I: A big boy
"When will he come, Mum?"
"Soon, dear." Lily Potter stroked her son´s hair gently. Harry had been asking about Albus´ arrival every five minutes ever since he left his room this morning.
"Harry, my boy," groaned James, "he won´t arrive one second earlier if you keep asking again and again."
"I know, Dad," Harry grinned foolishly, "but there´s nothing else to do than ask."
James didn´t answer, for what was he to say. You could read every book in the library only so often before it got boring. They had been in hiding for nearly ten years now. The Fidelius Charm had protected them well over the years after they had discovered Peter´s attempt to betray them just in time. Sirius kept their secret well while the traitor rotted in Azkaban.
Finally, before Harry could ask again, there was a knock at the front door and Albus stepped into the house.
"Uncle Albus!" Harry flung himself into the old man´s embrace.
"Happy birthday," the old wizard cried cheerfully. "Happy birthday, my boy! Look what I brought you!" He produced a parcel wrapped in gaudy orange paper with magenta stars on it.
Harry reached for it eagerly, but the old man held it out of his reach. "Did you learn today´s lessons?"
"No!" Harry tried to supress a grin, but he did a poor job at it.
"No?" Dumbledore regarded the boy over the rim of his glasses with a theatrical scowl. "Why´s that?"
"I worked extra hard yesterday," Harry hopped around the old wizard like a house elf who had just gotten permission to clean the attic. "So I can play all day with my presents."
"You knew you´d get any?" Albus was all surprise.
"Of course," giggled Harry. "I always get birthday presents. Now give it to me!"
Albus laughed goodnaturedly and handed the parcel to the boy. "Here! And this is for you, too." He handed Harry a letter with the Hogwarts crest on it.
"My Hogwarts letter!" Harry ripped it open. "That´s so cool! If only I could go and do the shopping!"
"You know that you can´t," said James. "It´s too dangerous."
"I know," said Harry solemnly, "but I can wish I could."
The rest of the summer was spent with more lessons. Lily taught Harry potions and charms. The boy was quite apt at spellwork, but brewing didn´t come to him as easily. Some of the potions from her fourth year book were concocted successfully only in the third or fourth attempt.
James was Harry´s transfiguration and duelling teacher. Duelling was Harry´s most important subject with the prophecy, which had made him a target to Voldemort´s wrath when he was a baby.
Every day the small family discussed the prophecy during their meals. How it had forced the Potters to go into hiding. How James´ best friend Sirius had to leave the country – he had a farm somewhere in Argentina nowadays – to minimize the risk of discovery for the Potters. And, most importantly, how Harry needed to be very careful and trust nobody in order to not make the sacrifices that had been made to protect him futile.
In the afternoon of September, 1st, Albus came to pick Harry up. Going on the express was too risky for the boy, who was destined to destroy the Dark Lord.
II: A new home
They were a bit early, so uncle Albus took Harry to his office. It was quite interesting, but also a bit frightening as Harry had never before been in a room with so many people, even if those in uncle Albus´ office were only portraits.
"You will get used to having company quite quickly," said the headmaster and offered a plate of chocolate biscuits to go with the cocoa Harry was drinking. "You´ll see."
Not for the first time, Harry asked himself whether the old man was using legilimency on him. He couldn´t tell as he had only theoretical knowledge of the subject. He hoped that Mum was right and there was somebody who could teach him at Hogwarts. Voldemort was a skilled legilimens after all.
Harry had barely finished his snack, when an elderly woman came and lead him downstairs to the entrance hall. There they met a group of boys and girls of Harry´s age. The other first years, he knew. Harry eyed them curiously as they were the first children he had ever met.
Most of them wore rather simple black cloaks with their uniforms. In fact there was only one boy, who had a cloak similar to the silk one the headmaster had bought for Harry. The blond seemed to have spotted his only equal in the group just when Harry saw him.
"Hello," he said and extended a hand. "I´m Draco Malfoy."
"Harry Potter." They shook hands.
"You weren´t on the train. I´d remember you," the blond ignored the two plump boys he had been talking to before in favour of Harry.
