Chapter 68

Tense Conversations And Revelations

Horace Slughorn Apparated to Prince Manor, gazing at the magnificent manor before him. He'd never been here before, he'd heard rumours of its splendour and it was not exaggerated in any way. Now this was a place he would love to settle down in, he could only imagine what it was like inside. Stepping into the wards, feeling them accepting him and granting him entrance this once. He knew if he left and tried to get in again he'd be in serious trouble. The old manors had some of the best warding he'd ever seen; these ones were stronger than even those on Malfoy Manor. Not that he would be going there! He'd cut himself off from anyone associated with the Dark Lord Voldemort. He was terrified of being found, with what he knew…he was surprised the dark wizard hadn't ordered him assassinated. It's why he chose to go from place to place, never staying in one area longer than a few weeks at a time. Despite Albus' manipulations his decision to come out of retirement was fully his own, Hogwarts was one of the safest places. Add to the fact that the evil wizard didn't want to face Albus Dumbledore, since he had managed to successfully defeat Grindelwald sixty years ago or so. He had been getting too old, going from one area to the next just to keep the potential Death Eaters from his door.

Looking around the manor, observing the stables and the horses, Arabians and if he wasn't mistaken that was hippogriff in the background. They were being showered by the house elf's and evidently enjoying it by the sounds coming from them. The other side hosted what could only be green houses and the blacked out windows obviously potion ingredients that thrive in dark environments. He desperately wanted to nose around, Merlin the ingredients that must be in there! And the size of the green houses - one would have taken up the entire house he'd lived. Maybe he could convince Severus to let him nose around…he wouldn't miss a few snippets of a few ingredients. Staring at the glass house longingly, before reluctantly beginning his trek towards the door.

The balcony was open in one of the upstairs (first floor) rooms, and he could hear voices coming from inside. Girls were squealing, perhaps a friend of Harry's? He doubted very much Severus was friends with many girls, and Eileen Prince was far too old to be squealing like that. Shaking off his thoughts, he knocked on the door loudly, so he could be heard within it.

"Follow me, Professor Slughorn, sir." said Dobby having clicked his fingers and magically opened the door. They were much too small to reach the handles and not strong enough to open the oak doors. The house, if it needed to be could become a fortress, at least long enough for everyone to get away from whoever was trying to break in.

"Thank you," said Horace stepping in, gazing in awe at the magnificent chandelier, it was glittering in the sunlight. With how clean House Elf's kept the place, it really wasn't a surprise; they were very handy creatures to have around.

"Can I take your cloak sir?" asked Dobby once they'd taken a few steps, standing beside the 'cloak room' area. At one point the Prince's had made the cloak room into a storage room for Potion Ingredients, and had hooks placed on the wall. Since the Manor wasn't used like it had been in the past, it was no problem. Back in the day, people had thrown the most magnificent balls and parties, the bigger the better your status was in the magical world. Now most people only threw big parties when a wizard or witch reached seventeen and reached 'adult' status.

Horace handed over his cream coloured cloak still looking around in interest.

"Follow me," repeated Dobby showing Slughorn into the living room where Master Severus was. The meeting was obviously important since his Master didn't usually use House Elves to make a statement. Not only that but they'd placed the finest china out with the best tea. The living room was the grandest room, and usually Severus used his office, so yes, he was up to something. Not that it was any of his business, but even House Elves got curious.

"Professor Slughorn is here, Master Snape." said Dobby showing the wizard in before disappearing seeing that he wasn't needed any longer.

"Good afternoon Horace, thank you for coming," said Severus gesturing for Slughorn to join him and take a seat.

"No problem, I must say I was surprised to receive your invitation," said Horace curiously, sitting himself down comfortable across from the Potions Master that had been both his predecessor and his successor. Not only that but he had taught he young man for seven years, and he'd done things with potions that baffled him to this day. He had wrongfully assumed he wouldn't be as famous as the others he'd selected into his club, but Severus had proven him wrong especially as of late. He was a bit of a hypocrite by moving Severus' picture forward and Lily's had gone miraculously missing. He wasn't having a woman who had tortured her son on display! He may be many things but he didn't condone violence. He knew if Harry wanted to - he could lead the magical world into a golden era. He couldn't understand what had happened to the girl he'd known! Lily had been cheeky, and had a flair for Potions that came from being friends with a future Potions Master. He'd known she'd go on to do great things, by Merlin, he hadn't expected that from her.

