Disclaimer – Isn't mine.
Chapter 7 - Choosing
When Harry woke the next morning it was to black eyes looking at him intently and a gentle hand carding through his hair. He smiled, green eyes blinking as he snuggled closer to the older man.
'Good morning.' Harry whispered sleepily.
Severus smiled back. 'It's not yet, but it will be.' He gave Harry an amused smirk before leaning down and kissing him passionately.
An hour later Harry surfaced once more, his eyes shining. 'Yep, definitely a good morning.' He declared, rolling to the side and sitting up with a grimace. Severus smirked and moved to help him stand and they quickly showered and changed before heading to the great hall.
Harry glanced up and smiled as Severus took his arm and tucked it through his own.
Severus smiled at him. 'I meant to tell you how proud I was of the way you handled yourself in front of Fudge yesterday.' The potions master said quietly as they negotiated the last few stairs and crossed the entrance hall.
Harry snorted, pushing open the doors to the great hall with a flick of his wrist. 'Yes, well, not all of us are menacing enough to threaten the Minister of Magic and get away with it. We have to bow out gracefully.' He said wryly.
Severus gaped at him. 'You stayed to listen? You heard it all?' he asked incredulously as the made their way up the hall.
Harry smiled. 'Every word. My sweet defender.' He added cheekily.
The older man raised an eyebrow in amusement. 'You little Slytherin.'
Harry shot him a mock glare. 'Resorting to insults now, Professor? I would have expected much better from you.'
Snape laughed, shocking those students nearby. 'I still can't believe the Sorting Hat didn't insist you go in Slytherin.'
This time it was Harry who laughed even as they reached the head table. 'Far too much Gryffindor courage for that.' Harry stated.
'Gryffindor stupidity did you say?' Severus drawled.
Harry smacked him lightly. 'Courage, you git. There is a difference.'
'Indeed.' Severus smirked as they sat down. Neither noticed that most of the hall was staring at them and the rest of the staff was exchanging worried glances.
'Good morning boys.' Dumbledore interrupted as soon as they sat down. Severus rolled his eyes at the address but Harry was too busy studying the tension that was visible in the normal twinkling blue eyes.
'What happened?' Harry asked softly, startling Severus who finally looked to meet the headmaster's gaze.
Albus sighed. 'It might be best if you read it in your rooms.' The elderly wizard said softly.
Harry and Severus exchanged glances. 'Read what, Albus.'
Dumbledore didn't answer, instead pulling a copy of the Daily Prophet out of his voluminous pockets and handing it over. 'As I said.' He gestured to the gathered students. 'It might be best if you didn't read it here.'
'What's in it?' Severus asked placing it on the table between them.
'Fudge is up to his old tricks again.' Albus actually growled, startling the potions master.
'What's he done?'
'Unfortunately, nothing he hasn't done before, just not quite with such atrociously bad timing.' Minerva piped up from her seat. 'Honestly, how that man ever remained in power so long, I will never know.'
A small gasp made them all turn to see that Harry had picked the newspaper up and was reading it. Well, he had been reading it. He was now just sitting, uncommonly still, exceptionally quiet and deathly pale. Only the slight tremor of his hands gave away any indication that he was not made of stone. He didn't even seem to be breathing.
'Harry?' Severus whispered. The young man made now movement to show he had heard his lover. 'Harry, please?' Severus whispered more urgently, reaching over to try and pry the newspaper from Harry's hands. Unable to take the newspaper from the young man he turned to read what had upset him so.
The headline screamed.
'IS YOU-KNOW-WHO-REALLY GONE?'
The Minister of Magic released a statement last night questioning the legitimacy of the demise of the Dark Lord after Harry Potter's muggle relatives were tortured and murdered in their home. Apparently Mr Potter cancelled the Fidelius charm after the supposed death of You-Know-Who without confirming that the Dark Lord was indeed dead.
