Chapter Twenty-Four

"Mr. Potter."

Harry groaned and batted away the offending person. Light suddenly flooded behind his eyelids and he moaned.

"Mr. Potter, can you hear me?"

"Is he going to be alright?" a voice asked. "Shouldn't he be awake by now?"

Harry tried to ignore it, wanting to go back to the darkness where he didn't hurt and didn't have to think or feel.

Before he could sink into the void, a voice he recognized pulled him back. "Come on, mate, wake up before mum starts crying again."

"Mum?" he slurred, opening one eyelid with a painful slowness that all witnessing it could feel.

He blinked against the light, his eyes unable to focus on the people surrounding him. He knew he was in a bed, but where that bed was, he didn't know.

"Sev'rus," he murmured.

The air went still around him and for a brief, fleeting, hopeful moment he thought they had gone and left him alone so he could fall into the darkness once more; but no, a hand rested on his shoulder and he was forced to open his eyes and embrace the waking world again .

"Mione," he mumbled, his gaze landing on the frizzy brunette before him. She stared at him with worried brown eyes, her upper teeth gnawing on her lower lip. He hoped she didn't start to cry on him. He hated it when girls got weepy like that.

"Glasses?" he asked, squinting his eyes, trying to bring the faces around him into focus.

Hermione's soft hand placed the wire frames into his outstretched palm and he haphazardly struggled to put them on his face. His best friend reached out and adjusted them so they sat just so on the bridge of his nose. He could see again.

His throat was dry and scratchy, but he wasn't thirsty or hungry either for that matter. It made little sense to him. By Ron's words alone he knew he had been unconscious for more than a few hours, so why didn't he need to relieve himself or drink any water or eat any food?

"What happened?" he asked, finding it even stranger that his voice wasn't the usual rasp of someone having been unconscious for a long period of time.

Lupin came into view, his arm in a sling and a bandage across his neck. "How much do you remember, Harry?" he asked softly, smiling.

Harry frowned and bowed his head, before he gazed frantically around at the faces. He could remember it, all of it. Snape's half-dead body, his wand shattered, the Avada Kedavra curse. Oh God! He had killed someone. He knew it; felt it with every bit of his being. He had killed people, even though most would not consider Voldemort a person any more. He had killed, killed out of rage and vengeance. He was a murderer. And Snape. Harry squeezed his eyes shut. Snape could be dead and it wasn't like any of the Order was likely to tell him. They probably still thought he was the scum of the earth and no amount of explanation would make them feel any differently. Most of them had never trusted the greasy bat to begin with, so why would they start now? And, what if they were hiding something from him? What if they knew something Harry didn't? He did not like the uneasy feeling that was wriggling around his gut, and not even Lupin's reassuring smile could appease the nasty little bugger.

"Snape?" he asked, his eyes falling on each and every one of his family and friends.

The Weasleys looked at one another cautiously. They knew Harry had been with Snape for the last couple of months, but they didn't know what kind of hold Snape might have over him.

Molly took his hand and squeezed it. "Don't you worry about that, dear. You just focus on getting well."

Harry batted her worried, mothering hands away from him. He drew himself away from them physically and emotionally. He could not trust them. They would lie to him. No one would tell him the truth. He would have to ask a reliable source. He did not wish to hurt his family, but in order to get the answers he sought; he would need to go above their heads.

He had realized not long after waking where he was. He was in the hospital wing in Hogwarts. He was home. There was nothing that could stop him now from seeking Madame Pomfrey. Harry vaguely wondered if his feeling of good health had anything to do with his messed-up magic or if he just had so many healing and calming potions running through him that he was momentarily insensible to everything.

"Harry, dear?"

Harry ignored Mrs. Weasley and it cut him like a dull knife. He would have to hurt them. That was something he had never wished to do, but this meant more to him then their petty concerns. Snape, he found it fascinating to note, meant more to him at that moment than any of the oxygen-breathing people in the curtained off area with him.

An aging hand landed on his shoulder, preventing him from getting out of bed and he snarled, "Let me go."

"Harry, I'm afraid we can't do that until Madame Pomfrey tells us you're okay."

"Remus, let me go," he repeated as if he had not heard the werewolf's rational answer.

"Calm yourself, Mister Potter," Pomfrey's firm voice ordered. "You'll not be undoing all my careful work."

Harry's eyes darted to her. "Where's Snape?" he asked, ignoring the questioning looks from the people around him.

"He's under guard at St. Mungo's," she said, pressing a cup to his mouth. "Drink this, you need to remain calm."

Harry pressed his lips tightly together and pushed her hands far away from him. He didn't want any calming draught and he knew that was what she was trying to force through his tightly-shut lips.

"Mr. Potter, really, do be sensible," Madame Pomfrey said with her infernal calmness. If this were any other visit to the hospital wing he would have taken the potion without question, but no. He needed to stay lucid; he needed to be able to think, for if he couldn't think and argue he would never be able to ask all the questions that were zipping about his head.

"Harry," Hermione said, being the only one brave enough now to rest a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her with a dangerous expression, but she remained strong and he conceded to her with a small nod. There was no way in any of the circles of hell that he would open up his mouth, with Madame Pomfrey hovering about him like an angel of death. She was dear to him, but right at that precise moment, he wished he could glare a spell and break the glass in her hand.

Hermione squeezed his striped, starched, pajama-clad shoulder. "He's in critical condition, Harry. No one knows what is wrong with him."