"Indeed," said Severus choosing not to comment, "Darjeeling tea?"

"I wont mind if I do!" exclaimed Horace, of all the connections he had, he didn't get Darjeeling Tea often much to expensive.

Severus poured two and passed one of the cups over the saucer was placed in front of him by Severus' other hand. Relaxing back, he didn't normally drink Darjeeling, he preferred Earl Grey. Darjeeling though was grown in the greenhouse; the House Elf's did great work with it. There was a platter of half sandwiches, biscuits and crackers and cheese.

"Thank you," said Horace taking a sip before adding some milk, and sugar it wasn't as strong as he was used to anymore. That's not to say it wasn't a great brew, he loved it. "How is young Harry, Severus?" enquired the Professor.

"He's recovered," said Severus, no doubt Slughorn wanted to befriend Harry so he could have someone else powerful in his pocket. He knew the wizards game, had known since he was a young boy, at least he was harmless, he liked being well connected but wouldn't harm a fly never mind anyone else.

"I'm surprised he isn't here," said Horace digging for information.

"His friends are here to see him," said Severus wryly, eyeing Horace knowingly. At least he had the grace to look at least a little sheepish.

"What happened to him?" asked Horace, he didn't believe everything he read in the papers.

"A simple accident," said Severus brushing it off, simple his arse, but he wasn't about to confide in Horace Slughorn of all people.

Horace observed Severus over his tea cup, drinking it; he thoughtfully began to wonder why he'd been summoned here. Severus wasn't a people's person; he hadn't even been one when he was a teenager. He'd always been quiet, observant and quick with a sneer. By Merlin, the wizard had a mouth that could reduce even the toughest men to tears.

"Alright, Severus, pleasantries aside, what do you want?" asked Horace placing the cup on the saucer through playing games. Especially considering the wizard had yet to talk more than a few words at time, there was something on his mind. His breathing catching at the intense look on his face, his heart sank wondering what on earth was going to happen now.

"You taught Tom Riddle did you not?" asked Severus watching him intently, knowing he'd make an attempt to run.

"Yes," said Horace, wiping the sweat that was beginning to build on his forehead. His heart was thumping wildly; he was terrified that the wizard knew his secret shame. He was glued to his seat, unable to move as he contemplated whether his thoughts were right or not. "Why do you ask?" his voice slightly high pitched.

"What can you tell me about him? What was he like?" enquired Severus, building up to it, hoping to relax Slughorn and get him to slip up a little.

"He was a lot like you actually, Severus." said Horace, before quickly going on at the dark look crossing Severus' face. Nobody would want to be compared to the Dark Lord after all, but there were similarities between them. "He was suspicious of everyone, extremely hard working, magic came so easy to him and to top it off he was very powerful and he knew it. He didn't have friends; like you had Lily, but as he grew older he gained acquaintances and later followers. He was one of the most hard working Slytherins I'd ever taught."

"Did he ever come to you about Dark magic?" asked Severus his black eyes intense.

"Thank you for your time, Severus…I'm afraid I must go…I have…something another appointment I'm late for…give my best to Harry." said Horace standing up, his beady eyes searching for an exit. "Goodbye." he added as he made for the door.

Severus flicked his wand at the door, causing it to slam in Horace's face, determined to get his answers. He knew, there and then by Horace's reaction that he did know about the Horcruxes. He couldn't believe the idiot had kept it quiet all these years. The war could have been over by now if he'd just spoken up.

"You would see hundreds die rather than confess what you have done?" snarled Severus furiously. "Many have died already because of you…you'd see the wizarding world ruling under that evil dictator?!"

Horace turned to face the furious wizard, after failing trying to open the door to no success. He was genuinely terrified, not only because he was being forced to listen to the words coming out of Severus' mouth; but because he finally had to acknowledge his own fears and realize the wizard was telling the truth. Tears burned in his eyes, but they didn't fall, the guilt was eating him up inside.

