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Chapter 1 – Deserving.
Harry Potter stared up at the castle, a fond smile on his face. He couldn't remember a place he'd been happier. Sure, there had been bad times there too. But that just made the good ones seem even better.
School for the green eyed young man had finished more than eight years ago. He had spent those eight years doing exactly what he had spent the seven before, defeating Voldemort time and time again until finally the prophecy was fulfilled and the Dark Lord was banished forever just three short weeks ago.
Now, at Dumbledore's request, he returned to the only place he had ever called home, this time as a teacher. In a week the castle would once again be full of students and Harry would try to teach them everything he knew. So that if, Merlin forbid, another Dark Lord rose, they would be ready.
Harry could see a lone figure in billowing black robes stalking down the path from the castle and couldn't help smile that tipped the corners of his mouth. He stepped through the gates, feeling the wards tingle over him, checking him out before allowing him to move completely inside. He stopped again as he came face to face with the other man.
'Mr Potter.' Harry let the silky voice of Severus Snape wash over him.
'Professor.' Harry nodded politely, his green eyes sparkling. The corner of the potions master's mouth twitched and Harry thought the other man might actually smile but it was not to be.
'I see you penchant for tardiness had not waned in the slightest.' Snape drawled. 'Please come with me, Albus and the rest of the staff are waiting.'
Harry stifled a laugh and hurried to catch up as Snape spun on his heel and stalked off once more. 'Do you always have to walk so fast, Professor?' Harry asked, struggling to keep up with his injured leg. It had been hit during the final battle with a bone shattering curse that had actually been aimed at his head. By the time he had finally managed to dispatch Voldemort and the Healers found him, the shards of bone had sliced through nearly every tendon, muscle and ligament from his hip to his toes leaving him requiring the use of a cane to walk.
'Mr Potter.' Snape began, his lecturing voice back in full force. 'If you had arrived on time like everyone else then we would have no need to move along so swiftly, as it is you are late, and very late at that, and the other Professors and I have things we must attend to.'
'Sorry.' Harry muttered. Snape's face softened slightly as he took in the sight of Harry struggling behind him. Harry caught the look and his expression became instantly icy. 'Don't you dare.' He snarled, stopping in place and startling the other man who also stopped and looked at him.
'Dare I what, Mr Potter?' He asked, one elegant eyebrow arched.
'I don't need your pity, Professor.' Harry spat, his eyes flashing, before turning and continuing his rather slow progress towards the castle leaving the potions master to stare after him.
'It was not pity, Harry.' Snape said softly, too softly for Harry to hear, before he followed the Boy-Who-Lived.
'Harry, my boy.' Dumbledore said brightly as Harry shuffled into the headmaster's office. There was a round of welcomes called out by most of the staff as Snape slipped in and closed the door behind him.
Harry smiled shyly as his old professors all hugged and congratulated him. 'It was my job.' He said softly. Snape noticed the headmaster frown at that statement and wondered what he was concerned about.
They all sat down in various chairs around the room, Harry trying to mask a grimace as his leg screamed in protest. He had only been released from St Mungo's that very morning and he soon realised that the pain potion he had taken when he had woken up had probably worn off. He felt a tap on his shoulder and glanced around to find Snape standing behind him, a vial in his hand. Harry gratefully took and downed it quickly, frowning slightly at the taste before sighing as once again the pain went away.
'Thank you, Professor.' He whispered. Snape just nodded and returned to his place by the door.
'Now Harry, as you have probably guessed, all the staff are very happy you have agreed to return to Hogwarts. We think you will be happy here once again and hopefully our run of bad luck with Defence Professors will finally be at an end.' Most of the room snickered at the remark. 'To make sure you are comfortable Poppy has offered any assistance you might require with your….' Albus trailed off, his eyes suspiciously bright.
'Thank you Headmaster, Madame Pomfrey, but I am quite able to manage on my own.' Harry said primly and Snape once again saw the tightly held emotions behind the young man's facade.
'Harry, we just want to help.' Poppy said quietly.
'I don't need any help.' Harry retorted sharply, his expression turning distant. Snape wondered what came to the young man's mind when reminded of his new disability.
Albus sighed. 'Alright Harry, why doesn't Severus show you to your rooms and you can settle in. All of your things arrived this morning including the copies of the required texts that you requested.'
