He wasn't too keen to re-enter Hogwarts. Although he knew that Snape was there, and Ron and Hermione too, he also knew that there would be questions that needed answering. He wasn't too keen on going over the ritual in the graveyard, or the duel with Voldemort – one sided though it had been. He didn't want to reveal how terrified he'd been, how scared he still was.
Remus put an arm around his shoulders gently, giving him a cautious squeeze. Harry looked up at one of his father's best friends, searching the lined face above him.
"Do you think dad would be mad that Severus is my Guardian?" he didn't know where the question came from, and from the surprised look on Remus' face, the issue had not occurred to the former professor either.
"No, Harry," Remus said softly, "He'd be glad that you have someone to trust – someone who is there when you need it. Sirius was locked up – I was in no fit state – I think your mum and dad would be very pleased that you finally have what you need. I know that I am."
"I was proud of Sirius," Harry confessed, his mind jumping topics, "He agreed to Severus' plan without arguing – though he did have a few questions."
"I was proud too," Remus grinned, "They were such enemies once – and while they may never be good friends now, I'm glad to see that they've finally found something they agree on."
Harry nodded and took a deep breath. As if reading that he was ready to move on, Remus stepped forward, his arm still around Harry's shoulders. This felt good too – although he knew his Guardian was cautious of the disease that Remus carried, Harry had never had any qualms about being near the Marauder that had helped build his map of Hogwarts.
They walked into the entrance hall, the grand staircase in front of them. People were milling around in confusion, a jumble of voices echoing in Harry's ears. Someone spotted him and cried his name and in moments there was a moment of pause before they all rushed towards him.
Before the oncoming crowd could reach them, there was an enormous echoing bang. Everyone froze in place and turned to look for the source. There on the grand staircase was Severus Snape, and behind him Sirius Black and the Headmaster, the Minister of Magic, Rita Skeeter and two Aurors escorting a manacled young man with wild eyes and Mad Eye Moody's coat on. Snape stepped forward in the silence and the crowd parted like water before him as he strode towards Harry.
Harry ducked out from under Remus' sheltering arm and hurried towards his Guardian, anxieties making him check for injuries, hidden or otherwise. He intended to stop at a decorous distance away, to not give away the secret of their Bond despite the fact that he wasn't ashamed, but the point was a moot one as Snape himself reached out and drew him into a light embrace.
"Are you well, my Ward?" the words were clear in the silence, untainted with the tension in the frame that Harry was leaning against. Snape was evidently unsure how Harry would react to this public declaration and was bracing himself for the backlash.
"Yes, my Guardian," Harry replied, wrapping his hands around the man and knotting one hand in the back of Snape's robes, "Are you? You weren't hurt were you?"
"I could not be hurt by one such as him," Snape's voice was easily lost in the chorus of exclamations and questions that were even now ringing around them. There was a camera flash somewhere and Harry jumped, still unsettled by everything that happened. He'd never had an adult to hug him when he was frightened before – Snape was still the epitome of anti-hug – but he'd take what he could get. Doubtless it was politically expedient to announce the guardianship now and Harry had learned not to defy his Guardian publicly.
"Good," Harry breathed, "What's going on?"
"We have much to discuss," Snape told him, "And a Minister to deal with. I'm afraid you'll have to endure for a little while longer – though I will of course insist that you go to Madam Pomfrey as soon as possible."
"I'm alright," Harry assured Snape staunchly. The Potions Master snorted lightly, shaking his head.
"If you could see yourself you would not believe that for an instant," his Guardian replied, "You need rest and calm, not fuss and excitement, and I'll see that you have it soon."
Snape never broke a promise, no matter what was happening in the rest of the world, so Harry nodded and reluctantly released his grip on his teacher's robes. He did feel cold and a little shaky, but he'd be able to manage for a while longer before he needed a rest.
"I demand to know what is going on!" Fudge bellowed over the noise, barging through the crowd to get to them. Harry took another step back, bumping into Remus, who steadied him with a gentle hand on his shoulder. Snape turned, putting himself between Harry and the Minister and for a moment Harry revelled in the protection. Sirius stepped around to the side, adding his hand to Harry's other shoulder and squeezing.
