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Undiscovered

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“You're not seriously considering this Albus?”

“Severus, I implore you to see reason. We are running out of time, Voldermort has already begun to search and it won't be long before he figures out its location.” 

The old wizard truly did begin too look a bit disturbed and his demeanour was serious but Severus was simply not backing down from this,

“I understand that but we will Find. Another. Way. I will search away from England or...”

“Severus” Dumbledore cut him off sharply. “We have been searching for weeks already, and as much as I am loathe to admit it…. We need a parseltongue and we have a willing participant. We are not sending him out alone or unguarded either, you will be there."

Snape inwardly groaned at the thought, to spend that much time with Potter would surely be torture. 

“He is not part of the Order, nor is he ever ready to be! His arrogance and impulsive nature will surely compromise any covert mission, to say nothing of how much this will inflate Potter's ego. Who's to say he won't tell all of Gryffindor about what we are doing in a bid for more attention?”

Dumbledore regarded him coldly and he knew his feeble protests would not be enough.

“I trust you to impress on him the secrecy of this mission. Severus we have spent long enough searching, it's time we use the resources we have. I trust you in this and I hope you would trust my judgment as well.” 

Snape inwardly grimaced, there was no way he could protest now without it looking like he didn't trust Dumbledore or was willing to do a disservice to the Order simply out of spite. Sometimes the old man was an excellent manipulator, he simply knew exactly which buttons to press.

“Very well headmaster.”

Dumbledore's annoyingly cheery smile returned and Severus began to exit the room, before he got to the door however the old wizard spoke, 

“You never know Severus, you might even find the boy isn't such terrible company; after all he is Lily's son.”

Snape simply scoffed and made his way down the the stone staircase grumbling about "petulant teenagers" and "meddling old men". 

***


Harry was having what had to be one of his worst summer's. He had heard practically nothing from Ron, Hermione or Sirius and told nothing of Voldemorts activities since he returned. However these were the least of his problems; far more annoying was the Dursley's. He had never been exactly loved here but it was getting steadily worse and worse, his back and torso were littered with bruises and cuts. His Uncle had been more heavy handed ever since Aunt Marge had died and he had been demoted in his job at Grunning's. Not that this was any of Harry's fault but that didn't seem to matter. He was pretty much resigned to it at this point, he couldn't really go anywhere else due to the blood-wards and it wasn't like he had to spend the rest of his life here; A few more years and he would be out of here and free to do what he wanted. His heart leapt at the thought. This was just one thing he had to deal with, take a bit of pain then get back to Hogwarts and see his friends. Besides this was nothing compared to his previous escapades right? he could hardly complain about a few knocks from his Uncle in comparison to to being cruico’d by Voldermort. He shivered at the thought of the graveyard and….Cedric. 

'BOY! Get down here!' 

He quickly got up, not willing to risk his Uncle’s wrath simply to dwell in his own depressing thoughts. 

When he got to the bottom of the stairs his Uncle simply pushed a bucket and sponge into his hands. 

“You’ve got 10 minutes, I want the car sparkling.” with that he promptly left.

Harry walked out onto the driveway and stared at the brutish car he thought matched its owner and began working. Only a couple minutes passed before someone Harry truly detested approached from the road. 

“Hey Freak! would you like some help.” He said with a devilish grin

Harry just hoped he could get Dudley to leave him before his Uncle came back. Who knows what Dudley would try and pull.

“Think I’m fine big D” he said with mock enthusiasm, maybe if he played along Dudley would get bored. No such luck, 

“You sure? ‘cause I think I could really help. See this colour just doesn’t look too good on the car, it could use a change.” He reached down and grabbed a large pile of dirt and chucked it squarely at a window. 

Harry sighed, it had to be a window he had already cleaned.

“Brown looks soooo much better right?” he was daring Harry to protest but the young wizard simply continued cleaning, it wouldn’t be worth rising to the bait. 

Angered, Dudley began grabbing more handfuls of dirt and pelting the car with more clumps of dirt. 

“Stop! Stop!” 

“Why? surely you could just fix it with your little stick.” 

Harry was sure he’d do more than just that if he’d been allowed to use his wand. 

At that moment a very angry Vernon emerged from the doorway. 

“What in BLOODY HELL happened to my car!?” 

Dudley smirked and Harry feared that the next words that came out of his cousins mouth would surely doom him.

“Well Dad I came just in time to see the freak throwing dirt at the car, I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen to me. I think he was throwin' a tantrum or somethin’. ”

All Harry could do was glare angrily and turn to face his inevitable punishment. 

“WHAT!” he grabbed Harry’s shoulder, hard, and pulled him inside. He tried pointlessly to defend himself by mentioning Dudley had a hand but his Uncle ignored him.

“Wanted to get revenge did ya boy!? thought you could get away damaging one of my personal items and blame it all on Dudley?” Harry fell to the ground where his Uncle had backed him against the wall 

“Well this is MY HOUSE! and MY RULES!” he pulled Harry up and aimed and a meaty fist that connected with his head.

“Vernon! Remember don’t leave something they’ll notice….” Aunt Petunia ran in having been drawn in by the noise.  

Vernon stopped his next blow when Petunia’s words sunk in. Instead he grabbed Harry’s tender shoulder and dragged the boy into the cupboard under the stairs and slid the deadbolt lock into place. 

“Perhaps you should spend sometime in here to think.” he words were frighteningly calm and Harry realised that his Uncle was trying very hard to restrain himself, a fact that simply made him more wary. 

The rest of his relatives walked away including Dudley who kicked the door on his way out. Harry laid down on the too-small mattress riddled with holes and looked up at the dusty wooden supports. It had been awhile since he’d been banished to his cupboard but he still remembered it well. In way it was happily familiar, at least he’d be away from his Uncle for the time being. His stomach grumbled in protest as though it knew it would not be getting fed anytime soon. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep even though it was only 5 in the afternoon, it was usually a good way to pass time when one was stuck in a closet. 

Unfortunately sleep didn’t come, so he tried to entertain himself with thoughts of what Ron and Hermione were doing. He imagined Ron playing exploding Snap with one of the twins, then challenging them to wizarding chess when he lost. He could see Hermione in a book store somewhere as she carefully chose which book she’d take home, intense contemplation on her face. He nearly laughed at his own imagination and continued thinking through different scenarios.

***

Severus Snape was more than unhappy. He’d accepted the task Dumbledore had given him carefully, it was risky to say the least and now he’d have to drag along the stupid brat as well! He had taken his time before collecting the boy, enjoying his last Potter-free hours but he supposed it’d be better to get this done and over with.  

He apparated into Privet drive, careful to do so at night so he’d have less chance of being seen by any wayward muggles. He sneered as he realised he’d probably have to talk to Potters relatives, perhaps they’d protest when they realised he intended to take Potter. He didn’t really know how he would convince them, after all it wasn’t like where they were going was safe. 

He finally spotted number four and made his way to the door and knocked. A very large beefy man opened the door and Snape didn’t bother to hide his disgust. 

“I’m looking for Potter.”

Vernon Dursley grew angry at that and pointed a pudgy finger at Snape noting the strange clothing.

“You’re one of them…. Aren’t you!”

Snape regarded the man cooly, “If you mean a wizard then yes. I am a Professor at the school your nephew attends. I require Potter to accompany me, we will be…..”

Vernon’s barked laughed interrupted Snape to which he responded with a menacing scowl.

“You want the boy? Great, take him.” 

Well, he was a little thrown at that. He had definitely expected more resistance, he hadn’t even told the man where he intended to take Potter. He watched on curiously from the doorway as Vernon opened a cupboard and pulled out a very disheveled looking Potter out of it. Snape smirked as Potter stared at him in shock.

“Prof… Professor Snape!”

He simply inclined his head, “Potter.” the beefy man left as soon as he retrieved the boy and he was left standing in the doorway

“You have exactly 3 minutes to collect your belongings, we are leaving.” 

he didn’t bother to offer any more of an explanation as Potter ran up the stairs to where he presumed the boy’s room would be.  

He inspected the house out of boredom as he waited. It seemed Potter’s relatives didn’t have any manners, they had left a guest, a Professor no less, at the door without even bothering to invite him in and offer a beverage. Not that he would’ve accepted anyway, he wanted to leave as soon as possible. There were plenty of pictures adorning the walls but curiously none containing the Boy-Who-Lived. There was however, a very large chubby boy who strongly resembled Vernon Dursley. Snape assumed this was Potter’s cousin, said boy chose that moment to come thundering down the stairs and stopped in surprise briefly as he saw Snape.

“Who are you?” 

Snape grimaced at the greeting. Did this boy have absolutely no respect? he thought he’d perhaps use this as an opportunity to find out a little more about Potter. Perhaps he could keep the boy in line if he had something to tease about from his home life.

“I just moved in a few houses down and came to introduce myself. My name is Professor Snape, do you live here with just your parents? No brothers or sisters?”

the lie was far from smooth but the boy didn’t notice at all. 

“Well there’s also my werido cousin. I’d stay away from him if I were you, normally he’s at St Brutus a school for criminals and stuff but during the summer he’s here. I go to Smeltings, one of the top schools in the country.” he clearly said the last sentence looking for praise but Snape wasn’t willing to indulge him. Instead he was thinking on what the boy had said, so they told the neighbourhood that Potter went to a school for criminals? 

he was about to ask more question when he noticed Potter coming down the stairs with his trunk and bag in hand, strangely there was a large padlock on the trunk. 

“Let’s go Potter.” he spoke using a very menacing tone hoping to make Potter hurry, it did indeed work. Potter’s cousin was now gwaking at both of them and before he could get a word in Potter had passed the doorway and Snape closed the door in satisfaction. To his surprise Potter also seemed to be looking on in amusement.

“Uh Sir, what exactly were you talking to Dudley about?” 

“It’s of little consequence now.” he pointed his wand at Potter’s trunk and bag quickly shrinking them both and Potter pocketed them.

“Grab my arm.” the boy hesitantly did so and they disappeared from Privet drive.

When they landed Potter had turned vey pale and looked like he was trying very hard not to be sick. Snape allowed the boy a moment, he was aware of how uncomfortable disapperating was for those not used to it and he’d really rather not have Potter vomit all over his shoes.

After a minute had passed he walked forwards with his usual long strides.

“What, pray tell were you doing in a cupboard Potter?”

Potter was a little stunned and Snape knew he’d picked a good question to antagonize the boy. He also noticed the bruise on the boy’s face when he turned to answer him.

“I was looking for the vacuum. Sir”  

“And this vacuum also happened to attack you while you were in there?” 

Potter looked rather confused at that before understanding washed over his features and his hand unconsciously went to the discoloured skin on his face.

“Ah no.” the boy quickened his strides when he realised he was falling behind. “I….. fell down.” 

Snape rolled his eyes, the boy was an open book. It was extremely obvious he was lying. Figuring he must of gotten into a fight with some other kids, he dropped the matter.

“How clumsy of you Potter.”

They walked in silence for awhile, the road they were on was wide and there were very few houses along the street. Severus still kept an eye out for anyone who might have been tailing them, he was after all, travelling with the golden boy.

“Professor, uh where exactly are we going? and why?” Severus was actually a little surprised it had taken the boy this long to ask, 

“We are travelling to my house and I will answer why we are doing so later, when we are in a safer location.” knowing that probably gave Potter more questions than answers he smugly took in Potter’s frustrated expression.

Neither spoke for a little while lapsing into uncomfortable silence, until another question came from the blasted boy.

“How can I be sure you’re even Professor Snape?” Apparently the boy was at least sensible enough to question that, even if it would have been to late to act if he had been a Death Eater.

“Ask me something only I know then Potter.”

“What was the last detention you gave me for?” 

“For wasting an entire jar of lacewing flies when you carelessly knocked it over on your way out of class.” He had made the boy scrub cauldrons for hours after that, perhaps a little more than nessecary.

“Nice to know it’s the real you Professor.” sarcastically mumbled Potter, he too apparently remembered the punishment. 

He would’ve scolded the boy for a lack of respect but they had finally arrived at their destination. A building of considerable size stood before them and Snape began speaking the words which would temporarily dismantled the wards and allow them access. 

“Potter, welcome to Prince Manor.” 

***

Harry couldn’t help the surprised expression that crossed his face when he took in the building that was meant to be Snape’s home. If he had been asked what he thought Snapes home would have look like, he would’ve probably said dungeons, darkness and something akin to a prison. Instead the house looked almost, well, inviting. It hard a small grassy area out the front including a variety of plants that looked suspiciously like potion ingredients with long vines and leaves with silver streaks. The house was wide, tall and made of brick, a small stubby chimney jutting out. A short cobblestone path led up to a door covered with intricate patterns of swirls that seemed to start moving if you stared at them too long.

“Potter close your mouth before you start swallowing flies.”  

He quickly schooled his expression and walked hurriedly to catch up with Snape. 

“Sir, this is your house?” he had no idea how much the teachers at Hogwarts were paid but he was pretty sure it wasn’t enough to afford this. 

“Were you expecting an underground lair filled with coffins?”

yes “Not exactly.” 

Snape looked at him as if he had read his thoughts. 

“Well Potter if you must know, this Manor was passed down from my mothers side, hence the name Prince. As I am the last remaining heir it was given to me, although my grandmother would surely be rolling in her grave at that.” 