"What happened to the Longbottom's will pale in comparison what he will do to everyone. Do you want to see nearly every student at Hogwarts forced into slavery to assuage your own guilty conscience by denying whatever it is you are keeping secret?" said Severus his voice low, black eyes flashing in rage as he stalked towards the cowering wizard.

"I…I…I…" murmured Horace still pressed against the wall unable to form a coherent sentence.

"For once in your life, Horace, do the right thing, I swear on my honour as a wizard…none other than Harry and I will ever know." said Severus honestly. "Let it go, Horace, keeping it in all this time…cannot be good for you. I myself, kept guilt locked up inside, but I received forgiveness and believe me…it was a weight off." his voice going slightly warm and soothingly, it wasn't a tone he used often, but he needed answers. He could have used Veritaserum, it's not as if Horace would go to the Ministry and tell on him, not without fearing the backlash onto him.

"The students at Hogwarts deserve to graduate without fear. Without having to join sides…let them experience the freedom that has eluded the past three generations Horace." said Severus sighing tiredly.

Horace met Severus' eyes the guilt and shame he felt obvious in every line of his old aged face. "I…can't." he murmured, he couldn't get the words passed his throat. He couldn't even speak the horror of what he knew, what he'd known for the past fifty years nearly.

"Then leave, condemn current and future generations to torture and death." said Severus giving up, opening the door giving the wizard his opportunity to leave. He moved away from the wizard in disgust, sitting back down looking years older, its obvious he knew, and without Slughorn's information they would never know if they'd gotten all the Horcruxes or not.

Horace froze at those words, watching the wizard move away from in disgust. Watching him, he looked tired and defeated. His mind whirling, visions of the students he'd been teaching flashing before his eyes, unknowingly two tears ran like rain down his face. Taking a few steps forward hesitantly, a few more before halting, feeling torn in two. Closing his eyes, taking a deep breath before removing his wand from his pocket and placing it at his temple. Before he could change his mind, he removed the real memory.

"Here," said Horace hoarsely, holding out the memory for Severus to take. Which he did, with one of the many vials he had upon his person at all times, typical of a Potions Master. A stopper was placed in it to keep it from spilling out. He didn't even wait for Severus to acknowledge him, he ran from the room as if the grim was on his heels.

Severus watched the fat wizard leave, before his attention was turned to the memory. It looked so innocent floating around in the vial, but it wasn't. Severus felt a slither of ominous emotion crawling up his spine, half of him didn't want to see what the memory contained yet he knew he had to view it. Closing his eyes very briefly, he exhaled sharply, before stalking out of the living room, making his way to his office where the Pensive was stored.

Entering his study, which was rarely used, he stalked over to his cabinet and pressed down on it, and the secret compartment slid down and revealed the bowl. Using both hands he took it out of the niche, taking care not to break it they were extremely rare and delicate. Placing it on his desk, moving his chair to the other side of the room. Opening the cork, he placed the memory into the bowl watching it for a few seconds lost in thought. Taking another deep breath, he touched the pensive warily - he knew he wasn't going to like what he learned.

Severus was yanked back out of the pensive by an invisible force as soon as the memory ended five minutes later. You could have knocked him over with a feather, as he stared in horror at something only he could see. Six, six, six, six, six seemed to ring around his head as if he had a broken record playing in it.

Six Horcruxes, seven if you added the piece of soul still resided in the Dark Lord. Dear Merlin, what was he supposed to do? Three or four seemed laughable now, they had only two pieces destroyed, the diary and the Gaunt ring although it wasn't destroyed quiet yet but he'd be doing it tonight. The question remained was Harry the Dark Lord's back up? Nobody would have suspected anyone to be a Horcrux… or was Harry an accidental one? Perhaps that's why he hadn't been killed right away…but no, if the Dark Lord had known he'd have taken Harry away immediately and kept him imprisoned somewhere nobody would look. He wouldn't have allowed his Death Eaters to have 'fun' with him; it had to have been an accident. Seven was 'the' magical number, he could understand the evil wizards reasoning even if it repulsed him on a level he'd never felt before.

