Disclaimer – Isn't mine.
WARNING – Major character death. I did warn you at the end of the last chapter but I figure another one couldn't hurt.
PS. Kleenex may be needed. Lots of it if you tend to get involved with the story.
Chapter 13 - Hope
Tom sighed, his expression suddenly becoming grave as he took Harry's hands and tugged him down beside him. 'Harry, I'm not quite sure how to say this. Earlier this week there was a breakout at Azkaban. No one knows how, but four wizards escaped.'
Harry closed his eyes. 'Which four?' he said softly.
'Moody, Shacklebolt, Weasley, Ronald that is.' Tom took a deep breath. 'And Albus Dumbledore.' He added.
Harry sucked in a breath. 'Dumbledore.' He whispered.
Tom grabbed his shoulders. 'They won't find you, Harry. The Aurors will catch them first.'
Harry nodded, his eyes distant. Tom looked at him once more before getting up and crossing to the door. He guessed that Severus would be down in the main dining room and quickly went to fetch him.
He knew Lucius would have explained the situation and sure enough he walked in to see Severus pale and gaping at his friend.
'Severus.' Tom said curtly. 'I need you.'
It took the potions master almost no time to realise why the Dark Lord would need him at that moment and he was on his feet and striding towards the door before Tom had even turned around.
The two men were silent as they hurried towards the library but their haste was in vain for when they had arrived Harry was gone.
Harry sat staring at the pieces of parchment in his hands. It was the reports of all that had been done to find the four escapees since their disappearance was first discovered. It was still unclear exactly how they had escaped but the Unspeakables and Aurors seemed to think they had help.
Harry stared at the map of Great Britain spread out before him. 'Where are you?' he whispered. He knew that the four would return to London, if they hadn't already. He knew Dumbledore wouldn't rest until he had either turned Harry back to his idea of the "light" or he had killed him. One way or another he knew they would undoubtedly meet again. Harry, if he was honest with himself, couldn't wait. He had given the elderly wizard too many chances already and he refused to allow the old man to ruin what he now had.
'I thought you might be here.' Severus said quietly from the doorway. Harry looked up and smiled, well, he tried to anyway. It came out more as a grimace but it was the best he could manage in that moment. Severus crossed the room and took a seat in front of the desk.
'Harry, talk to me.' he pleaded softly in spite of knowing it was useless. Harry never volunteered information on his feelings at times like this without probing questions. The problem was Severus had no idea of which questions to ask.
Harry sat back, rubbing his hands tiredly over his eyes and Severus was disturbed to see that all of the stress and worry that had disappeared while they had been away had returned and Harry looked almost ill.
'Sev, I just... I don't...' Harry trailed off again pinching the bridge of his nose as he gasped sharply.
'Harry' Severus was out of the chair and around the desk almost instantly catching Harry as he slumped forward in the seat.
'Sev.' Harry whispered hoarsely, pressing his fingers to his temples.
'Shh, Harry.' Severus soothed and he pulled the young man from the chair and set him down on the floor, his head lying gently in the potions master's lap. He pulled out three of the vials he had always carried around since Harry's headaches had begun partway through his seventh year. One after the other he held them to Harry's lips and waited until the young man opened his mouth before tipping them in and then gently pried Harry's hands from his temples, where they had fisted, and replacing them with own and began massaging gently.
Harry whimpered softly, his eyes screwed shut as Severus continued to work. The older man let out a breath as blood began flowing from his lover's nose.
'Come on, Harry. Just relax and let your magic do it's work.' Severus whispered.
'God Sev, it's not working.' Harry hissed through clenched teeth, tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes.
Severus fingers continued to work even as he quickly pulled out another vial and tipped it into Harry's mouth.
'Just try and relax, Harry. Breathe slowly and deeply. It's distant. Close it off. Picture the pain receding.' Severus continued in this vein for more than twenty minutes until the agonized grimace on Harry's face finally softened and the green eyes opened; pain still visible within. Severus didn't wait for Harry to speak, instead tipping another vial into Harry's mouth.
'Sneaky bastard.' Harry whispered hoarsely as the dreamless sleep hit him and his eyes drooped and closed.
Severus sighed, wiping the sweaty hair of Harry's face and kissing his forehead before lifting the lithe figure in his arms and heading for the door. Thankfully it was now so late that even the cleaners has finished their spells and left and he walked swiftly through the halls to the floo room and flooed back to the Manor without seeing a soul.
Two days later Harry stood wrapped in Severus' arms, his friends and loved ones beside him as they all watch a spectacular fireworks display to ring in the new year. Not everyone was there, just the inner circle and their families. They were gathered around a large bonfire to ward off the cold, which in late December, early January was not something to be underestimated. Harry's breath came in small puffs of smoke and he could see Draco and Blaise pretending to blow smoke rings on the other side of the fire.
He had spent the day before at the Ministry talking to the Aurors and giving several interviews to the newspapers on what they had on the Azkaban Four. Word through their sources say they had gone underground. Into the muggle world no less. Harry wondered what on earth the Muggles would say when confronted with Albus Dumbledore, let alone Alastor Moody.
'Leo.' Severus murmured in his ear, breaking his thoughts and causing the green eyed man to turn slightly and looked up at his lover.
'I'm not dwelling.' He insisted. 'Just thinking.'
'Well, if it hurts, do feel free to stop.' Lucius chimed in from beside them.
