Chapter 55: Echoes
Somewhere in time and space...
Harry stepped forward as the mist began to move aside for him, but a hand on his arm stopped his momentum. He turned slightly. Severus was hanging back, as though he was afraid to step too close to the parting mist. He shook his head, his features pinched.
"But, mum's in there..." Harry tried to explain as he took another step toward the peace, but his father's fingers tightened around his arm. Severus tugged him gently back, bringing Harry around to face him.
"We are going home," he said, his voice firm and quiet. Harry stared at his father in bewilderment. He almost felt betrayed. They were all waiting for them; surely his father understood that?
"But Sirius and Remus will be there...and James," Harry insisted, the prospect filling him with excitement, but Severus shook his head lightly.
"Your friends are waiting for you," he reminded him and then he glanced once over Harry's shoulder, his eyes taking on a sorrowful hue. He turned back to Harry; the sorrow was gone, replaced with a renewed fire. "And I promised Ginny I would bring you home."
A different sort of peace began to fill him. Harry nodded, ignoring the desire, that had not quite receded, to see his godfather and Remus again. To see his mum and James outside of the dream world, but his dad held him fast even as Harry looked once more over his shoulder. He wanted to go to them. Perhaps just for a moment... But before he could move toward them again, the mist became a silvered curtain, solidifying into two solid forms in front of them.
Harry and Severus stared. A doe stood before them, blinking placidly, her eyes calm and expectant. A fearsome stag flanked her side, gazing out at them as he snorted softly, denying them entry. Something wasn't right...why were they alone?
Harry's hand, as though of its own accord, reached out toward the doe...toward his mum...
But again, there was a gentle tug on his arm. "It is time to go, Harry," his father told him, his voice breaking the slightest bit as he turned away and Harry had no choice but to follow.
The mist was fading, the two forms dissipating into vapor again as Harry and Severus glided out into the suffocating darkness once more.
He was storm again.
The flames were bringing him toward a different kind of light as they passed through the shadows of where they'd been. There were shapes-faces there now, lingering in the inky shadows. They reminded him too much of Voldemort. Harry shivered and he imagined he could see a familiar face in the murk...the memory of Sirius, falling whole through the veil assaulted him. He didn't want to see that face; it was no longer laughing. No longer funny...
The light was looming closer now-the images were fast forgotten. Quickly now, storm and flame were carried on alternating eddies of darkness and light. Harry was tumbling over himself, searching for himself as he was yanked forward by his father.
Severus felt the world closing in on him once more, trapping him in substance. And there he stood, with Voldemort's glazed eyes staring at him, while he clutched Harry to his side as though none of them had never left. There was a shrill cry of fury and Severus immediately pushed Harry's limp form to the ground, using his body as a shield; Voldemort came with them.
There was a pressure of a shield, already surrounding them, but Severus wove another shield around them quickly as Bellatrix flung herself in wild desperation at them, presumably trying to get to her master. Before she even reached the boundaries of the shield, Bellatrix stiffened and her arms and legs snapped forcefully together as though she'd been bound in invisible ropes and then she slumped in slow motion to the ground, rolling slightly on the hard ground; her eyes were closed.
Weasley must still be here, Severus decided.
Lucius, still above them, waved his wand discreetly and then pandemonium broke the circle.
Flashes of red entered and jets of light filled the howling air. There was a streak of silvery blonde hair as Draco suddenly broke free of the clutch of Death Eaters, shoving his way past a quickly subdued Lucius and then there were half a dozen wands pointed at Severus and his son.
"Someone take that shield down," one of the armed Auror's snapped from above, followed by a deep, accented order for silence. The Aurors obeyed.
Severus paid them no attention; Harry was still quiet beside him. Severus turned to him, bringing his hand to his son's face to gently pry his eyelids open. He looked deeply into the emerald. The storm was there, coming back in wisps; the flames backed away, allowing Harry to come forward on his own.
Harry's eyes began to flutter under the cover Severus had provided with his torso. "Harry," Severus called softly. Harry stared up at him, looking extremely disoriented as he blinked himself back to reality.
"Dad?" he returned slowly. "Sirius and Remus..." he whispered, sounding almost frantic and Severus' brow furrowed in concern.
"Harry?" he questioned, at a loss. "They aren't here, Harry," he tried to explain, concerned that Harry believed they were still in the void where they'd met Voldemort for the final time. But Harry shook his head, moving to sit up and Severus helped him, but whatever Harry was going to say was forgotten as he took in their surroundings, especially the lifeless body beside them.
"Voldemort," he breathed shakily.
Severus ran his wand swiftly over the long body. "He's dead, Harry," he confirmed quietly. Harry drew in a long shuddering breath and then his eyes widened as he found them surrounded. A sharp command broke the silence above.
Albus stepped through the throng of red. "I don't think there's any need for that," he said gently to the ardent Aurors, headed by Kingsley Shacklebolt, Severus finally realized. Just as they'd planned. And all around them, Order Members and Aurors were guarding the subdued of Voldemort's lost regime.
With another crisp order from Kingsley, the other five Aurors had lowered their wands, though Kingsley kept his trained on Voldemort's body. Albus nodded in approval as he gestured expectantly to Lucius, who was still standing nearby under Moody's watchful eye. Lucius waved his wand in a somewhat choppy movement and the shield around Harry and Severus fell, though Severus was certain it would remain around Voldemort. As if Albus had been reading his mind, the Headmaster waved his wand as well toward Voldemort, presumably adding his own layer of shield to Lucius'.
"Are you all right?" Albus asked, surprising Severus. He had expected a question about their victory, for the Headmaster to make certain that their task had been completed but Albus seemed completely drained, the lines in his face deeply creased with exhaustion and worry. So Severus nodded, keeping his sarcasm at bay. Albus didn't even smile. He returned the nod and told them, "Poppy will be over in a moment. She's tending to Remus."
"Remus!" Harry repeated, his voice going up several octaves as Severus' head snapped around to where Remus had been lying earlier. And there he was lying still, against the cold ground. Poppy was waving her wand over him and Draco was bending over him, his pale hands holding one of Remus' in his own.
And his usually cold face was pinched with unease. "Malfoy," Harry growled with both confusion and rancor as he pushed himself to his feet; Severus moved with him. Draco twisted around, his eyes filled with relief, which changed quickly to surprise at the look on Harry's face.