Sitting dumbly on the seat, there were four Horcruxes out there somewhere. One he had a good idea of its location, yet the three others eluded him. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he sat there lost in thought for hours trying to figure out how to go about this. He supposed given the fact they'd only known about them for a few months they were making great headway. Seven pieces! He couldn't wrap his head around it, standing up; he picked up the pensive, and placed it in its hiding place with the memory still in it. Sliding the panel back up, he contemplated adding spells to it but decided against it. He'd used no magic so far with it, so nobody would feel it and get curious. They'd assume it was just a normal panel, holding his hand against it he sighed warily, feeling a little of what Dumbledore had gone through.

"Dobby?" called Severus.

"Yes sir?" asked Dobby appearing in the office.

"I'll take an Earl Grey in the living room," said Severus, grabbing an empty notebook and a Muggle pen his mother had brought with her to the manor. She preferred using her Muggle implements; she found them easier to use than quills having been using Muggle pens most of her life. How one got in his office he didn't know, perhaps Harry had bought it in. Speaking of Harry, he should be going back up to him, no doubt he was worrying but Severus couldn't bring himself to go. Harry didn't need to worry about his bleak mood right now, his friends were celebrating.

Sitting down he placed the slice of lemon in the cup and blew on it to cool it down. Did he tell Dumbledore what he suspected or continue on as he had planned before all this happened? Hunting them down himself with Harry's help of course. He wished he could trust Albus, but he couldn't, not with this. He knew somehow, someway Albus was going to tell Nick Potter. If he did, it would only be a matter of time before it ended up in the newspaper. The boy couldn't keep a secret if it saved his life, he allowed himself to be manipulated by everyone around him revealing critical information.

He could barely believe he'd told Lupin and Black, he'd been so angry at Dumbledore he hadn't been thinking right. He no longer respected Albus, but he still felt slightly fond of him, he'd given Severus a second chance and the ability to atone for his sins. He had also helped keep Lily safe, back then it had mattered more than his own life. Who would have thought he'd end up falling hard for her son? Who wouldn't? Harry was smart, cunning in his own right not as sly as the Slytherins but he was a Ravenclaw. He was also stunning, Harry insisted he was nothing to look at, probably a result of his upbringing.

Two good things had come out of Harry's accident, not just the Horcrux being removed but the cursed wounds he'd carried courtesy of his stay at Malfoy Manor and Walden Macnair. He was a right piece of work; he was now where he belonged - in Azkaban prison where he deserved to be. Maybe now he wouldn't be so repulsed by his own body, he'd tried to get Harry to see the battle wounds showed how strong he was, how brave. Merlin when Harry had Apparated into his mothers flat, he'd been in agony but no signs of tears had been present. He was so strong and he didn't see himself as such. Maybe one day he would be able to convince the stubborn boy.

Putting the tea back on the table, he shook his head it wasn't enough. He wanted no, needed a stronger drink right now. He wasn't a big drinker though, and tried to prevent himself drinking alcohol when he had a problem, knowing it could lead to the life his father had led. Standing up he walked through to the kitchen and poured a generous amount of whiskey into a cup and drank it in one go. Not reacting to the burn in his throat, once done he screwed the lid back on and replaced the bottle and put the cup in the sink before slinking away from the kitchen again.

"Is Master Harry's guests staying for dinner sir?" asked Rose appearing before Severus, startling the wizard but he didn't show it.

"I do not know they have my permission should they wish it, go and ask them Rose." said Severus quietly.

"Is Master Severus alright?" asked Rose concerned.

"I am fine, Rose. I've just received some unsettling news that is all." said Severus waving away her concern despite the fact he was touched by her worry.

"Yes sir," said Rose disappearing, and reappearing in Master Harry's room.

"Hello, Rose." said Harry smiling as he noticed her first.

"Is Master Harry's guests staying for dinner?" asked Rose.

"How about it guys?" asked Harry staring at them.

"We must get back, I have Quidditch practise tonight, and Howard will go nuts if I miss another one." said Viktor apologetically.

"I have work tomorrow," said Cedric shaking his head.

"We are going to see Neville's parents," said Luna, speaking for her fiancé.

"Me and Gary are having dinner at his parents tonight, sorry Harry," said Fleur.

"Its fine, I'm just glad I got to see you all," said Harry, "No, Rose. It will just be us."

"Yes sir," said Rose "I am glad you are better Master Harry." she added before leaving once again.