To be honest Harry had never given Snape’s family much thought, he just assumed that the man lived in the dungeons brewing potions and waiting to catch rule breaking students. Now he realised how little he truly knew about blood lines and pureblood families, perhaps Snape’s family was similar to the Malfoy’s, a thought that made him shudder, although from the sounds of it they were mostly deceased. 

“This place is invisible to muggles and wizards alike, it is covered in so many wards, new and ancient, it would take even the Dark Lord himself days to dismantle them. While you are staying here you will not travel beyond the grass area both here in the front and backyard. Do I make myself clear?” Snape sounded exactly like he did when explaining school rules.

Harry nodded briskly, “Crystal clear, Sir.” 

They had now reached the door and Snape placed his hand on the swirling patterns where it lit up with bright light beneath his fingers and once again muttered a few lines of latin.

The door swung open and Snape walked in without hesitating, Harry on the other hand stopped for a moment in trepidation before placing a foot forward and cautiously entering. It seemed possible that this was a trap but he was way to deep already too resist at this point. 

Snape manoeuvred into a spacious living room that hard a very large fireplace surrounded by comfortable looking sofas; to Harry’s surprise the room was not awash with Slytherin green but rather royal blue and silver. The curtains, the pillows, the rugs and the blankets all matched.  

“Mr Potter, unless you intend to stand there all night I suggest you take a seat.”  

He now realised that Snape was staring intensely at him and he couldn’t ignore the feeling of being scrutinised, his baggy T-shirt and wide jeans definitely felt out of place in the luxurious Manor. He quickly took the sofa across from Snape in an effort to create some distance. He decided to start talking first in an effort to take some control.

“Uh, Sir? Why exactly am I here?”

Snape snorted then replied “A question we’d both like the answer to.”

Harry hoped Snape would elaborate and stayed silent.

“Well Mr Potter, it seems that the headmasters biased view of you seems to have finally been translated into actions that could possibly doom us all.”

What was he meant to say to that? 

“Tell me are you aware of an organisation by the name of the Order of the Phoenix?”

“Uhh, no”

“Hmph, well what I am about to tell must be kept secret. If you even think about using this to flaunt your fame and reveal to your many fans your dashing bravery and boldness you will find yourself perhaps of a victim of a potion gone wrong where you are unable to utter another sound. That would teach you a lesson in secrecy. You will not breath a word of this to another living soul.” 

Even though he was being scolded he couldn’t help but feel a little excited, after not hearing a word from anyone since Voldemort had risen he jumped at the chance for new information. 

“I understand sir.”

“Be sure that you do Potter.” he levelled a deadly scowl at him that made him wish he’d put more distance between them then just the glass table.

“The Order of the Phoenix was created by Dumbledore in the first war against the Dark Lord. It was a group of powerful witches and wizards dedicated to defeating him and his followers, I myself was a member. In light of recent events the Headmasterhas tried to reform the Order along with some new additions.”

Harry was ecstatic at the news, so Dumbledore was doing something, they did have a plan. He just wasn’t quite sure were Snape was going with this.

“Are you inviting me to join Sir?”

apparently this was the wrong thing to say because Snape now looked completely enraged, his eyes glinting with anger. 

“Potter exactly how arrogant are you! You believe that you, a wizard who is in his 5th year and with only just passable grades would be among witches and wizards who have trained and studied their entire lives!? Perhaps you thought your celebrity status would allow you to do whatever you liked, that no one would question the great Boy-Who-Lived when he joined an organisation with no training, no experience and no common sense!”

Snape seemed to calm done slightly after his rant and Harry simply sat patiently hoping that he wouldn’t anger the Potions Master any further. 

“So no Potter, you will not be joining the Order any time soon.” Harry simply just tried to stare at the rug beneath him noting one thread that had seemed to come loose. 

Snape sighed heavily clearly not enjoying the next bit of information he was about to relay “However, there is a task that must be completed for the Order and Professor Dumbledore has asked that I do so. Unfortunately it also requires a skill that no one in the Order posses nor anybody else who could possibly help us, believe me I have looked.”

Harry was more than curious now, what exactly did they need that they apparently thought Harry could do?

“What exactly is this skill?”

Snape really looked like he din’t want to say the next sentence, “The ability to talk to snakes,”

“Parseltongue? Why on earth is that important? What exactly is this mission?”

He could tell Snape was done explaining and he was torn between pushing further and trying to prevent Snape getting any angrier.

“Potter! I believe that is more than enough information for tonight, it is late and I do value my time sleeping. I will show you where you will be staying temporarily.”

He got up and his robes twirled with a daunting swoosh and Harry once again had to nearly run to catch up with the man.

They walked up a set of stairs Harry hadn’t even noticed until now and into a hallway containg many doors. 

Snape stopped abruptly at one door and opened it,

“These will be your quarters, you are allowed in this room, the bathroom, the library, the kitchen, the living room and the yard area. If I find you in anywhere else I wont hesitate in making you scrub cauldrons for the rest of your time at Hogwarts.”

A threat which Harry took seriously. He pointed to the door next to them

“The Bathroom”

then to one door down 

“My quarters, you may knock if you need me but you are never to enter without permission unless you are moments away from death. Any questions?”

“Ah Sir, would you mind enlarging my trunk and bag?” he pulled the miniature bag and trunk from his pockets. 

Snape just scowled and pointed his wand at them and Harry fought to keep his balance at the sudden weight, he also remembered something else.

“Sir would…. could you also please unlock the padlock on my trunk?” he had no idea if Snape would actually do so but it was worth a shot, he’d at least have access to his things then.

“Potter even for locking your schoolbooks away is a foolhardy attempt at avoiding homework.” 

he couldn’t help his retort at the comment, "I didn’t lock them away!” 

Snape just looked at him like he was sure he was lying but did point his wand at the padlock and muttered an “alohomora”.

“Breakfast is at 8, be on time”

He left almost immediately after that shutting his own door behind him.

“Well good night to you too Professor..” Harry grumbled. 

He then took stock of the very large nice looking room around him, it was at least 3 times the the size of the bedroom he’d had at the Dursley’s complete with a very large double bed. Like the rest of the house it was furnished with blue and silver colours that Harry found he very much enjoyed. He couldn’t help himself and he flung himself face forward onto the bed and breathed a sigh of relief. Even if he was stuck with Snape he couldn’t help but relish staying somewhere where he had a large comfortable bed, food and wasn’t forced to spend all day doing chores. He was so relaxed he jumped when he heard a small crack, he looked around for the source of the noise and found it on his bedside table.

There was a small jar where there most definitely hadn’t been before, as well as a note. 

He picked up the jar and examined it, it seemed to be an off white paste with an almost creamy texture. The note was undeniably Snapes fluid hand writing

Mr Potter, bruise cream for your face. Couldn’t have Dumbledore thinking his golden boy was getting hurt.

Snape had given him bruise cream? well that surely seemed odd, maybe he was trying to poison him. However he couldn’t resist the temptation of perhaps easing some of the aches of the various bruises around his body.

He viewed himself in the mirror and applied a large dab of the paste to the bruise on his cheek, to his amazement the paste quickly turned clear and the bruise faded away leaving only a ghost of its presence. He removed his shirt and began to apply it to his arms where he been grabbed forcefully a few to many times and to the discoloured skin on his chest. The more severe bruises didn’t disappear as much as the one on his face but he was still extremely pleased, he was definitely going to have to learn how to make this stuff. Unfortunately he couldn’t reach his back nearly well enough to apply the paste but he felt a lot less strained from the bruises he had applied the cream to.  

He placed the jar back on the bedside table along with his glasses and wand and reveled in the feeling of being in a bed not riddled with holes and the aching of his body somewhat dispelled. He feel asleep almost immediately into blissful darkness. 

 

 

Chapter Text

He was sure either he’d died or  gone crazy, that was the only explanation for the extremely comfortable feeling that currently enveloped him. He was then amazed to find a ceiling when he opened his eyes, unfortunately being brought back into reality also reignited his aches and pains. He reached rather haphazardly for his glasses and tried to remember how he’d ended up here. The memory came back to him pretty fast as did his conflicted feelings; he may dislike Snape but he was still a far cry away from the Dursley’s who he wouldn’t be seeing for awhile. That alone was enough to raise his spirits. He was glad to notice the small clock on the bedside table as he had no real way of telling the time otherwise, it was currently 7:34am. That made sense since this was generally the time his Aunt would be banging on his door and ordering him to make breakfast.

 He was at a slight loss for what to do. Breakfast wasn’t for another half-hour according to Snape and he really didn’t think Snape would take kindly to him exploring the house before then. He could maybe work on some of his holiday homework but surely he wan’t that bored yet. Eventually he decided to write to his friends, not that he actually had any means of communicating with them; he’d sent Hedwig to the burrow out of fear his Uncle might finally make good on his promise to hurt her. He assumed that Ron would send letters to him with her and he’d send her back with a reply but that was just another thing gone wrong for him this summer.  He’d tried not to let his anger bleed into the letters as he wrote but he still questioned them a bit fiercely about why they’d yet to send anything.

 By the time he was done it was 7:56, he may as well be a little bit early, surely Snape couldn’t hold that against him. He looked through his clothes in an effort to find anything that wouldn’t have Snape sneering at him but came up empty handed. It seemed he truly owned no nice clothes besides his school robes.

He walked into the kitchen connected to the dining room surprised to find Snape already there focused on a book and by the looks of the empty plate, having already eaten. The table was full of food including pancakes, toast, bacon and eggs; his mouth watered at the sight of it and it took all his self restraint to stop himself from wolfing it all done on the spot. The Dursleys had apparently trained him well however and he sat at the table and refrained from touching anything. It was then that Snape’s piercing gaze looked up at him for the first time since he entered.

 “Something the matter Potter?”

 “No sir,”

 “Then eat.”

 That was all the prompting Harry needed before digging in. He tried to stop himself going to fast but evidently failed since Snape was now watching him with one eyebrow raised. He tried to ignore it and focused on what he actually wanted to achieve here; to get more information about this secretive ‘mission’. Snape was definitely not about to give up the information easily so he’d have to do it tactfully, he was gonna have to out Slytherin the head of Slytherin easy peasy.

 “Sir, do you live here alone ?” Snape stopped reading and briefly glanced up at him

 “Yes Potter, did you expect any different?” his unamused drawl did nothing to to stop Harry.

“Yes actually, perhaps a supermodel wife.” Something like shock went across Snape’s features then a brief hint of amusement before his general emotionless façade was back in place. He had succeeded then, he’d wanted to rattle the Potions master first in an effort to hopefully bring down some of his defences.

“And pray tell what gave you this notion?” He was honestly astonished that Snape hadn’t threatened him with some barbaric punishment and to be honest he hadn’t really thought this far ahead.

“Nothing in particular, professor.” he quickly drank from his cup in an effort to distract himself.

“Perhaps this ‘supermodel wife’ is just simply out of town.” He couldn’t help but choke on his water and was honestly in shock. Had Snape made a joke?

Well he wasn’t about to give up now….

 “But sir, won’t she be worried about you disappearing on a mysterious and potentially dangerous mission without a word. Won’t she wonder where you’re going? what will you tell her?”

 Harry couldn’t believe that Snape simply smirked. He also realised that he had given away his hand when Snape levelled a gaze that said ‘Ah so that is what this is about’ .

 “As much as I’d like to discuss my imaginary super model wife I believe we have more important matters to address, like the fact that you insist on dressing like a street urchin at my table.”

 He felt his face get a little heated at that, he also didn’t really know how to reply. He supposed all he could really say was the truth, well part of it, even if it meant Slytherins mocking him for the rest of his school days.

“These are the only clothes I have, sir.”

Snape regarded him critically and it made his skin itch being under such an intense gaze, he refused to make eye contact and stared distractedly at the leftover crumbs on his plate.

“I suppose that will have to be remedied.”

that was it? no scathing remark or insult? what the hell did that mean anyway?

 “I will be visiting Diagon Alley tomorrow to attend to some private matters, you may spend the time purchasing new clothes then. Although you will have to wear a glamour of course.”

 This whole situation just seemed plain strange to Harry, well at least he’d be able to visit Diagon Alley he thought happily. The rest, well he had no clue.

The potions master was obviously waiting for a reply and Harry quickly spoke 

 “Yes, sir”

 Snape simply nodded and returned to his book.

 “Potter, you may do what you wish as long as it fits within the rules I have stated. I do however recommend you do your holiday homework in this time as there will most likely be little chance to do it later.”

 Ominous warning aside he recognised it as a dismal and made his way back to the bedroom not really sure what he would do. He supposed he should probably do some homework as much as it pained him. He started with an easy one, Defence Against the Dark Arts. Since there DADA teacher had really been Barty Crouch Jr. Dumbledore had assigned the homework himself and thankfully it was fairly short. When he’d finished he decided to reward himself and stretch his legs.

 He stepped out of his room and walked back down to the sitting area where Snape was notably absent. He didn’t really have a clue where the library was but he imagined it would have to be in the front section of the house where they had first come through.

He suspicions were proved correct when he found an archway leading to an area he’d missed before. As he stepped through he could almost imagine Hermione’s astonished expression. The area certainly rivalled the Hogwarts library; warm lights hung from the ceiling softly illuminating the shelves upon shelves that lined the wall. Small arm chairs were littered throughout the room as well small alcoves cut out from the wall next to wide windows. A ladder was leaning against the wall that seemed to float just above the floor, Harry guessed it probably had featherlight charm on it. He ran his hand along the spines of some of the books and he was amazed to see that this row contained muggle books. A quick glance at the other shelves revealed that the definite majority of books featured magic of some kind. 