"That isn't Draco," Albus told them softly and Draco, looking very confused, glanced down at himself and with a snort of surprise, Draco's body began to convulse in expansive waves and then a petite, brown-haired Nymphadora Tonks was gazing up at them.
"Tonks?" Harry questioned, utterly baffled. Severus stared as well. But Ms. Tonks nodded, pulling her crystal out from under her shirt with her free hand and jiggling it pointedly. It glowed a warm brown. Harry didn't even pause, as though Tonks having pretended to be Draco meant nothing. He moved swiftly to her side and dropped down on his knees. Severus went with him, still compelled to be near his son as Albus hadn't yet removed the Charm. Severus stood above the quartet, unable to still his anxiety-an anxiety he wasn't entirely certain he wished to feel at all.
"Remus-" Harry began forlornly as he took up Remus' other hand, but Ms. Tonks was already shaking her head.
"It was a Simulated Death Spell," she told them quietly, her eyes firmly on Lupin again. Harry looked confused and Severus found his heart racing a bit faster at the explanation. He hadn't been killed...
"I cast it so he wouldn't be hurt," she whispered, her voice sounding strained and more questions that would take too long to be answered immediately formed themselves in Severus' mind. "It's taking too long to revive him," she told them, but even as she said it, Lupin's fingers twitched against her hand.
"Remus," Harry and Ms. Tonks chorused; Severus felt his breath catch in his chest. He let it out slowly as Lupin's eyes dragged open. He blinked up at the faces surrounding him, looking dazed.
"What's going on?" he asked, looking quickly between Harry and Severus and then back to Ms. Tonks again and Severus closed his expression so that he would reveal none of the relief that he was feeling.
"A Simulated Death Spell," Poppy answered crisply, waving her wand smoothly up and down Lupin's body. She nodded. "You will be just fine. Tonks got to you in just enough time," she added. Lupin didn't look any less confused as Poppy helped him sit up.
"Simulated Death Spell," he echoed, as if he was attempting to convince himself and indeed it was shocking news-to put it mildly.
"We thought you were dead!" Harry cried in agitation, his eyes misting over as his fingers shook against Lupin's. Ms. Tonks looked up in apology. Lupin looked up as well, his brown eyes full of concern.
"We didn't have a choice, Harry," Ms. Tonks told him. Harry sat back on his heels, his jaw rigid and Severus wouldn't have needed their link to understand what he was feeling.
"What the hell happened?" Harry demanded shakily, his free hand fisting on his thigh. Ms. Tonks glanced up at Albus, who was quietly talking with Rufus Scrimgeour; it seemed all had gone according to plan...after a point.
"The Headmaster will explain," Ms. Tonks assured them, sounding suddenly exhausted. She was all but crumpled in the grass as she clutched Lupin's hand. Harry frowned, though it was aimed around their surroundings; his eyes darkened as they landed on Lucius, still in a very angry-looking Moody's custody. Weasley and a red-robed Auror were standing guard over Bellatrix, who had not moved at all in the intervening minutes.
Harry turned away from them, blinking his eyes rapidly and Severus could feel the multitude of conflicting emotions churning inside him. Severus gave his shoulder a quick squeeze. Harry twisted his neck to look up at him, his eyes full of darkness. Lupin was looking between them, his face cloudy.
"Voldemort's dead," Tonks spoke again to Lupin, her voice subdued. Remus blinked in surprise and then a look of extreme irritation crossed his face.
"But the Death Eaters..." Lupin didn't finish as his eyes roved the hill. There had been no destruction...no mayhem and yet the air was cloaked with wretchedness. Clutches of Death Eaters huddled together. None of them spoke, and the silence was much too heavy.
"Severus," Poppy interrupted his melancholy. He turned to her, his eyebrows raised slightly. "I would like to run a quick Diagnostic Spell over both of you," she told him and Severus nodded. Poppy moved her wand toward Harry, but he brushed her wand aside, the movement fully agitated.
"Harry," Severus said quietly.
Harry looked up again and Severus made a motion for him to stand. Harry closed his eyes for a moment before turning briefly back to Lupin as though to be sure he was really alive. He pushed himself to his feet a few seconds later. Lupin, with minimal assistance from Ms. Tonks, stood as well. "It will be all right," Severus assured his son as Harry moved toward him, and they both knew Severus was referring to Voldemort and every horror that he had graced their lives with. Harry shrugged; his eyes were distant and Severus could see that he was struggling.
"I'm all right, Harry," Lupin put in, coming to stand next to Harry.
"I know that," Harry said thickly as he swallowed. "But you were dead. And we were there but it was nowhere and Voldemort said I killed you and I killed Sirius-and he's dead. Voldemort's dead. I killed him too...everything-" Harry was babbling, almost incoherently now and Severus, paying no attention to the multitude of potential gawkers, pulled Harry against his chest. Harry was shivering, though the chill in the air had eased off. Likely a wide-angled Warming Charm, Severus decided pointlessly.
"Dad-" Harry gulped down whatever else he was trying to say. Severus tightened his arms around his son. It was too much. The culmination of seventeen years, finally laid to rest, in a way that would likely take Harry-and he himself, if he was being honest, a long time to recover from. The darkness had been too vast...the evil too crushing. Severus felt violated by the experience. And Harry...Harry was falling apart in his arms, shaking almost convulsively.
Poppy, standing as well, frowned in clinical sympathy. She withdrew a small vial from her robes and passed it to Severus. Severus nodded before saying softly to Harry, "You are all right, Harry. You are in shock." He held the vial to his son's lips, with the gentle order, "Drink." Harry obeyed, making Severus feel a surge of guilt for the trust his son still retained in him, even after-especially after what Voldemort had revealed to him.
Poppy held a similar vial out to Severus, though the components were a bit different. Severus shook his head, refusing the offer. Poppy sighed but tucked the vial back into her robes foregoing her usually insistent prodding. Albus and Scrimgeour had finished their conversation by then and they were approaching, Scrimgeour with a saccharin smile on his scarred face.
"Severus," he greeted warmly as though they were old friends and Severus recoiled from the man, his arms firming unconsciously around Harry. Scrimgeour didn't seem to notice. "I would like to be the first to offer my deepest gratitude to Harry...and to you," he added as an afterthought. The tone was sincere though the Minister could not hide the calculation behind them.
Severus simply nodded at him, noting the way Harry's head turned a little so that he was no longer eye to eye with the Minister, before saying abruptly, "Harry needs to return to Hogwarts to recover."