Harry nodded stiffly, the pity he could see in the other's eyes suddenly dampening what would otherwise have been a joyous occasion. With a small wince he leaned heavily on his cane and pushed himself up out of the chair. He gasped softly, biting his lip as the pain flooded back and silently followed the potions master out the door. They walked slowly down the corridor to the stairs.
'That potion didn't last very long?' Snape observed.
Harry glanced briefly at the tall man beside him. 'They only work when I'm not moving.' He said softly.
'Oh.' Snape replied already deep in thought. They continued on in silence until stopping at a door in the teacher's wing.
'Here we are. You just need to set the password.' The older wizard told him opening the door and allowing Harry to step inside.
'Thank you, Professor.'
'You are no longer a student, Harry. I thought we were past that.' Snape said quietly.
Harry smiled slightly. 'So did I.' He finished before closing the door in the other man's face.
Harry, after finding out the house elves had unpacked all of his belongings and resting for several hours decided to swallow his pride and go and ask Snape for another potion. He decided to bypass the hospital wing in favour of the potions master, otherwise he would probably find himself thrust into pyjamas and into a bed, although the little voice in his head kept telling him to stop lying to himself regarding his feelings for the older man. Harry just ignored it and limped his way down to the dungeons. It took him almost fifteen minutes to navigate the stairs and he was about ready to drop by the time he'd arrived. He knew where Snape's rooms were and hesitantly knocked on the door, feeling as if her were seventeen again.
He heard a growl and stepped back as the door was flung open. 'Potter.' Snape barked and Harry winced.
'S..sorry, Professor.' Harry stammered. His nervousness was enough to break through the brusque face the potions master had on and Snape stepped back slightly.
'Mr Potter,' Snape's hand reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. 'I am not your Professor and haven't been for sometime now. Please cease and desist the incessant use of that word.'
'Yes Sir.' Harry smiled slightly.
'Severus, Mr Potter. My name is Severus.' Snape insisted.
'Yes Sir.' Harry said again, his smile growing wider.
'You do not need to call me Sir, Mr Potter.'
'Yes Professor.' Harry snickered.
'Harry!' Snape bellowed.
'Yes Severus.' Harry said politely. Snape glared at the young man.
'Did you want something in particular, Harry,' he said stressing the name. 'or did you just come down here to harass me into a heart attack and an early grave.'
Harry shifted noticeably, the older man raising an eyebrow in question at the sudden nervous display from the Boy-Who-Lived. 'I was wondering…' Harry trailed off. 'I need some more… I…I…'
Snape nodded, instantly realising what the young man wanted, and gestured for him to come in. He walked swiftly through to his study, grabbing half a dozen vials from the shelf and coming back, hesitating as he watched Harry lower himself painfully into an armchair by the fire. He crossed the room, handing one over to Harry, who swallowed it instantly even with his shaking hands, before placing the rest on the table beside the chair and taking a seat opposite. His eyes studied the war weary figure across from him.
'Should they have released you this soon?' he asked tentatively, before conjuring some tea.
Harry sighed, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. 'They didn't release me.' He said quietly. 'I left.'
'Potter!' Snape hissed.
'Yes Professor?' Harry said tiredly, without even opening his eyes.
'Harry.' Severus tried again.
Harry opened his eyes and turned a piercing green gaze on the older man. 'I told you three years ago, Severus, that if you continued to insist on calling me Mr Potter, you would find yourself being called Professor for the rest of your life. It's your choice.'
Snape groaned softly. 'Fine, Harry, but I still think you should be in St Mungo's.'
'Yeah, Psychiatric ward.' Harry murmured closing his eyes again. It was then that Severus noticed just how pale the young man was, how many lines marked his young face and how deep the dark circles under his eyes really were.
He remembered the jubilation he had felt when the Dark Mark had vanished from his arm and then the horror when he had finally found Harry, curled on the ground, covered in blood, his leg at an angle that would almost have been impossible even without any bones in it, muttering softly to himself as the glowing shield that had been around him and what was left of the Dark Lord, finally faded away. The screams from Harry's two friends, echoed loudly across the bloody landscape, as they charged across the grounds of Riddle Manor to drop beside him. Then the Healers had come and sent the Boy-Who Lived into a magical coma until his injuries could be better assessed.