"I apparated. Side-along of course."
The blond snickered. "I wouldn´t assume an eleven year old could apparate on his own. I like a good sense of humour, Harry."
Harry felt an urge to tell Draco that he, in fact, could apparate, but only short distances as their house hadn´t been big enough to try bigger ones. But then he remembered that nobody must know about his lessons. ´He has power the Dark Lord knows not,´ the prophecy said. Albus had said that it meant Harry had to know more magic than the Dark Lord expected him to and so he – Albus – had brought a wand for Harry when he was four. Then the lessons had started. It had been difficult in the beginning, but got easier when he learned to read and write.
The elderly woman, Professor McGonagall, cleared her throat and lectured them on the Hogwarts houses. As if anybody needed that. Who´d not know about them? Harry scrutinized the other children´s faces. Some really looked as if it was all new to them.
Draco had watched them, too. "Now you know who is muggle-born," he whispered as they went into the great hall side by side.
The sorting was interesting. The hat sang its song and Harry listened closely just like Dad had instructed him to. The hat spoke about war and peace, about losing people, about violence and torture and about Hogwarts as a safe haven for the young.
Then they had to put on the hat and it placed them into their houses. Draco went to Slytherin.
"Hello?" a voice asked as Harry put on the hat.
"Who are you? Get out of my mind!" Harry tried to use what he had read about occlumency, but the voice stayed and talked on.
"What an unfriendly fellow!"
"I´m not unfriendly! You´re being rude, invading my mind without permission."
"Not only unfriendly, arrogant, too."
"Mind your own business. I´m the Chosen One. I deserve a little respect."
The hat didn´t care to discuss matters any further. He cried "Slytherin" and Harry threw it onto the stool before he went to join Draco.
III: No goodbye
"Harry," said Professor Snape, Harry´s head of house, "the headmaster wishes to see you. The password is sherbet lemon."
Harry nodded and smiled at the man. Uncle Albus had told him that Professor Snape was going to be one of the teachers to give him extra lessons. They had only waited for the sorting in order to fit the lessons into his schedule. He had to attend the first year lessons for secrecy´s sake although only baby-stuff was taught there. He was, of course, going to work on his own assignments whenever it was possible.
When he approached the headmaster´s office, he heard angry voices. One of them was his father´s. Harry was just going to knock, when James spoke again.
"He´s no son of mine! Slytherin! The next Dark Lord he´s going to be! I sacrificed a decade of my life to nurish a viper at my bossom!"
"James!" Uncle Albus sounded livid. Harry had never heard him speak like this. "Harry is your only child! How can you speak about him like this?"
"He´s my only child because I couldn´t sentence another child to the poor excuse of a life we have been leading! We always wanted a big family!"
Harry didn´t listen any more. He backed down the spiral staircase he had just climbed and sat on the floor. His father didn´t want him! He, Harry, hadn´t been but a burden! The boy bit back his tears and with an effort he returned to uncle Albus´ door. There were no more voices. Harry knocked.
Professors Snape and McGonagall were to teach Harry. Snape was responsible for potions, duelling and occlumency, McGonagall for transfiguration and charms.
The first lesson was in the evening of their first school day. Snape had given Harry detention for ´blatant inaptitude´. They flooed to the room of requirement from Snape´s office, where McGonagall was already waiting for them.
"Today," said Snape sternly, "we will test how much you know already."
Harry nodded. It was a long practical exam. In the end Harry was exhausted and both teachers looked smug.
"Impressive, ," said the witch. "I will devise a plan what you´ll learn this year. We´ll meet here again on Monday. You will always floo here from Professor Snape´s office."
"You´ll have to serve many detentions," said Snape when they were back to the small room with its scary glass jars. "Remember to behave accordingly. I can´t give you detention for nothing."
"And don´t tell about your lessons."
"No, Sir. I know I can trust nobody." Nobody at all.