The minister's eyebrows rose in surprise. He glanced at Albus. "I was under the impression that neither of them sustained any injuries," he began.
Albus smiled a little at him, but it was Poppy who told the Minister curtly, "If you would excuse us, Minister, I need to see to my patients."
"But I would like to have a word with Harry," Scrimgeour insisted, beginning now to lose his easy façade.
"I am certain Albus will be able to arrange something for you at a more appropriate time," Severus told him abruptly, his lips rising a bit over his teeth and Scrimgeour, after a second's consideration, wisely accepted the offer. He turned back to Albus, presumably to secure such an appointment. Albus waved his wand unobtrusively toward Harry and Severus as he nodded at Scrimgeour. Severus could feel Albus' Sticking Charm dissolving.
"Patients include you as well," Poppy snapped to Remus, who nodded in acquiescence as Ms. Tonks stepped closer to his side.
"I don't want to go to the Hospital Wing," Harry mumbled into Severus' shoulder. Poppy opened her mouth to argue, but Harry continued in a small voice, "I just want to go home."
"You can see to him in our quarters," Severus agreed immediately and though the Mediwitch huffed in protest, she did so while nodding her head in agreement.
A howl of rage broke the stillness, picking up where it had left off. All of them turned toward the noise, though Harry didn't move from where he was wrapped in Severus' arms. Bellatrix. The dwindling groups of Death Eaters seemed to cringe away from her screeching. She was still firmly bound in the invisible ropes which Weasley had so kindly provided. Moving swiftly, he moved toward her and hauled her to her feet. She pivoted as they moved, turning to glare at Harry and Severus.
"Murderers!" she screamed in rage. Harry shuddered again. Weasley wrapped his fingers like shackles around the deranged woman's wrists. She didn't seem to notice. She continued to shriek as she writhed, an impressive string of unladylike invectives. Severus, not wasting another moment, turned on the spot and took his son away from the darkness that continued to permeate this place.
They popped back into existence just outside the boundaries of Highlands Cottage, with Harry groaning over the unexpected disorientation and Severus murmuring a quiet apology. Remus and Ms. Tonks, followed shortly by Poppy, were only seconds behind. Poppy had been included in the protective charm that morning so that Severus had only to provide the location to Ms. Tonks and then the five of them were stepping onto the warded property, Harry still held close to Severus' side.
Nobody talked as they moved toward the house and Severus was hit hard with the realization that they had only left the Cottage hours before. Everything had happened much too quickly. There were so many questions unanswered, and Severus knew he would need those answers soon as he was beginning to feel unreasonable irritation toward Albus. His blinding anger at Lucius had subsided.
Reviewing his memories of what had happened, he knew that it was highly unlikely that Lucius had actually betrayed them. He'd suspected as much through their verbal sparring earlier and Severus had recognized as soon as he and Harry had returned, that the shield which came immediately around to protect them had been Lucius' unique design. And now that he knew Draco had never really been there, things were rapidly becoming clear.
Before they reached the door, Severus turned to Ms. Tonks. "Send a message to Ginny that all of us are safe," he directed and she nodded immediately. It was probable that Albus had already sent such a message to Molly and Arthur, but Severus did have a promise to keep and he preferred that Ginny, and the rest of those who would be worried about Harry, know that he was safe. Ms. Tonks sent her large silver wolf out into the night as Severus opened the door.
They Flooed in shifts to Severus' quarters, though Ms. Tonks seemed to be particularly uncomfortable with the idea. Poppy paid her no mind as she began bustling around as soon as they'd cleared the threshold, ordering all of them to sit. They obeyed and she wasted no time in waving her wand over all of them. She pronounced Lupin fit, if tired. Ms. Tonks received the same diagnosis, though Poppy deemed her magic more depleted than she would have liked, due to her extended period in Draco's form.
"What happened to him?" Harry asked, stirring for the first time from where he sat on the sofa next to Severus. He was pulling his coat off quickly, as though he had been suffocating in its warmth.
"He's at Malfoy Manor," Tonks supplied from her position slumped in Remus' lap in one of the chairs, apparently no longer caring that she was supposed to be waiting for Dumbledore or that she had been initially uncomfortable in her former professor's personal chambers. Her mouth turned down in a surprising scowl. "Bellatrix and two others came while we were there. They had orders to bring him to You-to Voldemort," she fairly whispered the name, though she looked determined and Harry almost smiled at the look of fondness that crossed Remus' face.
Harry shook his head to clear it of the image of Remus falling down in feigned death. Remus noticed the look and smiled at him. Harry tried to smile back but the ache in his chest wouldn't let him. He knew it was mostly for Sirius; it had been too long since he'd really thought of his godfather. Harry stuffed Sirius below his shields and turned his attention back to Tonks.
"V-Voldemort decided he'd waited long enough. Draco was going to be taken to be killed," she told them matter-of-factly and Harry shivered again. Tonks nodded knowingly at him. "Yeah, that's exactly how I felt-sympathy-until he blurted out to Bellatrix and her little guards that the two of you had plans to kill her Master," she fairly spat the word. Angry Tonks was more than a little disconcerting and Harry felt the heat rising in his cheeks at the confirmation of Malfoy's deceit.
"So you took his place," Severus inferred to which Tonks nodded, her lips still turned down in disgust.
"One of Bellatrix's guards, an exceptional buffoon, took Draco to his room to have him 'dress properly for the Dark Lord' and I had no trouble Confunding him momentarily. I bound Draco and left him, concealed in his room. I managed to let Lucius know; he was suspicious right away anyway." She grimaced. "The man's a bastard but he knows his son. And I was a bit too disrespectful for his tastes." Tonks rubbed her cheek, in a reflexive movement. Remus immediately tensed, his face darkening.
"He hit you?" he demanded. "I'll-" he bit out through clenched teeth, but Tonks shook her head at him, her lips quirking in amusement.
"You're not going to do anything, Remus," she scolded lightly. "He didn't know it was me," she told him reasonably, squeezing his arm. Remus frowned further.
"Hitting a child..." he muttered.
"A child who nearly got all of you killed," she reminded him. Remus' frown didn't abate and Harry, though it seemed impossible, understood. Draco was just-well he was Draco, but he was also just a kid. He'd likely been frightened as hell. Harry could understand that. He'd never admit it to the little shit, but he could understand it.
"Nobody's going to tell Scrimgeour that though, are they?" he asked, concerned in spite of his own logic telling him not to worry about the other boy. And he was relieved when Tonks shook her head.