"My sister has been begging my parents to let you visit, even if it's just for dinner one day...they would like to meet you. Would you come?" asked Fleur.

"I'd love to," said Harry smiling warmly, "As long as I can bring my partner."

"Partner? Oooo who is it?" asked Cho giggling with Fleur and Luna.

The boy's just shook their heads at the incessant giggling the girls liked to do.

Sirius cringed, causing Remus to stare at him blankly, what the hell was wrong with him now? Did Sirius know something he didn't? He continued to stare curiously, but nothing was forthcoming, so he turned to look at Harry wondering who his new partner was that could get such a reaction from Sirius. Hopefully Sirius wouldn't do anything stupid and end up ruining the foundation he'd obviously built with Harry.

"Severus," said Harry a fond look crossing his face.

"Ah," said Remus finally understanding Sirius' reaction, he did wonder how he had figured it out. Sirius was many things, but he wasn't observant to his surroundings, at least when he wasn't at work anyway.

"What's he like?" asked Fleur in curiosity, a wicked grin on her face.

Sirius squeaked his face turning red. He did not want to be here thank you very much, for most of his life Snape had been his enemy. He was about to stand up and get out of there post haste when Harry spoke again.

"We haven't done anything," said Harry pouting, "He made me wait until I'd passed my Mastery and until I was seventeen. Although he gave me a holiday for my birthday, I think I'm going to go soon."

"Yes, next week would be best." said Luna her eyes twinkling.

"It's good that he waited, otherwise it would have called into question your Mastery." said Lukas.

"Anyone that knows, Sev will know that wasn't possible," said Harry wryly.

"True," agreed Neville, Snape was a hard, harsh taskmaster; he didn't accept anything or anyone but the best and brightest.

"Guess I'm going on holiday next week then." said Harry, taking Luna's word for it, she had never let him astray yet.

"Then I'll have mum and dad invite you over in three weeks time," declared Fleur firmly.

"Great, I've never been to France I think I'll like it." said Harry.

"You take care of yourself, Harry. I don't want to hear that you've hurt yourself again." said Fleur hugging Harry, she didn't want to go but she had to.

"I'll try not to," said Harry his voice muffled by Fleur's surprisingly strong hug. Her long hair was tickling at his face, so he was grateful when she drew away so he could scratch it. It seemed with her farewell, everyone else began joining in one big pile. Causing them all to laugh at their own antics, before they regretfully had to leave promising as always to keep in touch.

"So...Severus huh?" said Sirius awkwardly.

"Yes, do you have a problem with that?" asked Harry his eyes narrowed.

"I can't say I understand…I mean he's the same age as your dad…"

"Do not bring him into this, that arsehole was never a father. I brought myself up, he never once acted like a father to me." snarled Harry angrily, before he went on. "I love Severus; he's been there for me at a time nobody else was. He understands me in a way nobody else can. He makes me feel special, when I was here…he made me realize I wasn't insignificant, that I could do anything I put my mind to…nobody my own age will ever understand me…do not say you do not understand, I don't want to hear it. I love him and I will pick him over anyone, any day and anywhere in this world. I'd pick him over my Potions Mastery, everything…I'd give my life for him do you understand?" his passion and love pouring off him in waves.

"Calm down, Harry." said Remus placing a hand on Harry's leg only for him to flinch back as if he'd been struck. Remus reluctantly removed his hand feeling awful, but refrained from touching him again.

"Without him I would just be another Hogwarts student, who was failing Potions because of a prick of a Potions Master failing me because he liked my twin better. Nobody would have taken anyone on who kept getting Troll grades…my life was so bad. I'd been entered into a tournament…that was for seventh years, forced to compete with not a shred of compassion from anyone. If it wasn't for the guys…I doubt I would have survived…then I was tortured, after being left by my own brother…my twin. Sev healed me, held me and he was the one that made me strong, helped me overcome my fears at least most of them. Took me on as an apprentice, and helped me achieve my dreams." said Harry hoarsely.

"Okay, just one last question and I am not judging I want you to think it through and when you answer that's that, I'll never bring it up again I promise…" said Sirius gravely.

"What?" asked Harry frowning.

"Are you sure its love and not gratitude?" asked Sirius.

"Gratitude doesn't last two years…I love him Sirius and I don't care what you are anybody else says." said Harry honestly.