IV: Enemies and friends
Harry had difficulties to adjust to his new life at Hogwarts. It wasn´t the extra lessons with Snape and McGonagall, no, those were just fine. He could deal with them, although the magic they taught him was very advanced and difficult to master. It was the other children he had troubles with.
Harry had never seen a peer before. All his life he had stayed at home with his parents – sometimes he wondered whether his mother still wanted him – to protect him from the Dark Lord. Voldemort. Harry had no idea how to talk to the other children. And the other children had no idea how to deal with him.
It was the Gryffindors who were giving him the most troubles. Prominent among them was a slim redhaired boy, Ronald Weasley, who had a brother in third year. Weasley always wore shabby clothes, his books were second hand and at potions his tools looked like they had been used by hords of people before. The most striking thing about the boy was his disgust for Slytherins and his eagerness to voice it whenever possible. He had a go at Harry the first week and when Harry didn´t much to defend himself – he had never learned how to do it with words and magic was out of question – he made him his favourite target.
Luckily Draco had no scruples to use magic and was willing to act on his friend´s behalf.
Then there was the Granger girl. She was quite clever, but also bossy and ambitious. She seemed to resent Harry for being a good student. (Professor Snape had advised him to do his assignments in lessons correctly, but not too quickly. He, Harry, didn´t need to pretend to be an inapt student.)
The only good person in Gryffindor house seemed to be a plump boy, Neville Longbottom. He sought Harry out after two weeks.
"I know about the prophecy," he said when they had closed the door of an empty classroom. "I was born one day before you and for a little while they thought I might be the Chosen One. When it turned out that it was you he was after, my parents were able to leave our hideaway with me. I know how you had to hide all your life and I´m ashamed to admit that I´m glad it was you and not me."
Harry was dumbfounded. Neville knew!
"It has to stay a secret!" was all he could think of saying.
"Of course," said the other boy. "Don´t be afraid, I´m not going to ruin everything after what your family sacrificed. I want to tell you that I know about your destiny and that I´m willing to help if you need it."
"Thank you," Harry smiled weakly. There wasn´t much Neville could do. The prophecy made it clear. It was Harry´s destiny to kill Voldemort or die by his hand. Not Neville´s.
"Does your Slytherin friend know? Draco?"
"No, and he can´t."
"I thought so," Neville pointed out. "Well, I´m willing to listen if you need someone to talk."
The door was opened and Draco entered.
"Are there any problems, Harry?" Draco had adopted the position of Harry´s protector after he had realised that the other boy couldn´t deal with the others on his own.
"No, Draco," Harry said softly. "Neville and I were just talking. He´s nice, Neville."
Draco eyed the Gryffindor suspiciously, but from that day on, the three boys were friends.
Both, Neville and Draco, invited Harry to spend Christmas with them, but Harry had to decline. It was too risky, said his head of house. Harry had to stay at the school as it was the only safe place for him. This was the moment Harry realised he had exchanged one prison for an other. This one was only bigger and allowed visitors.
Harry was the only Slytherin to stay behind, but he didn´t mind. He never had much contact with his other housemates, Crabbe and Goyle and Nott. He missed Draco, though.
As Christmas drew nearer, he wondered how Christmas at Hogwarts was going to be. So far he had celebrated it with his parents and sometimes uncle Albus, though the old wizard could only come if only very few students stayed at school for the season.
It turned out to be spectacular. The teachers put up a huge Christmas tree in the great hall and the house tables were replaced with one in the center of the hall. There weren´t but a dozen of students and the teachers. Harry sat beside his head of house and they pulled a Christmas cracker together. Snape scowled at the hat inside it and gave it to Harry, who put it on after shyly glancing around to see whether other people did.
"Students get their presents in their common rooms," Snape said when they walked down to the dungeons later. "As you´re the only one, I thought you might enjoy to have them delivered to my quarters."
Harry nodded. What good was a present if you had nobody to aah and ooh when you opened it. Though it was hard to picture his stern professor oohing over a Christmas parcel.
Snape led the way to his quarters and conjured a pillow and blanket for Harry to sleep on the sofa. When the boy woke the next morning, there was a small Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. Several parcels lay beneath it.