"Only Dumbledore and I know, and Lucius actually managed not to betray you," Tonks added, though it had already been obvious, even to Harry. Severus nodded.
"He would have been even more determined to see you succeed and to ensure that we knew he had given his assistance, with Draco's betrayal," he put in, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Harry glanced over at his father. His eyes were darker than they usually were and Harry didn't like it. He felt raw...used, after their tangle with Voldemort. And part of him really wanted to shout at his dad for not telling him the truth about Halloween when he'd asked him about it. They wouldn't be able to not discuss it, he knew, but he felt instantly nervous at the almost haunted look to his father's angled features.
"He brought the shield down as soon as you activated the Charm," Tonks continued her explanation and Severus and Remus nodded. Harry was becoming too tired to fully comprehend what she was telling them. Lucius had been acting through all that...but it had seemed so real, Harry was having a hard time comprehending it.
He leaned against the back of the sofa, willing himself with a great effort to keep his eyes open. Pomfrey was eyeing him. He sat up straighter, hoping she wouldn't tell him he should go to bed. He knew better, of course.
"You and Harry need to sleep," she told Severus seriously. Harry noised an objection and his father shook his head.
"We will sleep later," he told her firmly and again, she frowned. Harry guessed she wasn't really used to her orders being countermanded, especially when it came to students. He leaned back against the cushions again, satisfied that he could see this conversation through. He tried to relax as Tonks began explaining that she'd sent her Patronus to Dumbledore out Draco's window.
And then all of them turned in surprise as the Floo sprang to life and for the second time in two nights, Harry's friends tumbled out of the fireplace, the three of them landing in a very undignified heap on the floor. Harry, his heart shouting, shot to his feet and went to his friends; his feet seemed to move without his permission. He pulled Ginny out of the tangle, bringing her swiftly into her arms.
"You're going to regret giving them access to your Floo, I think," he heard Remus saying around a chuckle to his dad. Harry didn't hear a response as he was pulled toward Ginny, though he realized with a smile that it was Ron and Hermione that were doing the pulling, their arms encircling him fiercely.
All three of his friends were talking, their words jumbling together so Harry couldn't understand any of what they were saying. Finally, Ginny made a sort of strangling noise and Ron and Hermione pulled back. Ginny scowled at them. "I couldn't breathe," she admonished them, making both her brother and Hermione grin for some reason. Harry smiled at his friends, feeling all of a sudden light again, instead of overwhelmed with too many thoughts...too many dark emotions.
He didn't have to worry about what plans had been interrupted by silver-haired prats or how his father had lied to him. He didn't need to worry about meetings with Scrimgeour, and likely with various newspaper people. He could just be Harry for a few minutes.
"You're all right, aren't you?" Hermione was asking around Ginny as she still had her arms tightly wound around him. Harry nodded.
"But you just left, mate!" Ron told him, his eyes widening with disbelief somehow. And indeed, it had been barely a full day since he had tumbled through the Floo from Gryffindor Tower and now it was over. Harry didn't think he was quite ready to believe it.
"What happened?" Hermione pressed, her hands pulled together in nervous excitement and with a glance at his father, who nodded, Harry invited his friends to sit. There weren't any chairs for Ron and Hermione, so they settled together on the floor while Harry and Ginny sat next to Severus. Ginny was sitting so close, Harry wondered if she would be willing to leave once Pomfrey began to insist he retire, which she inevitably would.
Harry filled his friends in on the most important details, the ones it wouldn't matter if they were privy to. Ron smirked at his description of Dumbledore's Sticking Charm. Harry managed to get out most of the story, but once he got to the part when Voldemort had Apparated in, his voice faltered. Ginny's hand curled around his fingers and Severus finished the rest of the story from Harry's other side. He only glanced over what had happened after they activated the Charm and Harry found himself relieved that he wouldn't have to relive it. It had been too dark; he had felt tainted there in that place.
He shivered with the remembrance of Voldemort's icy presence.
He felt his father's flame warming inside his mind and Harry flicked his gaze over to Severus, surprised. Somehow, he hadn't really expected their connection to remain after everything. His dad made no comment and Harry could tell his eyes were smiling.
"But how did you bring him back, without the Headmaster?" Hermione asked, leaning forward, her eyes wide with interest. Harry couldn't help but smile at her before he turned to his father as well. Part of Severus soul had stayed anchored in his body. They had expected to need Dumbledore's help to bring them home again if Severus soul had been completely banished as well, but since the plans had been expedited, Dumbledore hadn't even been there-at least not where they could see him.
"Only part of him was there with us," Harry told Hermione, deciding his father's sudden reticence meant he was uncomfortable. Hermione and Ron, as well the others in the room, looked at him in confusion. "At first, he was barely there at all," he explained, "and I had to bring him further through. I was dragged with Voldemort because of the Horcrux that was inside me. And even with all that we did to strengthen our connection, a part of my dad's soul was still in his body," he tried to help them understand, though he couldn't explain how he'd known as much. "He was never fully in the void with us."
Everyone in the room turned to his father in awe and the mask slipped over his father's face. Harry wished he could have skimmed over this part as well though truthfully, he'd given them very little detail.
"You pulled Harry away from Voldemort without being completely there with them?" Remus breathed, seeming unable to stop himself and then as Severus' expression closed off even more, Remus brought his hands into his lap, looking regretful over his question.
Harry could understand his father's discomfort. What had taken place there, in that deep nothingness, was a striking demonstration of just how much his father loved him. He had done the impossible-loved him so much that Voldemort, even with so much more strength, had been no match for him. And though Harry knew his dad understood that everyone in that room was well aware of the fact, his emotions were best left private.
Clearing his throat a little, Harry changed the subject. "News hasn't made it back yet, has it?" he asked. Of course it was well past curfew and so it was a pretty ridiculous question, but Ron immediately took the bait anyway.
"Dad sent us a message that Bill was all right just a second after Tonks' came," he said, his cheeks pink with apparent excitement. "I'm sure it will be all over the papers by morning, though," he said with confidence and Harry was certain he was right. Though, as morning was only hours away, it should have been impossible.
"Rita Skeeter will likely be pounding on your door before breakfast," Hermione added with a little shake of her head. "Especially now that you've changed your name." She smiled. "Congratulations on that, Harry and to you as well Professor," she tacked on. Severus inclined his head.
