A/N: This is the last chapter I have written so far. I plan on writing more tomorrow.
Chapter Sixteen: Let it Go
Silence filled the room before Minerva spoke. "Harry, I understand Ms. Granger is a dear friend of yours, but rushing off without a plan will not save her. We don't even know where they are keeping her; let alone where to begin looking. I am sure they have demands and will make them known, but for now I think it would be best for us to wait and gather our forces."
Harry shook his head. "With all due respect, who's to say they haven't already seriously hurt her? I am not letting her suffer any more than she already has. She sacrificed herself for this war once and I am not letting her go through that again." He turned on his heel and was halfway to the door when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning he was surprised to see Severus was the one who had stopped him.
"If this is what you are doing, I am going with you. I let you walk to your death once alone. This time you will have my help and protection." He turned to the Headmistress. "They are most likely taking refuge in the old Riddle House. That was where the Dark Lord was stationed himself for most of his final two years. They would be familiar with it, as am I."
Harry nodded, a smile creeping to his face. He watched Severus turn to him. "I will need a half hour to prepare the necessary items and I would suggest you dress a bit warmer."
"Of course. I will meet you at the front gate. Minerva, we should be back by morning, but if not I will have lessons plans made out for the library on my desk," Harry stated, and Severus nodded in agreement before gracefully throwing open the door and gliding down the hall to his own room. Minerva shook her head at the pair, muttering about how she would inform the Order, and left Harry alone in his rooms.
Severus quickly made his way to his rooms, leaving behind the young man he cared so much for. So much had changed for him he was beginning to hardly recognize himself. This was as unlike him as he could get, rushing off without a plan. No, this was too much a Gryffindor trait for him to truly feel like himself. However, he meant what he said; he would not risk losing the young man again. If that meant having to follow him, so be it.
Upon entering his room he spotted Draco Malfoy sitting at his desk facing away, looking out the fake window into the lake. The blonde looked younger in that moment than Severus could ever remember seeing him. "What brings you to my chambers, Draco? And do be quick; I am in a bit of a rush," he said, moving about, beginning to gather what he thought they might need for their journey.
"You are going after her." It wasn't a question, but a statement filled with worry. Severus couldn't help but stop and turn to his Godson.
"Yes, but how did you know she was missing?" he questioned and Draco nodded and rolled his eyes.
"I didn't expect Harry to sit through it. I was having a conversation with Minerva when Kingsley fire called her. She made her apologies and went to inform Harry. If you already know you must have been with him and I am glad for that. You will offer some levelheadedness to him, though I am not sure how much if you have bought in to his nonexistent plan, which brings me to why I am sitting here. I'm going with you two."
Severus shook his head. "They want you dead as much as they want Harry and me. I am worried about keeping him alive as it is. I can't have you there to worry about too. I'm sorry, Draco."
"I'm not leaving you to go by yourselves. I know how to defend myself and we will at least be closer to their numbers. I'm no longer a child, Severus. I'm going. I know where they are as well as you do. I informed Kingsley of this before he had to go, but the Aurors are busy attempting to regain control of the Ministry. He can't spare any until tomorrow, at the earliest."
The older man let a sigh escape, knowing he was defeated. Draco had been raised around all of this so he was familiar, but the boy had managed to remain somewhat innocent through the war. Tonight was likely to change that, something Severus didn't want for his Godson. A nod was all he could manage as he finished packing various potions and supplies into a small leather backpack. Draco stood and both men made their way to the front gates, neither in the mood for any more conversation.
Harry was standing at the gates waiting for Severus dressed in a pair of dragon hide pants, a tight fitting long sleeved red shirt and a Military Men Biker Jacket zipped up to his chest. His wand was holstered under his left sleeve and his spare was attached to his leg, giving him the distinct impression of going to war. His eyes glanced to the door, shock flooding him to see blonde hair approaching along with the black shaggy hair of Severus.