"Then I'll say no more, I'm just glad you are happy, Harry. If anyone deserves it, it is you." said Sirius honestly. He knew if he pushed further he'd eventually push Harry away; he obviously felt very strongly for Snape and whether he understood or not didn't come into it. He would just have to grin and bear it. "Here, this is a belated birthday gift…although after what you just said I'm not sure it's the most appropriate gift." he added handing over the photo album.

Harry accepted it curiously, opening it he found a picture of him and Nick at the hospital, his lip curled without even realizing it. Although the rest of the pictures were of him in various stages of growing up, he hadn't realized he'd gotten so many pictures taken. There was even one with him and Roxy, when she was just two years old. He couldn't remember it; he'd always thought Roxy preferred Nick over him. Yet the look in her eyes, it seemed genuine and warm as if she'd really loved him then. "Where did you get these?" asked Harry surprised.

"I asked around everyone, especially those I knew that had been at the Potter's at birthdays." said Sirius. "Alice had a lot…according to Augusta Longbottom anyway…she sent what she had."

Harry smiled at the pictures of him and his friends; he didn't need to ask who had taken them. Although Viktor was the main focus of the pictures, this had Colin Creevy written all over it. The boy never went anywhere without his dratted camera. "Thanks," said Harry, it was a nice gift, nothing extravagant but Harry liked it nonetheless.

"Your welcome," said Sirius grinning wryly.

"Your mail, Master Harry," said Rose handing him the bundle.

"Thank you, Rose." said Harry flipping through them, a few from Gringotts, one from Fred and George Weasley hmm he did wonder what that was about. He would read them letter, he placed the letters aside. Harry also put the photo album beside them. Gringotts always got in touch with new investments, he had given James Potter a lot of the vaults back, but he had recieved none of the investments, he wanted to keep them going after all. If they found out James had them back, the shares would have been pulled from under him out of spite. It warmed Harry's heart that people cared that much to do that. They were risking their own investments if they'd done that but people who invest had a little they could afford to lose.

His worry was beginning to get to him, wondering why Severus wasn't coming back. Surely Slughorn wasn't still there? It was hours ago, and Sev couldn't stand being around people long, well if they weren't Potion Masters anyway. Lifting up the covers, shivering at the cold, he swung his legs out of the bed.

"Should you be getting up?" asked Sirius concerned standing up and coming around to the other side.

"I'll be fine," said Harry, hoisting himself up, he wobbled slightly but regained his bearings. He should probably get dressed through; he was only in a baggy top and boxer shorts.

"Are you sure?" Sirius asked, keeping himself within reaching distance just in case Harry needed help.

Harry just nodded and began walking; getting surer of his own legs the further he walked. Although he stayed near the wall, he didn't want to end up hurting himself again. He felt as though he had pins and needles all over his legs, it was odd to say the least. Grabbing onto the banister he made his way down the stairs taking it one step at a time.

He noticed the office door open and realized he wasn't in there, when he was the door was always closed. Shuffling into the living room, he found Severus sitting there head slightly bowed and he looked as if he'd aged twenty years in the time he'd seen him last.

"Sev?" murmured Harry concerned.

"You shouldn't be up yet, Harry." said Severus standing up helping Harry onto the sofa, checking his temperature.

"What happened?" asked Harry, his mature beyond his years green eyes boring into black ones.

So what did you think? was the meeting believable between Severus and ole Sluggy? will Severus tell Harry about it or try and protect him? Will they ever discover that Harry has already killed two? Nagini and the Diary :P and the third Harry is already gone ... if so how will they discover it? will we see someone changing sides and nagini getting brought into and how voldemort was furious? if so who? i mean mostly its Lucius we see changing sides...but hes in azkaban thanks to harry lol :D so who? perhaps Narcissa asking them for aide to try and save her son? or is it already too late for him as well? i cant see anyone else leaving Voldemort...unless we add a victim confessing? been under the imperious sort of thing or just blackmailed into it and Harry helping them? what do you think guys? will Roxy get in touch with Harry? will Nick even just to say they dont condone what their mum did and to say they're on his side? will Sirius Remus and Harry manage to ever repair their relationship? has James got a chance? R&R PLEASE!