Severus and Tom each stifled a snort as Harry scowled at the blond aristocrat. 'I still owe you, Lucius. Never forget that.'
Lucius rolled his eyes once again in a mocking rendition of the exact thing Harry owed him for. 'Whatever.' He intoned dryly.
Harry just gaped at him as Tom and Severus burst out laughing, the potions master having to release his lover to clutch as his stomach. Harry's eyes narrowed and he grinned wickedly.
'Didn't your mother ever tell you Lucius?' he asked mildly.
'Tell me what, Potter?' Malfoy asked playing along as he idly inspected his fingernails.
Harry's grin suddenly became decidedly malicious. 'That if you decide to smack a tiger on the arse you had better have a plan for dealing with its teeth.' He finished raising his hand, and before Lucius could even open his mouth he had shot backwards across the lawn to land in the half frozen lake with an enormous splash.
Severus and Tom continued laughing as Draco and the others finally joined them. 'Just what did my darling husband say to you, Harry?' Narcissa asked softly, amusement lighting her eyes.
Harry smirked. 'Nothing he hasn't said before.' He drawled.
'Lucius always did have terrible judgment when it came to dealing with people more powerful then he.' Tom offered still snorting.
'That would be because there is only a few of them so he doesn't get a lot of practice. Narcissa laughed.
They all watched as Lucius finally stomped out of the lake towards them. 'Not a word.' Harry hissed as they caught sight of Malfoy's now violent pink hair. They could see the Malfoy patriarch pulling out his wand and casting several drying charms on himself that did not seemed to be working.
'Potter.' Lucius snarled, his teeth chattering at the freezing temperature of the water in the lake.
'Magic won't work, Lucius.' Harry smirked. 'You'll have to dry off the muggle way by changing your clothes. Oh, and I'd recommend a shower, you never know what the algae and muck in the lake will do to that nice white hair of yours.' This comment brought a fresh wave of snickers that seemed to infuriate Malfoy further and with a glare that would have almost rivaled Severus' on a bad day he spun on his heel and stalked back into the house.
'Harry, that was hysterical.' Draco snorted.
'Shh.' Harry held up his hand, looking upwards as if waiting for something. He didn't have to wait long.
'AGHHHHH, POTTER.' Lucius' scream floated out easily and Harry, along with the others burst into a wave of fresh laughter.
Lucius rejoined them eventually his expression livid as he demanded Harry counter the spell on his hair.
'I have no idea what you're talking about, Lucius. It must have been the algae in the lake.' Harry said innocently, hiding his smirk as he sipped a large mug of hot chocolate that had been liberally dosed with brandy.
'Potter, I know you did this. It screams of something you'd do. I demand you remove it immediately.'
Harry lowered the mug, his green eyes glinting sharply in the reflected light of the fire. 'If you know me so well then, Lucius,' He said softly. 'Then you would also know that no pleading, no begging and most certainly no demands would induce me to lift anything I've cast if I believe it warranted.'
'And this is warranted, you little brat.' Lucius screamed, pointing to his hair and catching the attention of all around the large fire. Both Tom and Severus sucked in a breath as they waited for Harry to respond.
Harry's face became devoid of all emotion as he shrugged Severus' arm from his shoulder and stared at the man standing before him. 'Yes, I do. You're lucky that's all you have ended up with. I'm sick to death of your sniping and your disrespect, and most of all with you're treating me like a petulant child. I have proven myself time and time again, against foes smarter, better and stronger than you.' Harry's green eyes glinted angrily and Lucius began to get some idea of just how far he had pushed the young man. It was too far. 'I am the Minister of Magic, Lucius and while I may have received the title by default I have since earned it and more. You will learn some respect, even for those younger than you. Age does not automatically make you smarter or stronger. It just makes you less open minded. You would do well to remember that before you find yourself on the end of a nasty curse no medi-wizard in the world knows the counter for. Do I make myself clear?' Harry felt Severus hand come to land on his lower back.
Lucius noted the now roaring fire beside them, the rumble of thunder in the distance, and the sudden chill sweeping around him in spite of the fire and nodded stiffly. 'Yes.' He said softly.
'Yes what?' Harry snapped folding his arms over his chest, green eyes piercing Malfoy's very soul.
'Yes, Minister.' Lucius whispered bowing his head.
Harry continued looking at him for several minutes before nodding, obviously happy with the older man's agreement and turning on his heel and reaching up to kiss Severus' cheek softly. 'I'm suddenly quite tired.' He whispered before nodding at Tom and sweeping back across the grounds towards the Manor.
'Don't.' Tom growled as Lucius opened his mouth to spit out a sarcastic remark. Lucius' mouth snapped closed as the Dark Lord stepped closer. 'Harry is correct Lucius, you need to learn respect, and not just of me. That young man has spared your life many times when if you had said or done similar things to me I would have killed you without thought. It is the way he is. He doesn't like bloodshed or needless loss of life, but I will tell you this. You push him any further and you will find out just what that young man can do and I can tell you now, it will be like nothing you have ever seen. Learn, Lucius, and learn quickly, for rest assured I will not step in if you insist on continuing down this path.'
'Yes, My Lord.' Lucius said softly bowing his head once again.
Tom glanced at him as well and nodded before looking up. The close knit group had fallen silent some time ago and the joyous feelings that had abounded were now well and truly gone. 'I think I too shall retire for the night. Good evening.'