Less than four months after the supposed final battle in which Mr Potter was gravely injured, the Death Eaters attacked Potter's relatives leaving the Dark Mark floating above the house. Whether the You-Know-Who was there in person has not yet been confirmed.
The question remains as to why Mr Potter dropped the charm on his relatives at all? Surely he knew what might happen.
The Minister travelled yesterday to Hogwarts to speak with Mr Potter but was unable to discern as the validity of Mr Potter claims.
Minister Fudge went on to say, 'Mr Potter says that You-Know-Who has indeed been destroyed but we at the Ministry are still unconvinced. Unfortunately, due to Mr Potter's injuries, he is unable to be of any use to the Ministry in the search for You-Know-Who or his Death Eaters but the Ministry will be talking with the members of the Wizingamot later this week regarding the use of Veritaserum to confirm his statements.'
We will keep our readers up to date on these distressing revelations.
'THAT PATHETIC, IMMORAL, REPRHENSIBLE, DISGUSTING, REPULSIVE EXCUSE FOR A WIZARD.' Snape roared. 'HOW DARE HE.'
Harry placed a calming hand on the fuming potions master's arm. 'Now is not the time, Severus and here is most definitely not the place.' He said softly glancing at the students who was staring wide eyed at the older man. Severus flushed immediately and dropped his head. He hadn't noticed when Harry had begun moving once again.
'Harry, why don't you take the day off?' Albus suggested kindly. Harry shook his head.
'No thank you, Headmaster. I'm fine.' He said calmly. Taking a deep breath before standing, he swayed slightly, keeping his head down as he swallowed yet another vial of pain killing potion and then lifting his head high, he limped slowly from the room.
'Albus.' Severus snarled, standing smoothly. 'Cancel my classes. I have some business to take care of in Diagon Alley.'
Albus caught the potions master by the sleeve of his robe. 'I do not believe that will be possible Severus.' He said quietly. Snape looked ready to explode as Albus went on. 'Young Harry does not need you cursing the Minister of Magic and landing yourself in Azkaban which, I assure you, is where you would end up.'
Snape glared at him, tugging his sleeve out of the elderly wizard's grasp and storming out of the hall, his face like thunder. Most of the students quickly realised that today's potions lessons were going to be a nightmare.
Whispers quickly broke out and Minerva tapped her glass as Albus stood up.
'Good morning students.' he said brightly. 'I know I don't normally address you in the mornings but with the article in today's paper being such as it is, I feel it would be prudent to do so in order to douse any flames of rumour before they can run wild.' The students were listening avidly and silence had once again permeated the hall. Albus held up the copy of the Daily Prophet that Harry had left behind.
'I can promise you all right now that this is false. Lord Voldemort has been destroyed, as many of you who have parents who are Aurors or Order members, or were otherwise there that day, already know.' He didn't elaborate as to why any other adults who were not Aurors or Order members might have been at the final battle that day but most of the students worked it out as numerous eyes flicked to the Slytherin table.
'The wards and charms around Mr Potter's relative's home were set to fall automatically at the Dark Lord's demise as that is what they were tied to, and they did indeed do that. I set the original wards over twenty five years ago and when Harry cast the Fidelius Charm eight years ago he had no way of knowing that when the original wards fell, it would too. He is in no way responsible for what some still to be captured Death Eaters have done and I will not stand to hear anyone who says otherwise. Lord Voldemort is dead and cannot return and the Ministry will eventually see through their bigoted eyes to the truth.' Dumbledore gazed sternly out over the speechless tables.
'Until that time we will all stand behind Mr Potter. As I believe was mentioned at one point, he sacrificed almost everything to bring peace to our world and it's time our world gave some peace back to him. I trust you all, as proud students of this school will do all you can to uphold this request.' He stayed standing for several more moments before nodding curtly and sitting.
'That was lovely, Albus.' Minerva whispered.
'I just hope it works.' Dumbledore muttered. 'I must go and fire call Cornelius. He must be mad to think we wouldn't retaliate against such slander.' The headmaster was still muttering to himself as he got up and disappeared out the side door of the hall just as the students began moving towards their classes.