"For the love of Merlin, Draco, what are you doing here?"
Severus responded before the younger man could get a word out. "He will be joining us. We could use the numbers and he is insisting." Harry shook his head, but said nothing more on the subject – it wouldn't do any good anyways. "I know you have been to the cemetery outside of Riddle Manor before, Harry. How well do you remember it?"
Harry shuddered. He hadn't completely thought it through that he would be forced to return to the graveyard where Voldemort took a body again and killed Cedric. "Well enough," was the only response he could manage. Severus nodded, turned on the spot, and was gone with a small 'pop'. Draco followed suit leaving Harry to take a steadying breath and disappear into nothingness.
When his feet hit solid ground again he let out a small breath of relief and looked across the pitch dark grounds for the signs of the other two. They were both standing a couple feet away, wands drawn, silently waiting for him to join them. Slowly, walking as quietly as he could, he joined them, pointing to the massive home in front of him. Life was evident inside on the upper floors where flickering lights flittered through the patchy curtains.
"What's the plan?" Draco whispered, looking to Severus.
"There are three entrances inside: the front door which is the main entrance, the back door which is directly in front of us, and the caretaker's entrance off to the side. If I were them, I would have a lookout stationed at the main entrance and the back door. The caretaker was disposed of when Voldemort first took over this house making that entrance our best bet. Only a few people know about that door."
Harry nodded, vividly remembering the dream he had had the night Voldemort had killed the old man. That had been the start of the nightmare year, though looking back they all had been nightmares after that. Mentally shaking himself he focused again. "If I were them I would station lookouts in the upper floor windows as well to watch anyone approaching so a Disillusioned approach would be best. Are we looking at any booby traps along the way?"
Draco shook his head. "The last I knew of the only traps were on the main entrance and I doubt Nott would think to add his own. No one outside of the Death Eaters and yourself know about this place. It is what makes it the ideal location for the hideout. You would think of this and come to Granger's rescue yourself. They may be expecting you, but they won't be expecting Severus and I."
"He's right. I would also recommend using nonverbals to stun them. Killing them requires more effort and it may alert someone to our arrival." Everyone nodded and quickly cast Disillusionment Charms, each silently hoping for the best.
Severus reached the door first, Harry immediately behind him with Draco bringing up the rear. If someone had told Harry years ago that he would be in this position he would have laughed and sent them to the Hospital Wing to be examined. It was amazing how time and a new perspective could cause things to change. Silently the door was opened and the three made their way inside, wands at the ready, scanning for any sign of a guard. On silent feet they began the climb up the back stair case, making sure to tread lightly on the old wooden flooring. Hushed voices came from the second floor and, as expected, they found a single person, Rowle, keeping watch out of the window. Severus was the first to react, and with a brief flash of light the man was slumped on the ground.
They all moved on, scanning both in front of them and behind them, making sure they didn't miss anything. The main group of lights had come from the third floor so they would have to go up another flight. Harry was sure Nott and Avery would be there, and most likely Macnair, though they would be the most trouble. A female voice rang out clearly, followed by a scream and Harry knew Hermione was being tortured for information.
Severus placed an arm across his chest to keep him from running forward and Draco moved closer to his back. He nodded in understanding. If he rushed forward, as per his tendency, he would give up the moment of surprise. As of now, the small group had the advantage. Footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs from the right and Severus quickly moved to the other side, hiding in the shadows. Harry and Draco hung back, hiding as best they could, wands pointed at the stair case. Crabbe came into view briefly before Severus ambushed him, silencing him with the full body bind and dragging him out of view of the stairs.
The makeshift leader of a Potions Master motioned them forward, up the stairs Crabbe was turning to head. This was it. Soon it would be three on three, an even match and all three of them knew it. As they rounded to corner of the staircase they noticed an open door with light flooding out of it, shadows moving around the room.
"Tell me, girl, where is it? I know the great Potter had it. You must know what he did with it," a voice rang out, though Harry had heard them talk so little he couldn't place it with a name.