 

A small stack of books sat next to one of the arm chairs, Harry nearly laughed when he read through the titles, there was ‘Potions: An Extended History’‘Efficiencies of Brewing’, ‘A Tale of Two cities’, ‘The Magical Properties of Aquatic herbs’ and ‘The Art of War’. He had a very hard time imaging the professor sitting there reading muggle books perhaps even drinking tea. Harry walked around the room and found a book that sparked his own interest, ‘Curses, Counter curses and How to Perform Them’. The book wasn’t very thick and even had diagrams explaining wand work.

He made his way over to one of the window seats that looked out at the front yard and began to read. 

 

*** 

 

Severus Snape was working in his potions lab and pondering the boy he’d been forced to take in. The brat had clearly been trying to pry information out of him this morning but that wasn’t what puzzled him, in fact that behaviour was pretty par for the course with the idiotic Gryffindor.What puzzled him was the strange things he’d seen since he’d picked up the boy. There were so many little things that just didn’t sit right with him. He couldn’t piece them together, individually they could be explained away but together they made no sense. Like the padlock on the boy’s trunk, surely he had locked his school books away in an effort to ditch school work? Then there was the clothes, perhaps Potter had just had a tantrum and destroyed all his other clothes when they weren’t to his liking. Finally was the bruise cream when he collected it, he found it half empty; did that mean the boy was hurt elsewhere? No, Potter had just overacted with his one measly bruise and wasted Severus’s supplies.

 That boy is driving me mad, why must he complicate everything? 

 

A few hours passed and he walked into the dining room to eat lunch. He was interested to see that Potter was absent, then realised he had never actually told Potter what time lunch was and mentally kicked himself. He was now going to have to go and search for the boy. 

 He started with the boy’s rooms sure that Potter was most likely there. When it was empty he couldn’t help but curiously glance at the bag the boy had bought with him. Indeed it had looked as if Potter had rifled through it in search of something other than the grey rags three sizes too large for the boy.

He left quickly lest he’d be tempted to more snooping. His next guess was that Potter was outside, the boy did seem to love the outdoors; perhaps due to his obsession with all thing Quidditch. However the grounds were strangely Potter-free. He felt a little twinge or worry but pushed down his paranoia, after all the boy surely couldn’t get himself into trouble in such a short amount of time.

He walked into the library stunned to find Potter comfortably lounged in a seat next to the window, even stranger it seemed he was absorbed in a book.

He cleared his  throat and Potter instantly became aware of his presence.  The boy actually looked a bit sheepish and placed the book aside. 

 “Hello Sir”

 part of him was still getting over the fact that Potter had willingly decided to spend his time in a library so it was a few seconds before he answered.

“I believe it is time for lunch Mr. Potter, if you would follow me.”

 He didn’t bother waiting for a response and turned on his heel in a rather intimidating manor. Food had once again appeared courtesy of his house elf Polly, not that the boy knew that. He could almost feel Potter’s discomfort at being so closely watched as they both sat down.

 “Mr Potter. I assume the book you were reading was for homework?”

He wanted to clarify that at least. One less troublesome puzzle piece.

“No, well… sortiv’…. you could kinda of put it as Defence Against the Dark Arts, I guess.”

“But you were reading it specifically for that subject yes?”

“Not really, it just looked interesting.” the boy looked like he was almost expecting to be reprimanded.

Well, he was going to solve the mystery of Potter one way or another, knowing the boy-who-lived it would likely get everyone killed if it was left alone.

“Potter do you have any other injuries other than the bruise on your face that I should be aware of. I warn you, do not lie to me.”

Potter instantly blanched and he knew the answer to his own question.

“I uh, no sir.”

 He levelled a deathly scowl at the boy but apparently Potter truly wanted to keep his secret because he continued to stay silent. 

“Potter, do you understand exactly how dangerous it is to go on this trip injured? it could result in you making a fatal blunder that would get us both killed!”

 “Well I would sir, if you told me anything about where we are going. Or why!”

 “It is not your place to know every bit of information about the Order, if I had my way you’d be treated as exactly what you are, a boy inquiring about things way beyond his understanding.”

“But it involves me! I’m apparently supposed to go someplace to do something simply because I can speak to snakes!”

 “Yes, and that is all you need to know!”

The boy seemed to try and calm himself first then speak.

 “Well could you at least tell me what we are doing Sir,”

 He too tried to compose himself before this devolved into a useless argument.

 

“Potter I will tell you what we are doing, if you explain why there was a lock on your trunk.” 

apparently this caught the boy quite off-guard. 

“Why does that matter?”

“Just answer the question.”

“Fine, because my uncle put it there.”

 Now it was Snape’s turn to be caught off-guard.

“And why did he do that?” He hoped the boy would elaborate.

“He… dislikes magic.” this evidently was all the explanation the boy was willing to give.

 “I answered your question professor, now its your turn.” he had half a mind to just refuse and leave Potter wondering but unfortunately he was a man of his word, well, as much as a spy can be.

“Alright Potter. We are retrieving something, something for the Order.” 

“What are we retrieving” he then quickly added “sir.”

“An item the Dark Lord wants, that is why it will be dangerous. We will not go if you do not agree to listen to every command I give and obey without question, do you promise to do so?” He was going to make Potter agree to this later but figured since they were already talking about it he should do it now. 

Potter seemed unsure but eventually caved “Yes, I promise.”

 “I will hold you to that.”

“Understood, now will you tell me exactly what we are retrieving?” 

 He inwardly groaned, the boy simply could not let the matter drop.

 “The Vincere Stone, it allows the user to break through any wards instantaneously. You can understand why we cannot let it fall into the hands of the Dark Lord.”

 Potter nodded subtly.

 Neither had anymore to say to each other so they ate the rest of their meals in silence. After they had finished he added one last comment before letting the boy go.

 “Potter, dinner will be at 7. Don’t forget.”

 Potter once again nodded, an action Severus was beginning to detest, and left.

 

It was only later that he realised he had never actually got an answer to his question about Potter’s injuries. 

 

*** 

 

Harry sat on the bed staring at the bruising salve. He wanted to use it, badly, but he din’t want to risk Snape noticing anymore than he already had. He’d been careful to move around looking completely unaffected by his bruises and cuts. Snape surely only noticed because he’s used so much of the damn paste.

He decided against it, he could certainly deal with his injuries a little longer after doing so all summer. Instead he pondered on the information Snape gave him. What they were going after seemed pretty powerful, if Voldemort did get it things could go very very badly. Harry himself would definitely be screwed, the wards on Hogwarts would be broken and he’d undoubtedly be killed along with many other students including his friends. He was happy to avoid that possibility, even if it did mean having to obey Snape.

The next few hours he found himself doing a variety of tasks, from actually studying, reading in the library and walking outside along the magnificent grounds, though he was careful to avoid straying to far. He never saw Snape while in the house and he’d begun to wonder if Snape was even there. By the time dinner rolled around he almost didn’t expect to see the professor.

Wandering down the stairs, he once again, found Snape sitting at the table waiting for him. They didn’t talk much throughout the meal, Harry only asking about where exactly the food was coming from and Snape explaining his house elf Polly was responsible. Snape also told Harry that he must be in his room by 10 and in bed by 10:30, a request he thought was fair enough, that was curfew at Hogwarts.

 After dinner he went back into the library, he was beginning to enjoy his time spent reading there. This time he took one of the larger couches that had looked ever so slightly worn.

 For one of the first times this summer, he felt himself actually tired for a reason other than his chores, it came with a certain feeling of contentment. Without meaning to his book accidentally fell from his hands and his eyes fell slowly shut, his hand limply falling on top of the hardback.

***     

 

After finishing a few of his lesson plans for the coming year, Severus decided he would go and confront Potter about these mysterious injuries. He finished off his last line, put down his quill, and made his way to the boy’s rooms. There was something very strange about having Potter stay in his house, in fact he had barely ever had anyone stay here, let alone a student.

When he pushed the door open and found the room empty, he almost wasn’t surprised. Trust Potter to break the rules he had just outlined.

 Now the only question was where the brat had gone. After once again thorough searching of the house, he found Potter in the library for the second time today. Albeit in a slightly different way.

 He had been about to make a scathing remark and threaten punishment when he realised the boy had yet to respond to his being there. Upon closer inspection he found the boy asleep, he had to admit Potter looked quite a bit different asleep then in his waking hours. Almost more…. Lily like. He shook himself of the thought, Potter had inherited his fathers looks he was a carbon copy, everything except the eyes. Sleep did nothing to change those facts. 

 He found himself at a cross roads, he couldn’t exactly scold the boy the way he’d been planning too. Nor was he ever going to carry Potter to his bed, he would never do something so soppy. He settled for removing the book from the boys hands and taking off the askew glasses that undoubtedly were cutting into they boy's face. His eyes were drawn to something he hadn’t seen before as he did so; part of a bruise was exposed under the boys sleeve, an area of discoloured skin that continued up the boys arm. This was something he’d make Potter explain, one way or another, before the trip. He turned around and nearly made his way all the way out of the room before he drew his wand. He said a small incantation and the lights dimmed and the blanket laid on the back of the sofa landed softly on top of Potter.

 

*** 

 

Harry felt slightly disorientated as he got up. The realisation that he fell asleep in the library hit him and he looked around the blurry room in search of his glasses. He couldn’t actually remember taking them off and he was pretty certain he hadn’t put the blanket on. Did….Snape? No, he had probably done it and just forgotten, in fact he hoped Snape hadn’t noticed him at all considering he had broken Snape’s out-of-bed rule. 

 He got up and walked into the kitchen slash dinning room where Snape currently sat. He seemed to be focused on the newspaper in front of him and was only half paying attention to eating the food. Harry hesitated for a second, the picture was all to reminiscent of his Uncle and he almost felt like backing out of the kitchen all together. Instead he stepped forward and tried to summon his Gryffindor courage.

 He jumped slightly as Snape’s silky monotone voice spoke.

 “Potter as we discussed yesterday we will be traveling into Diagon Alley today.”

 Oh yeah, he’d forgotten about that.

 “I will apply the glamour after breakfast”

 He’d forgotten about that too.

 “Yes, sir.”

 He was actually a little happy about the glamour, he wouldn’t mind not being Harry Potter for a few hours. After he finished breakfast he was slightly eager to go.

 “Sir, I’m ready now.”

 “Well how nice for you Potter, I however need a few moments to collect some things.”

 He blushed at that, he didn’t realise how presumptuous he sounded until after he spoke.

  A few moments Snape left, he returned back after a couple of mintues carrying a bag containing a variety of vials that  shimmered when they caught the light.  He held his wand to Harry’s face and it took alot of Harry’s self control not to move away. Just before he began Harry made one last request,

 “Could you…. Could you make it look nothing like me.”

 “That was the point Potter.” Although Snape seemed to look a little curiously at him.

 He heard Snape mutter a few spells and felt a slight tingling sensation over his face. It was done merely minutes later. Snape conjured a mirror and held it out to him.

 As he took in his new appearance he couldn’t help the grin that spread across his new features. His nose was slightly shorter and turned a little more upward,  his whole face was narrower and his ears stubbier. He now had small freckles across his cheeks and his hair was a much lighter shade of brown as well as being shorter. His lighting bolt scar was completely gone and his mouth seemed just a bit wider. Almost all of his features were changed, all except for his green eyes, which still remained behind his round glasses.

 “Brilliant Sir.” 

 Snape didn’t acknowledge his response and instead spoke one more line of latin and Harry felt a different sensation.

“Potter you can now remove your glasses, the spell will only last briefly but long enough for what we need.”

 He took of his glasses off not sure what Snape was talking about,  however the moment the glasses left his face he noticed his vision stayed clear. If only the spell was permanent.

"Thank you Sir,” he said not really sure what else too say.

 Snape just nodded and began to walk into the sitting room to which Harry followed.

 Once they were there Snape made his way over to the fireplace and lit it with a small spark from his wand. He grabbed the powder from the mantle and threw it in. He stepped inside as green flames licked the bottom of his black robes.

 "Diagon Alley.” A moment later and Snape was gone

 Harry repeated Snape’s actions and made sure to speak clearly, remembering the last time he tried to traveled by Floo to Diagon Alley.

 His world was a spinning vortex of colours for a few seconds before he was spat out rather ungracefully onto the floor. He looked up and met Snape’s intense gaze before standing up and brushing the soot off himself.

 Snape didn’t move the entire time and only spoke when Harry was fully done.

“Shall we begin?”

Chapter Text

 

 

Harry had been to Diagon Alley a few times before but that didn’t didn’t stop his amazement at the wizarding town.  Evidence of magic was pretty much everywhere, small birds made of paper flapped through the air and a girl was blowing bubbles that changed colour and smelled like lollies. Even the most dullest shops still had signs with animations explaining what they sold, like Potage's Cauldron Shop that had a picture of a cauldron exploding then reverting back to normal over and over again.

Snape didn’t seem impressed at all and instead carried on walking as if they had simply been in any other random street in London. He stopped when they reached the outside of the Apothecary and pulled out a small leather bag containing what Harry guessed to be galleons, sickles and knuts. He was surprised when Snape went to pass the bag to him.

“I will be attending to matters regarding our trip for a few hours. Go and get some clothes, I suggest you pick things that are warm, practicable and durable. I will join you later.”

 Harry just nodded in agreement and took the bag, Snape moved inside the Apothecary and Harry was left alone on the cobblestone street.

