until he sat down on the bench they usually occupied. Harry had a faraway look as he continued to observe. Snape said, "You could give it another go, if you wish."
Harry was silent for a time then spoke softly, "I had never been to the park and allowed to have fun before you brought me here. I remember going with Dudley and my aunt, but when we got there, he would make things miserable and she would just let him do it."
Snape knew much of what Harry was talking about from all the dreams and memories that had been shared, but he knew that Harry needed to give words to them; to vent it.
"Once, when I got on the swings, Dudley ran up and pushed me out. He had hold of the chain and made the swing hit me in the face. My nose was all bloody and Aunt Petunia yelled at me for getting my clothes ruined with it." His voice was matter of fact, recounting an episode that was one of many; so many that they had melded together and this one stood out to be an example.
A little boy appeared in front of their bench then, breaking Harry out of the memories. "Hey, Billy." Harry smiled.
"You talked!" Billy took off down the sidewalk, yelling, "Hey, Mum, Harry talked! He can talk now!" He came back holding the hand of his mother who was smiling down at them. Billy let go of her and grabbed Harry's hand. "Come on, let's go play!"
Harry glanced at Snape, and seeing the slight inclination of his head, he jumped up and ran after the little boy toward the swings. Billy's mother took the vacated spot Harry had been in and watched them for a bit before speaking.
"He's recovered from his ordeal then?"
"He's still healing. His ordeal will no doubt leave life-long scars."
"Billy has been missing him. He looks for you every day."
"This will be the last day we will be able to come here."
She looked over at Snape then, silently questioning his statement. He chose his words carefully. "I was teaching at the school for the summer term. We will be going back to our own now."
She looked as if she wanted to ask more, but Snape gave her no encouraging indications to do so. She settled for commenting, "He will be missed. There's something about him … normally, I wouldn't have allowed Billy to play with a kid Harry's age. They can be so rough. But Harry has a gentle spirit, doesn't he? He just radiates a goodness …"
Snape looked at her, eyes narrowed as he saw her contemplative expression. She shook herself and gave a little laugh. "Listen to me. I don't know what I'm on about. What I mean is, it seems like most who have been through whatever he has would be made harder, selfish even, and eager to take it out on others. Harry is just … Harry." She looked at Snape with a grin. "I sound foolish, don't I?"
He looked back out at the two boys. Harry was pushing Billy in the swings so that he rose higher and higher than the smaller boy would have been able to manage on his own. They were both laughing. He sensed again the purity of the joy that Harry was feeling, like that first day when he was the one soaring on the swing. He answered Billy's mother, "No, you do not. He is a remarkable young man by anyone's measure. He will miss this, as well."
They watched as the boys switched places, with Billy trying to boost Harry as high as Harry had pushed him. Harry was giving him help so that it seemed that Billy was, in fact, able to give Harry the height he had achieved.
Eventually, Harry looked over at Snape. 'I'm not coming back here, am I?'
'This is not our world.'
'It should have been my world when I was growing up.'
'Yes,' Snape agreed. 'It should have been.'
Harry looked at Snape for a long time, thinking. Then he said, his voice filled with emotion, 'Thank you for giving it to me now.'
He blinked hard, and then smiled at Billy when the child took him by the hand, dragging him across the playground to the slide.
Snape swallowed hard against the emotion welling up inside him. He shifted, wincing as his broken rib rubbed the wrong way. After a while, the boys ran back to the bench.
"Hey, mum, can Harry and me get some ice cream? The ice cream cart is open now. Can we?" Billy bounced up and down on his toes as he begged his mother. She smiled and opened her handbag. After handing them some change, they ran off toward the ice cream cart.
Snape watched as they walked slowly down the sidewalk, eating the dripping cones and talking. They sat down on the grass and Snape could see that Harry was talking while Billy was listening. The little boy shook his head and Harry leaned forward, putting a hand on his shoulder. They finished their treats and walked back to the bench where Snape and Billy's mother sat waiting.
Harry turned to Billy and knelt down. "You've been my best friend, Billy. I'll miss you."
Billy asked in a trembling voice, "Are you sure you can't come back?"
"Maybe sometime I will. But it won't be for a long time." Harry put his hand on the small boy's shoulder again.
Billy leaned forward and hugged him, Harry hugging him back. "I'll miss you, too, Harry. You'll always be my friend. Even if you're gone for a long time."
Harry stood up and looked at Snape. 'Let's go, while I still can.'
Snape stood up and looked at Billy's mother and then at Billy. "You have been most kind this summer. Thank you for being Harry's friend."
They turned and walked away from the two Muggles, Harry faltering when he heard the sniffles behind him. Snape put a hand on his elbow to keep him moving away and they made their way into the cover of the trees.
Once they had made sure they were unseen, Snape Apparated them away.
Harry looked up to see that were just outside the apparition boundary at Hogwarts. He looked at Snape in question. "I thought I was riding the Express back with Ron and Hermione."
"You shall." He regarded Harry closely for a moment, in a considering way. "I thought you might like to fly before term started."
Harry grinned. "You think I can?"
"I know that you want to. It should be enough. Then you will see that the magic is inside you, waiting for you to take control of it again." Snape gazed at him levelly, and then began walking onto Hogwarts grounds. He bypassed the castle and headed directly to the Quidditch pitch. Harry walked beside him, thinking about what he had said. He knew and believed now that he was a wizard. He had moved past the deeply ingrained ideas about it making him a freak like his uncle had said so many times. But besides the little bit of wandless magic with Prongs, and the results from the dream last night –
"Merlin! Your ribs! You said they were broken, let me see –"
"I can heal them with a few potions once I get you back to the Granger's later."