No one truly knew what had happened in the four days Riddle had held Harry captive before the final battle. The Order and the Aurors had raided the Manor as soon as Wormtail had surrendered to Dumbledore. The animagus, having seen what the Dark Lord had been doing to the only person to have ever shown him mercy, and his wizard's debt had pushed and pushed at his conscience until he had finally decided enough was enough and had run to Dumbledore, giving up the secret he had been entrusted with under the Fidelius charm. One minute Riddle Manor was unplottable, the next it was there, albeit hidden behind many muggle repelling charms. Within hours the full force of the Aurors and Order members had descended on the site and the battle had raged through the night. Snape, together with Ron, who had become an Auror and Hermione, who had trained as a Healer, had entered the building and searched the dungeons until they found Harry.
It had taken them almost half an hour to heal the damage already done to him but they got him up on his feet and moving, barely. They wanted to Portkey him back to Hogwarts but Harry was having none of it. He insisted that it was time to finish it and had shrugged out of their arms and stumbled up and outside to where his destiny awaited him.
It was light, the sun shining brightly as it crested the horizon, when Harry finally stood tall before Voldemort. Bodies littered the ground around them as those remaining stopped to watch what everyone, for no reason anyone could fathom, realised one way or another was going to be the end.
'Tom.' Harry said calmly, less than four feet from the snake like figure.
Voldemort grinned evilly. 'Harry my boy.'
'Don't call me that.' Harry said coldly. He brought his hand up and around in a circle, wandlessly calling up a shield around them. 'It's over Tom.' He added.
'I know, Harry.' Riddle nodded. 'This has gone on for twenty five years. I believe it's time you left this mortal world and went and joined your mudblood mother and muggle loving father.' He agreed.
Harry smiled slightly and shook his head. 'Oh no Tom, My mum and dad have no wish to see me yet.' He said slowly. 'However, they do have a rather large bone to pick, with you.'
In what was probably the most anti climatic duel of the war Harry lifted his arm, the Sword of Gryffindor appearing instantly in his hand as he slashed sideways. With barely a sound the Dark Lord's head toppled off his shoulders and fell to the ground before he managed to utter more than a single spell. That single spell however had practically lost Harry his right leg and Snape knew it would cause the young man pain, both physical and mental, for many, many years to come.
Anyone who wasn't there that day, and even some who were, could not believe what they heard or saw afterwards as Harry, covered from head to toe with blood, his right leg dangling uselessly as he struggled to stand, pulled the Dark Lord's spirit from his body and sealed it inside Gryffindor's Sword before destroying it. The sword instantly turning to ash as the Latin spoken sealed Voldemort's fate. With a smile that looked very out of place on his face, he sighed heavily and crumpled to the ground.
Snape was knocked out of his rumination as he heard a whimper and a hiss of pain. Harry had fallen asleep, shifting as his dreams took him and then paying the price. He shot awake gasping softly as he waited for the pain in his leg to abate.
'Sorry Severus.' He whispered, as he noticed the older man looking at him and running a hand through his messy black hair.
Snape eyed him carefully. 'How long has it been since you slept through the night without a nightmare? Unaided by a potion I mean.' he asked.
'I slept a lot the week and a half I was in that coma.' Harry offered.
'Harry.' Severus chided. 'How long?'
Harry sighed and closed his eyes once again, his head resting back against the chair. 'Would you believe since I was fourteen?' he murmured quietly. Severus' mouth snapped closed as he remembered the visions Harry used to have after the Dark Lord was resurrected at the end of his fourth year. Snape stood and walked over to the younger man, startling him as he placed an arm around his shoulders and one under his knees and lifted him up.
'You need to sleep Harry, and badly.' He said as he carried him through to the bedroom and laid him down on the bed. 'Your body won't heal if you keep abusing it.' He scolded gently, pulling a vial of Dreamless Sleep out of his beside drawer and uncorking it.
Harry snorted softly. 'My body won't ever heal, Severus.' He said dully. 'I'm stuck like this forever.' Snape sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed.
'I know Harry and I'm sorry.' Harry's eyes flashed again and Snape held up a hand to stop the protest that he knew was building. 'I'm not sorry for what happened, Harry.' He said quickly. 'I don't pity you. I admire you. You are the strongest person I've ever known. I'm sorry because out of everyone, it had to be you that lost everything, which gave up everything. You deserved better.'
Harry sighed and downed the vial. 'Maybe, one day, I might actually get it.' He murmured before the potion took him.