He walked forwards taking his time to look in the windows of most the shops now that Snape had gone. He couldn’t help being tempted by Quality Quidditch Supplies and decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a quick look. 

The shop was filled with other kids his age as well as quite a few adults. One person in particular looked familiar and when Harry glimpsed their face he recognised him as none other than Seamus Finnigan. He was about to go over and say hi when he remembered the glamour. Seamus would certainly not recognise him and he didn’t think Snape would approve of him blowing his cover just to talk to a friend. 

Instead he just inspected the products, amazed at what people had come up with to change Quidditch. He particularly liked the gloves with a strong sticking charm on them and the goggles that enhanced vision, he was sure both of them would come in handy as a seeker.

 

Regretfully he left and made his way to Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, a large clothing shop that had quite the variety of garments. As he walked in he was immediately accosted by a large women who had measuring tapes whizzing to and fro around her.

“Hello there! what’s your name young lad.”

“Ha…..Henry.” he cursed himself for the slip-up but apparently the women simply took it as him being shy. She smiled even more and shook his hand.

“I’m Georgie. Nice to meet you Henry. Now what will you be needing today?”

“Pretty much everything… except school and dress robes. Also I need clothes that are you know, practical and good for the cold.” She nodded vigorously and looked enthused at having such a large customer.

“Well Henry you’ve come to the perfect place, come along and we’ll get started.”

They walked into a small room and the measuring tapes that buzzed around Georgie jumped into action  measuring his arms, legs, torso and head. 

 

About two hours later he had a small stack of neatly folded clothes next to him. There were also two other, larger stacks, of rejected clothes. Although Snape had given him more than enough money to buy whatever he wanted, he didn’t like the idea of using too much of it. He stuck to clothes that were a reasonable price and passed on all the expensive fabrics Georgie had tried to sell him. When he was satisfied that he had enough, he and Georgie went to the counter to pay, 

“It was very nice to meet you Henry, I’m sure you’ll be even more of a dashing youth in your new clothes. I hope to see you again sometime soon!” again there was the wide tooth grin as she smiled at him and he had to stop himself laughing at the prospect of her ‘seeing him again.’ 

 He spent a few more minutes in the front display section looking through the expensive colour-changing fabrics before leaving. The jingle of the bell alerted him to someone entering and he spun around to see who it was. He once again thought he was cursed with bad luck when it was clear that Draco Malfoy and his father had just walked in  He was just about to try an make an escape before Draco noticed him.

“Hello, I don’t think I’ve see you around before. I’m Draco, Draco Malfoy.” Malfoy oozed confidence and superiority and Harry was tempted to not reply. Instead he spoke back with as much fake friendliness as he could muster. 

“Nice to meet you. I’m Henry.” he hoped the short reply would deter Malfoy from further conversation but it seemed Malfoy was in the mood for a chat. 

 “What school do you attend?” He didn’t really know enough about other schools to bluff the answer so he decided to play it safe.

 “Well this year I’ll be moving to Hogwarts.” Malfoy’s eyes lit up and he knew he’d made a mistake.

 “Really? That’s were I go now. Stick we me and I’ll show you exactly how to get through school, if you have even an ounce of respectability you’ll be placed in Slytherin.” He was sorely tempted to argue against that but couldn’t without it looking suspicious. At that moment Lucius Malfoy made his way up to Draco and Harry.

 “I see your making friends Draco, and who might you be young man.” He said it with enough intimidation that it felt like a test.

 “I’m Henry,” He struggled for a second to come up with a last name and said the first thing that popped into his head. “Henry Woodboard.”

 Lucius was about to say something else when the bell jingled once again and a figure clad in black entered. Harry wasn’t sure if he was worried or relieved that Snape had arrived. Snape of course took in the scene without a hint of surprise, only glancing very briefly at Harry. He inclined his head to Lucius politely who was now making his way to the door, abandoning Harry for the moment. 

“Ah Severus, it is good to see you. Shopping for anything in particular?”

Draco too had turned his attention to Snape and Harry took it as his opportunity to escape. He didn’t bother to pay attention to the rest of the conversation and slid outside holding a bag with his new clothes.

 A few minutes later and Snape exited, shooting him a glare.

“You know talking to people who may blow your cover is a very poor way of staying unrecognised. It would not be good if Lucius were to find out who you really are.”

Harry shot back his own glare, “Well I didn’t exactly have a choice, they approached me. It would’ve looked even more suspicious if I had ignored them.”

Snape seemed to let it go and turned his attention back to the street glancing briefly at the bag Harry carried,

“I take it you got everything you needed?” 

“Yes,” 

 he took out the small leather bag that was now slightly lighter and passed it to Snape. Snape took it without comment and they made their way back to the Leaky Cauldron.

 After once again being tossed out of the fireplace he bit his lip to keep from saying anything when the pain from his injuries being jostled shot through him. He got up fast in an effort to make it look like nothing was wrong and was awarded when Snape simply glanced at him and walked towards the kitchen. 

“You may do as you please, I will be in my potions lab. Send Polly if you have need of me.” he waved one hand demonstrating his dismissal of Harry.

 However Harry had one question he’d been hanging onto for a while.

“Uh Sir, is there any way I could send a message to my friends?”

“What happened to your owl Potter.”

 “She’s with Ron at the moment Sir.” A quizzical expression came over Snape’s face, like he was trying to work something out but it vanished almost immediately.

“Alright then Potter, you will give your letters to me and I shall pass them onto Professor Dumbledore.”

What? why would Dumbledore give Ron and Hermione the letters? and did he really want to give them to Snape?

Apparently Snape sensed his reluctance because he rolled his eyes and said “Potter I would hardly like to spend my time going through the boring whiny correspondences between teenagers. Have no fear, your letters will not be read by me.” 

That did make sense, he really couldn’t see Snape trying to eavesdrop on teenagers. 

 “Ok then Sir, thank you.”

Snape didn’t reply and Harry took his leave.

***

Then next few hours went quietly, something almost unusual for Harry. He  felt as if he should be doing chores and trying to sneak food into his rooms. Instead Polly, Snape had explained, his house elf took care of cleaning and cooking and there was no need to steal food.

When he walked into the kitchen an hour before dinner the small movements of pots and pans alerted him that someone else was there, he nearly drew his wand but stopped himself when he saw the distinctive large ears of said house elf.

“Hi uh, I’m Harry.”

 The house elf saw him and squeaked loudly before retreating a few steps.

“Young master! I was not knowing you was there young master.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. It’s Polly right?”

“Yes sir, and you needn’t be apologising sir. Is young master be needing anything?”

“Uh no I’m good thanks.” he looked over at the large ordered mess across the kitchen.

 “Would you like any help?” Sometimes he found he enjoyed cooking at the Dursleys, even with the terrible pressure of not burning anything and knowing that he would only be eating the left overs, if that.

Polly looked very uncomfortable by the mere suggestion of it,

“No Master, Polly is quite good at cooking, young master need not interfere. Polly promises it will be to young masters liking.”

He realised it must’ve of come across as an insult and tried to rectify to the situation.

“I’m sure your cooking is amazing Polly, it’s uh, sometimes I enjoy cooking and maybe you’d like a little bit of a break?”

He was relieved when the house elf smiled widely and her ears perked up.

 “I do not need a break young master, but if you is enjoying cooking then you shall cook! Shall Polly stay and help?” 

“Nah, it’s okay. I’ve cooked roast pork quite alot.”  not that he’d eaten it, he was given Dudley’s leftover carrots and broccoli if he was lucky and a slice of bread if he was not. 

Polly simply beamed, “Young master be calling Polly if he needs anything Yes?”

“Thanks Polly, will do.”  He turned to start cutting the onions when Polly apparated away with a loud crack

He spent the rest of the time cooking, cutting and crushing. He was nearly finished when Snape walked into the room. Snape raised one eyebrow at him in a questioning manner and Harry was glad the heat could account for the red in his cheeks. 

 “I see you’ve taken over food preparation, I do hope it’s not in an attempt to poison me.” He wasn’t completely sure if it was a joke or if Snape actually meant it.

“Uh no Sir, I just normally cook for the Dursley’s.” If Snape was surprised he didn’t show it, instead he waved his hands and two plates along with knives and forks appeared.

“Judging by how incompetent you are at potions I can’t say I’m looking forward to this meal.”

 Angered by the words he was determined to prove Snape wrong and spent the last few minutes adding different seasonings and sauces to make it rather flavourful. It smelled great and he hoped it tasted just as good as he dished it out onto the plates Snape had conjured.

When he was done he remained in the kitchen out of habit, it was only when Snape glanced over at him that he remembered that he was allowed to eat as well.

“Am I to enjoy this meal by myself?”

 “Uh no sir,” he made his was over to what was quickly becoming his seat and hid a grimace when his back hit the seat a bit too hard.

He waited anxiously for Snape’s reaction to the food but Snape’s face of stoicism revealed nothing and he couldn’t help but feel a stab of disappointment.  

“One would think you were are incapable of following instructions and knowing the intricacies of timing based on your performance in potions. However, that apparently is not completely true. How long have you been cooking for your relatives Potter?”

Harry was pleased at the compliment, even if it was mostly layered in insults. Due to that he let slip a little more then he meant to,

“Since I was about six Sir,” he instantly realised his mistake when Snape showed a rare hint of shock.

“Most kids would not be allowed near a flame at that age, let alone cook.” 

 “I uh, didn’t really cook much though….” He trailed off uselessly, he didn’t really have anything to say that would help.

Snape looked like he wanted to ask more questions when the fireplace in the living room flared up and something small and square appeared. Snape got up and collected it, to Harry’s realised it was a newspaper; the Daily prophet to be exact.

“Isn’t that supposed to arrive in the mornings?” He voiced his thoughts accidentally. 

 “Yes but there is sometimes an evening edition. Recently they’ve been printing a lot more. I suspect due to Fudge’s involvement.”

Snape placed the newspaper on the table and Harry stared at it in astonishment as he own face gazed back at him. The picture was taken at the end of the Triwizard tournament when Harry  had been distraught at Cedric’s death. The title alternated between ‘The Boy-Who-Lives’ and ‘The Boy-Who-Lies’  a few paragraphs down there was another photo of Dumbledore, it was captioned ‘Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts and surprising supporter of Harry Potter’s story of the Dark Lords return.’

Snape too looked at the article, lip curling in disgust.

“I wouldn’t put too much weight on their words Potter, unfortunately they have a habit of denying reality when it concerns bad news.”   

 He was still in shock at seeing the newspaper and barely bothered to notice that Snape had actually defended him.

 “Then why do you read it, Sir.” it came out slightly more accusatory than he meant it too.

 “It is important to know what the wider wizarding world believes, even if it is false.” 

He was a bit put off by the headline and was glad when Snape placed it on the chair next to him and out of Harry’s view. 

He returned to his meal and found that it was delicious, he was slightly proud of that fact and tried to focus on it instead of the aggravating news story.

“Potter we are to leave in 3 days, I suggest you prepare yourself in this time.”

 He wasn't quite sure how he was meant to prepare himself but he nodded anyway.

 “Will you finally tell me where we’re going professor?”

Snape shot him a glare that dashed his hopes at an answer. He was about to try a different question when Snape spoke,

“It’s known in lore, as the Serpents Den.”

“How original.” Harry muttered.

He thought  he might have noticed the briefest moment of the corner of Snape's mouth, but the potions master continued speaking as if he hadn’t heard Harry’s remark.

 “It is a set of caves underneath an island off the south coast of Iceland.”

So very damn remote then,

“It is only accessible at certain times because of the oceans tides, most of the time the water covers the entrance, hence why we will be leaving in three days.”

 Harry hoped to hear more and stayed silent but it seemed Snape was done talking. He nearly began to gather their plates and wash them when he remembered that they would be cleaned by magic. Instead he excused himself from the table and made his way up to his room.

He wrote another two letters to Ron and Hermione; both quite large in length. He figured Snape would only deliver them once, meaning he had one shot at saying everything he wanted. Once they were finished he dressed himself in the pyjamas he’d bought in Diagon alley. He had been pretty boring and picked a black set with trimmings of silver. Honestly he was just happy to have something that fit him so well, his last set of pyjamas had simply been one of Dudleys more stained and hole-y hand me downs. He climbed into bed hoping for a peaceful sleep but was greeted with anything but.

Images flashed by of that night in the graveyard including Cedrics limp body. Then it was his Uncle’s sneering face and a strong backhands followed by Voldemort’s snake features and red eye’s as he cast Crucio's and laughed at Harry’s screams.

He was sweaty and in pain as he woke up. His lip stung and he realised he’d been biting it to keep from screaming, a habit he’d picked up at the Dursley’s. His back stung a bit as well, he must of been thrashing in his sleep.  He glanced over at the small clock to see it was 4:13 am. He sighed and shuddered at the thought of going back to sleep and decided to try and find something to settle his mind.

 He wanted something boring and repetitive, anything far from the intensity of his dreams. He found himself reaching for his potions books and nearly laughed at the irony of it. He opened to a random page and found instructions for the Biswald potion; a potion which would keep its user dry for 3 hours, no matter how much water they were submerged in . He scanned his eyes through the ingredients and begun to read them out loud,

“Essence of Sealeaf, Moonseed, Asphodel, Powdered frog brains…..”

 

*** 

The next day went by without anything of note happening. Harry spent time in the library and outdoors, at one point he brought a book and sat underneath a large old oak tree soaking in the afternoon sunshine. He hoped Snape wouldn’t mind the fact he’d taken a book outside, Hermione often scolded him for it. 

