Disclaimer – It isn't mine

Chapter 8 – The Future

Harry had all but passed out when they landed at Snape Manor and the potions master gently lifted him and half carried him through to the bedroom. He knew Dumbledore would be expecting him but he ignored the thought, instead quickly stripping them both magically and climbing into bed, the young man held tightly in his arms. He knew that it wasn't the bond causing Harry to be in this state but the fact that the young man had just spent hours breaking through wards that would have stopped Albus Dumbledore and the Dark Lord both before duelling one of the best duellers of the age. He was just out and out tired.

Snape gently ran his fingers through the messy black hair for over an hour before he too finally dropped off to sleep, Harry still held tightly in his arms.

When Harry woke it was to find fathomless black eyes staring down at him intensely. He didn't speak, just lifted a hand to trace the older man's cheek, his green eyes full of emotion.

'You're welcome.' Snape murmured, reading the emotion correctly as gratitude.

'What now?' Harry whispered, his green eyes searching the older man's face.

Snape's eyes narrowed in concern. 'You've been running this show from the beginning, Harry. You tell me.' He said bluntly.

Harry studied the planes of Snape's face for several moments before his eyes returned to the black. 'I don't know.' He breathed. 'It's all so out of control. I just wanted to finish it, but now….'

Snape cupped Harry's cheek. 'Then finish it.' He murmured.

Harry swallowed and closed his eyes.

'You have to finish it and then you have to go back.' Snape said quietly. 'You have to face him.'

Harry swallowed again, knowing exactly who Snape was talking about. 'I don't know if I can.' He breathed.

Snape shook his head. The boy was far too nice for his own good. 'Harry.'

'Not without strangling him with my bare hands.' Harry went on before Snape could make further comment.

'Ah.' The potions master sighed. He had misjudged the young man once again.

'Besides, Tom is still out there too. He must be first.'

Snape shook his head. 'The Dark Lord is finished, Harry. Without his death eaters to draw power from he is weak. You can finish him whenever you wish. You already know how.'

Harry's eyes widened comically. 'You want me to… You can't be serious.'

Snape pulled away and sat up, staring down at the Boy-Who-Lived. 'How does this time differ from the others?' He questioned.

Harry looked away. 'I needed it then. There was a purpose for doing something so disgusting.' He muttered.

Snape reached out and drew Harry's chin back towards him so he could look into the green eyes. 'Different purpose, Harry, but in the end the result is still the same. You have to finish this.'

Harry pulled away and all but leapt off the bed, a robe suddenly appearing around his shoulders as he moved to stand by the window. 'I can't.' he breathed. 'I swore I wouldn't do it again.' He whispered, wrapping the robe tightly around him.

Snape followed him, turning the young man to face him. 'You said it yourself, Harry. Just last night. I don't think once more will make a difference at this stage.'

Harry snorted softly. 'Yes, and we saw how that turned out. I made you into a murderer too.'

Snape let out a rich laugh. 'Foolish boy, you can't turn someone into something they already were.' He chuckled, gently running his hands down Harry's arms. The young man's eyes flicked over Snape's face. Seeing the amusement shining in the onyx eyes and smiling. 'I will be with you, Harry.' Snape murmured. 'No matter what the outcome.'

Harry sighed and shook his head, leaning forward until his forehead rested on the firm chest in front of him. 'You're so good for me.' He whispered before closing his eyes.

Snape frowned as he felt the air around him warm and a soft humming reached his ears. 'Harry?' He questioned cautiously.

'Don't let me go, Sev.' Harry pleaded softly without moving.

Tom Riddle knew the moment his life was ending. He felt the ice cold grip of death surround his soul and squeeze until he thought his chest would explode. He gasped sharply and fell to his knees.

The last few times he'd felt that sharp pain he'd thought he was having a heart attack. A muggle heart attack of all things. Now he could feel the suddenly all-encompassing magical signature of the Boy-Who-Lived. The sheer power that pulled at his soul left him breathless, and the sheer audacity of the paragon of the light stunned him completely.

That the poster child for the light would use such dark magic was unthinkable.