Several cries of Happy New Year followed the Dark Lord back to the Manor where he immediately went to Harry and Severus' room, knowing the potions master would wait several minutes before coming up.
'Harry?' Tom knocked softly on the door before opening it slowly.
'Hey Tom.' Harry was standing by the window, glancing down at the few who were still out by the bonfire, including his lover.
'Are you alright?' Tom asked as he crossed the room.
'Read him the riot act then, did you?' Harry mused.
'Harry, are you alright?' Tom repeated.
Harry nodded turning to smile at his mentor but still didn't answer the question. 'You were right, you know.'
Harry chuckled. 'Don't sound so surprised, you know you're right most of the time.'
'What was I right about?' Tom asked curiously.
'About Severus. About him anchoring me. About him helping to control my anger and my magic now that we're bonded.'
'Doesn't help the headaches though.' Tom said sadly. Obviously Severus had told what had happened at the Ministry two days before.
'No. They are a different thing altogether.' Harry sighed.
Tom reached out and pulled Harry close. 'Get some rest, Harry. I'll send breakfast up to you both in the morning. You will have enough to do next week. Take tomorrow for yourself.'
Harry nodded and hugged Tom tightly before releasing him and kissing his cheek. 'Thanks, Tom and Happy New Year.'
'You too, Harry.' Tom whispered before leaving the room.
Severus came in minutes later and no words were needed, Harry could see the love and concern shining brightly in the black eyes and he allowed himself to be undressed and tugged towards the bed before being pulled tightly to the older man's side, a gentle kiss placed on his temple, and held tightly as he fell asleep.
The next months passed unbelievably quickly. Harry spent hours each day with the Aurors trying to find the Azkaban Four with no success. It was his first failure since becoming Minister and although no one even thought it was Harry's fault, let alone said it, Harry seemed to take the failure as a personal one.
He spent most nights at Hogwarts, flooing directly into Severus' chambers from the Ministry, although the first time he joined the potions master and the other teachers at the head table was certainly a headache inducing hour.
After Severus had finished his magic and Harry could see straight once more he vowed that after all he had been through no group of children were going to get to him like that again. From then on he would often eat dinner at Hogwarts, sitting between Minerva and Severus so it looked as if he was there as a guest of the headmistress. Harry was sure some of the students knew he was seeing their potions professor but was fairly confident none knew the extent of their relationship.
With most of the work done and the Aurors finishing off what was left Harry found himself at a loose end. The lack of news about the Azkaban Four was disturbing to say the least. Harry knew Tom had people searching and almost every Unspeakable and Auror they had was searching as well and still nothing.
Severus thought that maybe Albus was waiting until Tonks and the others were released in a little over a year's time. Harry didn't agree, he felt deep in his soul that the old man would not wait that long. He knew Dumbledore couldn't wait to get hold of him, to try and convince him that what he had done was wrong and he wondered if it was really safe for him to continue going to Hogwarts. There were many students there, children, if something happened it would be all his fault.
With a little over six weeks before the end of the school year Harry returned to eating at the Manor with Tom before flooing to Severus to spend the night. Twice a week however they would eat together in the potions master's chambers. It wasn't ideal but it was the best they could do. Both Severus and Minerva thought Harry was over-reacting but Harry was adamant saying he would join them for the leaving feast and that was all.
Tom's genial personality returned and his blue eyes came slowly thereafter. Lucius was more deferential to Harry and the younger man treated him accordingly. Harry spent his days at the Ministry, Draco, Blaise and Pansy serving him faithfully before the four friend's flooed back to the Manor for dinner. Harry and Tom would then play a game of chess before Harry left once again.
As the day of the leaving feast approached Harry had a sense of foreboding that would not leave but with Severus, Minerva and even Tom telling him he was being ridiculous he decided to ignore it. It would be a mistake he would regret for the rest of his life.
Severus was waiting as Harry stepped from the floo. 'Ah Minister, late as always.' He drawled as Harry charmed his blue Minister's robes clean of soot.
'Shut up, you great prat.' Harry scolded but accepted the kiss the older man placed on his cheek.
Severus chuckled and pulled him close, gently running his hands down Harry's back. 'Just think, after tonight we get to be together twenty four seven for the next ten weeks, well, apart from when you have to go to the Ministry anyway.'
Harry's fingers gently stroked through the older man's hair. 'Sounds wonderful.' He whispered before kissing his lover gently. When they pulled away Harry spoke again. 'Actually I'm thinking early retirement is looking good.' He said breathlessly.
Severus smiled, taking in the bright eyes and cherry red lips. 'And just how early were you thinking?'
'Tomorrow.' Harry whispered before kissing Severus once more.
Minutes later they pulled away and Severus couldn't help but laugh. Harry had that thoroughly snogged look again. 'You'd better tidy yourself up, Leo, you look almost debauched.'
Harry moved to smack his shoulder, something Severus deftly avoided before taking the young man's hand and tugging him towards the door. Harry used his free hand to straighten his hair and robes as they navigated the corridors to the great hall.
'Ready, Leo?' Severus asked his hand on the door.
'As I'll ever be.' Harry said wryly. Severus placed a soft kiss on his cheek before pushing the door open and walking inside.
The chatter of excited students dimmed instantly, the sight of the Minister after many weeks without him stunning them all momentarily before it rose once again to almost fever pitch.
'You always did like causing a ruckus, Potter.' Severus murmured as he propelled his lover towards the head table with a hand at his back.