Snape was relatively quiet; he saw the professor at meal times and sometimes in the sitting room. The only time they’d properly interacted was when Harry had asked him about the letters. Snape had questioned if he was finished writing them and Harry gave him the small bundle. The professor had just nodded and pocketed them. 

It was the next day that was bizarrely eventful.

 Harry had woken up at the usual time and made his way downstairs to find Snape reading the Daily Prophet, thankfully with a different headline this time. When Snape noticed Harry, his attention instantly changed and Snape vanished the paper.

 Harry just gave a small ‘Morning, Sir.’ and nodded in the professors direction.

However after a few minutes he began to feel the tension in the air and squirmed a little uncomfortably. A few more minutes and he couldn’t stand it any longer. 

“Is there something on your mind professor?” it came out with a twinge of annoyance,

“Potter are you not aware of what day it is?”  Snape had a strange expression on his face and Harry felt himself get even more frustrated, what was this? Some kind of test?

 “No sir? we aren’t supposed to leave until tomorrow and I’m pretty sure the summer solstice already happened.” the last comment was a bit random but he simply shrugged, it’d been something he’d read in his potions textbook the other night.

 “Yes that is true I suppose, but you do not know the date?”

Harry shook his head becoming more exasperated by the minute, would Snape just tell him already?

 “It’s July 31st”

Oh

“My Birthday” he said quietly.

“Indeed, you turn 15 correct?”

Harry just nodded. He’d never really put too much importance on his birthday, he didn’t even know when it was for most his childhood. It did however mark the date Hagrid had come and taken him to Hogwarts and away from the Dursleys, something he would always remember with fondness.

“Unfortunately no one can know you are here, meaning that any presents Weasley and Granger might send you will travel to Privet Drive.”

 Well at least that wouldn’t be an issue he thought bitterly. “Uh Sir, that won’t matter. I haven’t really heard from Hermione or Ron for a while.”

 Again that weird expression came over Snape as if he was studying him. He finished off his breakfast quickly and went to leave when Snape stopped him.

“Actually Potter, there was something else.”

***

Snape hated this feeling, he was not nervous, not even close. He tremendously regretted doing this though, he wasn’t even sure why he’d even decided it was a good idea in the first place. He certainly owed no allegiance to the little brat, let alone an obligation to get him a birthday present. This wasn’t what this was though, this was simply a necessity if he was going to have to lug Potter around on an Order mission.

Still, he struggled to get the words out, quite a contrast to his usual self. 

 “There was something that I thought might come in useful on the trip.” 

He summoned a medium sized dark green box to the table in front of them and pushed it towards Potter.

The boy glanced up at him, disbelief clear in his expression, 

“This is ….for me Sir?” He bit back a scathing comment about the fact that it could hardly be for anybody else and just nodded once sternly.

The boy seemed to open it delicately, taking his time to lift the lid. He pulled out a large thick mass of charcoal grey material and held it up, it instantly became obvious that it was a cloak. It was simple but elegant, neatly cut at the bottom and finished with a touch that Snape had been hesitant on, a small silver clasp in the symbol of a roaring lion.

“It has a an everlasting heating charm placed on it and a hidden pocket to store a wand while keeping it within reach. The fabric won’t ever fray or wear and won’t rip unless put under a under a great amount of force.”  

 He wasn’t quite sure why he was explaining it all so fast but thought it had to do with the need to fill the silence. The boy was staring wide eyed at the cloak and Snape found it disconcerting that he was yet to speak. Then as if the boy had been brought back to reality, a great many emotions flitted across his face. Snape had no idea what the boy was thinking and it made his head spin to figure out what each brief expression meant. Finally the blasted boy voiced words,

“I….Thank you sir.”

The honest gratitude that was in his tone surprised Severus, he hadn’t known what to expect but this certainly wasn’t it. Foolish boy, he was acting as if Snape had just bought him VIP tickets to the Quidditch World Cup. He waved his hand in a dismissive manor, 

“Simply a safe guard from you contracting hypothermia while we are travelling, I would hardly think that would be beneficial to our goal. ”

Potter just gave him a knowing smirk that nearly caused Snape to toss out a biting comment that would wipe the expression off Potter’s face.

“All the same sir, thank you.”

 Fine, if the boy was going to be an over-sentimental sappy teenager he could have it his way. It made very little difference to him.

“You’re welcome Potter.” 

 It was a little awkward afterwards and Snape quickly looked for an escape

“I have a few potions that need tending too.” He didn’t elaborate further and made an abrupt exit in a swish of dark robes leaving Potter and the box sitting there.

***

Snape had gotten him a present? The man was becoming more and more baffling by the minute, all his acerbic comments were still there but he just seemed… less Snape-like. This had been the weirdest by far though, he had to be deluding himself, surely it just meant something he hadn’t thought of. Regardless he still didn’t want to break this fragile truce they’d established. 

After Snape left he went up to his room and tried the cloak on, it was the perfect size and he could already feel the warmth radiating from it. Like Snape had mentioned, there was a small pocket right where his hand hung; narrow and long enough for a wand. He was fast seeing how useful it would become. He neatly folded it away and placed it in the cupboard, hand resting on top of it a few more seconds then necessary.

Due to it being their last day, Snape seemed to be moving around in quite the flurry of action. Harry had no idea what he was doing but felt obligated to help, perhaps it was a way he could thank Snape for the cloak.

That night at dinner he took his chance.

 “Sir, can I help with the preparations for tomorrow?” 

 Snape snorted and glared pointedly at him.

 “Potter, currently I’m in the stages of brewing a large range of delicate potions that a fifth year with bad grades would certainly find more than a little out of his depth. So unless you know at which exact temperature Bicorn horn must be added to Polyjuice potion, then no, you may not help.” 

“118 degree’s celsius.” he said quietly 

“What?”

“118 degrees, that’s when you add the powdered Bicorn horn.” He said a little more confidently

 Snape looked at him sceptically, “And what would one do after adding the Knotgrass?”

“Stir 4 times clockwise.” 

 “And when exactly have you been brewing Polyjuice Mr. Potter? As I understand it there is no mention of that potion in any of your past textbooks.”

 Once again he’d let slip much more information than he had meant to, he tried to distract Snape from the question.

 “Why are you brewing it for the trip, sir?”

It seemed he’d failed because Snape shot him a deathly glare, 

 “I am preparing for all circumstances, now answer my question Potter.”

he didn’t really see a way out, so he grudgingly complied.

“In my second year, with the whole Chamber of Secretes fiasco Ron Hermione and I tried to find out a bit more information, suffice to say, it failed.”

 He waited for Snape to lecture him about breaking school rules or enquire further about his vague answer but the man did neither.

“Very well, you may prepare basic potion ingredients at my direction.”

Happily he followed Snape to his potions lab after dinner, normally this would’ve seemed more like a detention, handling flubber worm mucus was not something he enjoyed after all, but he really did want to thank Snape in some small way for the cloak and helping for the trip seemed like the least he could do.

He entered Snape’s private lab curiously, it did bear some resemblance to his his lab at Hogwarts, especially the jars filled with unnerving substances on the wall. It was not very large like Harry had expected and there was only 3 cauldrons in the room, two were currently filled with mysterious substances. A small table with a cutting board and a variety of utensils sat to the side of the room and Harry positioned himself there.

“You may start by shredding the Boomslang skin and finely slicing the Fluxweed.” Harry found the two ingredients nearby and quickly set to work.

***

 Severus tried to focus on completing the potion and paid little attention to the boy. It was a rather  complicated to brew and he was quite surprised that the golden trio had actually managed to brew it in their second year, Granger did tend to do well where she applied herself he thought bitterly.

As the day of departure was nearing , the reality of having to take Potter on this mission and protect the boy-who-constantly-found-trouble was setting in. He was angry at Dumbledore for making him do this and angry at himself for ever agreeing, it seemed he had truly trapped himself in this mess. More worrying was the idea of being summoned while he was with Potter. The Dark Lord had only summoned him twice since his return; a fact for which Severus was thankful as neither time had been pleasant. His frustrations were getting to him and he threw the lacewing flies in a little harder than he meant to. 

 “Professor, who exactly is in the Order?”

 The boys question was an extra thing to focus on and he gritted his teeth before replying,

“None of your concern.” He felt a bit smug when Potter’s face showed frustration but it vanished when the boy continued with his irritating questions.

“Is Sirius in the Order?” 

“Yes unfortunately, the brainless mutt is.”   Potter’s face began to heat with anger,

“Don’t talk about him like that. He’s a brave man” 

The fact that Potter was interrupting his brewing with defending Sirius Black really gritted on his patience.   

“If you call his irresponsible half-thought out actions brave. The man has less intelligence than a sea snail.”

 Potter was shredding the Boomslang skin vigorously now.

“Why do you hate him and my father so much?  Were you jealous of them as a kid or something?”

Snape's eyes glinted with rage and fought to focus on keeping track of the potion. 

 “I would never be jealous of such sorry excuses for human beings, James Potter was an arrogant, spoiled brat that passed those very same qualities to you.”

Potter had stopped chopping and was now staring at Snape with raging defiance.

“Well at least they didn’t go off to become Death Eaters! How can you call them and me such terrible things when you ran off and joined Voldemort first minute you got!”

Snape stopped stirring altogether, frozen for a few seconds before fully focusing on the boy. He didn’t bother to hide his absolute rage and took an intimidating step towards him.

“Listen here Potter” he practically spat the word. “Your father was a conceited swine and you have shown yourself to be exactly the same!” His voice slowly increased until he was yelling.

“Proud, presumptuous Potter! couldn’t even ask for help when it meant the death of others! the rise of the Dark Lord! So certain that he must play the hero!”

He barely noticed when the boy tentatively took a step back, accidentally pushing a large glass jar off the table when his hand reached out.

“How many more people will be killed in your name, Potter! You’re impulsive behaviour puts more than just yourself at risk!”

Fear shone in the boy’s eyes now but Severus was still to wrapped up in his own wrath to care

“Why others believe you are anything but a worthless brat baffles me boy!” he pushed Potter harder than he intended and the boy evidently wasn’t stable enough to stop himself falling. Potter hit his head on the edge of the table then landed on the hard stone floor with a sickening smack, he was knocked unconsciously instantly. Severus stared horrifiedly at the blood that  was also now beginning to leek out of the boy and realised he’d landed on the glass of the broken jar as well.

He felt true horror and was frozen to the spot, all he could think was what have I done?

Chapter Text

After being rooted to the spot for a few more moments, he jumped into action. He cast a stasis spell on the potions so they wouldn't be a danger, then leant down next to the boy.

"Potter? Potter?! Harry?" He couldn't keep the fear from his tone, if he could get the boy to regain consciousness it would be a good sign, but his anxiety just doubled as there was no reaction.

He carefully levitated Harry out of the potions labs, making sure not to dislodge any of the glass. He made it to the boy's rooms then placed him down on his stomach gently. Tentatively he removed the shirt with a flick of his wand to see the wounds better.

He couldn't hold back the gasp that escaped his lips when he saw everything.

There were the wounds inflicted by the glass that Potter had just fallen on, now liberally bleeding, but there were others that were much older. Bruising was evident across most of the boy's back, as were the partially healed cuts and welts. Even more alarming was the thin silvery scars, evidence that this had been going on for a while.

All at once everything clicked into place, the bruising cream, the clothes, the locked trunk, sending the owl away. It was his relatives that had done this, apparently doing it for some time. He cursed himself, for not seeing, he cursed all the adults who had contact with Potter. How had the boy's so called 'godfather' missed this? or Albus? that man knew nearly everything that went on. He felt his blood boil as he thoughts of the cockroaches that had dared lay a hand on a kid in this manner…... He would not let it stand, no matter his animosity towards the kid.

Had it not been for the fact that Potter was now in front of him requiring healing, he might of just paid another trip to Privet Drive. As it was, Potter came first and he tried to block out his extraneous feelings.

He quickly accio'ed vials of potions including, pain reliever, blood replenishing, strengthening solution, essence of Murtlap, the bruise cream and more. He coaxed the boy into swallowing the pain reliever and the blood replenisher then used his wand to slowly and painstakingly levitate each shard of glass out of the cuts they'd created and discarded them in a bin. He could seal the small cuts up but the larger ones required bandages. After making sure every gash was covered and not prone to start bleeding again be began smearing on the bruise cream. The one he was using now was much stronger than the one he'd originally given Potter, it worked well but couldn't heal every bruise and some stayed a stubborn greeny yellow colour. He gently turned the boy over and found even more bruises which he quickly set to work at.

Throughout the whole ordeal Potter stayed frighteningly still and he quickly cast a diagnostic specific for concussions, he breathed audibly as it displayed the boy had only developed a minor concussion and would be okay. Only when there was nothing else he could do, did he conjure a chair and let himself fall into it, face buried in his hands.

Guilt was gnawing at his every fibre. The way he'd seen those green eyes light up with fear haunted him, how had he ever managed to lose control like that? He had failed so miserably, he didn't see anything but what he wanted to see in the boy, even when it had stopped making sense. Then he had gone a step further and pushed Potter, resulting in his fall onto the glass, perhaps it was even similar to how his relatives treated him.