Ron echoed the congratulations, with a fair bit more discomfort but Harry was grateful nonetheless. He was certain there would be an uproar about it, though perhaps once the world understood that his father had done just as much as he had to stop Voldemort, it wouldn't make quite so much difference that Harry Potter was Harry Snape now.
"Are all the Death Eaters going to be sent to Azkaban now?" Ron asked eagerly.
"That will be for the Wizengamot to decide," Remus told him. Ron pursed his lips in thought.
"But what was everyone else doing once the Death Eaters showed up...and how did Voldemort even know where you were?" he wanted to know.
"I am afraid, my boy, that that is a very long story."
Eight heads swiveled toward the unexpected statement. Dumbledore's face was floating in the fireplace's green flames.
The Floo had opened without any of its usual roaring announcement, almost as if it was as subdued as the Headmaster seemed to be. Dumbledore came through, after a questioning glance at Severus. Remus and Tonks stood immediately from their chair, but Dumbledore waved their courtesy away. "I cannot stay long," he told them. "I have much to settle," he said wearily. Pomfrey frowned at that.
"It is late, Albus," she chided. "You need to rest." It seemed it was her mantra. Dumbledore nodded distractedly at her before turning fully to Severus.
"The Death Eaters are detained and Rufus would like to meet with Harry as soon as possible," he said without preamble. Harry felt his father stiffen beside him. Dumbledore smiled slightly. "I told him, of course, that you will accompany your son." Severus relaxed again and Harry wondered just what his dad thought Scrimgeour was going to have to say to him that he wanted to be there as well. Before he really had time to think about it, Dumbledore continued sardonically, "If you are feeling well enough, he has a free schedule tomorrow."
"If Harry is feeling up to it, an informal meeting tomorrow afternoon should suffice," Severus allowed and Dumbledore nodded.
"Thank you, Severus," he said quietly. Though Harry wasn't certain why the Headmaster would be thanking his father, he thought it likely had to do with Severus' earlier demand that the older wizard not overstep his boundaries where his Potions Master's son was concerned. And again, Harry felt comforted that his dad was there to look out for him.
"I would like to understand what happened, Albus," Severus said in response, his voice equally quiet. Albus sighed.
"You got my message, I presume?" he asked. Severus nodded. "I destroyed the two Horcruxes in my possession," he said for Harry's benefit, "and then I gave your father a signal through his crystal."
"And that's why you said we were ready, right before Bellatrix got so angry?" Harry nodded his head as he made the connection. His father inclined his head.
"And then we waited, the Order members and the Aurors...and Scrimgeour...we saw everything," Dumbledore explained, looking paler than normal and Harry was surprised. He wouldn't have expected Dumbledore to be so affected by what had happened. "I didn't realize, of course, that Remus was alive," he murmured and Harry glanced over to his friend as the echo of grief speared him again. It had been just like Sirius, watching Remus die...
"And we were unsure that Lucius remained on our side," Dumbledore added and then Harry understood the Headmaster's strange reticence. He had been frightened for them as well. The knowledge made him feel warmer. So many people cared for him...and for his father as well. It was a good feeling.
"None of that explains how Voldemort knew where to find us," his father said, his eyes seeming to bore into the Headmaster's. Dumbledore shook his head though.
"I cannot account for it, Severus," he admitted.
"You said there might have been some sort of hex on the property," Harry reminded his father as he looked between him and Dumbledore. "Maybe it alerted him to us," he offered. Severus' lips firmed together and Dumbledore was shaking his head.
"It seems an unlikely scenario," he said, sounding much more confident than he looked.
"It doesn't matter." Harry shrugged, not interested right now in discovering Voldemort's secrets.
"Did you notice,' Dumbledore continued anyway, "Voldemort's reaction to losing his Horcruxes, Severus?"
"You believe he was in contact somehow with the piece in Harry?" Severus inquired and Harry recognized his quick surprise.
"It is possible he was attempting to manipulate it, after he realized Harry's mind would be blocked to him with his mastery of Occlusion."
The thought made Harry feel ill; he could feel the memory of the chill he'd felt when they'd met Voldemort. It had been as though Harry would never again experience warmth. He shivered a little.
Severus gave a little shake of his head in Dumbledore's direction, and Harry knew it was because he was trying to make him less anxious. He appreciated it, especially when Dumbledore nodded, saving the conversation for another time. Harry cared little for all of Voldemort's various plots. None of it mattered anymore...and still he couldn't wrap his mind around the idea. But he didn't care about that either.
Pomfrey cleared her throat. "Severus, if you would allow me to examine you and Harry, I could return to my quarters. And I suggest," she stressed peevishly, "that the rest of you retire as well."
No one agreed to her suggestion though Severus did allow her to examine Harry. She clucked disapprovingly at their audience but commenced with it anyway. Her wand lingered long over him, long enough to draw the quiet question from Severus, "Is something the matter?"
Pomfrey shook her head. "He is much more exhausted than he should be. I would get a similar reading if he hadn't been sleeping regularly for an extended period of time." Her eyes sharpened over her patient. "Have you been sleeping?" she demanded and Harry flushed at her stern tone, though more from indignation than because he felt at all chastised.
"Of course, I have," he told her, just managing not to roll his eyes at the overly strict witch. She still had the nerve to give him a disapproving look before turning to Severus.
"Be sure that he sleeps," she ordered, her tone turning hard and Severus nodded immediately, wishing to forestall any long lectures from her tonight. Poppy nodded curtly and waved her wand over him as well. It was a much shorter examination. "Rest," she concluded before putting her wand away. "I will expect to see both of you tomorrow," she added and with another nod of acquiescence from Severus, she bid the others in the room a good night and left through the Floo.
"I do have much to attend to," Albus repeated. His eyes took on a merrier softness though as he added to Harry, "The wizarding world will be most grateful for all you've done for us-both of you," he amended as his blue eyes grazed over Severus as well. "I am very proud of you, Harry." Harry smiled at him.
"Thank you, sir," he said, sounding happy to have pleased the old man. Severus resisted the urge to shake his head at his son's ability to forgive so easily. He was still feeling anger at the Headmaster, for everything that had happened, starting from the day he had placed his precious son on those despicable Muggles' doorstep.
He thought, as he had many time in the past few months, that a spot of revenge would sit very well with him. He would do no such thing, of course. Harry would not approve and so he would restrain himself. But it didn't hurt to indulge the fantasy on occasion, though he was certain that Harry would disapprove of that as well.