Harry shook his head desperate to will her words away and the implied message beneath them. Snape, the greasy bastard, was dying. Why couldn't she have just told him outright? It was written all over her worried posture, her nervous fingers curling at the edge of her gray-blue skirt. There was no hiding it from him.

He wanted to ask her for more details, but that blasted potion-bearing witch still stood by his bedside. They were trapping him there and he had never felt more caged in than he did at that moment. Not even his time sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs had made him this twitchy, this full of energy. He could not stand it. He felt he would surely explode if they kept him here much longer.

Teeth clenched, lest Pomfrey take the opportunity to pour a potion down his throat, Harry growled, "I have to use the loo."

Madame Pomfrey looked ready to dissuade him of that notion by telling him of some medical term or potion that had stopped his need. Before she could, he had Hermione's wand in his hand and was standing on the bed with a fierce, half-mad expression that would tell anyone that he was livid.

"Take me to him," he snarled, emerald eyes clashing with concerned but defeated hazel. Lupin would help. He always helped. The man had a weak will. Sweet Merlin, he was beginning to sound like Snape. "Now!"

Harry ignored the worried looks being bandied about, focusing completely on Lupin. "If anything happens to him there, I'll never forgive any of you," Harry warned, his voice cold.

Remus held up his hand. "It's alright, Harry. I'll take you to him, just...calm down."

"I'll calm down when I see that he's being taken care of," Harry argued, glaring at the group surrounding his bed.

"That's my wand!" Hermione cried. Harry snorted and stepped off the bed, brushing by Madame Pomfrey and accidentally knocking the vial of clear liquid from the matronly woman's fragile age-spotted hands. The resulting tinkle of broken glass as the tiny vial hit the stone floor made him grin.

Hermione was staring at him in a horrified manner, but he found himself completely uncaring. He had more important things to do. He would apologize later like the good boy they expected him to be and this would all be swept under the metaphorical rug. However, people trample on rugs and he knew he was bound to get worried, sympathetic looks when they thought he wouldn't notice. He really wondered if they truly believed he could not see the disturbed and innocently confused expressions on each of their faces. Or the way Ginny's hands were trembling, and Ron's flaming red face, or the way Mr. Weasley was secretly rubbing soothing circles at the base of Mrs. Weasley's back.

Idiotic, sentimental fools, the lot of them. Did they not understand what he was feeling? How much it hurt to just breathe in and out? How crazed his thoughts were? His desperation; how could they not feel it? He stepped up beside the ragged werewolf.

"No jokes, no tricks, no lies. Take me to him, Remus, please?"

"You have my word, Harry, just lower the wand," Remus said calmly. Harry couldn't help but notice that he sounded like he was talking to a rabid dog.

Harry lowered the wand, but didn't release his hold on it. "Take me," Harry said, his eyes darting about, making sure that nobody would try and stop them. "Is the Floo open?" he asked, not wanting to take the time it would need to get past the Apparation wards.

Remus looked at Poppy, who nodded curtly, scowling openly at Harry.

"Come on, Harry." He nodded toward the large Floo a bit further down the ward.

Harry hung close to Remus, his fingers curling anxiously around Hermione's thin wand. The lighter piece of wood felt awkward in his hand and he realized he would never feel the familiar weight of his own wand again. Fawkes... it was all he'd had of Dumbledore. The thought killed a little piece of him and he tripped over his own feet. He didn't fall, but he might as well have.

A large, comforting hand landed between his shoulder blades, gently propelling him forward and he suddenly wanted to just be held. He wanted Remus to just pick his body off the ground and hold him like a baby. So many things had gone wrong and there was no fixing it. He was beginning to wonder if going to see Snape would be worth it. His anger was already deflating, but his need to see the greasy git had not left him. He itched to just be able to see the hook-nosed, greasy, black-haired man and make sure that he wasn't dead yet.

A heavy weight settled in his chest and he vaguely realized that it was guilt.

They stepped up to the Floo and Remus grabbed a handful of powder from the mantle. "Are you ready, Harry?" he asked gently.

Harry nodded, fighting back tears that were threatening to fall.

"We'll go together then," Remus said, moving the two of them into the large fireplace. Remus looked Harry over carefully, and something in his face softened.

He wrapped Harry up in a hug and said, "Hold tight," against the boy's hair before throwing the powder into the fire and shouting, "St. Mungo's!"

Harry buried his tearstained face in Remus's tattered robes as they spun wildly through the Floo system to their destination. He gritted his teeth against the nausea that was threatening his upset stomach, telling it to sod off and die. Fire grates flashed beneath them, some lit, some dead, none of them with people in them. Harry was fairly positive that his stomach would not appreciate that sight one bit. They were spinning enough, thanks; seeing someone else spinning just as freely would do him in. He wasn't even sure where his vomit would go if he did manage to empty whatever was in his stomach.

Their landing was anything but gentle and their reception caused more than a tiny disturbance. Harry gripped Remus tightly, knowing his previous landings had been less than stellar and sometimes downright awful. He did not fancy getting broken glass in his eyes either. And speaking of his eyes… Flashbulbs were going off in his face leaving clouds of choking smoke in their wake.

"Mr. Potter, Mr. Potter over here! Mr. Potter!"

Harry's fingers clenched Hermione's wand tightly, his mind running through a list of low-level hexes that wouldn't get him tossed in Azkaban faster than he could say: Fizzing Whizbees.

"Hang on, Harry," Remus said softly in his ear before facing the throng.

"Let us through," he shouted, holding Harry tightly. "I need to get him to a healer!"