So this had been the secret the boy had been hiding, he cursed himself for not confronting it sooner. The fact the boy had been suffering every summer…. it was appalling. Every year they had been sending him back to those despicable people, every year they had failed to notice anything was wrong. He couldn't believe he had constantly called the boy spoiled, in all the times he'd pictured Potter's home life it had always been with the boys relatives fawning over him. He briefly wondered if Potter had ever tried to tell anyone, something he would certainly ask the boy when he woke up.

That brought him to his next task, he would not, could not, pretend he'd seen nothing. He had no idea how he was now meant to help the boy, but he would try, he had to after all he'd done.

If Lily knew she'd be rolling in her grave, Snape had sworn to protect her son and now….. now he was the one hurting him. He stayed at the boy's side the entire night.

***

Harry felt the strange detachment that only came from being unconscious, like sinking into a pool of liquid lead. This wasn't the first time this had happened, far from it, he'd wondered exactly what he had done to set his uncle off this badly. Normally accidental magic was enough to push his uncle too far but he didn't recall using any. In fact he was having trouble recalling anything at all.

There was a small sort of panic at the idea of not remembering anything and he fought hard to work his way back into consciousness. He could tell he was lying down on something, something much softer than his rough mattress. He felt a bit exposed in his current position and tried to bring his knees closer in an effort to make himself smaller. Unfortunately the movement made his back ache terribly.

"Stay still." The voice was soft and cool. It certainly didn't belong to any of the Dursley's.

Carefully he opened his eyes and and the blurry image of a deep blue room met him. Next there were small blobs of shapes, he managed to recognised a door, his trunk and a wardrobe. One of the blobs started moving and he realised that it was a person. He looked at the person intently and noticed they were wearing only black. He was sure he only knew of one person that wore such dark clothes and carried such a distinctive intensity, though how he ended up here Harry had no clue.

"Pr'fess'r?" The word didn't come out nearly as smooth as he wanted it too and he figured it must have been almost inaudible but the dark blob nodded.

He felt the cool metal of his glasses being put on his face and everything came into much greater focus. Then a rush of memories came flying at him, Snape taking him from the Dursley's to go on some Order mission, spending time in Snape's house reading and studying, going to Diagon alley and most importantly the argument with Snape. He couldn't help the reflexive flinch that came when he saw the potions master mere meters away. Something like sadness flashed in Snape's expression but it was gone as fast as it came.

"How are you feeling?" His words were tinged with something akin to concern, something he thought he'd never hear from Snape.

He wondered that himself, how was he feeling? well there was a dull ache across most of his back and chest but that was almost imperceptible if he kept still, his head was pounding with a terrible headache but all in all it wasn't too bad.

"I feel fine." then came the next question he was scared to ask.

"Sir. What exactly happened?"

Agains Snape's mask briefly slipped and Harry recognised glimpses of guilt.

"We were in the potions lab and we had an… argument. I lost control of myself and pushed you, you fell and hit your head and landed on glass from a broken jar. I have done my best to heal most of the cuts but there are some which will simply need time.

Snape almost seemed to ready himself for the next bit. "I ….. apologise, it was not right of me to lose control like that and it resulted in you being injured."

it took him some time to digest all of what Snape had said. He did remember that terrible argument but he had no recollection of falling. Most strange was the fact that Snape had just apologised, he didn't think he'd ever heard the man apologies to anyone before. Then another realisation dawned on him and he felt very sick, he didn't want to ask but he needed to know….

"When you healed the cuts by the glass did you …" He couldn't quite get the words out

"See the rest of your injuries? Yes I did. Would you like to explain how you obtained such injuries?"

Cold dread settled in the pit of his stomach, Snape couldn't know about that, the thought mortified him.

"I fell down the staircase, sir, I was tired and it was night time and I slipped." He spoke just a bit too fast and Snape's gaze stayed at it's frightening intensity.

The professor's next words were deep and slow. "Mr Potter, I understand if you do not want to explain everything right now but I must ask that you, do not, lie to me. Can you promise to do so?"

He thought carefully, he was pretty sure he could hide what he wanted without lying and he was not sure how Snape would react if he didn't agree so he hesitantly nodded.

"Okay Sir, I promise."

Snape seemed placated and his eyes stopped burning holes in Harry.

"What time is it Sir?" He had no clue how long he'd been out and he was anxious to change the topic.

"I believe it is 6:37am."

What!? he'd been out most the night then, why was Snape still here? he hadn't possibly stayed with him that long. Another more pressing concern alerted him.

"We are still leaving today right Sir?" He hoped this hadn't put a stop to any of the original plans.

"Well that remains to be seen. It depends on your condition, as I stated earlier it is dangerous to go on this undertaking injured."

"But Sir, I'm fine!" He made a valiant show of sitting up completely and moving around without any sign of pain

"Yes, the picture of physical health." drawled Snape completely unconvinced.

"Well if you are so keen to prove how 'fine' you are shall we have breakfast?" Harry nodded and stood up, his back did hurt but it was nothing he couldn't deal with. When he noticed Snape watching him he gave him a lopsided grin and made his walking as normal as possible.

***

That child will be the death of me, Severus thought to himself as the made their way to the kitchen. He was glad that the intense environment had dissipated somewhat and carefully studied the boy as he ate.

The idiotic Gryffindor was now making a show of good health and he didn't believe it for a second. Instead he averted his eyes and watched Potter from his peripheral vision. There were a few winces and he moved carefully when he thought Severus wasn't watching. He was in two minds about going; he was not about to take an injured 15 year old boy into a potentially dangerous environment however, this would be the only chance they would have for the next three months. If the Dark Lord found out that stone's location in that time…..it would be suicide to go after it.

"Potter, cast a spell." That certainly got the boy's attention.

"What? I'm still not allowed to do magic Sir." Snape fought the urge to roll his eyes,

"Do you honestly think the ministry could track magic here? the wards make you invisible including most magic you do, barring the unforgivables of course."

"Wait I've been allowed to do magic the entire time?!" He felt a small hint of amusement and the edge of his mouth twitched subtly.

"Yes, now would you like to demonstrate by casting a spell?" He was checking to see the strength of Potter's magic.

"Okay, sure." The boy was openly smiling now, a small part of Severus was glad that Potter could still be so happy after what happened with his relatives, the larger part of him however found it quite irritating and he matched it with a scowl.

Potter withdraw his wand and pointed it at his cup. "Avolare."

The glass grew a small pair of white feathery wings and began flying towards the kitchen roof.

Severus raised an eye brow at Potter's choice of spell but the boy was stupidly grinning at the now manically flying cup and didn't even notice. Eventually even Potter got sick of the thing and he pointed his wand at it

"Finite Incantatem." the glass fell and broke into two clean pieces

Well at least the boy could perform minor spells, he still wanted a better example if he was going to risk both their lives on it.

"Thank you for ruining one of my cups, however I'll need you to cast something a bit more taxing. A Patronus perhaps?" He knew it was a hard ask, most fully fledged wizards struggled to produce a corporal Patronus. Apparently Potter was determined to show him he was in full health because he nodded and closed his eyes presumably focusing on a happy memory.

"Expecto Patronum." He said it at a normal volume but with quite a bit of force.

Silvery light escaped poured out of Potters wand and formed an impressive Stag. Potter gazed proudly at it and slowly let it dissolve.

"Did I pass your test?"

He had, with flying colours managing to cast a patronus on his first try.

"Yes but that by no means we are going. Your magic is strong but physically I'm still not sure."

Potter looked slightly frustrated but nodded.

"Sir please, I know whats at stake here and I really don't think we should risk cause my back hurts a bit."

"Nevertheless, the decision is mine. I will make the final call."

He was going to have to decide soon he realised, everything was mostly packed but he definitely wanted to go during in the day.

For the next hour he continued to think on it, Potter was trying to make it look like he wasn't waiting by immersing himself in one activity or another but he continually saw the boy glance his way expecting an answer. It was after the roughly 18th time he'd done this, Severus decided.

"We will be going, but; you will not exert yourself at any stage. You will take all potions without complaint and you will notify me immediately if you think anything is wrong."

Potter was grinning and nodded,

"A verbal response please Potter."

"Yes sir." Severus eyed the boy critically but Potter truly looked like he'd agreed with all the conditions he'd outlined.

"Have you packed?"

The boy was about to nod before thinking better of it, "Yes."

"Good, are you ready to leave in 5 minutes?"

"Yep." Potter was practically buzzing with excitement now

He abruptly left to grab the bag he planned on taking, making sure to add extra pain relievers, bruise salve and blood replenishers. He also managed to finish off making the polyjuice potion from the night before since he had mostly forgotten about it. Because of this he had really taken 15 minutes to finish and when he walked back into the sitting room he was met with a fidgeting teenager who stood holding his own bag. He was surprised to see Potter wearing the cloak he'd bought yesterday, at least he knew it was being used.

"Ready?" it was more of a statement then a question and Potter barely had the chance to nod before Severus grabbed the boy's arm and apparated them both away.

***

There was a terrible sensation of being squished and pulled before he was thrown into a hard rocky floor. Pain flared up his back and he bit his lip, hard, to stop from making any noise. Snape stood next to him watching and he was glad he stifled the noise. He carefully stood up and looked around, it seemed they were in a cave, there was light coming from behind them but it was still a bit dim. Snape pulled out his wand and with a silent Lumos, lit up the entire cave.

"Soooo is this the place then?" Now lit by his wand, it was very easy to see Snape's scowling expression.

"Of course not Potter. Besides it being a mystery where exactly the stone is, the whole place is covered in anti-apparation wards. This is the only spot that's not completely inaccessible, it would seem this is the entrance."

The cave was rather bare, small stalactites hung from the roof and the whole thing was made of a dark stone that looked rather hard to break. In front of them were 3 pathways that led into complete darkness.

"Which way do we go then?"

when there was no response Harry nearly laughed,

"You don't know? I thought you woulda' mapped this whole place out before we went."

Snape seemed irritated at the lack of respect as well as his own lack of knowledge and turned to reprimand the boy.

"Well Potter. Like I said before this whole place is completely unknown. When the wizard who created the stone hid it, he didn't just leave a map for anyone to find! You will also speak to me with more manners than that, I am still your professor even if we aren't at Hogwarts."

Snape finished his mini tirade and was left with question of which way to go. As he knew next to nothing about the place it was a really a one in three chance, the wrong tunnels could possibly lead them to a trap and he had no way of combating that. He was going to keep track of where they went though in case they needed to find their way out again.

"Point me North"

Harry instantly noticed what he was doing but chose not to remark on it. Snape conjured a piece of paper and pencil, he drew a sketch of three different pathways and drew one of them with bolder lines and thicker lines. Harry guessed this was going to be the path they were taking.

His assumption was proved correct as Snape started walking towards the right-most tunnel and he followed obediently.

It was after about half an hour or walking when Harry began to get bored, the cave really didn't change much from its bare state and Snape had said nothing. Instead he was forced to wallow in his thoughts. So Snape had seen his injuries, he was rather shocked that Snape wasn't mocking him about it or at the very least hadn't asked a single question. Well that was fine with him, if Snape didn't mention he wasn't about to discuss it, especially when they had much more pressing matters to focus on, like for example, this never-ending cavern.

He plucked up a bit of Gryffindor courage and spoke.

"Sir, how long do you think this cave is?"

Snape didn't even show any reaction and continued walking at his brisk pace.

"I don't know Potter."

"Do you think we're going the right way?"

"I don't know."

"How far…"

"Potter! I know next to nothing about this place and do not have an answer to your incessant questions." Snape cut him off harshly.

Harry took that as sign not to say anything else and continued to follow the light of Snape's wand. Boredom gripped him again and he began to count the stalactites on the ceiling.

He was up to 236 when he spotted a small movement to his right, he'd fallen slightly behind Snape and there was now not much light lit where he was. He became on guard but didn't stop walking. He felt, rather than saw, the movement again and looked at the spot he was sure it came from. There was a long black thin snake against the edge of the wall and the it simply met his stare and poked its forked tongue out, he was about to to tell Snape when it moved instantaneously and slithered far away in the direction they'd come.

He figured it didn't matter much now and increased his pace so he was closer to Snape and the light. He was glad for the warmth his cloak was providing as it was rather damp and cold down here.

More time passed when Harry became brave enough to ask another question,

"Sir, am I allowed to use magic down here?" He knew Snape would at least be able to answer this one and he really did want to know.

"I think that would be a good idea Mr Potter, we have no idea what we'll find down here and it would be wise to use every weapon available to us. I doubt that the ministry will be able to sense any magic you may do down here as this place is so concealed and hidden."

He smiled brightly at the answer, Snape hadn't even made a disparaging comment and he was allowed to use magic. He took out his own wand and muttered a Lumos, instantly the tip of the wand brightened and more of the cave was revealed. He waited for Snape to say something but the professor remained silent.

His happiness was short lived as the march into darkness continued, after awhile even counting stalactites was not enough to take his mind off the sheer boredom he felt. Not to mention fatigue; he had no idea how long had passed but he was almost certain that it must of been quite a few hours based on the tiredness in his entire body added to the achyness of his back.

A while later and he was ready to simply rest on the cold stone of the cave floor. He was just about to say something when Snape spoke first.

"We will stop here for the night."

relief washed through him and he watched as Snape managed to impossibly pull out food and sleeping matts out of a very small bag, he briefly wondered exactly what else was in there.