The students were right about potions. Professor Snape had stalked around the classroom, taking a plethora of points off for the most minor of infractions and reducing even the toughest Slytherins and Gryffindors to blubbering messes. By the last class, seventh years, Madame Pomfrey had a full hospital wing and a completely depleted stock of calming potions.
'Right, three feet on the uses of Dragon Blood in illegal potions on my desk by tomorrow night. Now, get out.' Snape bellowed, slamming the door shut after the students had practically run from the room.
'Bloody hell.' He groaned, dropping into his chair and burying his head in his hands. He was interrupted moments later by a knock at his door.
'Excuse me Professor.' Came a timid voice at the door.
Snape groaned again. 'What is it?' he ground out, flicking his wand to open the door once again.
A sixth year Hufflepuff stood nervously in the doorway.
Snape rolled his eyes. 'What is it, Miss Henry?' he snapped.
The Hufflepuff swallowed. 'It's Professor Potter, Sir.' She stammered.
'What about him?' Snape asked quickly, unable to keep the concern out of his voice and cursing himself inwardly for it.
'He, um, he's gone.'
Snape eyes shot open and he shot out of his chair and across the room startling the young woman. 'What do you mean he's gone?' He said urgently.
Tabitha Henry was shaking slightly as she went on. 'About twenty minutes into class he put down his text book and looked at us. He seemed to be going to say something but instead he just shook his head and walked out. We waited to see if he would come back but about twenty minutes later we saw him out the window. He had a heavy cloak on and was walking down to the gates.' Tabitha looked nervously around her as if she wanted nothing more than to flee. 'He apparated away.'
Snape closed his eyes and opened them. 'Did he say anything?'
Tabitha shook her head but Snape could see she had something else to say. 'What is it?'
'Professor Potter, he…he seemed closed.'
'Closed?' Snape asked quizzically.
'His eyes. They were like…dead.' She finished softly, cringing slightly away from him.
Snape glanced at his watch before quickly heading towards Harry's rooms. 'Ten points to Hufflepuff.' He called over his shoulder.
'Harry.' He called out as he let himself into Harry's rooms. 'Harry, are you here?' There was no answer. Snape quickly moved to search the bedroom. Most of his clothes were still there as were the rest of his belongings.
It was then that he spied a folded parchment sitting on the table and he quickly moved to pick it up.
My dearest Severus,
Please do not think that I have left you, for I have not. I can't live without you, you know that. I just cannot live in this world any longer. I can't stand to have the efforts of my entire life so ridiculed. Maybe it is very cowardly of me to run away but I can't stay, and I never professed to having such courage anyway. If I saw you first before I went I know you would convince me to do otherwise and I know in the long run it would be my downfall.
I cannot go anywhere in the wizarding world without people thinking they know who I am and what is best for me. Telling me they don't believe me or don't trust me, or that I have a responsibility to witches and wizards everywhere. I don't want any responsibility. I crave the anonymity the muggle world can now provide.
I beseech you to come with me. Please, I cannot lose you again. My life would not be worth living. You have done your duty to Albus and to the rest and it's time to live for you. When you asked me to marry you last night I was the happiest man in the world, particularly after what happened the day before, but after the events of this morning I realised that it is never going to end and I don't think I can live with the continual highs and lows my life has been and will continue to be if I stay.
I just want to live with you in peace. Please come to me. I can show you a life filled with love and happiness, away from those who would continue to judge or try to harm. You will know where I am if you do choose to come.
Please Severus. I love you so much.
No matter what, I will always be yours, never forget that.
Severus took several deep breaths, desperately trying to stop the tears that were running down his face. The letter was so filled with heartbreak and love that he didn't know what to say. He had a choice to make, and it was an easy one.
Harry laid the note on the table and walked swiftly from the room. He had taken nothing from the room bar his heavy cloak which he now pulled on as the limped through the main doors of the castle.