The flashbulbs continued, but the shouting died down to a low murmur. "I'd tell you to look sick, but I can see I don't need to," Remus said amusedly in Harry's ear.

"Out of the way," Remus ordered, his own wand held in front of him. The crowd parted and they were able to get through the doors to where the press weren't permitted.

"Remus, I..." Harry trailed off, staring up at the graying wizard. Gratitude swept through him and he stepped forward, wrapping his lanky arms around the last remaining link to his parents, the man who had literally just saved him from greedy hands and notepads and self-quoting quills. "Thank you," he muttered, finishing off in a spectacularly lame manner.

Remus held him, stroking his hair in a soothing manner. "You're my family, Harry. I'll always try to see to your happiness, even if I might disagree with it."

Harry nodded against Lupin's neck and pulled away, looking around him. "Where is he, Remus? I've got to see him," Harry pleaded.

"Why is he so important, Harry?" Remus questioned. Harry stared at him for a moment, trying to dig to the truth of the question when it struck him. There was nothing deeper to the question, just genuine interest and maybe a bit of confusion, but nothing else. Remus wasn't trying to trick him into telling him anything he didn't want to divulge or that he didn't understand himself. He was allowed to not answer if the casual gesture to the fourth door on the left was any indication.

He ran an agitated hand through his messy black locks and sighed. "He's everything. If he dies, I...Remus, I don't know what I'd do."

Remus smiled sadly, but nodded. "He's through there, but he's being guarded by Aurors. If he – when he recovers, he'll be taken to trial for Dumbledore's death," Remus warned.

Harry stepped back, his lip curling in anger. "I was on the tower that night, Remus. Give me Veritaserum if you want, but Snape did not murder Albus Dumbledore," Harry said fiercely.

Remus didn't get to question this because Harry was already disappearing into Snape's room. He started counting backwards from ten on his bad arm waiting for the precise moment Harry lost all his composure. He knew it was coming. He started ticking off the seconds slowly, one finger lowering with each passing number. The third finger hadn't even lowered completely when the building practically shook.

"OUT!" Harry roared, upon seeing how many Aurors were milling around. They all stared at him like the dumb Ministry peons they were. "ARE YOU ALL DEAF? I said GET OUT!"

"That's quite enough, Potter," Moody growled, coming up from behind him. "The Ministry has been searching for Snape since the night he murdered Dumbledore. We—"

"NO!" Harry shouted. "He did not murder Dumbledore, and it weren't for him Voldemort would be owning all of us right now. But he's dead! AND IT WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT SNAPE!" he shouted, right in Moody's face.

The old Auror held his ground. "Potter, don't test my patience," he began but soon found himself talking to nothing but air. Harry had breezed past him wordlessly and none of the other Aurors made any move to stop him. Harry sat down on the stiff hospital bed, gritting his teeth as he realized no one had changed Snape out of the clothing he had been in the last time he'd seen him.

"How long?" he ground out, his tone deceptively calm. "How long have we been unconscious?"

Remus moved quickly to get between Harry and Moody, putting an arm around Harry's shoulder. "Nearly three days, Harry. Snape's had so much spell damage, as well as physical torture, that we're very concerned."

Harry stood, facing Moody angrily. "Get out. All of you, I want you out," he growled, his hand clenching around the unfamiliar wand. "Remus can stay, but the rest of you need to leave. NOW!"

Remus gave Moody a quick shake of the head, his brown hair falling in his face, as the Auror made to move towards them. "Go," he mouthed, wondering how much pain he would go through later for doing this for Harry. The grizzled Auror gestured sharply with his wand towards the rest and sparks flew from the tip. All right, Remus revised his thoughts; he wondered how he was going to avoid imminent death at the next Order meeting that evening.

He not only knowingly helped Harry, who was obviously still weak, despite the spirit and fire in the emerald green eyes, out of Hogwarts and into St. Mungo's, he then proceeded to take him to see the Wizarding World's Most Hated Person. He was surely dead, and he was stunned to realize he didn't care. Right now all he cared about was Harry's mental health and if Snape made him better then he was going to support him fully.

Once the room was empty, Harry collapsed onto the bed next to Snape, resting his head on his own knees, composing himself. Remus was rubbing gentle circles on his back. Harry finally raised his head to look at Lupin. He got tiredly to his feet, and hugged the man tightly.

"Thank you, Remus," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Remus just held him until Harry broke the embrace. "I need a few minutes alone with him. Can you come back in about ten minutes?"

Remus placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Are you sure you'll be alright?"

Harry smiled softly. "There's no place safer for me than right here."

Remus stared at him for an indecisive second, his fingers playing with the frayed edge of his robe sleeve, before he plunged his hand into his pocket. Harry watched him curiously, his head tipped to the side, black hair spilling across his pale face and glasses. A folded piece of crumpled parchment was handed roughly to him. He took it and stared at the obviously well-read letter before gazing curiously at his – well, he'd have to think about that one, because Snape wasn't his professor anymore, but for now he couldn't think of anything better to call him.

"What is this?" he asked, turning it over and over in his hands.

Remus didn't smile, but he wasn't frowning either. "Just read it, Harry. I will be back in ten minutes. You understand?"

Harry smiled gratefully and nodded. He unfolded the letter carefully, hesitantly, unsure if something was about to explode in his face and knock him unconscious. But that was stupid of him to even think, it wasn't Moody who gave it to him, or a Weasley twin; this was from Remus. He had to be able to trust someone. The door opened and closed with a loud squeak, but he didn't notice it.