The professor picked up a twig and enlarged it until the point it resembled a log, he repeated this with another one and began constructing a fire. He pointed his wand and spoke a clear Incendio and a small red spark jumped from his wand and set the logs and twigs alight. The cave was now basked in a warm glow as their long shadows were thrown against the walls. Harry felt the warmth of the fire and gravitated towards it, his feet were particularly cold. Snape held two bowls filled with stew and Harry's mouth watered at the smell, when Snape handed the bowl to him he began wolfing it down.

Snape still gave no comment and Harry was beginning to feel like something was off about the man. It was disconcerting to say the least that he hadn't been throwing insults non-stop at Harry like normal and he was almost relived when Snape gave his next comment,

"Potter we may be in a cave but must you insist on eating like a heathen?"

Snarky Snape he could deal with,

"Sorry Sir, but you have to admit it's good stew."

Snape rolled his eyes "Yes well, Polly is quite the cook."

They sat sitting in front of the fire enjoying the reprieve from their aching muscles before Snape's next question made Harry wish they were back walking in the dark caves.

"Potter, how did you really obtain your injuries?" The professors tone wasn't nearly as cutting as normal. If Harry didn't know any better, he'd say it was almost soft. 

"Does it matter Sir?" he wished Snape would just let the matter drop

"Yes it most decidedly does." Snape's full attention was on him and he wanted nothing more than to fade into the stone beneath him. Instead he tried to muster up as much courage as he could and spoke casually

"I got them at home Sir." He hoped if he made it sound boring Snape wouldn't press for more, unfortunately the potion master was too intent on continuing. 

"Why were you in a cupboard when I arrived?"

Harry gritted his teeth and refused to speak; he'd be damned if he ever told Snape about that god-forsaken cupboard.

"The marks on your back, who made them?"

"Like I said, it doesn't matter!"

Snapes face grew dark at his outburst but surprisingly faded back into it's own stoic mask quickly.

"Potter you will have to give me answers at one point or another, I will be able to get them out of you. After all I did pack Veritaserum."

He paled at the threat and truly hoped Snape wouldn't follow through, he could only imagine what he'd say if he took the truth-inducing serum.

"Why the hell do you care, it doesn't make a difference one way or another."

"Potter, I am your professor and it is my duty to be aware of such things. Who gave you those injuries?"

his next answer was so muffled it didn't even make sense to his own ears.

"A little louder please."

"My bloody Uncle alright?"

Snape looked somber but not surprised, Harry had enough of this interrogation.

"Sir, may I retire for bed." His tone was a bit clipped but he didn't care he couldn't even met Snape's eye.

"Yes you may."

glad for the dismissal he quickly turned away and and unrolled his sleeping mat, he took of his cloak and draped it over himself as a blanket. He was asleep within minutes.

 

***

Serverus didn't move from his spot by the fire as the boy's breathing steadied and he lapsed into sleep. He was a little put off by having his suspicions confirmed. He still had so many questions that needed answers, was this a regular occurrence? did they do worse? what had Potter done to earn such a punishment? not that it was ever justifiable. He felt a little bad about threatening Potter with Veritaserum but the boy needed encouragement to speak and he wasn't exactly soft and gentle enough to coax it out of him.

Their trek through the caves had proved immensely frustrating. He had no idea if they were even remotely close to nearing the stones location or heading towards some deadly trap. He hated the fact they had basically no choice but to continue forwards and he was a little worried about how long they would be here; they couldn't last forever; eventually they would run of food and water or they'd at least go mad at being stuck in theses caves. He tried to put his worries to rest, they'd only been walking one day, they had enough provisions to last for a while longer yet.

His gaze landed back on the boy soundly asleep and he felt a very uncharacteristic emotion, the teenager already had the weight of the wizarding world on his shoulders, now to find out how he'd been raised….. He may dislike Harry Potter but those muggles would be brought to justice, he was after all a death eater, there were some benefits.

Chapter Text

The next day was much the same as the first, endless walking in a dark, damp cave. Harry was not one to be claustrophobic considering how much time he'd spent locked in a cupboard, but he did long for fresh air and the outdoors. He thought about Ron and Hermione and what they were doing at the moment, then he wondered if Hagrid had finally gotten his hands on the green-tailed Moke creature he'd been wanting for weeks. Eventually he was bored enough to attempt conversation with the dour potions master in front him.

"Uh Sir?"

although he couldn't see it, he was almost sure Snape was scowling.

"Yes Potter?"

"How did you find out about this place?"

"Long hours or research and hardwork, something I doubt you've ever done. "

That was a rather biting response but he was ready to be scolded rather than endure the dullness of silence.

"And what did this research entail?"

"Big heavy books that even Ms Granger would find unpleasant."

More silence,

"Sir, Why do you teach at Hogwarts when you could just live in the Manor?"

Even more silence. He waited a little longer this time.

"Did you…"

"Potter! how about this, I shall answer a question of yours if you answer a question of mine? 3 questions each."

Harry pondered for a moment, "Okay but you have to answer it completely and no half-truths."

He didn't trust that he would get an answer out of Snape otherwise.

"Alright but same goes for you, and we both may decline to answer 1 question. You go first."

Harry thought a little longer, he didn't want to waste any of his three questions.

" Have you seen Vol… You-Know-you since his return?" It was a topic he'd thought on all summer and Snape would actually be someone very much in-the-know about Voldemort.

"Yes. He called a meeting shortly after that night in the graveyard," Harry cringed at the mention, "and many after that, I believe unfortunately for us all, he is well and truly back. Does that answer your question?"

Nearly, "What is he planning?"

"I'm not entirely sure, I only know that he intends to steal something from the ministry and is continuing to break Death Eaters out of Azkaban."

Snape had actually answered him, it was more than he'd been getting from Sirius, Hermione and Ron put together.

"Alright your turn." He was curious about what Snape would ask.

"Did you ever tell anyone about your home life?"

Ugh, he should've guessed that Snape would ask about this. He'd been so weirdly inquisitive and Harry wasn't one hundred percent sure why. He was a little worried that Snape was just storing up info to taunt him with later but some small part naïvely trusted him.

"Twice and another time accidentally." He hoped that would be enough to satisfy Snape.

"Elaborate." Of course it wasn't.

He tried to speak in an emotionless monotone voice, the same tone he'd use when reading from a history book. "In grade two, there was a teacher Ms O'connely. She kept asking about what my relatives were like and one day I caved and told her everything. She went and confronted my uncle, he told her I was a pathological liar and made up things to gain sympathy, she sortiv' hated me after that."

He subtly shuddered at the memory of what he'd uncle had done that week.

"And the second time?"

"Grade 5. Mr Limbardo. I wasn't allowed to get grades higher than Dudley and he began to notice me purposely failing tests. He kept going on about how I had 'potential' and it annoyed me to the point I told him why 'potential' was completely useless. "

He'd lost his uncaring tone and was speaking bitterly. He quickly replaced it and continued.

"Anyway, he said he was going to fix it, I pleaded with him not to go to my uncle. He agreed and said he'd go to the authorities instead. I'm not really sure what happened to him but he had to fly to Ireland for some emergency, frankly I was relieved."

"What about the accidental time?"

He was beginning to think he got the rougher end of this deal, Snape's answer was not nearly this long.

"The school nurse, I was sent there after a run in with Dudley and Co. She noticed some of the other stuff and put two and two together. She wanted to help but I wasn't willing to say anything, I'd learnt my lesson. Sometimes she gave me bandages and Panadol though, that really was quite nice."

He thought that surely he had satisfied Snape's question and continued on.

"Why did you stop being a Death Eater?"

Even in the dim light he could see Snape tense.

"Ask a different question."

"What? why?"

"Remember our agreement Potter."

Now he wanted an answer more than ever, nevertheless he changed questions.

"Why did you try and save me during first year? During that Quidditch match when Quirrell hexed my broom."

"You are a student and no matter how much I may dislike you, I don't make a habit of letting my students die."

Well that seemed logical and revealed nothing. Now he was stuck with Snape's question.

"Why didn't you tell Dumbledore why you wanted to stay at Hogwarts over the summer?"

That was hard to explain. "Well I did say that my relatives hated me and I guessed he knew a little bit about what happened, but he explained the blood magic and the fact that I needed it to be safe from Vol.. You-Know-Who. After that I kinda had bigger problems to deal with, I could handle it."

For his last question, he decided to take a risk. "Did you know my mother?" He knew they were similar ages and went to Hogwarts at the same time, logic dictated that he might of known of her at least.

"Yes," Harry's heart skipped a beat but he didn't fail to notice the weary sigh in Snape's voice.

"I knew her before we went to Hogwarts, she lived nearby. We were quite close, I was the one to tell her she was even a witch."

Harry couldn't believe that Snape had been friends with his mother. It brought up so many more questions but he could only whisper out one.

"What was she like?" He knew he'd already maxed out his questions but he needed to know. Snape didn't seem to mind him breaking the rule thankfully.

"She was…. spirited and kind. Lily lit up any room she walked into. She was fiery and impulsive but still managed to be sneaky enough to pull many harmless pranks. Her favourite subject was charms, she would make practically make anything walk, fly dance or sing, including everyone of her school books, and mine, for that matter."

Harry hung onto every word Snape said, he was shocked about the way he spoke about her, like they were old best friends.

"What happened between you two?"

Snape's soft demeanour was gone in a flash, "I believe you well and truly used up your three questions. I however, have one left."

"Why were you in a cupboard when I arrived?"

Harry briefly faltered in his steps.

"A different question." He was glad they'd added that rule, he wasn't explaining the cupboard to Snape, not now, not ever.

"Alright, how long has your uncle been physical with you?"

The professor really did have a knack for asking hard questions.

"Well he wasn't ever this bad before."

"That wasn't what I asked."

He huffed in annoyance, "Fine, basically for as long as I can remember. It used to just be a few knocks here and there but it escalated."

"And what were the punishments for?"

"You already used your three questions." Unlike Snape, he was not willing to answer a bonus question.

They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence and Harry began imagining pictures out of the cracks on the walls to fend off boredom. They walked for perhaps an hour or two before Snape abruptly stopped and Harry half bumped into him.

"Can you hear that?"

Harry strained his ears and listened closely. Yes, there was a sound of something familiar….. water! running water!

"Yes, it sounds like a stream of some sort."

Snape nodded in agreement and they both sped off at a quicker pace enthused by the fact they'd found something.

The noise was getting louder and louder and soon they walked into a cavern with high ceilings and a small stream running down the centre of it. The water gleamed unnaturally and Harry found it very hard to distinguish where the water entered of left the cavern from.

"What do you think this is?"

Snape edged closer to the water and peered speculatively at it.

"An obstacle of some sort. I believe it'd be best not to touch the water, there's some type of magic in it and I'd guess that its not friendly."

Harry silently agreed, it was much to inviting and sparkly to be safe.

"How do you suppose we cross it?"

It would be easy to cross on foot; at most it would only go to their knees but Harry thought that was part of its trap.

"We carefully levitate ourselves using Levicorpus to stop our descent."

Snape walked right up to the water edge and used a small propelling spell to lift himself up, right before he would've landed in the water he stopped himself, hovered briefly in the air, and then propelled forward once more. This cycle repeated about four times before Snape finally allowed himself to fully land on the safety of shore on the other side, looking expectantly at Harry.

Harry walked up to the same spot Snape had and uttered the spells to propel and catch himself. He was not nearly as graceful as Snape had been but it worked nonetheless. It was only when he got to his last descent that he judged it badly and subsequently fell backwards. He instinctively put an arm behind him to catch himself and felt something cool on the very edge of his fingertips.

He froze as he realised he was touching the water and waited for the inevitable pain or torment but, strangely, none came. Tentatively withdrawing his hand he inspected it and found it completely fine. Not even a drop of water as evidence it was ever wet.

Snape stood impatiently waiting for him to get up and Harry noticed that he hadn't seen his slip up. He was about to explain what happened when he thought better of it; he'd only just put a very small fingertip in it, it had done nothing and really didn't seem to be a cause for alarm. Besides, he could do without Snape scolding him for disobeying for at least one hour.

And so they spent another more time marching monotonously through tunnels, mud and dirt. Harry felt sore, his injuries were flaring up and try as he might, it was getting harder to ignore them. If that wasn't enough he felt kinda…. hot. Like this whole place was just one big sauna that was heated up past its maximum setting. He was going to mention it to Snape but he wasn't sure he had enough energy to uphold one of Snape's vigorous conversations; often their discussions felt like a game of chess and currently, he was in no mood to play.

When Snape made a move to rest for the time being , his shoulders sagged in relief. Even rolling out his sleeping mat seemed to take a momentous effort and he couldn't help his slight swaying. He more or less collapsed onto the thing, not bothering to arrange himself into a more comfortable position.

"Food Mr Potter?" Drawled a voice from next to him.

The thought of eating seemed disgusting and he stomach turned in on itself at the thought.

"I'm good thanks." he didn't feel good but that was besides the point.

***

Severus stared at the boy, indeed it seemed he had absolutely no interest in food, hardly a good sign from a growing teenager. He took a minute to properly study Potter; he seemed pale and weak, face strained in some sort of discomfort despite his eyes being closed. He swiftly placed his hand to the boy's forehead and Potter's green eyes opened widely. His suspicions were proved correct, the boy had a fever.

"What the hell was that?" The Gryffindor stared back as if he'd been violated, Snape fought the urge to snort. All he did was briefly touch the boy.

"You are sick." He was not, and never will be, one to step around the matter at hand.

"No I'm not…" came the grumbled reply.

"How long have you been feeling sick?"

"I dunno…. probably since the stream?"