Albus, perfectly aware of Severus' continued displeasure, gave him a smile nonetheless. He said his farewells to the others in the room, telling the children with a small wink that classes would be cancelled the following day and then Albus smiled once more and left-through the door this time. And Severus realized it would be the first time in months that the Headmaster would be able to walk the corridors, not having to worry about what Draco was suppose to be plotting for him. So much had changed.
"We should be going as well, Harry," Remus was saying. Ms. Tonks' eyes were drooping as they stood there. Without a word, Harry went to his friend and smiling fully, Lupin pulled Harry into his embrace.
"This is why I told you not to come," Harry told him fiercely as they hugged.
Remus, looking confused as he patted Harry's back, pointed out, "But I'm all right."
"I didn't know that," Harry told him thickly, though he sounded fairly annoyed, "and I couldn't stand it."
Words that would have devastated Severus in September, only brought a mild constriction to Severus' chest now and he knew some of that was in response to his son's pain.
"I know," Lupin agreed, running a hand over Harry's head lightly as his arms tightened once more around the boy he'd come to love more than he'd thought possible. "I'm proud of you, as well," he added in a quiet voice and Harry fairly glowed. Severus could easily overlook the sliver of jealousy he felt at his son's smile. Lupin looked toward him as Harry pulled away. "I'm glad the two of you are all right."
Severus nodded, part of him feeling a strong desire to thank the other man for a multitude of things and he realized with a touch of discomfort that he might have if Harry's friends were not still present. "Your assistance was appreciated," was all he was willing to say.
"As my role consisted mostly of lying in the grass behind you, I don't think what I did can be really be classified as assistance," Remus said with a twisted smile.
You made Harry laugh, Severus wanted to tell him, but his face remained passive. Harry was looking at him oddly. He turned to Lupin. "You helped both of us," he asserted and Remus, with a look between the two of them, smiled again.
"Well then, you're welcome Severus." Severus said nothing, though his eyes remained locked with Lupin's for a few seconds before Lupin said to Harry, "Good luck with the Minister."
Harry grimaced. "Thanks."
"Good night, then," Remus addressed all of them, but before he could turn to leave, Harry turned to Ms. Tonks.
"Thanks, Tonks...well for everything but mostly for making sure Remus didn't die." For some reason, that made the blue-haired witch burst out crying. Lupin, not wasting another moment, put his arm around her and ushered her into the Floo. They were gone in a rush of fire.
"Girls," Weasley scoffed in a hushed breath, sounding completely baffled.
"She had a really hard night," Harry told him; his defensiveness took Severus by surprise.
"Of course she did," Ms. Granger agreed, giving her companion a dark look, though Ms. Granger had no idea of just how difficult Ms. Tonks' night had been. "And we should go as well," she addressed Harry. Harry nodded, though his face fell a little. Ginny, still seated on the sofa, looked more than a little disappointed.
"You can return in the morning, if you wish," Severus found himself saying to her. Ginny looked up at him, her face full of surprise. She smiled.
"Thank you, si-Severus," she amended. Weasley's face turned a brilliant scarlet and he seemed to have swallowed his tongue.
Severus ignored his son's somewhat dim-witted friend as he addressed Ginny again, "You are welcome to visit whenever you wish." Severus looked askance at Weasley as he began making a choking noise. Perhaps the idiot really had swallowed his tongue. With a swift wave of Severus' wand, Weasley's odd noises ceased and his color began to return to normal.
"Thank you, sir," Ms. Granger said before turning to glare at Weasley. Severus didn't answer. Harry was looking highly amused and Severus supposed such a display must be why he kept the inept boy around-Weasley certainly would be a source of significant entertainment, if Severus had had any use for entertainment.
Ginny shook her head at her brother's antics as she came to stand with Harry again. Harry smiled down at her, before hugging her to him once again. Their lips didn't meet, for which Severus was grateful. He preferred not to witness that particular display, no matter how much gratitude he felt for the girl.
Harry was saying something softly to Ginny and Severus turned away from them to give them privacy. Weasley and Ms. Granger went to wait for Ginny by the fireplace. "Get some rest, Harry," Severus finally heard Ginny directing, echoing Poppy's orders; Severus turned around again. Harry was nodding obediently at her, and Severus had to force his lips not to move into a smile. Ginny turned to him then. "Thank you for bringing him home," she told him sincerely, giving him a warm smile.
"You are welcome," Severus returned and then had to endure another round of muffled sputtering from Weasley. He managed not to glare at the boy. He was grateful when Ms. Granger elbowed her brother firmly in the ribs. Ginny gave Harry another hug and this time, a quick kiss, before following the other Gryffindors into the Floo.
Harry watched his friends, obscured by green flames as he had earlier, but this time it didn't hurt at all. He would have preferred to have had more time with Ginny, not to mention some privacy, but he would see her again in just a few hours and perhaps this evening they could spend some time together. With a start, Harry realized that if his father had never spoken to Dumbledore, he would still not be allowed to see Ginny for any significant length of time-and of course, Voldemort would still be alive... Time had almost seemed to lose all meaning during the past day.
Severus was watching him, his eyes shadowed. Harry knew without having to really think about it, that his father was expecting him to ask him about Halloween, about the accusations that Voldemort had made but he didn't want to. He didn't want to talk about any of that. Not now.
"What does Scrimgeour want anyway?" he asked, ignoring the worry niggling at him. Severus, his eyes darkening further, paused a moment to consider the query.
"He likely wishes to discuss some sort of recognition for you," he said, his lips barely moving as he spoke. Harry frowned at him.
"And what about you?"
"I am not someone he will wish to hail as a hero," Severus told him with a fair amount of derision. Harry's frown deepened.
"Yes you are," he disagreed, his voice harder than he'd meant it to be. His father raised a brow.
"Scrimgeour, not to mention, the majority of those who will be celebrating tonight's events will disagree with you," he said easily.
"Dumbledore said they saw it. All of them saw what you did," Harry insisted. His father almost smiled.
"They saw you, Harry, taking my arm-my Mark and using it to defeat Voldemort," he reminded him.
"But you did it...you took my place-" he began in protest but his father was already shaking his head.
"Which is not something I wish to explain to others," he said, his voice very serious. Harry opened his mouth to object, wanting for some reason for everyone to know just what his dad had done for him-had done for everyone. But he also knew his father would find immense discomfort in that sort of understanding and though Harry wouldn't particularly enjoy the attention, he was used to it. He could handle it well enough.