Snape insisted on having breakfast first, but then Harry was allowed to open his presents. There was a book on advanced transfiguration from Professor McGonagall, a fanged frisbee from uncle Albus and a subscription to Potions Monthly from Snape himself. Draco and Neville had sent some sweets. There was no parcel from Mum and Dad.
Shortly before lunch a tall man with black hair and a beard came.
"Albus told me that he was here," the man smiled at professor Snape.
The potions master looked as if he had bitten into a lemon. "Over there." He pointed to where Harry tried to play with his frisbee.
"It will be more fun if you play with a friend." The man smiled. "Hello Harry." He hurried closer and hugged Harry tightly.
The boy stiffened at the contact and the man broke it immediately.
"Sorry, Harry. I´m your uncle Sirius." The man´s eyes twinkled kindly.
"Aren´t you in Argentina?"
"I was, Harry, I was. But now the secret is no longer to be protected and I was able to return. Here." He held out a parcel and a letter.
Harry opened the letter first as he recognized his mother´s handwriting.
"Dear Harry," the letter said, "since you went to Hogwarts and your father and I left our hiding, we have been targets to deatheater attacks thrice. Albus says it´s too risky for us to stay. Therefore we move to Argentina. Uncle Sirius still owns that farm and we can live there, he says. We´ll be back for your summer holidays, of course. Love Mum"
The parcel was a jar of Argentinian herbs from uncle Sirius.
Uncle Sirius didn´t stay long. Harry didn´t know what to say and the silence was quite awkward. The boy was relieved when the man left.
A little later that day Harry was, again, target of Weasley´s anger. This time the other boy had brought his brothers – he actually had two, one in third year and one in fifth – and Harry had to use magic to fend them off. Three school boys were, of course, no match for the Chosen One, but professor Snape wasn´t very happy with Harry.
"I told you not to reveal your true power!" he raged. Then he obliviated the Weasley boys.
VI: Summer vacation
Exams came and went by nearly unnoticed. Harry had to sit them or the others would be suspicious, but it didn´t really matter what he wrote on his papers. His teachers knew that his abilities were far beyond first year, in some subjects, especially defence against the dark arts, far beyond what Hogwarts taught at all. But what was even more, he was the Chosen One. Voldemort wasn´t going to ask for his OWLs or NEWTs.
Harry spent the whole History of Magic exam wondering where he was going to spend his holidays. Back at their old house? Mum had said that they were coming to see him during the summer. Were they going to stay at Godric´s Hollow (funny, Harry had learned the name of his home town when McGonagall had mentioned it) or at Hogwarts? Harry couldn´t think of any other safe place to go.
Professor Snape informed him that the headmaster – uncle Albus – wanted to see him the very last day of term. Draco had been going on about his trip to France with his family for weeks and Neville sung the praise of Nepal in advance. Finally, Harry was going to learn where he´d go. Godric´s Hollow didn´t look spectacular in comparison to France or Nepal, but Harry hoped it was it, not Hogwarts. Living at the castle with his parents sounded strange.
"Harry, my boy," uncle Albus motioned him to an armchair in front of the fireplace. "A letter from your parents arrived only this morning."
"When will they come? Where will I meet them?"
Uncle Albus sighed. Reluctantly he handed Harry a piece of parchment.
"Albus," it said, "we won´t come for summer. Nobody can expect us to with the baby. I won´t put Eric in danger nor will I lock him away for two months. Please inform Harry and give him a hug from us. James"
Harry had to bite back tears. They weren´t going to come. He was abandoned.
"Eric?" he whispered.
"Your baby brother, Harry," uncle Albus said kindly. "He was born in May."
"Why didn´t they tell me? Why didn´t you tell me?" Harry felt hurt like never before. For more than a month he had been a big brother.
"I didn´t know," said uncle Albus. "I asked Sirius after I got the letter. Sirius knew. He didn´t say anything because he thought we were informed, too. I´m sorry, Harry."
"So, where will I go for the summer?" Harry thought that a change of topic might help with the tears that were still threatening to fall, but the only topic he could think of wasn´t very cheerful either.