"I'm telling you, I have no clue what you are talking about," Hermione responded sounding exhausted. Her voice was low and scratchy as if she hadn't had a drink of water in days. A pang of guilt and remorse shot through Harry's chest.
A loud smack echoed through the hallways and a short cry of pain escaped Hermione's lips. Harry couldn't take anymore. Pushing past Severus he quickly entered the room, stunning Macnair and turning on Avery. Quickly Draco and Severus were in the room as well, the Disillusionment removed, sending hexes at the other two in the room. Harry took the opportunity to rush to Hermione, freeing her of the ropes that bound her to the lone chair in the barren room.
"I should have known the traitors would show up. I'm just glad I can finally kill the pair of you," Nott said, sending a curse toward Severus, who easily dodged it. Harry sent a nonverbal stunning charm at the man, hitting him square in the chest. A moan of pain came from the other end of the room and Harry quickly turned to find Draco on the ground suffering a nasty Crucio. Severus sprang into action this time, shouting the Killing Curse, dropping Avery where he stood. He quickly moved to his Godson, treating him as best he could with what was on hand while Harry tended to Hermione.
"We have to get out of here. Can you walk?" he asked his best friend.
"Yes, I think so. They had only begun. I just woke up from the knock to the head they used to get me here. They took my wand."
Harry quickly moved to Nott and began searching the man's ragged cloak, locating the familiar wand in seconds. "You may have to use it, though we have taken care of most."
The young man looked over to his lover who was supporting a shaky Draco and took the lead, wand still poised at the ready. He was sure Travers had heard the commotion and would be on his way up, though he could have also taken the opportunity to flee to avoid being arrested. They moved much faster down, no longer worried about making noise. Two of the party needed medical attention and none of them wanted to stay.
The coast was clear until they reached the back door where Travers stood waiting for them. He fired the first spell, a cutting hex that hit Harry's wand arm. Harry hissed and fired back, simultaneously pushing Hermione out of the way. Travers dodged and a duel began, both men firing curses at one another, dodging and blocking as they went. Hermione tried to throw a couple, but she was still too weak from being knocked out to do much damage. Severus was situating Draco to help when Harry was hit squarely with Sectumsempra, dropping him to the floor.
Severus immediately sprang into action, picking up where the duel left off, firing spells with far more intensity than his dueler. Within minutes the other had succumbed to a well-placed Avada and instantly dropped to the floor, his eyes glazed over. The Potions Master rushed to the side of the man he cared so much for and began the counter curse, hoping it wasn't too late – that the amount of blood lost wasn't too much. He needed to get him stable enough to get back to Poppy. Everything would be fine if he could just make it back to the castle.
After several minutes the wounds closed, but Harry still would not wake and Severus knew his breathing was weak at best. He noted Draco, looking greatly improved, had moved over to Hermione and was helping her to her feet. "Severus, we need to go. Apparate him to Hogwarts. We will go on ahead to get Poppy and Minerva."
They stepped out into the night and were gone. Severus, fighting the panic building within him, gently lifted the Defense Professor into his arms and stepped out into the darkness, disappearing into the night only to arrive at the front gates of the school.
Exhaustion flooded the man with every step he took, the weight of the boy and the exertion of the night's activities taking its toll. By the halfway point he was winded and drenched in sweat, but he refused to slow down. Harry's life depended upon him and he refused to give in to weakness. As he reached the front door, Minerva and Poppy threw them wide and rushed out to the pair.
"Oh, Severus," was all Minerva could get out the sight. Poppy, on the other hand, was better prepared, already in the process of conjuring a stretcher.
"Set him on here and I will get him to the Hospital Wing," she said firmly. Severus could only nod. He noticed vaguely Hermione and Draco both were in the background, trying to avoid being in the way. The blonde caught his eye for a second, conveying he would inform the Headmistress of the night's events and all he could manage was a thankful nod.