"You weren't hurt either, were you?" Harry asked quietly as Snape verbally took the Minister apart with surgical precision. Sirius chuckled and shook his head.
"The impostor didn't do me any harm," Sirius reassured him, "And that's a story and a half."
"Isn't that Bartimus' son?" Remus asked, "I thought he'd been sent to Azkaban."
"He escaped. His mother swapped places with him – she died in prison under polyjuice," Sirius' words sent a shiver down Harry's spine. Before he had a chance to think it through the Ministers voice intruded in the small bubble of peace that his Guardian and his father's friends had created for him.
"I will not wait, Snape! Young Mr Potter will tell us what has happened at once, or I'll take him into protective custody!" Fudge's shout made Harry flinch. Remus and Sirius tried to tighten their hands on his shoulders but Harry threw himself forward, determined not to let the Minister separate him from his Guardian.
"No!" Harry protested, "He's a good Guardian!"
"Harry," Snape laid a pale hand on his shoulder, with just the lightest pressure. Harry relaxed his fists and straightened under the touch, following the silent instruction to behave.
"Harry is in need of medical care and rest, Minister," Snape said in a cool voice, "However, there are certain events that need to be explained at once. Therefore I will allow my Ward to tell you what happened when he was abducted by a Port Key."
"Cedric and I got to the centre of the maze and the cup at the same time," Harry began at once, pre-empting another shout from the Minister, "Rather than battling for it, Cedric suggested we take the cup together, to make it a real Hogwarts victory."
He decided he didn't want to go over the argument that they'd had in the centre of the maze – his ankle was still throbbing hard, reminding him of the damage the spider thing had done – because it would seem like boasting.
"When the port key let go of us we landed in a graveyard – I'm not sure where it was, but it had a grave for Tom Marvolo Riddle," Harry shivered, remembering the fear that had hit him at the sight of that name, "Once I recognised it, I knew we were in danger."
"What is so special about that name?" Fudge scoffed, "I'll have no flights of fancy from you, young man!"
"Tom Riddle is the true name of Lord Vol-" Harry began but Snape's hand tightened in warning even as those around him exclaimed, "I mean, it's you-know-who's name. Anyway," Harry raised his voices over the exclamations, wanting to get this over with, "Cedric and I pulled our wands out just as someone appeared from under a crypt. It was Pettigrew – though I don't know how he got out of prison – and he was carrying something wrapped in cloth. A voice said to 'kill the spare' and I summoned the cup towards us. Cedric was standing between me and the cup, you see and I thought that if I could get the cup to him before the killing curse he'd be safe. I think it worked – he was gone before the curse flew, wasn't he?"
"Yes, Harry. Cedric arrived here safely, if somewhat shaken and alerted us to the danger," Dumbledore spoke up for the first time, "Your quick thinking saved him."
"Good," Harry sighed in relief. His head swum for a moment and he clenched his fists, not wanting to seem weak in front of all these people – especially Snape, who'd seen him cowering in the graveyard. In a tired voice he detailed the ritual and the horrific rise of Voldemort, ignoring the spluttering and attempts to deny his words from Fudge.
As embarrassing as it was, he added the details of his struggle with the Dark Lord in front of his assembled Death Eaters, the odd reaction their wands had to each other and his escape with Snape's help.
"And how did you know where he was, Snape?" Fudge pounced on that, obviously hoping to sully Snape's name by associating him with the Death Eaters.
"He's bonded to me as my Guardian," Harry replied before the older man could, "Professor Snape always knows how to find me in an emergency."
It was beginning to get very cold and dark, or at least that was Harry's impression. Snape's hand slid across his shoulders and drew him into the thin mans side. Harry leaned obediently, grateful for the warmth of the Potion Master's body. He turned his face into the dark robes and closed his eyes, willing to let the older man take charge once more. Harry knew he could trust him to do what was right: he had known that even before Voldemort had risen again.
Finally he had someone to rely on. It felt good.
"Severus is going to kill us," Sirius' fretted as he watched Remus wrap the herbs around Harry's wrist. Despite the pain the injury must have been causing him, his godson seemed content enough.