His heart caught in throat as he finally unfolded the note. It was Snape's handwriting, the distinct, classic style of cursive burning his eyes. It was addressed to him and hatred towards the Order filled him as he realized that every single one of them had probably read and scorned the letter. The scorch marks on the edges told him one, if not more of them had tried to burn it. They had tried to burn away Snape's words and that hurt worse than anything else they could have done.


It would seem that your abnormally good luck has seen you through yet another day. I highly doubt I was granted such luck. In which case, there are things I wish you to know. You have done more than any man should be asked to do, and though you barely scrape by with the skin of your teeth intact (that blasted luck again no doubt), you do what needs to be done, despite the consequences. You do it, because it is the right thing to do. I cannot claim to know what that feels like – the very idea sets my teeth on edge – but I can admire the quality in you. Albus would be proud of you, Harry.

As am I.

Leave the cleaning up to the bloody Order. It's about time they did something useful. Let Moody find the other Horcruxes, you know where to find the files.

You've done more than your part. Go. Be happy. Fly a bloody kite or something!

Severus Snape

p.s. I'd apologize for losing your cloak, but you'd only get into trouble with it anyway, foolish idiot that you are.

Harry crinkled the edge of the mangled letter in his hands. Tears fell off the tip of his nose and splattered on the ink, smudging it; he hadn't even realized he was crying until that moment. He let out a mad bark of laughter, tipping his head backwards, rubbing at his eyes beneath his glasses. God, he hated Snape.

"Bastard," he muttered, but even that didn't sound as angry as he wanted it to. He folded the letter up with trembling hands, the letter he'd almost never received. When Snape woke up – and he would, Harry didn't want to think of the other possibility – he would receive a sound beating for lying to him. He wanted to throw something, but there weren't even any chairs in the room.

No one had anticipated any long-staying visitors; the hospital staff hadn't even had the common courtesy to stick him in a normal room. Harry brought his leg up onto the bed and tucked it under him. He brushed a strand of Snape's greasier than normal – he almost wanted to laugh at the fact that it was so greasy when Snape had gone to such lengths recently to remain clean – hair off his pale, blood-smeared, drawn face.

"They didn't even clean you up," Harry muttered bitterly, tracing his finger down Snape's hooked nose. "It doesn't matter though," he continued, brushing the inquisitive finger over Snape's cracked, bleeding lips. He idly rubbed his index finger and thumb together, smearing the blood between them. He glanced at the door, not sure how much time he had left until Remus came back; there was no way to tell the time in that room. Harry didn't even have a watch. Hell, he was still in striped, hospital pajamas.

Snape looked like hell though, much worse than him by far.

"Did they even try to fix you up?" he asked rhetorically, running his finger alongside a jagged scar near the older man's temple. He pursed his lips and withdrew his questing hand, twirling Hermione's wand between his fingers thoughtfully. He wondered… Snape would laugh at him if he told him; he was thinking, what a shock! He brought the unfamiliar wand up to Snape's temple and before he could even incant the right spell the wound was healing over, new skin repairing the old, closing it up. There was barely even a faint sliver of a scar left; Harry dropped the wand to the floor in surprise. He didn't remember that happening ever before.

Feeling curiously detached now, Harry retrieved the wand from the floor, and traced it across Snape's lips, watching the dry, split skin come together. He gently ran the wand over the worst of Snape cuts and bruises, the wounds healing before his eyes.


"Go away, Remus, I'm busy." Harry shrugged off the hand on his shoulder, something resembling a growl issuing from this throat. He could feel Remus behind him but paid him no mind, focusing completely on Snape. He didn't know how much time passed before Snape inhaled sharply, arching off the bed. The wand dropped to the floor and Harry stepped back, bumping into Remus, his eyes wide as Snape's body fell back against the mattress, a sigh escaping the man's lips.

"What did I do?" he asked, nearly collapsing against the werewolf.

Remus had an arm around Harry's shoulders keeping him upright as he stared at Snape wide eyed.

"I don't know," he answered, shaking his head in bewilderment. He had never seen anything like that in his entire life.

Harry took a tentative step forward, reaching out and touching Snape's arm lightly. Remus stepped up beside him, leaning over, listening to Snape's heartbeat and eased breathing. "Whatever you did, I don't think you've done any damage. He looks better than he has since he got here."

Harry slid his hand down Snape's arm and squeezed his hand, speaking to Remus without turning his head. "How did you find us? He said we were on our own," he said softly.

Remus stood beside Harry, looking down at Snape. "No doubt that's exactly what he needed you to believe," Remus said, and Harry could hear a smile in his voice. "He didn't want you to expect anyone to save you."

"Ruddy bastard," Harry said, holding Snape's hand tighter. "But how did you find us?"

"That letter I gave you, it came with another," Remus said, sighing. "Snape told us where you would be, and that you were going to be facing down Voldemort. Alone. He told us where to go, but by the time we got the letter and got organized, it was all over. At least, Voldemort was gone. We're still tracking down a few Death Eaters, but Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange were both dead. The giants and Dementors, for the most part, seem to have lost their desire to fight, and the Inferi just disappeared altogether."

"Nagini?" he questioned quietly.

"Dead as well; you can thank Charlie for that later."

Harry shivered. He had killed two people and he didn't even know how. But they were dead. And he had done it. He was a killer, and he was going to be praised for it. He forced his mind away from the subject before the bile could rise in his throat.

"You're sure he's dead?" Harry asked shakily.