"You will stay here," professor Snape said from behind him.
Harry hadn´t noticed him enter.
"Hogwarts is the only place where you and the people who are with you are safe. Anything else would be too risky by far."
"But everybody leaves for the summer! What am I to do all summer?"
"Professor Snape and I are going to stay," uncle Albus smiled benignly. "You can explore the grounds, maybe swim in the lake. Did you ever try it? And we can continue your lessons."
They did as the headmaster had said. They explored the grounds and swam in the lake. Severus – he gave Harry permission to call him by his given name after the other students had left – was a good swimmer. They also played some games of water polo, but Severus wasn´t so good at that. Nevertheless it was fun. Severus lost spectacularly and Harry´s prize was the tale of how Voldemort had killed the giant squid to punish the merpeople who had refused to join his ranks five years ago.
"The lake was like fish soup. Albus tried to clean it, but it wasn´t possible. The squid was too big and Voldmort had turned it to mash. The merpeople had to abandon their village, it was no longer inhabitable."
"Where are they now?" Harry asked curiously.
"Did you ever see the aquarium on the window sill in Albus´ office? When the situation got really desperate, he shrunk the whole population and put them in there. The plan is to put them back into the lake when the remains of the squid will be gone."
"But the lake seems all right," Harry pointed out.
"Only on the surface." Snape looked rather grim.
Uncle Sirius visited twice, but it was as awkward as Christmas and at Harry´s birthday he didn´t bother to come any longer. He sent a parcel (a new cloak) and that was it.
There were also lessons. Mostly duelling with uncle Albus – he had no time during the school year and it was important for Harry to practice with different opponents – and brewing with Severus.
"Where´s your permission form?" Draco waved his in front of Harry´s face. "You have to have one! Hogsmeade will be half the fun without you!"
Harry went to Severus that very evening. "All the third years go," he whined. "I want to, too."
"You know very well you can´t. It´s too unsafe. And besides I can´t sign the form. I´m not your guardian."
"Severus," Harry argued. "My parents haven´t seen me since I set foot into Hogwarts," he felt a jolt of jealousy for Eric and Violet, "how are they supposed to sign."
"Well, technically, your godfather could sign. Thinking of it, he probably would, but as I said, it is out of question. The headmaster would overrule him, if he did."
Harry went back to his dorm to inform Draco that he couldn´t go.
"Crap," swore the blond. "well, if they won´t let you, they can´t know."
Harry gaped at his friend. Sneak out of the castle? Uncle Albus would be livid! But then the old man always forgave him. "Do you think it can be done?" Harry asked eagerly.
"Of course," laughed the blond. "People do it all the time."
Draco and Neville met Harry at the edge of the forrest, near the magical village.
"Were you seen?" Neville asked.
"No, I was careful," Harry linked his arms to his friends´ and the three boys set out for the village.
They hadn´t reached the first house, when the flash of a spell hit a bush to Draco´s right. Harry let go of the others and drew his wand. The three boys cast spell after spell at their attacker. The duel was tough, but in the end Harry succeeded.
"That was close," he sighed when the attacker, a man in a black cloak and a white mask, dropped to the ground.
"Too close," whispered Draco. The blond was pale like death itself. Harry looked at his friends and felt all blood leave his face. Neville lay beside the spot where Draco knelt. He stared at the sky unblinkingly.
"Return to the castle immediately," Severus´ voice was cold as ice. Harry didn´t dare question where he came from nor how he knew he was needed.
Professor McGonagall´s eyes were red during their next extra lesson. Her tone wasn´t as soft as usual, but she showed Harry how to conjure things out of thin air.
Neither Severus nor Albus told Harry off. Severus, because he saw in Harry´s eyes how guilty he felt and Albus, because Harry was right. The old man was going to forgive him anything.
Draco was obliviated before Severus returned to the castle with him. The blond couldn´t know about Harry´s abilities.