"Relax, Sirius. Snape knows I'm a trouble magnet," Harry replied, rolling his eyes, "I fell off my broom, not the astronomy tower. I wasn't even that high up."
"Yes, but why did you fall off your broom? Because I sent the tickling hex your way," Sirius moaned. Remus chuckled and shook his head, tying the bandage off neatly.
"In which case, Severus is going to kill you, Padfoot. I'm an innocent bystander in all this," the werewolf shared a wicked grin with Harry, who laughed in response. Sirius was glad to hear it – his godson was more solemn than Sirius liked. A child Harry's age should be a lot more carefree than he was.
Not that Sirius blamed Harry for his solemnity. After all, the child was under constant threat from the Death Eaters, their twisted leader and the machinations of Fudge and Dumbledore. Though Sirius had been dismayed to discover that Snape had assumed Guardianship over Harry, the former convict could not deny that Snape did a thoroughly good job of it.
After Harry's initial statement in the front hall of Hogwarts, there had been much consternation and attempts to smear the boy's character. Had Cedric not been alive to back up what Harry said, things would have gone hard for the young Boy Who Lived. Harry had been at the end of his strength, and Snape had recognised that quickly, cutting off all further attempts at interrogation and ushering Harry away to Snape's own quarters. Madame Pomfrey had made a 'house call' to see to Harry and Sirius and Remus had stayed with the teen while Snape went off to do battle with the Minister.
It seemed that Pettigrew had escaped with the help of the incompetent Minister – who had unwittingly allowed Wormtail to ride out of the prison in the hem of his robes. That had done for Fudge's tenure as Minister, opening the way for Rufus Scrimgour and his militant philosophy. Death Eater activity was responded to with the harshest of penalties, which seemed to be keeping things quiet for now. No one with any sense was foolish enough to think that this would last.
Sirius was grateful for the lull before the storm. It had assisted him in persuading Snape to allow Harry to visit their cottage on the moors for a week during the summer holidays. They were isolated enough that the boy could ride his broom and mess about without having to worry about the press or other such nuisances finding him. He and Remus had chosen a week when the moon was at its weakest influence and Harry was having a ball exploring the moors and engaging Sirius in some one-on-one quidditch practice.
"You didn't have to call him, you know. I trust you too," Harry mentioned innocently. Sirius and Remus exchanged a look: if Severus found out that Harry had been hurt and he hadn't been informed there would be hell to pay.
Before Sirius could even begin to formulate the most tactful way to bring this up, there was a sharp crack outside. Moments later the front door banged open: Sirius was glad to see that Harry didn't so much as turn a hair at the noise or the sudden flurry of potions master that erupted into the room.
"Hallo sir," Harry smiled and held out his good hand, "Come and sit down. Tea?"
"Thank you Potter," Snape replied, running a keen eye over the boy and sitting beside him, "Let Black make it. The message said you were hurt."
"My wrist," Harry shrugged, "I was laughing and fell off my broom at a funny angle. Remus has wrapped it with some of the herbs you send for his moon time."
Severus took the wrist in question with such delicacy that Sirius felt a lump rise in his throat. Harry had been given very little care and attention in his young life and to see it now, from a man that had once been the greatest rival of James Potter was just short of a miracle.
Sirius got up and started the kettle, fishing out tea and the good cups. Behind him, Harry was telling his Guardian about the last few days, his tone bright and easy. Snape asked a few questions in a quiet tone, sparking another easy spate of chatter from Harry – albeit a spate of chatter that used correct grammar and slightly formal language. Sirius turned with the completed tea in his hands and stopped.
He had imagined that Snape would be impatient with his Wards chatter and although you wouldn't call his expression indulgent, it was clear that listening to and conversing with Harry was not the chore Sirius had expected the man to find it. He met Remus' eyes and smiled at the pleasure there. Harry had found someone to care for him at long last and while it wasn't someone that Sirius would have chosen personally…
All the things he had hated about Snape as a young teen – the boy's knowledge, his tenacity, his ability to turn a situation to his advantage – made him the perfect Guardian for young Harry Potter. And though Sirius knew from the glint in the glance Snape shot him there would be something to pay for this accident Harry had suffered, Sirius was glad that Snape was there to protect James' boy in the times ahead.