As he felt the last of his power draining away, knowing that in mere moments his heart would stop, he wished he had done it differently. He should have courted the boy to his side.

He had made a choice.

And it had been the wrong one.

Snape felt the intake of excess power swirl around them as he clutched at the bony shoulders beneath his hands. He could feel the young man tremble violently and moved to support him better, winding his arms around the thin waist and letting the young man's head rest against his shoulder, one hand coming up to cup the back of his neck. Harry was in a trance, eyes closed and body almost lifeless aside from the effort to hold himself upright.

How long they stood there Snape didn't know but eventually Harry shoved the potions master away from him and ran for the door, his untied robe billowing behind him as he crossed the hall and flew into the bathroom, dropping to his knees before the toilet and retching violently.

Snape quickly followed and knelt beside him, lifting the messy black hair off his face and murmuring soothingly to him. Eventually Harry raised his head, his green eyes burning with the excess of power he now carried. 'It's done.' He gasped out.

Snape smiled and pulled him close. 'It's almost over, Harry.'

Harry sighed and relaxed as much as one could on the hard bathroom floor, casting a quick cleaning charm with barely a thought. 'I know. But this last part is much harder than anything else.'

Snape lifted him carefully and carried him back through to the bedroom but he didn't place him on the bed, instead crossing to the sofa in front of the fireplace and sitting down with Harry tucked tightly to his side.

He waited in silence for a few moments until Harry raised his head. 'What do you want to do, Harry?' He asked.

Harry swallowed. 'I don't know.'

'Harry?' Snape prompted knowing there was more.

'I want to kill him.' Harry whispered, his expression horrified in spite of the events of the previous twenty four hours. 'I know it's wrong but I can't help it. I want to tear him to shred for what he made me do, what he made us both do.'

Snape hugged him tighter. 'He didn't make me do anything, Harry, and if you were honest with yourself, he didn't make you do anything either.'

'But.' Harry began but Snape silenced him with a look.

'He put us into a situation that was awful, yes, but the decisions you made, we made, were conscious ones. Right or wrong, we made them and, no matter what the circumstances, we cannot lay blame elsewhere.'

'I know.' Harry whispered, his head dropping.

'Besides, I have gained far more than I expected to.' Snape said softly and Harry head snapped up.

His eyes studied the ones in front of him as if searching for something. 'I trust you.' Harry whispered. It wasn't quite what he wanted to say but he knew the older man understood. Besides it also meant that in spite of the bond, the intricacies of it especially, that this time Harry would do what the potions master thought best. He would follow the older man, even back to Hogwarts.

Students that had been on their way from their Care of Magical Creatures class to their next ran full speed for the castle at the sight of their feared potions master and Harry Potter walking closely and calmly up from the gates of the school the next morning.

It was bitterly cold and both men were bundled up in their thickest cloaks, hoods pulled up against the wind, but both the hook nose and that lightning bolt scar were unmistakable.

'It'll be okay, Harry.' Snape murmured as he heard the boy groan softly.

They kept walking, letting the snow on the ground swirl around their feet as they walked. Snape could still feel the huge well of power contained within the young man. His mouth twitched at the thought of the headmaster's face once he saw the Boy-Who-Lived for the first time in months.

He didn't have to wait all that long as less than a few steps into the castle they were quickly met by not only Dumbledore, but Remus, McGonagall and what seemed to be half the students of the school.

Both stopped and lowered the hoods of their cloaks.

'Harry, dear boy, it is wonderful to see you.' Dumbledore said mock cheerfully, failing to hide his look of stunned concern at both the look on Harry's face, and the magic rolling off the young man, making the hair on the arms of those nearby, stand on end.

Dumbledore stepped closer and Harry stepped back until he was shoulder to shoulder with the potions master. Snape grasped his hand tightly in his and bent slightly to murmur softly in the boy's ear. Harry swallowed visibly and tore his eyes from the Headmaster's to look at the stone floor at his feet as Snape looked at Dumbledore.