They stood in silence for a few moments before Harry said quietly, "I don't think I would have been able to do it...take Voldemort's arm...and yours as easily."
And inexplicably, Severus' black eyes warmed. "I know." He said it as though he was extremely proud of what Harry considered a weakness. Harry wasn't sure he understood that, but he nodded anyway.
"Were you hurt when you took the Crucio for me?" he asked softly. Severus shook his head immediately.
"I have endured far worse," he said simply and Harry could almost sense his father raising invisible eyebrows, giving him an invitation to discuss just when and why he'd experienced far worse, but Harry ignored it.
He wanted to thank his dad for taking the Curse on himself, but he knew he didn't need to. "Thank you," he found himself saying anyway, even though he knew his father wouldn't want to be thanked for protecting him.
"I could not allow you to be tortured," Severus told him simply and Harry nodded, understanding much better than he had before.
"Do you know you called Remus, Remus before Tonks hit him with her spell?" he asked, changing the subject as he eyed his father. Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Did I?" he inquired interestedly. Harry rolled his eyes.
"You know you did," he answered back. His father didn't respond as Harry sat on the sofa again. He leaned back into the corner a little, wriggling a bit to find a comfortable spot. He was really tired. "You were just as worried as I was when he fell," he told his father, who was watching him with amusement as he re-adjusted the pillow behind his back.
"And you believed me heartless?" he asked, his eyes widening as though in disbelief. Harry smiled at him.
"No, but you were worried because you consider him a friend," he revealed as though his father hadn't known it already. Severus' lips thinned. "Don't bother to deny it, Dad," Harry said with a breezy wave of his hand. "
"Are you planning to sleep out here?" Severus inquired, in lieu of a response. Harry shook his head as he maneuvered his trainers off his feet.
"I'm not going to sleep," he denied. Severus frowned at him; Harry closed his eyes.
"You are, just as Madame Pomfrey instructed," his father contradicted. Harry opened one eye to study his father's stern frown.
"Since our dangerous journey is over now, I guess I'm free to disregard your orders now, yeah?" he asked slyly. Severus cocked a brow.
"If you wish to face the consequences," he allowed. Harry smiled before closing his eye again.
"I'll sleep, I'll sleep," he agreed as though giving in was in fact a great sacrifice. Severus shook his head in muted amusement and sat at the other end of the sofa.
"Your bed would be infinitely more comfortable," he told his son. Harry shrugged even as he scooted down from his corner to lay his head more fully on one of the pillows. He stretched his legs out. They were just long enough so that his heels came down to rest lightly on Severus' thigh. Severus said nothing as he called for a blanket from Harry's room. Severus settled the warm blue blanket over his son.
"Dad?" Harry mumbled from the other end of the sofa.
"Yes, Harry?" Severus returned, watching his son's face expectantly.
"You are quite welcome, Harry," Severus murmured and watched in contentment as Harry smiled, his eyes still closed.
Harry watched in agony as his godfather fell over and over again, his face twisted in an angry scowl, through the veil. His mouth moved each time he fell, but the words were lost as he crossed the insubstantial curtain.
Someone was shaking him, the movement gentle and Harry struggled to open his eyes. His dad was leaning over him, close enough so that he almost wasn't a wavy blur. Harry grappled a little with the sofa cushion that had sunken in as he slept; Severus took his arm and helped him sit up.
"Thanks," Harry muttered as he rubbed the sleep and the disconcerting images of Sirius from his eyes. He hadn't dreamed of his godfather in a long time, and never before quite like that. Sirius had always been laughing as he fell in his nightmares...he hadn't even seen his godfather looking so angry without Severus somewhere in the vicinity.
"You were dreaming of your godfather?"
Severus startled him from the images. Harry blinked at him, his eyes trying to focus uselessly without his glasses. His father pressed them into his agitated fingers.
"I guess," Harry murmured, still trying to banish the adulterated memory from his mind as he tucked his glasses over his nose.
"You guess?" Severus echoed with concern. Harry shrugged.
"It was different than it used to be," he admitted. His father waited patiently for him to continue. Harry didn't really want to; he didn't even really know what he wanted to say, but he went on anyway, "He was angry...saying something to me, but I can't understand what it was...he's angry about something," he finished stupidly, but his father didn't seem to find the conclusion stupid at all. He nodded in understanding.
"It is a normal reaction, after what happened," Severus assured him, but Harry didn't feel reassured for once. He felt a terrible rush of guilt for the past few months, for the time he hadn't spent in mourning over Sirius. "Voldemort wanted you to feel guilty about Black's death," his father added and Harry didn't even bother to nod. He slumped a little against the arm of the sofa. He had felt extremely guilty...he still felt guilty about everything. And he had too many questions, too many feelings he couldn't identify. "What else is bothering you?" his father pressed, his voice very soft. Harry's lips shifted as he tried to bottle his emotions; it was an impossible task.
"You didn't tell me," he said quietly, frustration edging his tone. Severus didn't even twitch beside him. He nodded, the movement purposeful.
"I did not want you to blame yourself," he explained, his voice still very soft. Harry blinked rapidly.
"But it was my fault."
"It was not your fault," Severus said firmly and even as Harry tried to refute the statement, Severus narrowed his eyes. "Voldemort tortured me, Harry. It is not your fault that he maneuvered past your shields," he insisted when Harry didn't give him any sort of acknowledgment.
Harry stared at the pattern on his mum's sofa, tracing the swirls with his thumb. "I should have worked harder-"
"Stop," Severus ordered, his tone hardening enough that Harry looked up at him, feeling immediate discomfort at the edge in his voice. His eyes were gentle though as he explained, "This is why I did not tell you. It is not your job to hold yourself responsible for everyone else's safety."
Harry gazed at him for a long minute, his stomach twisting painfully, before nodding. "I know," he admitted, though the guilt had not abated at all. He frowned as he added, "But you still should have told me."
"I apologize, Harry," Severus said simply, obviously not wanting to belabor the discussion. Harry stared at him, though he wasn't particularly surprised that his father had acquiesced so easily. Severus' lip lifted a little. "It is another aspect of my need to protect you," he explained. And Harry, for the first time, had no difficulty understanding that. He had seen it. Witnessed just how deep his father's desire was to keep him safe. He smiled as much as he could right now.