'Yes, well, you know me, just an annoying little celebrity.' Harry drawled softly.
'Harry.' It was Luna Lovegood who had stood and spoken as he passed. Harry nodded for Severus to continue on and turned back to the Ravenclaw. 'It's good to see you again. You've been missing for sometime.'
Harry smiled. 'No, I've known exactly where I was.' He chuckled.
Luna rolled her eyes. 'Congratulations by the way, the new legislation seems to be working well.'
Harry nodded, before his eyes narrowed. 'What are you going to be doing with yourself now?' he asked slowly.
Luna smiled. 'I'm joining the Quibbler of course.'
'Shame, we could have used someone like you.' Harry said with a sigh. Luna just laughed and gave Harry a hug before sitting down one again as Harry continued on his way. He had just met Minerva's eyes and returned her smile when the doors to the great hall slammed shut behind him, silencing the students immediately.
'HARRY.' A familiar voice yelled across the room and Harry spun around ready the throw a curse but stopped short at the sight of the four second years currently held at wand point in front of the four escapees. The two Ravenclaws and two Hufflepuffs were staring at Harry wide eyed, terror easily visible on their faces.
'Nobody move and we won't have to do something we don't really want to do. We just want to talk to Potter and then we'll go.' Shacklebolt called out.
Harry could see in his peripheral vision that most of the staff, all of whom had stood at the intrusion, sat back down however their wands remained out and raised. Only Severus and Minerva remained standing. 'Students, stay still and quiet.' Minerva instructed.
'Very good, Headmistress.' Ron said sarcastically, his wand digging further into the twelve year olds neck causing the little girl to whimper softly.
'You wanted to talk, so talk.' Harry snapped, wanting to get this over with and the students safe once again.
Dumbledore shifted slightly, his blue eyes pinning Harry where he stood at the bottom of the steps to the platform. 'What have you done, Harry?' he said quietly.
Harry was getting sick of the elderly wizard's preaching. 'I've done what you weren't capable of, old man.' Harry snarled. 'I made our world safe and our way of life secure.'
'No you didn't, don't you see. You cut off the British wizarding world from the rest of the world and you took away people's magic. Magic they were born with and entitled to.'
'I took nothing away. They still have their magic should they choose to live with it.'
'But what gave you the right to decide where they should live and work. You're just a man, Harry, not a god.' Dumbledore went on. Moody's fake eye was rolling around his head as he kept an eye on all that was going on around the hall.
Harry laughed, that cold brittle laugh that hadn't been heard for just over a year. 'It's taken you this long to work that out. You're the one who thought I was a god. You're the one who thought I was immortal. I tried to be just a man, a boy, but you insisted I was invincible, you made me this way.'
Two seventh year Slytherins were surreptitiously trying to stand and pull out their wands but Moody saw them and his head snapped sideways causing the two to sit abruptly.
'I made no such thing Harry. The Harry Potter I knew would never have bound his best friend's magic.'
Harry dropped his head, that morning at Hermione's never having quite left him. Dumbledore seeing the advantage pressed it home.
'See, deep down you know you're wrong. You have to fix what you've done, Harry. Before it's too late.'
Harry looked up and shook his head. 'No, there is no too late. I'm proud of what I've done. I've made our world safer than it has been in over a thousand years. The muggles will never be our downfall, we are safe from them.'
'Ah yes, the muggles.' Ron spoke again, that drawling voice that was so unlike the youngest Weasley boy. 'with their guns and their bomb and their armies. Quite passionate speeches you give, Harry. I've always wondered about that line.'
Harry's head tipped curiously. 'What line?'
'The one about a shield not protecting a wizard from muggle bullets. Let's test that out, shall we?' Before Harry could even process what his ex best friend had said the red head had shoved the Ravenclaw he was holding hostage aside and pulled a semi automatic weapon from his coat, showering the area around Harry with bullets. Miraculously not one student was hit but Harry's chest was almost shredded as more than ten bullets ripped through him.
'HARRY.' Severus screamed, shock making him unable to move.
Harry glanced down at the blood soaking through his shirt before looking up at Ron once again.
'That was for Hermione.' The red head hissed.
Harry grunted once in pain as he took a breath and felt his lungs filling with blood. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out and with another grunt he crumpled to the floor, the pool of blood beginning to spread further around him.
This sight seemed to throw everyone into action. Hundreds of stupefies flew at the Azkaban Four. So many even Albus Dumbledore's shield was overcome and the four adults dropped like stones. The three second years were also hit by a few stray curses but were quickly revived.
Severus knew nothing of this, the minute Harry collapsed he had practically leapt the table and fallen down the stairs to Harry's side, mindless of the blood he was kneeling in or the terrified looks on the faces of the students around them.
'Oh Merlin, Leo.' Severus whispered as Poppy Pomfrey hurried down and began casting clotting spells as quickly as she could.
'Sev.' Harry coughed spraying all three of them with thick red blood.
'Shh, don't speak, just let your magic do it's work. Concentrate on healing yourself.' Severus whispered, tears pouring down his face.
Harry shook his head, coughing again and spraying them once more. 'Too late.' He gasped. 'Too much.'
'No, no, you can do it. See Poppy is helping.' Severus nodded towards the medi-witch who was desperately trying to stop the copious amounts of blood that were pouring from Harry's chest and back. Unfamiliar with muggle wounds of this type she was failing miserably.