'I think this conversation should be held somewhere a little more private.' He said softly, glancing around at the horrified faces of the students as they stared at the clasped hands of the Boy-Who-Lived and their most hated teacher. Lupin and McGonagall naturally, knew the reasons why.

'Where have you been, Harry? We've been looking for you everywhere, dear boy.' Dumbledore went on as if Snape hadn't spoken. 'You really shouldn't have left like that.'

Whispers started softly around them as those students not in Gryffindor finally realised that Harry had not been hidden within the castle but had, in fact, left Hogwarts completely.

'Albus.' McGonagall tried to interrupt the elderly wizard but to no avail.

'You could have been hurt. You could have been captured. It isn't safe out there for you.' Dumbledore went on as if scolding an errant child.

Harry's head shot up and he looked up at Snape, his green eyes dark in anger. 'If you don't shut him up I'm going to kill him.' He hissed almost inaudibly.

Snape loosened his hand from inside Harry's and placed it around the young man's shoulder's turning him away from the Headmaster and causing yet more whispers to break out around them.

'Either we take this somewhere more private, Albus, or Harry and I will be leaving.' The potions master murmured threateningly.

'Unless of course you want everyone knowing what you did?' Harry questioned, looking up once again.

The headmaster's eyes widened.

'I thought not.' Harry sneered, looking remarkably like the man with his arm around Harry's shoulders. The Boy-Who-Lived shrugged the potions master's arm off his shoulder and swept past the headmaster, glaring at the rows of students behind him until they parted and without another word stalked off down the corridor leaving Snape and the others to catch up to him.

When Dumbledore reached his office and walked in to find Harry seated rigidly in front of his desk he couldn't hide his surprise. As Harry hadn't been waiting beside the gargoyle he'd thought he was elsewhere in the castle and had immediately ascended the stairs so he could use his own version of the Marauders Map to find him. He'd only just changed the password that very morning.


Harry just glared at him in response making it quite clear that he wasn't going to answer. Snape sat down beside him and immediately took Harry's hand in his, calming him enough that he could sit back in the chair and relax a bit more.

McGonagall and Lupin filed in after the headmaster but Harry shook his head. 'Alone.' He said bluntly, his tone and expression both saying that it was not up for discussion.

Dumbledore glanced between them before waving his hand dismissively towards the door and nodding in agreement. The two professors looking as they were about to argue but after a glare from Snape they reluctantly trudged back out the door closing it behind them.

Harry cast a wandless silencing spell and waited until the headmaster sat down and looked at him in reproach, the usually twinkling blue eyes filled with disappointment, before he spoke. 'Don't you dare look at me like that.' Harry scowled darkly. 'Not after what you've done.'

'Harry, my boy, I think what I've done is nowhere near what you have.' The headmaster scolded sharply.

Snape actually heard Harry's teeth crack as the young man clenched his jaw tightly and squeezed the hand in his.

'I could kill you here and now for what you've done.' Harry whispered.

Dumbledore smiled grimly. 'I believe you could, Harry. After all, you've become practiced at it now. Does it still give you a thrill or is it altogether too boring.'

'Enough.' Snape usually silky voice was harsh with anger of his own as Harry paled and looked away. 'You drove him to this, Albus. By once again keeping him ignorant he didn't have the answers he needed to make an informed decision. You are just as responsible for this mess as anyone.'

'I am not.' Albus snapped back and Snape quickly grabbed Harry tightly around the upper body as the young man launched himself at the elderly wizard. As it was, Harry's magic flooded out of him and in an event eerily reminiscent of the end of his fifth year, every object in the room exploded.

'Harry, calm down. Please calm down.' Snape murmured into his ear as he held him tight against his chest.

Dumbledore's eyes widened in surprise as Harry's magic pushed him deep into his chair. He couldn't have lifted a finger even if he'd wanted to.

Snape continued holding tightly to Harry as Dumbledore watched a myriad of emotions play across the young man's face. He could easily read the expressions of guilt and disgust and regret and sighed inwardly.

Harry shuddered slightly as he struggled to reign in the magic swirling around him. Snape realised that Harry was no longer going to throw himself at the headmaster and relaxed his hold on the young man until he could gently run his fingers up and down the boy's still bony frame.