"I am glad you feel that way," he nodded, enjoying the spark of surprise in his dad's dark eyes, "but don't lie to me again, all right?" His tone moved to match the one his father had just used. Severus, his mirth showing only in his eyes, nodded solemnly.
His face darkened a little though as he admitted, "I do regret that Voldemort was able to use that to hurt you."
"Even if you had told me, it would have been enough just for him to bring it up again...and Sirius and Remus as well," Harry said with a forced, nonchalant shrug. The thought of both of them, made him squirm. He glanced up through his fringe. "Do you think Sirius would be angry-about what happened?"
"No," Severus told him firmly. "Your godfather is not angry with you."
"He wasn't there with James and mum, stopping us from crossing the veil," Harry said uneasily.
I do not understand what happens to a soul once it leaves a body and I do not know why Black wasn't there, but I do know he would not hold you responsible," Severus reiterated.
"You can't know that," Harry whispered, turning his eyes to the cushion once more.
"Am I angry that Voldemort found his way through your shields that night?" Severus asked, his voice very grave and Harry's fingers twitched against the pattern in the cushion. "I am not," his father answered his own question. Harry nodded uncertainly as he glanced up. "You realize, do you not, that these concerns are forefront in your mind right now because of what Voldemort wanted you to believe?"
"Yeah," Harry acknowledged, not quite making eye contact this time.
"And that it was simply manipulation to weaken you," Severus continued. "Even Voldemort did not believe what he was saying." Harry looked up then.
"He must have," he argued and his father looked like he might smile.
"He simply understood you a little too well," he explained. "It hurts you to think you have hurt others. It is an admirable trait," Severus added, "but one which is easily exploited."
Harry sighed. He did understand that he had been manipulated-far too easily, but he also knew that there had been truth in Voldemort's words. "Yeah," was all he could say. His father raised an eyebrow.
"Perhaps I will need to remind you of your inclination to take unnecessary responsibility on a regular basis," he said seriously. Probably, Harry wanted to agree but he didn't.
"Remember when you said I hadn't grieved for Sirius?" he asked, winding a corner of his shirt around his index finger. His father nodded. "Will it ever be any easier...missing him, I mean?" he wondered, and his question surprised him. It was a much simpler affair to speak to his dad about Sirius than it should have been.
"It will get easier with time," Severus assured him. "I still miss your mother...and James," he admitted quietly. Harry swallowed. He didn't speak for a time as his thoughts swirled around his mum and James.
"What time is it?" he finally asked.
"Six o'clock," Severus answered without even casting a Tempus Charm or blinking at the abrupt subject change.
"Can we go to see their graves?" Harry rushed over the words, though he didn't know why he felt it necessary. His father's black eyebrows rose in surprise at the question.
"You wish to go now?" he inquired. Harry nodded.
"I want to thank them," he told his father, his voice catching a little. He let out a breath as the familiar calloused fingers closed themselves over his. "Do you mind if we go?" he had to ask and he was relieved when his dad shook his dark head immediately.
"Of course I do not mind," he said easily. "And as your time will be in much demand over the course of the next weeks, now may be our only opportunity," he added. Harry didn't like the sound of that, but he knew it was true. Scrimgeour wouldn't be the only one who would request a meeting with him, he was certain. He just hoped Rita Skeeter would stay far away from them.
"You do realize that Scrimgeour may well want a celebration in your honor," Severus informed him seriously as they stood up from the sofa. Harry groaned.
"Just brilliant," he muttered as he followed his father to the Floo.
Severus halted and turned back around before stepping in. Harry paused as well, tilting his head a little to look up at him. His father was studying him, his eyes black with intensity but Harry didn't find it unnerving like he used to. His father's upper lip lifted the tiniest fraction, seeming to understand a little of what Harry had been thinking.
"Do you realize, Harry," he drawled slowly, "that your life is your own now?" Harry stared at him and inexplicably, the words brought a strange sensation to Harry's gut. His own? Severus' head angled to the side a little as he continued to study his son. "Voldemort no longer has any claim to you," he continued, his voice sounding oddly-well, almost excited.
And then it hit him, in a great wave of unexpected glee and Harry imagined he felt a bit dizzy. He must have wavered a little because Severus took his arm, his mouth turning down in a more pronounced frown. Harry shook the disorientation away as he smiled at his father. "I'm all right," he said, cheerfully. "I don't think I did realize..."
Severus' mouth relaxed away from its frown, though his eyes were still concerned. "Perhaps Madame Pomfrey should examine you more fully before we leave," he suggested. "Events last night may have affected you more than she realized," he mused thoughtfully but Harry just shrugged.
"I'm just tired," he told his dad and Severus, after a moment's hesitation, nodded.
"I will ask her to have a look at you when we return though," he said firmly and Harry nodded distractedly, not caring in the least about Madame Pomfrey.
He was free. Voldemort was gone.
Harry grinned up at his father. "Voldemort's dead," he said, his voice wobbling a bit with his sudden happiness. Severus' black eyes lightened at the sound.
"Yes, I believe I just indicated that," he stated. Harry made a face.
"Yeah, but I said it," he retorted. Severus raised an eyebrow. "I did," Harry insisted with a wide grin. "You were going on about claims on this and that and being in charge of my destiny or some such," he said with good-natured disdain. His father narrowed his eyes a bit, making Harry want to burst out laughing, as he remembered their conversation at Highlands Cottage. He studied his father, nodding seriously, "Yep," he decided, "that look is much better on you this way, especially now when we're actually in the dungeons."
Expecting Severus to continue the banter, Harry was startled when he was pulled roughly into his arms. Harry was too surprised to say anything as he listened to his father's steady breathing. And Severus seemed content to stand in silence for a few minutes before murmuring, "You are safe now." The gruff words were muffled against Harry's tousled hair. Harry's arms came up to grasp around his father's waist. He nodded jerkily against the warm shoulder. "If I were to lose you..." Severus' shook his head, unable to finish. Harry pulled his head back to look at him, his emerald eyes bright.
He was smiling and Severus' chest constricted as he recalled how he'd been so easily willing to let his son die. "You're not going to lose me," Harry denied, shaking his head just a little, in amusement it seemed. "I'm yours, remember?" he asked, cocking his head a little to the side.
His father's obsidian eyes warmed to grey. His roughened fingers came up, as they had so many times before, to brush Harry's errant fringe aside, his lips lifting in his familiar half-smile. "So you are," he agreed softly.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. You can find the sequels at potionsandsnitches dot net, under the same pen name.