Harry shook his head again. 'Hold me, Sev. Please.' Harry pleaded softly and Severus heard the tell tale sound of blood gurgling in his lover's throat. The death rattle, they called it. He gently lifted the young man, holding him in his arms and gently pushing the hair off Harry's face and leaving a bloody smear across his forehead.
'Leo, please try, for me. Just try.' Severus was not above pleading himself. He barely noticed as Minerva and the rest of the staff returned from securing the prisoners and looked down at them in absolute horror.
'I can't, Sev. I told you.' Harry coughed again and blood began running heavily down his chin. 'Muggle bullets. Too many. C...can't shield them. C...can't heal them. Not this many.'
Harry's eyes began to droop and Severus shook him. 'Leo, please, no. Don't go to sleep. Don't close your eyes. Stay here with me.' he cried.
'Too tired.' Harry whispered breathlessly. With a mammoth effort he reached up and traced Severus chin. 'I love you, Severus.' He said almost silently before the hand fell to the floor once again.
Severus watched as the eyes finally closed and he pulled the figure tightly to him. 'I love you too, Leo.' He whispered as he felt Harry's final breath leave him.
'NOOOOOOO.' Severus let out a keening wail and buried his head in Harry's hair, rocking back and forward as the loss finally overwhelmed him.
Those students and teachers who hadn't know the extent of Severus and Harry's relationship were now starting to get some idea as their bonding rings, both of which had been hidden under Harry's strongest concealing charms suddenly became visible. The reason for the extent of the potions master grief was now becoming clear.
Severus didn't even notice as Minerva sent the students back to their common rooms before notifying the Ministry. The Aurors came and took the Azkaban Four away as the Unspeakables questioned the staff and the Head Boy and Girl who had stayed behind. They tried talking to Severus but it was if he didn't hear. He sat, still in that large pool of blood, his lover held tightly in his arms and his eyes glassy and distant but still streaming with tears.
Eventually Lucius, Draco and Blaise arrived, alerted by Amelia Bones. 'You two take Severus down to his room and I'll explain.' Lucius said softly as they took in the sight of the Ministry personnel all staring at the almost catatonic potions master who refused to let go of the body of the Minister. Personally Lucius couldn't believe they hadn't just stunned him already and assumed, correctly, he would have Minerva McGonagall to thank for that.
'Amelia.' Lucius said quietly.
'Lucius, what on earth is going on? Why is Severus Snape hugging the dead body of Harry Potter?' The head of the Wizingamot growled unable to see the bonding rings anymore through all of the blood.
Lucius gestured for her to keep her voice down. 'They were bonded, on Halloween last year.' He explained. 'He loved him. They loved each other.'
Amelia looked between Severus and Lucius in shock. 'So it was true, during the trial. He was sleeping with him.'
Lucius' expression became cold. 'Yes, but it does not change the fact that it was no ones business but theirs. Nor does it in anyway reduce the wonderful things Harry has done for our world.'
Madame Bones backtracked immediately. 'Oh, no, of course not.' She said quickly. 'I just wonder why he never told anyone.'
'Because it was no one's business.' Lucius said again. 'If you'll excuse me.' Nothing further was said as Lucius crossed the great hall to kneel beside his friend, careful to stay out of the blood. Draco and Blaise had been unsuccessful in gaining the potions master's attention or getting him to relinquish his hold on the body of his lover. Both however had tears streaming down their faces although Draco looked as if he didn't even realise he was crying.
Lucius sighed. 'Severus?' he whispered. 'Severus? Sev?' He resorted to the nickname Harry used and it worked. Severus seemed to shake his head in confusion before looking up.
'Yes, Sev, come on. We need to get you up and back to your rooms. Let Draco take Harry for a minute.' Lucius nodded at his son and Draco moved forward mindless of the blood and carefully but slowly tucked his arms under the bloody figure and lifted him slowly.
Lucius watched as Severus almost fell apart once again and quickly, with Blaise's help got the man on his feet and shuffling slowly towards the door, a bright red trail marking their progress. They walked him close enough that Severus could keep hold of the sleeve of Harry's robe. It was a long trip and it seemed to take forever before they finally reached the portrait guarding Severus rooms and went inside.
'Sev, Draco is going to look after Harry and you and I are going to get you cleaned up, alright?'
Severus glanced at Harry once more, taking in the pale and cooling skin, covered in drying blood before nodding. 'Yes.' He said hoarsely.
Lucius didn't hesitate, grasping his friend by the shoulders and steering him through to the bathroom, knowing his son would know what to do. Draco did, carrying Harry through to the spare room and laying him down on the bed. He raised his wand and banished the bloody robe, ignoring Blaise' gasp of shock at the sight of the gaping holes in Harry's chest. He had a task to do and by Merlin he was going to do it.
Another wave of his wand and he cleaned off the blood, summoning Harry's bonding robes which were luckily kept with Severus' in his trunk here at Hogwarts, and beginning to dress the young man. 'You had better go and tell Tom.' He whispered huskily. 'Tell him we will all be home as soon as possible.'
Blaise nodded but was unable to tear his eyes away from the figure on the bed.
'Blaise, go.' Draco ordered sharply and the dark haired boy fled.
Draco finished soon after and once Harry was laying peacefully, his hands folded over his chest, Draco finally allowed himself to cry, sobs wracking his frame as the events of the evening finally began to sink in.
Severus had just been installed onto the sofa in front of the fireplace when a soft knock came at the door and Lucius hurried to answer it.