VIII: Triwizard Champion
The minister of magic, Elphias Dodge, introduced them to the teachers of Beauxbatons (Madame Maxime) and Durmstrang (Vladimir Pushkin). Delegations from both schools had joined the students of Hogwarts for the triwizard tournament.
The Durmstrang delegation sat with the Slytherins. Harry and Draco tried to get Victor Krum´s attention, but the Quidditch star ignored them.
Both fourth years submitted their names to the Goblet of Fire and Harry felt a jolt of pride when he was chosen to compete for Hogwarts. Albus was angry with Harry for the first time. "We protected your secret for years and then you go and enter a tournament! Harry!" Albus paced his office.
Victor Krum was much more interested in Harry after he became a champion, but somehow Harry didn´t find the Bulgarian interesting any longer.
"This year you will have plenty of company for Christmas," Severus said as they took a break in their duel.
"The Yule ball."
"A ball?" Harry was taken aback. He knew nothing about balls, nor did he want to know.
"Whom will you ask out?" Severus asked.
"Dunno. Do I have to go?"
"It´s tradition. The champions open the dance."
Harry groaned. Maybe he could find Voldemort and convince him of killing him before Christmas.
It was Ginny Weasley, whom Harry asked to the ball in the end. She had long red hair and reminded him a bit of his mother. And as a bonus, it angered her brothers.
Harry looked splendid in his dark green dress robes. Ginny wore a second hand robe in a lighter green. Professor McGonagall pointed out they looked stunning together before she led the three champions and their dates to the great hall.
Dancing, Harry found, wasn´t so bad. The lessons with Severus had done him good although he wouldn´t have guessed it in advance. Severus had been rather clumsy when he played a girl. Things went easier with Ginny. Harry enjoyed the dance so much that he asked her several more times. Ginny accepted graciously, but shortly before midnight she lost her temper.
"Whatever for do you want to dance with me," she burst out. "You´re stepping on my feet all the time and you never tried to kiss me. You aren´t even talking to me while we dance! So why, pray tell, do you want to dance with me?"
Harry´s face burned with humiliation. He fled the hall as quickly as possible.
In June, he won the Triwizard Cup.
During the holidays between Harry´s sixth and seventh year Albus returned to Hogwarts from an outing badly hurt. Harry and Severus had to work all night to prevent the curse that affected his left hand from spreading in his body.
In the early morning hours it became certain. They had succeeded to slow the curse down, but the headmaster was going to die within a year. After a quick breakfast, Harry cried himself to sleep in the small bedroom in Severus´ quarters the potions master had added for his use years ago. Uncle Albus was like a third parent to him – or rather like the only parent since James and Lily Potter had decided to start a new family in Argentina (Harry had two brothers and three sisters now. Eric and Norman, Violet, Rose and Daisy according to Sirius). He had known him all his life, but soon Albus was going to leave him, too.
The old man called for Harry that very evening.
"Harry," he started after pouring them tea, "my time has become limited. I want to use it to give you a chance of overcoming Voldemort and having the life you deserve after you have fulfilled your destiny. What hurt me so badly yesterday night was a Horcrux, a dark device to preserve his soul and make him immortal. Voldemort has several. I destroyed a ring yesterday, but at a high price, and a book some years ago. As I have little time to complete the task and you´re skilled as well as mature enough to face it, I suggest we work together to make the best of the months I´ve left, my boy."
They spent hours and hours investigating and searching, with Severus as their only help. Little by little they hunted Voldemort´s soul down. There were a cup, a dagger and a tiara. The tiara was hidden at Hogwarts itself. It was their shortest quest once they had discovered what the horcrux was.
"That leaves two more," said Albus. He was much weaker than he used to be.
"Voldemort has a pet, Nagini, a snake, which he always keeps close to himself. Could it be a horcrux?" Snape suggested.
"Quite possible," agreed Albus.
Later that evening Harry confronted Severus. "How do you know about Voldemort´s pet?"
Severus sighed and rolled up his sleeve. He waved his wand over his left forearm and the Dark Mark revealed itself.
"I´ve been working as Albus´ spy for years."