The walk down to the gates was slow but as soon as he was outside the wards, he apparated away, appearing moments later in a graveyard. He carefully made his way through the headstones till he came to four side by side in the corner.
James Potter. Died 1981. A true Gryffindor to the very end.
Lily Potter. Died 1981. She died protecting her greatest gift.
Sirius Black. Died 1996. A hero wrongly accused. His laughter will live on.
Remus Lupin. Died 2001. The curse of a monster yet the kindest of men.
He stopped and just stared down at the headstones for several hours before he finally spoke.
'Hey Mum, Dad, Sirius, Mooney.' He said softly. 'I hope things are better for you now. I did my best. I tried and I did defeat him. I finally took that monster's life in payment for yours, but now I feel so empty.' Tears began streaming down Harry's cheeks and he choked back a sob.
'I need you all so much. I need you to hold me and tell me you love me.' Harry's cane fell from his hands as he wrapped his arms around himself. 'I just don't understand. I did everything they asked. I destroyed Voldemort. What more do they want?' Sobs choked him now and he struggled to speak.
'I need you, please.' He begged. 'I feel so alone right now. I was so happy last night and now they ruined it again. Why can't they just let me be? I wish you could hold me now, Mum, Dad. I feel so numb, I feel so alone.'
Suddenly two strong arms circled him from behind and a soft voice whispered in his ear. 'You'll never be alone, Harry. I'll always be with you.' Severus turned Harry around so he could look into the red rimmed green eyes and wrapped his arms tighter around the lithe form, holding him close to his own body.
'Feel me, Harry. Feel how much I love you. Feel my heart, it beats for you. Feel my body, it wants nothing more than yours.'
Harry broke down, heart wrenching sobs tearing through him as he desperately clung to the older man. Severus continued to hold him close, whispering soothingly in his ear.
'Shh, Harry.' Severus whispered. 'It's going to be alright. Everything will be alright.'
'No.' Harry cried, his voice muffled in Snape's chest. 'No, it won't. I can't go back there. If I do it will never be over. They will always want something from me. They will always expect something from me. I can't. I just can't.'
'Shh, it's alright. You don't have to go back.' Snape crooned softly.
'But I don't want to leave you. Why does it have to be so hard?' Harry sobbed.
Snape grasped Harry shoulders and pushed him away slightly. 'Harry, listen to me.' He said firmly. 'Who said you had to leave me. Don't you remember what you wrote in that letter?' Harry blinked several times, tears still trickling down his cheeks. He thought back to what he had written.
'You will know where to find me if you choose to come.' Harry whispered contemplatively. 'Choose.' He looked up them and Severus almost stepped back at the hope shining in those bright green eyes. 'Does this mean you have chosen?' Harry's voice was pleading softly.
Severus nodded, tenderly cupping the younger man's cheek. 'I lost you once Harry. I refuse to let it happen again. And you are right.' Harry's expression became incredulous at that statement but Severus ignored it as he went on. 'I have fulfilled my duty to Albus and to the Order. I have yet to atone for all of my sins but what is to say that that cannot be done just as easily in the muggle world too.'
'Oh Severus.' Harry whispered.
Snape smiled and kissed the younger man gently. 'We have a life to live, Harry. Together. And now we can have the peace to live that life.'
'Oh god Sev. I love you.' Harry breathed, leaning up and pressing his lips firmly on his lover's.
'I love you too, Harry.' Severus whispered, kissing him back just as strongly before pulling away and bending down to pick up Harry's cane. As they were about to leave Harry stopped and turned back to his parent's graves.
'Thank you.' He said softly. 'Thank you for listening and for sending him to me.' A soft breeze blew around them, filling Harry with a sense of joy. He turned back to see black eyes peering at him intently. 'They are happy for me.'
Snape smiled. 'I know.' He said wrapping his arm around the younger man. Just before they moved Snape turned back slightly also.
'I will look after him.' He promised and they walked slowly away.
The sequel "Harry Potter and the War with the Minister" will be posted shortly.