'Minerva.' The blond aristocrat said softly, opening the door wider and allowing the elderly witch into the room. She spent several moments staring at the catatonic potions master before speaking.
'Is he going to be alright?' she whispered.
Lucius glanced at his friend and shook his head. 'Probably not, at least not for a while. We need to get him home.'
'What about Mr Potter?'
'We'll take him back with us. Draco has cast preserving charms until arrangements can be made. Severus knew his wishes and we shall follow them to the letter.'
'But what...' Minerva trailed off, seeing the determination in Lucius eyes and knowing that as much as the wizarding world would want a massive state funeral for their fallen leader, unless it was Harry's wish they would get no such thing.
'I should also thank you, Minerva.' Lucius added and the headmistress looked at him curiously. 'For allowing him his grief. For not letting the Aurors remove Harry from his arms. I presume that was your doing.'
Minerva nodded sadly. 'He just looked so broken. I couldn't allow them to shatter him completely. Once Poppy called for you I knew you wouldn't be long in coming.'
'Yes, well, thank you anyway. It meant a lot to him.'
'The Aurors will need to talk to him.' She said with a sigh.
Lucius nodded. 'If you could let Amelia know I'll bring him to the Ministry in a few days.'
Minerva nodded and held out her hand. 'Thank you, Lucius. And if there is a small service I would dearly love to come and pay my respects. I do understand that certain figures will be there, one in particular, but I am happy to ignore that for the day, for Harry.'
'I'll make sure you're advised.' Lucius promised before showing her to the door. 'Thank you again, Minerva.'
McGonagall gave a last glance at Severus who hadn't even moved so much as a muscle. 'Tell him I'm very sorry.' She whispered sadly before disappearing out the doorway.
Lucius sighed and quickly crossed to check on his son. He found Draco standing stiffly at the end of the bed staring down at his best friend. 'Draco?'
'Father.' Draco whispered hoarsely turning slightly so that he could look at his father.
'I sent him home to tell Tom what had happened.'
'Good. Forewarning might well be warranted here. Are you ready?'
Draco glanced back at Harry's still form once more before nodding. 'Yes.' He rasped and Lucius squeezed his shoulder once more before leaving the room. With a heavy sigh Draco slid his arms under Harry's shoulders and knees and lifted him gently off the bed. There was no way he was going to levitate his friend by floo. Not now. Not after what had just happened.
He walked back into the sitting room to see that his father had just pulled Severus from the sofa and towards the fireplace. 'You go first, Draco. We'll be right behind you.'
Draco nodded, allowing his father to throw the floo powder in for him and stepping into the green flames.
'Oh Merlin.' Tom cried the moment Draco stepped from the fire. The Dark Lord took Harry's body from the young man and placed it gently down on the sofa before dropping to his knees beside it. 'How can this have happened? Oh Merlin, Harry.' Draco and Blaise exchanged slightly incredulous glances as the Dark Lord practically fell to pieces in front of them.
Tom didn't even notice as Severus and Lucius stepped from the fireplace. The former looking down at Tom curiously as if he had never seen him before. Severus watched for several minutes before his attention shifted and he finally looked at Harry.
It was like someone had just punched him in the stomach. He paled even further than anyone in the room thought possible and a grimace of pain crossed his face before his expression turned to one of such utter desolation Lucius and the others were afraid of what he might do.
Severus however, just crossed the few steps, mindless of the Dark Lord who was kneeling beside the sofa and looking up at him in sadness, before sitting on the edge and lifting Harry's upper body in his arms until it rested flush against his own and burying his head in Harry's hair.
'I love you, Leo.' He whispered hoarsely.
No one knew quite what to do. Severus continued sitting there hugging the lifeless body of his lover and the others continued to stare at him in silence. About twenty minutes later the potions master's shoulders began shaking and it was at that point that Tom saw red.
His blue eyes flashed red for a moment and he quickly stood. 'Lucius, go to the Ministry and find out where they are being held, when they will be moved, and how hard it will be for me to get to them.' He snapped harshly.
Lucius didn't know whether to be relieved that the Dark Lord was back to someone he recognised, or horrified that Tom was even thinking he could just walk into the Ministry of Magic on a whim.
'My Lord.' He began but was halted at the positively venomous glare the man directed at him. 'Yes, My Lord.' Lucius bowed sharply and practically leapt back into the fireplace as Tom turned to Draco and Blaise crossing the room and placing a hand on both their shoulders.
'Thank you, both of you. I appreciate the care and understanding you showed both Harry and Severus.' He said quietly, pushing both towards the through the door before closing it between them.
Draco looked at Blaise for several long minutes before both young men wrapped their arms around each other and held on tight, both shaking with the shock and sadness of the evening.
'I should go and tell mother.' Draco said reluctantly as they pulled away. Blaise nodded.
'Pansy should be told as well.'
They stared at each other again both realising neither wanted to do such a distressing task on their own.
'Together?' They said in one voice before nodding and heading off up the stairs.
Lucius returned more then three hours later. It was late, almost two in the morning but the Ministry had been alive with activity.
Amelia Bones had stepped in as interim Minister and was directing the interrogation of the prisoners with an iron fist. Lucius managed to wrangle his way into the viewing room as Dumbledore was being questioned and gave the elderly wizard a look that promised revenge, a look which Dumbledore knew was not just a promise but a fact, and one that would not be long in coming.