'That's it. You're okay.' Snape murmured continually as Harry lent his head on Snape's shoulder, breathing heavily.

'This won't work.' Harry whispered. 'I want to go now.'

Snape nodded and immediately stood, gently helping the still shaking Boy-Who-Lived to his feet.

'Severus, what are you doing?' Dumbledore had stood with them and his blue eyes stared questioningly at the potions master.

Snape looked up, his mask well and truly in place. 'Leaving, Albus. I would have thought that would be obvious.' He drawled.

'And just where do you think you're going?'

'Away from here.' Snape snapped back the retort as if it too should have been obvious even as he propelled Harry towards the door.

'You cannot go. I forbid it.' Dumbledore stated as moved towards then, roughly grasping Harry's elbow and yanking him away from the potions master.

It was a mistake.

One the headmaster quickly realised as the power Harry had managed to restrain just under the surface exploded out of him, throwing the headmaster into the far wall with a sickening crunch before he crumpled to the floor.

'Oh god.' Harry gasped, his legs losing their strength and dropping him to the floor.

Snape stared in horror between the prone figure and Harry before throwing open the door.

'LUPIN.' He screamed, knowing the werewolf and McGonagall would not be far away. Hearing the thundering footsteps on the staircase he returned his attention to Harry knowing the others would take care of the headmaster.

'Merlin's beard, Severus, what on earth happened?' Minerva shrieked as she caught sight of the headmaster, blood flowing from a wound on his head and his left arm at an angle that should not have been possible.

'Accident.' Snape ground out before kneeling in front of Harry. He didn't say anything as he stared into the horrified eyes of the Boy-Who-Lived.

'I…I…' Harry stammered, his face paler than Snape could ever remember it. 'I didn't…I…'

'Shhh, it will be okay.' Snape promised in spite of what he knew to be true. By this time Lupin had levitated the body of the headmaster out the door and down the stairs and together with McGonagall had headed off quickly to the hospital wing. He placed an arm around Harry's waist and lifted him to his feet. 'Come on, one foot in front of the other. That's it.'

The trip to the hospital wing seemed indeterminable. Harry could barely walk as the shock of what had happened landed its full weight onto him but Snape knew there was no way Harry would let Snape carry him in front of anyone.

Ron and Hermione saw them as they passed the Library and smiled and waved but both quickly saw the state their friend was in and the look on the potions master's face and just followed quietly along until they reached the hospital wing and had enough sense to close the door behind them.

'Oh no.' Hermione whispered as she took in the sight of Professors Lupin and McGonagall assisting Madame Pomfrey in trying to stem the blood flow from the headmaster's head. She could see that the medi-witch had already banished the bones in the elderly man's arm as it had obviously been shattered and unable to be repaired with a simple bone repairing spell.

'What the hell happened?' Ron whispered back.

Hermione was too shocked to even scold him for his language, instead just shaking her head as she watched Snape settle their best friend down on a bed on the far side of the room and gesture for them to come over even as he summoned a familiar blue filled vial and held it up to Harry's lips. The young man swallowed it without a word but the terrified green eyes stayed locked on the potions master's until they could remain open no longer.

Snape stared at the Boy-Who-Lived for a moment longer, his fingers gently caressing the smooth cheek before he straightened and stared down at his partner's two best friends. Both Ron and Hermione could see the anguish in his expression even though he was doing a monumental job of hiding it.

'Stay with him.' He said hoarsely before spinning on his heel and crossing the room in swift strides.

They sat on the chairs beside the bed but kept their eyes on the sight of the three professors in a heated discussion too far away to be overheard. McGonagall looked surprised and they heard Lupin let out a gasp of shock as well but any further talk was cut off as Madame Pomfrey moved towards them, wiping perspiration from her forehead with her sleeve as she murmured too softly for the teenagers to hear.

'Oh dear Merlin.' McGonagall cried out and Lupin quickly placed an arm around her. All four glanced over at Harry and both Ron and Hermione quickly looked away.