"Moody incinerated his body himself, then scattered the ashes," Remus said, squeezing Harry's shoulder. "Harry, Arthur was under the impression that the Horcruxes had all been destroyed," he said carefully. "But Snape's letter said otherwise."

Harry tensed, refusing to meet Lupin's eyes. "They're not gone. Voldemort was making it impossible for us to do anything. He was tormenting me through my scar and Seve – Snape through his mark. We both just wanted him gone," he said, his voice trailing off to a whisper.

"Oh, Harry."

Harry looked up at Remus with a watery smile. "Was it too much to ask for? I have…he has – both of us, for years now...we couldn't live like that any more. We just couldn't."

"You should have come to us, Harry, we could have helped you," Remus said, laying a hand on Harry's shoulder and leaning his head in close. "You didn't have to do it all alone."

Harry's breath hitched. "Yes, I did."

Remus sighed, but didn't bother to argue. It could wait for another day. "The Ministry has many questions for you and I don't know how long we'll be able to hold them off," he warned. He looked over Harry's shoulder at Snape. "They're particularly anxious to get their hands on him."

"I figured that from the ten guards surrounding his bedside," he replied dryly. "Unless the Ministry of Magic has instated some new policy on beside manner that I haven't heard of yet."

"Well, it's good to know you can still joke," Remus said, smiling gently before sobering. "Harry, the Ministry has a Death Eater in custody who claims that Snape killed Dumbledore that night. They say they were there and witnessed it."

Harry started, turning wide eyes down to Snape before looking fearfully up at the haggard werewolf. "Who?" It was all he could get out around the lump in his throat. Anger churned in the pit of his stomach, slow to ignite and hard to stamp out.

"Amycus Carrow," Remus replied, searching Harry's face, reading his reaction, "claims that Draco Malfoy was appointed the task, and when he failed, Snape killed Albus for him."

"Lies!" Harry hissed, his eyes flashing dangerously towards the closed doors.

"Obviously, the two of you have some kind of...well, I don't know what you have with Snape, but one way or another he's going to have to answer to the Ministry," Remus said calmly.

Harry snarled low in the back of his throat. The door burst open and a flood of people entered the room, all their wands trained on Harry.

"Potter, stand down." Moody jabbed his wand aggressively towards Harry's and Snape's hands. A sneer curled Harry's lips as he took a defensive step backwards. He needed to get out of here before he did something stupid, like cast an Incendio at Moody's wooden leg.

And before anyone could stop him, he Apparated out of St. Mungo's with Snape in tow, leaving everyone temporarily deaf from the monstrous cracking noise.

Harry was shocked to find himself in the middle of the sitting room in Snape's cottage. His arm was pulled down as Snape's body hit the floor beside him.

"Shit," Harry swore, cringing as he looked at Snape's limp body sprawled at his feet. "Shit, shit, shit!" he repeated, placing his arms under Snape's back and knees, trying to lift him, but he was still too weak to manage it.

Realizing he still had Hermione's wand, Harry stood, and cast a levitation spell on Snape, leading him to the bedroom and settling him gently on the bed.

Harry sat on the edge of the bed, his nerveless fingers releasing his friend's wand to the floor. He listened to it clatter and roll across the room, but didn't get up to go after it. He had just helped a suspected murderer escape prosecution; he would not be welcomed back with open arms again.

His hands trembled as he ran them through his hair, mussing it up worse than ever before.

"Slimy git," he grumbled, looking down at Snape's still form. If he didn't know any better – and he did – he would have thought he was just sleeping, like he always did. Maybe, just maybe he could pretend he was. Harry lay down beside Snape and curled into his side. He pulled one of the lifeless arms around his shoulders, wishing the man himself was awake to do so. "You'd better be worth it," he mumbled.

Snape was fighting his way out of the darkness which had been his only escape from the pain. He was coming back to himself, bit by bit, cautiously fighting toward the surface. Finding no pain, he finally connected, feeling only a weight lying his chest. He didn't know what had happened to the blinding pain, but he was happy it was gone.

Opening his eyes slowly, he stared at the ceiling, focusing on the familiar cracked patterns. This wasn't right. He looked down and saw the familiar muss of hair lying on his chest. This definitely wasn't right.


"Are we dead?" he rasped, his throat raw.

Harry looked up in shock. "You're awake!" he blurted out. A goofy ear-splitting smile broke out onto his face before he could stop it.

"Obviously," Snape said, frowning in an attempt to figure out what was happening. "How did we get here?"

Harry bit his lip and pulled away from Snape. He sat on the edge of the bed, his fingers digging into the firm mattress. "I Apparated us."

"Apparated us from where?" Snape asked, waiting for the pieces to fall into place. His last memory was of lying in the dirt, praying to die. "Potter, what happened?" he asked, sitting up and looking around the familiar room. His eyes flashed to Harry, long fingers gripping his forearm.

Harry bowed his head but made no move to shake off the hand. "We won." He offered Snape a crooked grin that faded at the unamused expression he received in return. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck anxiously; he turned pleading eyes on an unaffected face and gave in. "St. Mungo's."

We won.

"We won?" Snape repeated, his brow furrowing. "Why aren't I dead?" he asked, more to himself than to Harry.

Harry rolled his eyes and pushed off the bed violently. He turned around with a stormy expression. "Well, if you want to die so fucking badly, you can just go back to the fucking hospital and rot! I'm so glad I wasted my time fixing you up."