He found out a law-wizard had been called for them but would not be allowed to see them before the impromptu trial that had been called for ten o'clock the next morning.
Lucius had gotten the man's name before hurrying back to the fireplace and flooing home.
'Lucius?' Tom stood up the moment he stepped out of the fireplace but Severus didn't even seem to notice him. The potions master was sitting on the sofa, staring at the floor, Harry's body no where in sight. He had a glass of brandy in his hands but Lucius would have bet the Manor itself that it hadn't made it anywhere near his lips.
Lucius gave a nervous glance at Severus but Tom waved for him to continue. He pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket and handed it over. Tom opened it and raised an eyebrow.
'Their lawyer. He will be arriving at the Ministry at ten. I have sent two Aurors who are faithful to you and Harry to find him and escort him here immediately. You will Polyjuice as him and walk into the Ministry at nine and demand to see your clients, alone, under section 7 subsection 4a of the Criminal Code. You will have twenty five minutes to complete your task before the Portkey I took from Harry's desk when Amelia wasn't looking, deposits you back here.'
Tom looked intently at the blond aristocrat before his face spread into a grateful but decidedly malicious grin. 'You have done exceptionally well Lucius. I am beyond pleased.'
'If I might be so bold, My Lord.' Lucius said nervously but Tom nodded for him to go on. 'You must be very careful to keep your temper until you are alone with them other wise your eyes will give you away.'
Tom was silent for a moment before nodding thoughtfully. 'Very good Lucius. Very good.'
Lucius bowed and finally made his way from the room as it became clear the Dark Lord's attention had returned to the catatonic potions master.
The sandy blond haired man with the brown eyes stepped out of the Ministry fireplace at exactly nine o'clock the next morning and walked through to the reception and handed over his wand, or Artemis Grange's wand anyway. His was just where it should be, tucked safely in the holster on his arm.
'Artemis Walton Grange. I'd like to see Madame Bones if you please.' The witch behind the raised an eyebrow but obligingly scribbled something on a piece of parchment before tapping it with her wand.
Obviously they were expecting him as within minutes Amelia Bones herself came down to meet him.
'I assume you received my owl.' He said stiffly.
Amelia nodded. 'Yes, just now. You wish to see your clients?' Tom nodded. 'May I ask why?'
Tom raised an eyebrow. 'I thought that would have been obvious, Madame. I may have been called by the Ministry but my clients have rights just like anyone else. I wish to see them, alone, as is their right.' Tom kept his voice firm but was very careful to stay calm and in control.
Amelia Bones looked at him for several moments before nodding and calling over two Aurors who had been standing by the door. 'Take Mr Grange to see his clients.' The word was said derisively and Tom had to restrain himself from agreeing verbally.
The two Aurors just nodded and led him through a maze of corridors until finally stopping outside a heavy metal door. Tom raised another eyebrow but the two Aurors just shrugged and cast two rather complicated unlocking charms before pushing him, quite roughly if Tom was honest with himself, inside, and shutting the door loudly behind him.
'Who're you?' Ron spat, taking in the man before him. Tom looked around at the four prisoners and was pleased to see they looked as if the night had been rough on them indeed.
'Artemis Grange, I'm your lawyer.' Tom ground out.
'No you're not.' Moody growled.
It was at that moment the Polyjuice wore off and the four in the room stared at him incredulously. Moody may have guessed that he wasn't Grange, he had known the man after all, but even he didn't believe the Dark Lord himself would have willingly walked into the Ministry of Magic.
'Oh shit.' Ron breathed, staggering backwards as Tom finally allowed the anger he was feeling to come out and his eyes flashed red and stayed that way.
'Quite the understatement, Weasley.' Tom snarled.
'Tom, what do you think you are going to accomplish here?' Dumbledore said calmly.
Red eyes pierced the older man where he stood. 'I'm going to accomplish what I should have exactly twelve months ago.' He hissed, dropping his wand into his hand with a flick of his wrist and throwing several strong locking and silencing charms up before petrifying Dumbledore where he stood. 'I want you to watch. I want you to see what you've done.'
Dumbledore didn't reply and Tom quickly turned his wand on Shacklebolt, Moody and Ron. He muttered not a word nor moved a muscle save for the small twisted excuse for a smile that remained on his face as he pinned all three to the wall before gutting them from head to crotch. He knew he didn't have that much more time and he wasn't about to waste it fiddling around. Good forbid the Portkey activated before he got around to the old man.
He used another spell to yank most of their insides out to fall at their feet before setting them alight. Dumbledore could see all three screaming in agony as their intestines were burned while still partly attached to their bodies, thankfully a strong silencing charm kept Tom's ears intact.
The other three forgotten Tom turned his smoldering rage on the headmaster knowing he didn't have much longer now. 'He was happy you bastard.' He hissed. 'For the first time since you put him with those muggles he was happy, and you took that away from him. Away from all of us.' Tom raised his wand and cut a large whole in the elderly wizard's chest, leaving Dumbledore gasping in pain. Changing his wand to the other hand he reached forward and into the chest cavity and grasped Dumbledore's heart sharply and ripped it from his chest. Just before the old headmaster's lungs gave a final breath he hissed in the wrinkled ear.
'Now you know how it feels to have your heart ripped out.' And in the next moment he was whisked away leaving the room empty of a living being and full of carnage that, when they were found almost half an hour later, would leave some of the most hardened Aurors and Unspeakables retching.