There was further heated discussion before Madame Pomfrey disappeared into her office leaving the three professors talking in hushed but urgent whispers once again.

'What's going on?' Ron asked softly and Hermione shrugged.

They watched as Snape hissed urgently at Lupin who finally nodded. What happened next surprised them as several minutes later Madame Pomfrey returned followed by the Minister of Magic and several Aurors, but before they arrived they saw Snape move to the foot of the headmaster's bed and raise his wand, causing the elderly wizard to glow a soft silver before fading.

'What did he do?' Ron spoke again as before Hermione just shrugged in spite of having a fair idea of exactly what had just occurred, particularly once the Minister and the Aurors walked in.

'McGonagall, what is going on here? We got a call that there'd been an accident involving the headmaster.'

McGonagall glanced nervously at Snape.

'There was a potions accident.' The man lied masterfully. 'He startled me, I added too much boomslang skin and the cauldron exploded.'

Fudge looked him up and down. 'Well you look to be alright.'

Snape rolled his eyes. 'I'm a potions master, Minister.' He sneered. 'I always shield myself when working with volatile ingredients.'

Fudge's eyes narrowed. 'Madame Pomfrey told us that it involved Harry Potter. Where is the troublemaker?'

Snape's jaw clenched in anger as the Minister glanced around the room and his eyes lit up maliciously at the sight of the unconscious Gryffindor. Snape stepped slightly in front of him and drew his attention away from Harry.

'Mr Potter.' He said slowly. 'Is recovering from a magical backlash after destroying the Dark Lord.'

The silence in the room was deathly. Obviously the urgent conversation that had occurred before the Minister's arrival had not included that little titbit. Hermione and Ron's eyes met and Ron raised his in question, a small smile on his face that Hermione returned.

'He's gone. Are you sure?' Fudge breathed and Snape nodded firmly. McGonagall and Lupin nodding in agreement. Suddenly the drama with the headmaster was forgotten. 'Where did this happen? Where is the body?'

'You will have to wait and ask Mr Potter that, Minister. At this stage we are unsure of exactly what happened.'

'The how do you know? How do you know he's really gone?' Fudge blustered.

Snape glanced behind him at the sleeping figure on the bed before slowly lifting his left sleeve to reveal his unblemished forearm.

Fudge stared at it in surprise. He clearly remembered seeing the Dark Mark burning brightly on the skin in this very spot almost three years ago.

'My word. He's really gone.' Fudge breathed. 'When will Potter regain consciousness? When can he be questioned?'

McGonagall saw as Snape's mouth compressed into a thin line and his dark eyes narrowed dangerously, and quickly placed a hand on his arm.

'It will take several days before Mr Potter is able to answer your questions.' She said calmly as the potions master turned away.

'Damn it. We need answers now.' Fudge muttered. 'Right, we're going back to the Ministry, please owl me once he's awake.' The Minister snapped out before sweeping back to the medi-witch's office and disappeared into the floo.

Snape breathed a large sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose.

'See, you didn't need to cast that charm.' Lupin said quietly.

Snape glanced at Harry before answering. 'I couldn't take the chance they would test for his magical signature.'

'But what if they'd tested for yours? You aren't the Boy-Who-Lived, you could have been taken away.'

'What did you think the whole "startled me during a potion" bull shit was about, Werewolf. Did you think I spun that story for my health?' Snape shook his head and growled. 'Idiot.' He muttered.

'What about, Albus? He should really go to St Mungos.' Poppy said, glancing at the three Gryffindors, two of which were trying hard to make it look as if they weren't listening.

'Will it make any difference?' McGonagall asked hesitantly.

Poppy sighed. 'Probably not.' She replied honestly. 'His arm will repair itself overnight, and the head wound is closed completely, but there is nothing I can do about his eyes.'

'Merlin.' Snape breathed, running a hand raggedly through his hair.

'What are you going to tell, Harry?' Lupin murmured.

Snape looked over at the young man in question. 'The truth.' He said bluntly.

'Do you think that's wise?'