Snape threw his legs over the side of the bed, moving to stand, but dizziness had him falling heavily back on the bed. Through clenched teeth he growled, "Damn it, Potter! What the bloody fuck happened?"

"The Order showed up. Someone squealed, so you're still the Ministry's most wanted. You're a dead man if you walk out of this house." Harry's chest heaved and he gulped in air rapidly. "I killed people to save you. My wand shattered. They wouldn't tell me where you were." Dizziness swept through him and he stumbled backwards. "I read your letter, your fucking goodbye letter! Why didn't you tell me?"

Snape blinked, taking in the rambling things Harry was telling him.

Order. Wanted. Killed. Letter.

We won.

Then Harry stumbled and began to fall backwards and Snape reached out, pulling him forward, causing them both to fall backwards onto the bed.

Snape looked at him, then his face broke into a small smile. "We won? You really did it?" he asked, almost breathless.

Harry frowned in annoyance. "Isn't that what I just said?"

Snape smiled. Chuckled. Then laughed out loud, grabbing Harry's face and kissing him soundly before drawing back and pushing Harry off of him so he could look at his arm. The Dark Mark was there, but it was faded and lifeless. "You did it," Snape whispered, awe in his voice.

Harry propped himself up on his elbows with a bemused grin and looked up from where he was sprawled on the floor. Snape's good mood infected his festering thoughts and brought a smile to his own lips.

Snape looked at Harry and frowned. "Why are you on the floor?"

"I fell." He quirked an eyebrow expectantly.

"How did you do it?" Snape asked, not even sure if things had gone as he had planned. The torture part certainly went as planned, though the way he felt now, he even began to question that. "Details, Potter."

"Do what? Fall?" Right, Snape must have hit his head harder on the floor earlier than he had thought. "You pushed me if you must know-"

"Not the fall, Potter."

Harry gave him a curiously innocent look. He knew exactly what Snape had meant, but it didn't mean he was going to answer. He pushed back the sight of Bella's body flipping through the air like a pancake as the killing curse slammed into her, and the smell of burning flesh, and the taste of blood dripping from his own nose.

Snape watched the color drain from Harry's face, his bemused grin vanishing to be replaced by a look of sadness. "Harry, come here," he said quietly, holding out his hand.

Harry took the hand and unsteadily got to his feet, his hospital pajamas bunching uncomfortably. He staggered forward and collapsed on the bed face first. He didn't have the energy to roll over.

"I killed people," he whimpered, his stomach clenching painfully, whatever sedative he had been under was wearing off and pain slowly trickled back into his body.

"Wasn't that the point of all this?" Snape asked, bewildered.

Harry gazed up at him with a blank expression. "I killed someone," he repeated dully.

"Yes, you did," Snape replied matter-of-factly. "Which means you live, your friends live, the whole bloody wizarding world, not to mention the Muggles, all live. Would you honestly take it back if you could?" he asked softly.

"I've never killed anyone. Never," he continued on as if he hadn't heard Snape at all. "She was so horrified… and the sound." Harry shook his head slowly, his tongue feeling thick and swollen in his mouth. "I wasn't supposed to kill anyone else; just him."

"Who else did you kill?" Snape asked, though he had a good idea of who 'she' might be.

Harry closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. "Bellatrix Lestrange."

Snape's lip curled in disgust. "She was an evil woman, Potter, make no mistake. She gloried in the heinous acts she committed in the name of her master," he rasped. "I think your friend Longbottom will only find satisfaction in her death. Would you take that from him?"

"No." Harry shook his head and buried his face in the blankets beneath him. Neville would be overjoyed with the news and it made his head ache.

Snape had no idea what the right thing to say was, so he chose to change the subject. "Can you explain how it is that I came to be in such good condition? My last conscious thought was of nothing but pain and wishing to die. How long has it been?" he asked, suddenly concerned by how much time might have passed.

Harry brought his head up from the fluffy blankets and rested his cheek against them instead, getting a better view of Snape. Still too drained to move much, he frowned. "Three days."

"Impossible," Snape replied, shaking his head. He knew what his condition had been, and it was not something that could be healed in three days. Three weeks at the inside perhaps, but three days was just absurd. "You mentioned St. Mungo's; was I there?"

"Yes. They had Aurors guarding your room."

"And you just walked in and Apparated us away?" Snape asked, his lip curved in amusement. "You cannot Apparate from anywhere but the lobby of St. Mungo's, Potter. And there is still the matter of the three days. It was impossible for me to be healed from all the trauma my body suffered in only three days." Snape had his eyes narrowed as he looked at Harry. "What aren't you telling me?"

"I healed you."

Snape looked at Harry quizzically a moment before his meaning settled. "You. You healed...everything?" he asked, frowning.

"Possibly?" Harry bit his lip roughly. "You weren't breathing correctly and I just fixed it."

Snape's frown deepened. "You have no idea what you did, do you?"

Harry's smile had a self-mocking overtone. "Do I ever?"

"Blind, fool luck," Snape said, shaking his head, a grin appearing on his face. He thought for a moment. "Then the Order did arrive? It wasn't too late?"

"I don't remember much of it after...I had to see if you were all right, then someone was calling my name...and I think I must have passed out."

"You shouldn't have checked on me. You should have got out of there as soon as Voldemort was dead," Snape groused.

"I wasn't going to leave you there!" Harry protested. "You weren't dead. If I had left you there, someone would have finished the job."

"Still," Snape said, frowning. "I suppose it makes no matter, as it's over and done, and considering the outcome I shouldn't complain." Snape thought for a moment and sighed. "I have to go back. Turn myself in."