"Isn´t that dangerous?"
"Then why do you do it?"
"It was I," Severus confessed after a moment´s hesitation, "who told him about the prophecy. It was I who put you in danger. I owe you. And I will be free of him when you finally kill him."
Harry bit his lip. "So you´re doing it for me?"
"And for myself," Severus said honestly. "I want to be free as much as you want it."
Harry nodded curtly.
Two weeks later, he and Albus went to a cave near the coast. There, in the middle of a lake full of inferi, they found the sixth horcrux, a gold locket. It was protected by a vile potion and Albus drank it all in order to get hold of the horcrux. Harry took the dying man back to Hogwarts, but there was nothing he or Severus could do.
X: The snake´s nest
Harry was glad he had finished his schooling. Sitting in classes he didn´t need was annoying. Being a fully trained wizard officially gave him more freedom, although he still wasn´t able to leave the grounds. Severus wouldn´t allow it.
Draco, of age and in possession of a small fortune his grandfather had left him, came to visit frequently and they explored the grounds together. The blond, who didn´t remember how Neville had died, tried to push Harry to leave the grounds, but Harry didn´t dare. He´d never risk Draco´s life.
It was in November that he finally gave in to Draco´s pleading. They sneaked off the grounds near Hogsmeade, but again Harry wasn´t to see the village. The moment they left the Hogwarts grounds, Draco seized Harry and apparated them away.
Harry was dumbfounded. His wand was taken and his hands were bound before he could recover from his surprise. Draco stepped away from him, his face a mask of guilt.
"Finally," hissed a high-pitched voice. "I´ve been waiting for you year after year, Harry Potter." The man who circled Harry might have been handsome once, but his eyes were red and his pupils were slitted. His nose reminded Harry of a snake´s.
Harry struggled to free his hands, but Voldemort merely laughed and the cloaked figures around them followed his lead.
"I´ll kill you of course," Voldemort said, suddenly earnest. "But after the long time of waiting you will understand that I want to enjoy it. – Crucio!"
Harry lost track of time after the second cruciatus curse. He´d never imagined there could be so much pain.
Suddenly Severus was there. He freed Harry´s hands and threw his wand to the boy. Harry´s well-trained reflexes kicked in and he dodged Voldemort´s next curse, replying with one of his own.
Harry and the Dark Lord duelled for what seemed like eternity. Snape kept the deatheaters from interfering and killed the snake. If Harry had doubted it was a horcrux he´d have believed it upon seeing Voldemort´s face. Their battle became even fiercer. Harry attacked as viciously as he could. He wanted it to end there and then. Voldemort shielded himself from the boy´s assault to the best of his abilities, but to no success. Harry broke his shields and cast Sectumsempra.
"Harry! You did it! I´m so sorry! He threatened..." Draco´s sentence stayed unfinished as Harry cast a second Sectumsempra.
"Harry," Snape´s voice was soft. "You did it! You´re free. We are free."
An arm surrounded Harry´s shoulder and for several minutes the wizarding hero stood his face burried in Severus´ robes. Harry allowed relief to wash over him and for some minutes he cried.
"Severus," Harry lifted his head. "I don´t understand."
"What is it?"
"The prophecy. It said ´Power the Dark Lord knows not´, but I didn´t use such power. It was a simple duel not unlike those we practiced."
"I think I can explain," Severus rubbed Harry´s back and Harry´s lifted his arms to finally reciprocate the older wizard´s embrace. "The power he knew not was your hunger for life. Voldemort was afraid of life and feared death as a part of it. You on the other hand want to live with all the consequences. Death, too. Therefore you fought an offensive battle while Voldemort put all his magic into defence."
"I see." Harry leaned his head heavily onto Severus´ shoulder.
"You won, Harry, and now you´re free. We both are finally free." Severus stroked Harry´s hair.
"Severus, you are the only person who never betrayed me. Thank you."
"You´re welcome, Harry."
"You do realise, of course, that I can´t lose you."
Severus stiffened in Harry´s embrace.
"I will be good to you, Severus. . . Imperio!"