As soon as Harry was on the stretcher Poppy was off, nearly running for the Hospital Wing. Severus slowly took off after her, knowing he would not be allowed to see him until she was done with her work. Each step took great effort and by the time he was in the Wing, he was being ushered to a bed by the Mediwitch with reassurances he could see the boy when he woke. Severus barely could stay awake long enough after hitting the bed to say thanks.
Sunlight filled the Hospital Wing, streaming in directly onto Harry, causing him to stir slightly as his brain registered the new light. Even with his eyelids closed he could see it. Every part of him ached and he longed to be able to go back to the comfort of sleep, but it was to no avail. Slowly his eyes opened revealing the white, sterile looking room he had spent much of his childhood recovering in. He clearly remembered the rescue attempt and cursed himself for allowing such an opening to be hit. He had passed out shortly after the curse hit him, only managing to hold it off long enough to know Severus had taken over the battle. The fact that he was in the Hospital Wing must mean Severus won, though Harry wasn't surprised by that.
He noted several voices that sounded distant, almost unreal, whispering frantically. He couldn't make out the words, but one of the voices stood out above the rest and he knew it was the man who saved him. Fighting the urge to drift back into the darkness of sleep he attempted to sit up, throwing off several of the blankets that covered him in the process. Immediately the voices came closer at an alarming rate and Harry, even in his groggy state fought to find his wand for protection. Fumbling around he managed to find his glasses, bringing the world into view. He relaxed slightly when he noticed Poppy, Minerva, and Severus all moving toward him.
"Good, you are finally awake," Poppy started, her voice stern and professional. "I was beginning to think you would never wake."
Harry looked confused. It had only be a night, right? At his look Severus shook his head and gently said, "Harry, you have been unconscious for three days now. Hermione was released yesterday and promised she would return this evening to check on you."
His eyes gave away his alarm, though he was struggling to speak. "Don't try. The spell did some minor damage to your vocal chords. It will be a few more days before you are able to use your voice. I can only speed up the process so much and the voice is a tricky thing to repair." Harry nodded and frowned.
He remembered getting hit with the curse, remembered the blood starting to ooze from his body and the pain. How had he ended up back at Hogwarts? And Hermione – Severus had mentioned her, but was she hurt? As if on cue Minerva brushed a strand of hair out of his face and whispered, "Hermione is fine. She had minor injuries, but nothing too severe. You were hurt the worst. If it weren't for Draco and Severus you never would have made it back."
He nodded and frowned deeper. He had failed. His skill was not up to where it should have been. Once again he let down the people around him – the people who were counting on him. The memories began to flood him, Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, Dobby, Remus, Tonks, Fred… the list went on and on, flashing through his mind. His breathing became shallow and his vision went black. He didn't even register the set of arms around him and the deep male voice telling him everything was alright. Harry drifted into an uneasy sleep of violence and death.
Severus held onto the young man, aware of the thoughts flooding the boy. He felt like a failure again only this time he was not capable of voicing it. He couldn't cry out and yell at the world. Instead he was trapped in his own thoughts and that was always a terrible place to be. He had gone through something similar when he killed Dumbledore. The Death Eaters hailed him as a hero, the Dark Lord gave him a place at his side, but inside he wanted to scream. The memory haunted him at night and in the silence. He had failed.
Harry's light breathing stirred him from his thoughts and he let the man go, moving instead to the chair beside the bed. He had occupied this chair for three days, only leaving when Poppy forced him to go shower or eat. He supposed he was going to have a few more days in the chair before Harry was strong enough to hear what Severus wanted to tell him. He had made a good fight. If the roles had been reversed, Severus could have easily fallen victim as well. It had been almost too easy to that point and Harry, protecting Hermione, was the first thing in the line of view. They had all expected Travers to run, not stand his ground. It didn't matter now – he had been killed within moments by a very angry Severus.