"What!" Harry yelped, suddenly sitting up. He gazed desperately at Snape; his own eyes searching the older man's for some hint of a lie. "Are you joking?"

"If I don't go back, not only will I be hunted for the rest of my life, but so will you! You helped me escape, Potter. Until I go back, you're wanted as well. I'll not let you spend your life as a fugitive. I knew the consequences of my actions, as did Dumbledore," he said, shrugging.

"You'll be sent to Azkaban!"

"It's not as if I haven't done things in my life that would put me there regardless," Snape said tiredly. "If any of the Death Eaters that were on the tower the night I killed Dumbledore are still alive, no doubt that are telling anyone and everyone that I murdered him."

Harry was at a loss. "And you thought I had given up. Now here you are, alive, something you obviously never planned on regardless of what you told me. You owe me, Snape. What the hell else have you been lying to me about?"

"Would you rather spend your life on the run, or face up to your actions? I am not a coward, Potter," Snape said angrily, "and I won't be judged as one!"

"Why can't we just stay here," Harry muttered petulantly. He ran a hand through his hair and gazed out across the room. "It isn't fair."

"Life is seldom fair," Snape said derisively, not for the first time. "Honestly Potter, would you rather we went on the run? Is that really how you want to live the rest of your life?"

"Yes," he said honestly, and he felt that way too. He'd rather live his life on the run than go back and face the people he had betrayed.

Snape rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You, Potter, are many things, but a coward isn't one of them. For good or ill, I'll be going back with you, so you won't be alone."

"Do we have to go today?"

Snape sighed, not quite wishing to rush back into the arms of the Ministry. One day would hardly matter, and he had a feeling that Potter needed it. "No, we don't have to go today, though you should probably owl your friends and let them know you're all right. I wouldn't mention being with me."

"They already know," Harry said with a helpless shrug. "Unless Remus didn't tell them, which I doubt. The Ministry knows as well."

"Lupin knows?" Snape asked, surprised. "What did you tell him?"

"Only the things he needed to hear. He suspects other things as well, but those I'm certain he won't mention." Harry grinned sheepishly. "He took me to see you; he was the only one who would."

"Ah, so this," he said, motioning around them, "is Lupin's fault. Remind me to thank him," Snape said sarcastically, but there was no bite to it. One day he and the werewolf would talk, but it wouldn't be anytime soon. "What do you think he suspects?" Snape asked curiously.

Harry flushed and looked away embarrassed. "Things," he replied vaguely.

Snape's brow arched. "What things, Harry?"

"Just things, Severus."

"By 'things', am I to assume you mean that I kissed you, Harry?"

"You may be assuming correctly, Severus. But you know what they say about people who assume."

"That they make an ass out of you and me?" he said, smirking.

Harry grinned widely. "And people doubt your sense of humor."

"It is at times too black to understand," Snape admitted, but he was pleased that Harry had learned to appreciate it. "Again, what does Lupin suspect?"

Harry licked his lips slowly before answering. There were things he just wasn't willing to share with Snape, the same things he probably shouldn't have shared with Remus. Harry felt guilty enough about making the older man his accomplice. "He suspects there's something between us. It might not have helped that I kicked all the Aurors out of the room."

"Oh that's just lovely. Lupin thinks I have deflowered the Boy Who Lived," he said, laughing darkly.

Harry paled. "I hope for his sake and ours he doesn't."

Snape placed a pale hand across his chest in mock indignation. "You've spoiled all my plans to ruin and ravage you." Snape sighed. "Such a pity."

Harry stared at him with a neutral expression for the longest moment, before a small smirk formed on his face. "You had plans?"

"Well no, not as such, but they seem to be forming against my better judgment," Snape said, frowning.

"Most good plans are," Harry said aiming at sage and falling somewhere short of a bad cliché.

"Tell me, Potter, what is your current stand on fucking?" Snape asked, as casually as he'd ask about the weather.

Harry's eyes widened and his mouth hung open in shock. He suddenly felt extremely shy. How could he tell Snape that while he had the entire population of the wizarding world at his beck and call he had never once had sex with anyone. "I-uh-that is to say..."

"Virgin, then. Pity," Snape replied, sighing melodramatically.

"Hey!" Harry cried out indignantly.

"It was merely an observation, Harry, nothing more," he said, a sickly smile on his lips.

"Since when do you call me Harry?" Harry questioned petulantly, his cheeks stained a seemingly permanent red.

"Since when do you actually listen to what I say?" Snape returned. "Merlin, Potter! Your ears are as red as Weasley's hair."

"Stuff it, it's all your fault anyway! Make me feel bad about myself, that's not the best way to make me want to fuck."

"I never said that I wanted to fuck, Potter, I just asked what your current stand was on the matter," Snape said reasonably. "Since apparently Lupin thinks that we are already doing so."

"Same difference," muttered Harry, his entire face going as red as a ripe tomato.

"If you believe that to be true, you're sorely lacking in sexual education," Snape said, lip curled in amusement. "But we have strayed off topic. Did the Aurors confiscate my wand?" he asked, feeling about his person but finding nothing.

Harry shrugged. "I don't remember seeing it, even during the battle. But I would guess so."

"Oh, right," Snape replied, frowning. "The Dark Lord snapped it in half. I had forgotten," he said, wondering what other little details he had forgotten. "You do still have yours, correct?"