'Well I'm not bloody lying to him.' The potions master spat. 'He's had quite enough of being lied to and being kept in the dark. If Albus had just been honest with him in the beginning or at least honest with him after the event then none of this would have happened.' The potions master finished in a yell, breathing heavily.

Harry whimpered in his sleep as Snape's emotions coursed through the bond. Snape was across the room in record time, Harry held tightly in his arms.

'Shhh, it's alright, Harry.' He murmured soothingly.

'Sev.' Harry mumbled sleepily, struggling to open his eyes.

'Don't.' Snape lifted a hand and cupped Harry's cheek. 'Just relax. We're going home.'

'Home.' Harry sighed softly and stilled in the older man's arms.

The potions master looked at the two Gryffindors beside him. You are both welcome to stay with us for a few days if you wish.' He said sincerely as he stood with Harry in his arms.

Hermione and Ron exchanged glances before nodding. 'We'll just go and grab a few things and meet you outside.' Hermione said quickly before grabbing Ron's hand and running from the room.

Snape stared down at the young man in his arms and sighed again. None could have foreseen, even in their nightmares, how this day would have turned out.

He looked up to see Poppy, Lupin and McGonagall watching him closely and crossed the room to stand beside them.

'Albus was wrong about the bond, wasn't he?' McGonagall said quietly.

Snape's dark eyes softened. 'The Dark Lord was not the only one to underestimate Harry.' He murmured.

'Where are you taking him?' Lupin moved closer to Harry only to have Snape shift away.

'I'm taking him home.' He said bluntly and his tone made it clear that there would be no argument from anyone.

'When will you bring him back?'

Snape's mouth quirked slightly. 'When he asks me to.' He said slyly.

Without another word he turned on his heel and stalked from the room, meeting up with Ron and Hermione at the top of the steps to the entrance hall. They made a silent trek down to the school gates, students stopping and pointing at the sight of Harry in Snape's arms, before stopping and staring back up at the castle.

'I don't think Harry's going to be that happy that everyone in the school saw him like that.' Ron said with a snort.

Snape raised an eyebrow. 'It won't matter.' He carefully shifted Harry until he could put his hand in his pocket and pull out a small diary that he held out.

'Why won't it matter?' Hermione asked curiously as she and Ron placed a hand on the Portkey.

The potions master smiled. 'Because he won't ever be coming back.'

Snape had been correct. Harry never set foot in Hogwarts ever again.

He had woken the next morning to see Snape watching him intently. To say he'd been horrified to find out Dumbledore had lost his sight after Harry's magic had thrown him halfway across the room had been an understatement and it had taken Snape more than an hour to calm his panic attack.

Eventually the potions master had explained his ruse about the potions accident and what had happened afterwards with Fudge. Harry refused to speak with the Minister but did send an owl explaining that he'd used a power draining spell, albeit not the finer details, and where they could find the body of the Dark Lord, the information of which he'd absorbed along with that excess power.

He'd spent the next few days with Ron and Hermione and the nights with Snape. All three helped him deal with what had happened and their confidence in him helped him move forward and grow. His appetite improved as did his health. They discussed his schooling and Harry and Snape decided that the young man would complete his studies at home with the potions master and several other tutors and take his NEWT exams at Beauxbatons come the end of the spring.

Ron and Hermione returned to Hogwarts for the last half of the school year promising to return as soon they broke up for the summer holidays. On their return to Snape Manor were stunned at the change in not only their friend, but the potions master as well.

Harry had gained weight, his eyes had lost their closed, and frightened look and he smiled almost all the time. From the enormous beaming smile he gave them when the Portkey landed them in the foyer, to the small affectionate smiles he would exchange every time he and Snape met eyes.

The bond between them was clearly strong as evidenced by the painful forearm Snape kept rubbing all afternoon after Harry accidentally snapped his wrist landing badly while fooling around on his broom with. The potions master had fixed it immediately of course, but Hermione could see the grimace the older man tried to hide and the continued grasping of his left wrist during the afternoon.

That night they sat out in the garden. The moon was high in the sky and the air was warm. Snape and Harry shared on corner of the blanket, Harry lying down with his head in Snape's lap as the older man gently ran his fingers through the much longer black hair.