Getting comfortable he opened the Potions book he had brought with him and began to read, drifting off to sleep himself.
The days passed and Harry made vast improvements, gaining the ability to talk on the fifth day of his hospital stay. He had immediately apologized for being an idiot and Severus had to restrain from slapping him. The men spent most of the day playing chess, only speaking when Harry felt able. The young man was still weak from the recovery and speaking for too long hurt. In truth, neither man knew much of what to say. Severus had once again saved him.
Hermione had been by each night, filling him in on the latest happenings at the ministry. The Death Eater's that survived the surprise rescue mission were being tried and she had it on good authority they would receive lifetime sentences to Azkaban. She informed him Ron was reluctant to allow her to leave their apartment, though she laughed at him. He had been so busy with the paperwork involved with his job at the shop he had yet to be by himself. Harry found himself smiling and adding a few words here and there, but mostly was happy for his friend. She seemed to be taking everything in stride.
On the sixth day, Poppy released Harry to his chambers with the assurance he would allow Severus to check in on him. Harry couldn't express how much of a relief being in his own rooms was and he immediately set out for a hot shower. He had been warned not to overuse his voice, as he was still very weak. Most of the time when he spoke a raspy whisper that was hard to understand came out instead of his normal voice that was so full of life. As he stood under the steaming hot water he sighed in relief. All of the stress and guilt seemed to wash off with the dirt and grime, making him feel like a new person when he stepped out. He pulled on a pair of red and green flannel pajama pants and made his way to the couch.
"Dax!" he called into the nothingness, the raspy tone making him cringe. The small elf popped into existence before him, immediately dropping into a bow. "Would you mind bringing me black tea and a plate of sandwiches?"
"Of course, Harry Potter, sir," and he winked away, returning moments later with a kettle of hot tea and an assortment of sandwiches arranged neatly on a plate.
"Thank you," Harry said nodding his head and the elf winked away again. Taking a sandwich he stood and headed toward his desk where a stack of papers sat. Draco had been covering his classes as per his assignments and so Harry assumed these were the stacks of essays he had assigned for yesterday. Picking up a stack, a quill, and ink he moved back to the couch and poured himself a cup of the tea, taking the top most essay to grade.
Half way through the pile a knock on the door startled him and he waved it open, not bothering to check who it was. Only a handful of people would make the trek to his rooms to check on him at this time of day. He smiled shyly when Severus and Draco both appeared, taking a seat on the couch. He hadn't seen Draco since that night and he was sure Severus was partially responsible for the blonde's appearance in his rooms now.
"Draco, Severus," the raven haired young man acknowledged, "I'll get some tea."
Severus held up his hand, making his way into the small kitchenette to put the kettle on. Harry sighed. "I'm not an invalid, you know?"
Draco shook his head. "He never said you were, Harry, just that you look exhausted and comfortable." Harry sighed and Draco continued. "How are you?"
"Tired, but relieved. Everyone is safe and we accomplished what we wanted. I just wish I hadn't been so weak."
The blonde shook his head. "I was cursed too. I was just lucky it didn't last long. You were bleeding out and it could have been any of us. We are just lucky Severus was there." A mumble came from the kitchen and both young men shook their heads. It was no secret the older man hated any form of recognition, even when it was due.
"I still feel responsible. I endangered all of our lives and almost made the return to the castle impossible. I should never have let my skill set fall or become relaxed," Harry said, fighting back the tears of his past that were threatening to fall. He would not cry – crying did nothing. He had to learn. A sharp smack on the back of his head shocked him out of his thoughts. "What the hell was that for?"
Severus smirked, "I know you well enough to know you were heading down a dark path. Everyone made it to the castle alive. You will be back to fighting shape in a few days' time and we will all move forward. Stop judging yourself so harshly."
Draco nodded and Harry couldn't help smiling. Turning to Draco he asked, "How are my classes?"
The blonde laughed. "Just fine, Harry. Just fine."