They had reached the locker room and Snape opened the door of the shed where school brooms were kept. He pulled out one that was in decent shape and handed it to Harry. Harry took it and then walked over to the bench.
"Sit down and let me see your ribs." He eyed Snape with calm determination until the man complied. Harry sat down next to him and waited until Snape pulled his shirt aside, revealing the nasty purpling flesh. Harry reached out a tentative hand and laid it flat against the bruise, closing his eyes. Snape hissed at the pain upon first contact, then relaxed as the healing energy began to work. He felt the bones knitting themselves back into proper position.
After a few minutes the energy began to ebb and Harry felt like he had done what he could for the moment. He stood up, grabbing the broom.
"Get yourself a broom. I want you to fly with me."
He walked out to the pitch, and waited until Snape came out holding a broom and a ball that was used as a practice bludger. In his head, Snape spoke, 'Do not get used to telling me what to do. I must remind you that once term begins, you will be a student, and I will be your teacher.'
'Yeah, I know. That's why I want to do this. I'm afraid that things will go back to the old ways and we will lose what we've had. I don't want that to happen, but I get that we can't be together like we have been. Images to keep up and all that. We're not exactly what people would expect in the way of- friends.'
Snape wanted to reassure him that they would still be friends, but in truth, he had not yet figured a way for that to happen while school was in session. For them to be anything other than what they had always been would be to invite more suspicions from those who already had enough to chew on. But he could not let it be as if nothing had happened this summer. He would have to think of something.
He threw the ball directly at Harry without warning. Harry threw out a hand and the ball veered away, soaring over the field before coming to a bouncing stop. Harry looked at him in surprise, but didn't say anything.
Mounting his broom, he hesitated and then kicked off. It was as if he had never been away from it. He flew high over the pitch, wheeling and looping through the air. Snape watched him with satisfaction before mounting his own broom. Harry slowed down to hover as he waited for Snape to join him in the air.
"This feels brilliant, Severus!" He was flushed with excitement at being airborne.
Snape pointed to the ball. "Summon it."
Harry felt in his pocket for his wand before realizing that he didn't have it. Snape said, "You don't need your wand. Try it."
Harry held out a hand to the ball on the ground. Before he could remember the summoning charm, the ball was flying at him. He caught it and gaped. "I didn't even say the charm, I just thought about what I wanted it to do."
Snape gave him a smirk. "Throw it at me."
Harry considered this for a brief moment before flinging his hand out and letting the ball head towards its target. Snape put out his own hand and repelled the ball back to Harry, who responded in kind, in spite of his surprise that Snape could do it wandlessly as well. They went on that way, repelling the ball back and forth until Snape caught it and held it.
Harry was flying loops again, wishing he had his Firebolt out here; remembering how much better it handled than this school broom. Snape let the ball drop to the ground and flew until he was beside Harry.
"You did well with that."
"Do you think that I can do it with any spell?"
"Time will tell. My strong suggestion is this, however: use your wand whenever you are around others. Wandless magic is not common. Consider how being a Parseltongue makes you feel."
Harry frowned. "It makes me uncomfortable when people look at me like I'm evil, just because I can talk to snakes."
"They may very well jump to the same conclusion with this ability when you exhibit it."
"Hermione and the Weasleys know about it."
"They will keep it quiet if you wish it. Just tell them."
They flew around the pitch in silence for a while; Harry periodically soaring up rapidly and then making a sharp turn down until he banked and came up beside Snape again.
"You never said how we will handle things after term starts. Can I still talk to you?"
"I would ask that you use discretion. I would also ask that you be aware that my manner toward you will change around others, but it does not mean that what I have told you is no longer true."
"You mean about being my friend."
"That, and more. I believe we have made progress towards being more than friends. The Muggle court did award custody of you to me."
Harry snapped his head around to look at Snape. "I had forgotten that. You are my guardian now, aren't you?"
"Does that mean you won't take points from me in Potions anymore?" Harry asked hopefully.
"I cannot promise that. You should expect that deviations from rules and poor behavior will still result in whatever punishment is appropriate."
"But not yet? Not until school starts?"
"I suppose not. Why do you ask?"
Harry grinned. "Because I want to see if the black bat from the dungeons of hell can keep up with me!" He took off at high speed around the pitch. Snape stared after him, eyes narrowed.
'You are still an insolent brat, you realize.' He took off after him. They had a few more hours of summer left, after all.
PostScript A/N: Thank you to everyone who has read this whole story. You have kept me inspired to continue, and your thoughtful comments and reviews encouraged me when I needed it most!
A very special thank you to logicalquirk for being my beta for the last half of the story! You've been wonderful!
I owe thanks to Somagliana, too, my beta for the first half of the story. She made it easy for me to learn to accept corrections in my work!
Just in case it's not stated enough, I own nothing in the world of Harry Potter. It all belongs to the incomparable JK Rowling. I only borrow the characters to give words to my imagination!
The sequel to The First Prophecy will be titled Primoris Oraculum Duo. This loosely means First Prophecy Two. (I am certainly not a Latin expert and I'm just trying for something that looks and sounds good!)