Hermione was leaning into Ron who had his arms tightly around her as magical fireflies danced around them, casting shadows across the half empty plates of food between them.

'So what are you two going to do now?' Harry asked curiously. The past few weeks had been idyllic but they were now adults and they had things they had to do.

Hermione smiled. 'I'm starting with the Ministry next month.' She said proudly.

Harry's eyes widened. 'The Ministry?' He squeaked causing Snape to snort.

'It's much better now Fudge is gone.' Hermione insisted. Fudge had been voted out only two months before and the new Minister was apparently quite good. 'Besides I'm joining the Department of Magical Creatures so I doubt I'll have much contact with him unless there is something he needs to sign.' There was a light in her eyes and both Ron and Harry exchanged amused glances, wondering if the Ministry actually knew what was about to hit them.

'That's great Hermione.' Harry snickered. 'What about you?' He asked tilting his head and looking at Ron.

Ron blushed but puffed up his chest. 'I've joined the Canons.' He said proudly and Harry's eyes widened.

'What? As Keeper?' There was another squeak and another snort from Snape.

Ron let out a laugh. 'Are you kidding. Oliver Wood's taken over the Canon's. Can you see him giving up his place as Keeper for me? No, I've been hired as their Strategist. I'll be designing new plays and things.'

Harry sat up so suddenly he almost hit Snape in the nose. 'Ron, that's perfect. You'd be incredible at that.'

Ron's ears were the colour of his hair but he was grinning brightly. 'Thanks.'

'And what about you, Harry. What are you doing?' Hermione asked.

'I'd like to know that too.' Snape murmured, wrapping his arms around Harry's waist and tugging him back to lean against him.

Harry looked down at his hands, wringing them nervously. All three watching wondered what he could possibly say that would cause such a reaction.

'I've got a job too.' He said softly. 'I'm going to be working at the London Zoo, in the reptile enclosure.'

There was a stunned silence that lasted for several moments.

'With the muggles?' Ron burst out flinching when Hermione smacked him sharply on the arm.

'What about Parseltongue, Harry? You can't use it in public.' She said firmly.

Harry sighed and turned slightly to look up at Snape, his green eyes full of hope. The potions master reached up and caressed his cheek. 'I assume the spell you've been working on since April is for that.' He asked, one elegant eyebrow raised in question.

Harry gave him a wry smile looking past him towards the shadows. 'Come here, Salem.' He hissed out but to Ron, Hermione and Snape it sounded as if he was speaking English. All three were unsurprised to see the small runespoor Snape had given Harry for Christmas slither onto the blanket and up to the Boy-Who-Lived.

Harry and the small snake proceeded to have an entire conversation on the weather, the available food and about how the small creek at the bottom of the garden was running low. Of course they could only hear Harry's side of it but it was still incredible.

'Obviously I won't be having full conversations with the animals but at least I should be able to get them to do what I want.' He explained as he patted the snake and watched as it slithered away.

The three stared at him in that same silence once again until Snape hugged him tightly. 'Brilliant.' He whispered.

'Does it work for everyone?' Ron asked, gesturing in the direction Salem had left.

Harry shook his head. 'No. I'm still speaking Parseltongue, it just sounds like English.' He admitted.

'Harry that's incredible.' Hermione breathed causing Harry to smile.

That night as they crawled into bed, Snape pulled Harry closer, placing a gently kiss on his lips. 'I'm so proud of you, Harry.' He murmured softly. 'Prouder than you could ever imagine.'

Harry's green eyes searched black. 'I just wanted to use my talents for something.'

Snape closed his eyes and smiled. It had taken them so long to get Harry to realise that the gifts and powers he had received from the Dark Lord were not evil. 'And you will.' He whispered, opening his eyes again.

This time it was Harry's turn to smile. 'I love you, Sev.' He whispered.

Tears came to Snape's eyes. Harry had never said that before and it made his heart sing as he pulled the young man tightly to him. 'I know.' He choked out. 'I love you too.'