Three days later Harry's closest friends and loved ones stood at the edge of the lake and watched as Harry's remains burned on a floating pyre in the middle of the water. As the last of the ashes burned down to a fine powder Severus raised his wand, Harry's bonding ring two thirds of the way down the wood. He murmured softly in Latin and a strong wind whipped across the lake collecting the ashes and carrying them high before spreading them about the grounds.
'Goodbye, Leo.' He whispered mournfully before dropping his arm and hanging his head.
The group milled around for a while before realising the potions master had no wish to speak to anyone and drifting back up towards the castle.
Only one figure remained and she looked at her old colleague sadly. 'Severus, I'm so terribly sorry.' She said, placing a gentle hand on his arm.
'Thank you, Minerva.' Severus whispered hoarsely.
'Severus, I ... You know that ... There will always be a place for you.' She finished lamely.
The man finally looked up, his face desolate in its grief. 'I don't think I could face it, Minerva. I don't think I could ever walk back into that hall and not see him lying there.' He choked back a sob. 'It has almost taken over every other memory I have of him. I try to remember all the little things but all I can see is him covered in blood and begging me to hold him. I can't believe I didn't stop them. I can't believe that after all he lived through he couldn't live through that too. He survived thirteen bloody killing curses for Merlin's sake.' Severus buried his head in his hands.
'You blame him.' Minerva said quietly, shifting her hand and guiding him backwards until he was sitting on the small stone bench that overlooked the lake. Severus looked up indignantly but with guilt still shining heavily in the black eyes.
'Yes, goddamn it. He left me. He should have bloody stunned those four straight away but he didn't. He did what he always did, he gave them the benefit of the doubt and they killed him. Bloody sodding Gryffindor.' Severus fists were clenched tightly in his lap and his teeth were grinding together so sharply Minerva thought they might crack and she leant forward and wrapped an arm around the shaking man's tall frame.
'It's alright to blame him, Severus.' She said soothingly. 'But you are right, that was just how Harry was. And it was one of the main reasons you loved him so much. If he hadn't cared about others, if he hadn't cared about being honest and fair and good then he wouldn't have been Harry. He thought more of the four second years than he did about himself and it is no more or less than anyone would have expected of him.'
'But why couldn't he have just stunned them?' Severus cried unable to see the truth through his grief.
Minerva rubbed his back gently. 'Because he was angry, and because he knew that, unlike the stunning spells that came from the students, he knew that if one of his had accidentally hit one of the children it probably would have killed them.'
Severus was silent for several minutes and the headmistress could almost see his mind ticking over as he thought. 'Bloody self sacrificing bastard.' He whispered eventually.
Minerva smiled sadly. 'Yes, he was.' She said softly. Severus sat quietly with his eyes downcast and didn't notice as Minerva delved into the pocket of her robe and pulled out a small photograph and handed it over.
Severus sucked in a breath. It was Harry. It was Harry and him together. 'How?' he breathed.
'Mr Creevey. He sent it to me yesterday and asked me to pass it onto you. Apparently he was coming back from detention late one evening several months ago and came across this scene.' Minerva explained.
Severus watched as the Harry in the picture leant back against the stone wall of the dungeon corridor, pulling the potions master towards him. Severus leant one arm against the wall as he bent his head and captured Harry's lips with his own. They pulled away after several moments and Harry reached up to tenderly tuck a stray hair behind the potions master's ear before cupping his cheek, his eyes sparkling and his mouth curving into a loving smile. Severus turned his head slightly and kissed the younger man's palm before picking him up in his arms and disappearing through a doorway.
Minerva watched as Severus continued looking at the picture for almost ten minutes in utter silence. Eventually a single tear rolled down his cheek.
'Ten points to Gryffindor.' He whispered.
A week after the brutal murder of their Minister the wizarding world held a huge memorial service in his honour. Severus did not attend, nor did anyone who had been at the small private funeral for Harry at Malfoy Manor several days before.
There was almost no outcry regarding the deaths of the Azkaban Four although the details were never made public. As far as the wizarding world knew, those who hadn't been placed under a Wizard's Oath anyway, there had been a swift trial before the Dementor's Kiss was administered.
Madame Bones continued in her role as interim Minister until elections could be held later in the summer and also continued Harry's work in trying to keep them safe. She had forty newly graduated students to visit the next week.
Pansy and Blaise continued in their roles deciding this was one way they could help keep Harry's vision alive. Draco, however found he couldn't face it. Instead he spent time with Severus, trying to get the potions master to rejoin the land of the living, well, at least try to move past his grief and his loss.
In the end it had been Tom who had gotten through to the other man, yelling at him about how disgusted Harry would have been to see him in such a state. After that Severus returned to his first love, working through his grief and despair as he spent hour after hour brewing methodically. Eventually it helped him remember Harry as he wanted to, the sparkling green eyes, the mischievous, teasing smile, and the gorgeous, warm heart. The beautiful young man who had given him so much, and who had stolen his heart in return.
Severus knew his life would never be the same, and while he did not wish it to end before it was his time, a part of him hoped that it wouldn't be too long in coming. Hoped that he wouldn't have to wait too long before he could feel those thin arms around him, those green eyes looking piercingly into his and that warm, loving heart beating next to his own.
There you go. Sad I know, but I did warn you, and surely you should all know me by now.
Thank you so much to all those who followed this story. I really had a blast writing it and I do hope you enjoyed it.