Silence hung between them for a long moment. Harry bowed his head, and rubbed his arm dejectedly. "No...shit!" His eyes snapped open and he glanced to where Hermione's wand had rolled to a stop.

"What did you do now?"

Harry stood up and walked over to the chest of drawers and picked Hermione's thin wand off the floor, he twirled it between his fingers with a sheepish expression. "I sort of took Hermione's wand."

Snape snorted. "I don't imagine Miss Granger was pleased with that. Did the Ministry take your wand?" he asked curiously. "It would make sense. You save their collective lives and they take away your wand."

"No, it shattered. I doubt there's much more than a couple of toothpicks left of it anymore."

"You don't do things by half, do you, Potter?" Snape said, looking at him thoughtfully. "Wands are replaceable, your life is not."

"I'm useless now. What's the difference?"

Snape's head snapped in Harry's direction. "Why in the bloody hell would you say that?"

"I performed my bloody life task, so now what? I'm a waste of space. I've had no doubt since I was thirteen that I would probably die in the final battle. And I'm still here, and I have no purpose!"

"Good Lord, Potter, must you be so melodramatic?" Snape asked. "If anything, your life can finally begin. The one dark cloud that has followed you since the day Voldemort killed your parents is gone. You can do whatever you want!"

Harry stared at him. "I don't know what to do."

"Who says you have to decide today? Merlin, Potter! You're financially stable, moderately intelligent, and right now the hero of the bloody world. There's very little that you cannot do right now."

Harry sighed and shrugged again, sitting down heavily on the bed. He looked up at the white, bumpy ceiling and fell backwards, his head landing three inches from Snape's leg. He glanced up at the older man with a small smile. "Did you just encourage me not to think?"

"Frightening, isn't it?" Snape replied, a genuine smile on his face. He reached out and brushed Harry's fringe out of the way, and traced his scar with a long finger. "How does it feel?" he asked softly.

"Good, I wouldn't even know it's there now without a mirror."

Snape nodded, his hand falling to the bed beside Harry's head. He turned his arm slightly to look at the Mark. If he'd had his wand, he would have tried to get rid of the thing altogether, but as it was that would have to wait. Then again, he may never freely have a wand again. Snape gave a mental shrug. Having the reminder of his own stupidity was its own kind of penance.

"Can- will you get rid of it?" Harry questioned softly, meeting Snape's eyes and holding.

"I considered it," he said, frowning as Harry's eyes locked with his own. "But I cannot hide from my own past, cannot erase the wrongs I have committed. So no, I think I'll keep it. When I'm sitting in Azkaban, it will remind me..." he trailed off and shook his head. "I won't be getting rid of it."

"You won't be going to Azkaban," Harry stated quietly, but the determination shining fiercely in his eyes told Snape just how serious he was being. There was no way in hell he was going to let him go to Azkaban. He would not allow it, and like Snape said, he was a bloody hero and he could get whatever he wanted.

"There may not be anything you can do to stop it," Snape said simply. He was nothing if not a realist.

"But I will damned well fight them with everything I have." He stared up at Snape pensively, his fingers drawing lazy designs on the coverlet. He reached up with his other hand and tucked Snape's hair behind his ear idly.

Snape wouldn't argue with him, there was no point. They would never agree, not on this. He was surprised when Harry brushed the hair from his face. He intercepted Harry's hand with his own, holding it for a moment before kissing the backs of his fingers.

Harry's cheeks flushed light pink and he smiled lazily.

Snape smiled softly, squeezing Harry's hand before placing it on Harry's chest, and releasing it.

Harry sat up and scooted backwards until his legs were almost entirely on the bed. He rested a hand on Snape's leg hesitantly and when it wasn't brushed aside, he relaxed.

Snape looked at the hand on his thigh, then at Harry, his brow slightly furrowed. He studied Harry's expression for a few long moments before leaning forward and kissing him softly. Snape pulled back enough to search Harry's face for signs of revulsion.

"You keep looking at me like I am going to run," Harry murmured, squeezing Snape's thigh gently. He leaned forward and brushed his lips across the older man's before pulling back. "Why?"

The furrows in Snape's brow deepened at the question. "Because if you had any sense at all, you would," Snape answered. "Are you sure you want..." he couldn't bring himself to say 'me', "…this?"

"'This?'" Harry quirked a brow and smirked. "You mean you?" He leaned forward slightly, not close enough to kiss but close enough to whisper. "The answer is yes. Isn't that crazy?"

"Insane," Snape murmured, closing the distance between them, reaching up and curling his fingers in the hair at the nape of Harry's neck. He took his time, kissing Harry slow and deep, reveling in the taste and smell that was all Potter.

Harry broke away laughing and he could not seem to stop. He gave Snape a semi-helpless look before he pressed his forehead into Snape's neck.

Snape shook his head and looked up toward the ceiling as Harry buried his face in his neck, laughing. Normally he would have been offended, or insulted, but considering the circumstances all he could do was smile. Before he could even blink his smile turned into a chuckle as Harry's body trembled with laughter.

There was nothing particularly funny about the situation, but the two continued to laugh for no other reason than it felt good. Snape knew that he was most likely going to be sentenced to life in Azkaban, if not death, but he had fulfilled his promise to Albus. Voldemort was gone and the boy had survived, by dumb luck more than anything else, but he'd survived. Harry would make sure the Order took care of the remaining Horcruxes, and Snape could only hope they left the boy alone. He deserved to have a life, a normal life; though that was unlikely given who Potter was. No matter what happened tomorrow, they had tonight to just be, and for that, he was content.