A bad feeling came over Severus, he hoped he was wrong.

"You did. not. touch the water right Potter?"

the boy's face betrayed him and Snape couldn't help the anger bubbling to the surface.

"For the love of…. Why in merlins name did you neglect to mention this?"

It seemed Potter too sensed his anger and was quick to defend himself.

"It was only the very tip of my finger! nothing happened so I figured it was fine."

"Do you think it has no relation to your current situation?"

Understanding dawned on the boy's face and Snape felt all the more frustrated.

"How is it that seem to attract trouble like excrement attracts flies! If you had stopped and thought for a moment you might have realised that those waters were obviously cursed and you only needed the smallest of drops to be affected."

To his credit Potter did have the sense to look embarrassed at his oversight and didn't make any retort back.

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and contemplated the situation. It was lucky that he had made such preparations in the event that one of them fell ill. Stalking over to his bag, he roughly pulled out two fever reducers and returned to Potter.

"Drink this." he offered one of the bluey/grey vials out towards Potter who eyed it suspiciously.

"What is is?"

"Something that will correct your lapse of judgement."

When the boy made no further move he thrusted it more forcefully towards him "For merlin's sake Potter, its a fever reducer. It won't kill you"

After one more dubious glance, Potter quickly downed it and handed the empty vial back to him.

"It should work within 10 minutes. We will know its effectiveness then."

Potter nodded tiredly and was asleep nearly instantly. Snape sighed very softly to himself; he'd need to monitor the boy's condition, he had no idea how well the fever reducers would work on an illness brought on by strange waters. He decided to take a quick power-nap, grabbing any sleep he could get in the next few hours was vital and now was as good a time as any.

He however, greatly underestimated how tired he was. The apparition and constant walking had taken their toll and he woke up nearly 2 hours later. In fact he was sure he would've slept longer but there was a small noise that brought him out of unconsciousness.

Quickly sitting himself he cast a quick Lumos and looked over to his charge, Potter was shivering violently and very softly murmuring. Severus tried to make out the words but they were completely indecipharal, gently he placed his hand across the boy's forehead and fought the urge to jerk away when it was burning hot.

Concern was now rapidly growing in the pit of his stomach as he took stock of the situation. Deciding to wake Potter he grabbed the boy's shoulders and shook. When this illicited no reaction he shook harder.

"Potter. Potter, wake up."

Slowly green eyes opened, hazy and unfocused.

He grabbed the second fever reducer from earlier and all but tipped it down Potters throat, there were no protests surprisingly and it warned of how out-of-it the boy truly was.

He would wait the 10 minutes and watch to make sure the fever reducer worked. If not well….he had a back up plan but he rather not use that quite yet.

He relit the fire in an effort to provide some much needed warmth and light, he really hoped this situation would pass over quickly; he'd had enough mini emergencies for a life time, just once he wanted to get away from insolent brats, meddling old men and Dark Lords.

Instead he was stuck in some dreary cave with the spawn of his deceased arch nemesis collecting some weapon Dumbledore wanted to keep from Voldermort. A quick cast of tempus told him it was 11:42pm, without the spell it was practically impossible to tell what time it was down here where there was no light.

He checked on Potter after ten minutes had passed and was dismayed to find that his fever hadn't changed. Perhaps had even gone up a few degrees. He fished out another vial and eyed it distrustfully. A Chattering Elixer, it had very strong healing properties; including numbing pain and maintaining core body temperatures but it also tended to leave its patients a little loose lipped. It was quite often used in St. Mungo's after some procedures and almost all patients had been reported to speak nonesensical sentences and behave in dreamlike states.

He did not want to be stuck with an insane talkative Potter, not at all. But…. his options were limited. Maybe if he just paid the boy no attention he'd just shut up, it gave him enough hope to make a decision.

Walking over once again to the boy he forcefully shook him awake.

"Potter."

The boy came to with the same slowness as before.

"I'm about to give you a potion which will almost definitely rid you of your fever, however you will also feel a little bit…strange. Probably talk about inane things that don't make sense or prattle about whatever floats through your attention span. Ok?"

It took a few moments for the boy to catch up until he finally understood and glared at him with hazy eyes.

"Is there….. any…..…thing, anything else?" he words were slow and deliberate and Severus shook his head indicating the answer.

"Fine."

Severus was doing it with or without consent but he preferred to have it. Glad with the reply, he passed over the bottle of fluro orange liquid and watched approvingly as Potter downed it. 30 seconds later and the results became obvious. Potter's eye were no longer scrunched in pain but glazed and unseeing. His body language that had been pretty much submissive since Severus had first got him was now open and relaxed. He only hoped that Potter would simply use the pain-free time to get some sleep or at the very least, stay silent.

"Brown, black brown." It seemed that his previous hopes were quickly demolished

"Excuse me?"

"This place. The colours, brown black and ber-rrrown, bit boring isn't it?" Severus decided that he would definitely take pleasure in taunting the boy over this later.

"Well we're hardly here for entertainment Potter."

the boy scrunched his nose up in confusion, "Who's we?"

Before Severus could reply Potter continued on "You know Hedwig really is a nice bird. All white and fluffy and and feathery. Do you have an owl?"

"Yes."

"I bet Hedwig would like him. Or her. Is it a him or her? you know what, it doesn't matter, Hedwig will like them anyway."

Snape stoked the fire with a short burst from his wand simply to give himself something to do. He heard a gasp from Potter and looked over at him curiously.

"You…. how…. what did you do?"

It took him a minute to understand to what Potter was referring to.

"You mean fixing the fire with magic?"

Potter rolled his eyes, "Remember you're not supposed to say magic."

"And why not?"

"Well I'm not too sure, just… don't say it. Maybe men with silver hands will come. Don't like the silver handed man."

Severus sighed as he realised all to well to whom Potter was referring to, hoping to direct the conversation to something more positive he tried a different tactic.

"How are classes going Mr Potter?" never mind that it was summer,

"Classes? ohhhh like Hoggywarts classes. Well I'm not sure what you mean. Are you asking what my grades are? what classes I enjoy? how much the staircase moves when I try and go to each class…."

"What subjects do you enjoy?" he went for the question that made the most sense before the boy could ramble on endlessly

"Potions."

His eyebrows hot way past his hairline. To say he was surprised would've been the understatement of the year.

"What? surely you hate potions?"

"Well I hate the class but you asked subject, two verrrrrrryy different things."

"Oh?"

"You see there are subjects I like and classes I hate, and classes I like but subjects I hate."

"And potions falls into the former?"

A strange grin formed on Potters face making Severus feel a little uneasy. "Yeah who wouldn't like the thought of potions? mixing stuff, making stuff, all the things they can do. It's awesome."

Severus couldn't really find much fault with what the boy said.

"But the class? well that went downhill from daaaaaay 1. Think the teacher already hated me, 'cause I was taking notes and he asked this like, super hard question. For someone who had just found out wizards were real days before, I had no hope. What's his name sss….Snam…..Snap!" he abnoxiously popped the 'p' sound.

Severus felt a very small tendril of guilt hearing the story. Potter had been taking notes? The question had been unfair for first year and he knew it, it was just so hard to see a mini version of James once again placed to taunt him.

"See a class I like and subject I dislike would be Defence Against the Dark Arts. Its fun in class sometimes, mainly when Professer werewolf taught it, but the subject is rather depressing to think about."

"Indeed?" Severus was a little amused by Potter's slip up of Lupins name.

"Yeah, like the fact that I know I have to learn it well cause Voldemort keeps comin' after me and I need to defend myself. I wish I could learn it without my life depending on it."

Severus had to admit it rather did have some logic. Potter seemed to internalise his ramblings for a little bit and was silent for a few minutes.

Something from before bothered him, it wasn't fair at all to ask while Potter was in such a state but he couldn't help himself…

"Potter, tell me about the cupboard."

The grin from before slid off the boy's face like a flame doused with water.

"My cupboard? well what do you want to know, Wally was a bit weird but you just had to get to know him."

He had no idea what to make of the answer so far, his cupboard?

"Who's Wally?"

"The spider who lived with me in my cupboard. Honsetly, I think there might have been a few spiders but I just called them all Wally."

Absolute dread was going the Severus and he felt a mixture of anger and sadness warring within him.

"You… You lived in a cupboard?"

He wanted to punch something when Potter simply shrugged. "Wasn't soooo bad. Just had to make some friends like Wally."

"Did you sleep in this cupboard?"

Potter regarded him quizzically, like it was the most normal thing in the world "Yes."

"Do you… still live there?" He managed to reign in his temper a small smidgen when the boy shook his head.

"Think they mighta been a bit scared from the notes…. letters" he corrected.

"They had that nice handwriting that looks all" he waved his hand in exaggerated movements, "Flouncy. It said Mr Potter, Number 4 Privet drive, the cupboard under the stairs." He said the last part of the sentence in an very exaggerated posh tone.

So no one at Hogwarts had noticed the strange address then? He knew they were self writing quills but surely someone would look at the golden boys letter. Another thought quickly occurred to him,

"Are you aware that a Hogwarts's letter is addressed using magic?"

That hazy gaze stared at him.

"No..?"

"How did you think they were written?"

Another shrug, "Not really sure I suppose, later I thought Dumbles wrote them, meant he knew about…."

So the boy picked up on what he feared, Potter thought Dumbledore knew everything and still sent him back there. It was misconception he wanted to correct but Potter would recall very little of this conversation thus making it pointless.

A strange sound came from Potter and Severus finally realised it was giggling.

"You know you're like Batman for real."

He had no clue what that meant "I'm not familiar with this 'Batman'"

"He's a superhero. He wears all black all the time, he has a super deep voice, he has to keep his identity a secret and he fights evil, basically saving everyone."

He figured it was some type of muggle reference but most shocking was Potter placing him in the role of the good guy, surely he was the snarky villain in Potter's story? He was probably taking the incoherent rambling too seriously.

"I don't wanna go back to the cupboard." It was said so quietly that had there been any other noise in the cavern he would've surely missed it. In that instant Potter seemed a lot less like the famous wizard people had such high expectations of and much more like a kid.

It was that sentence that gave him pause, he wasn't quite sure why he said what he said next,

"You won't have to. I promise."

That large grin was back, "Shoulda said bye to Wally then."

Harry's eyes began to close and Severus thought this was time for the potion to actually do its work and get rid of the fever now that the babbling part had mostly ran its course.

"Sleep, you need it."

That pretty much pushed Potter over the edge and he was out almost instantly, but not before one last sentence.

"Night, Batman."

A small tug at the corner of Severus's mouth was his only reaction.

Chapter Text

Severus allowed himself to sleep after watching Potter for a few hours. It seemed the potion had thankfully brought the fever down, even if it had done so at a price. By the time morning rolled around (checked with a quick Tempus) he was fatigued, weary and, well, grumpy. He woke Potter, who seemed coherent enough, and drew out the food from their bag that was placed under ever-lasting heat charms. He was dismayed to find their supply was running out, that posed the massive problem of finding more food in caverns with almost no other life. He decided to look closely from now on hoping to spot anything edible.

After they had eaten he cast a quick cleansing spell on himself and watched Potter follow suit, a cleansing spell was not nearly as good as a shower and he found himself wishing for the lavish bathrooms back at Prince Manor. From Potter's expression, he wasn't the only one.

It was after about 10 minutes of walking when the Gryffindor finally cracked.

"Sir, what exactly happened last night?"

"Are you referring to the illness you contracted after not notifying me that you had not successfully made it across the river?" His pointed look plus scathing tone had an immediate effect on Potter who looked like he was already regretting asking.

"Yeah…?"

"Well, you contracted a very high fever and I once again found the answer to a life-threatening Potter related issue."

"Yeah, and how exactly did you do that? I remember you saying something about a potion that would make me, talk a lot."

Ah, so the boy was worried about what he'd said, and rightly so.

"Yes, the Chattering Potion. Works extremely well in keeping the body's core temperature stable, reducing inflammation and minimising pain. It also has the added side affect of removing inhibitions and encouraging its user to speak, as such it is widely known to produce incoherent babbling from it's patients."

Without meaning to, he'd well and truly slipped into his lecturing mode and for a few seconds they may as well have been back at Hogwarts in a classroom.

Potter had taken all this in completely, unlike usual, and was looking rather concerned.

"And I drank this? What did I say?"

"Really Potter, do you ever listen? you were exactly as I had described, rambling on endlessly to my utter enjoyment." Sarcasm practically dripped from his last words.

The boy relaxed a little but wasn't completely done with the topic.

"But did I say anything…you know… revealing?" He'd gone a little pink from embarrassment and Severus considered wether he should speak the truth. Perhaps it was too much time hoarding information as a spy but he wasn't ready to reveal what he'd learned quite yet. Instead, he rolled his eyes and shot a medium level glare at his unfortunate companion,

"Fear not, your secrets are safe. You rattled on about an owl called Hedwig and spider called Wally. It seems you have some strange fascination with animals."

The boy visibly relaxed and stopped walking so rigidly. Severus continued on as if nothing had been said, not a trace of a lie on him.

They stopped for lunch earlier then they had other days, mostly due to their rather eventful night. Severus made sure to use less food this time, they were certainly going to need to ration it. He waited for the inevitable complaints he'd receive but Potter stayed silent, in fact he'd didn't even seem to notice.

After lunch they sat for a few more minutes, Potter idly playing with his Lumos by increasing and decreasing the size it illuminated. Abruptly he threw the ball of light at the wall with a swish of his wand where it went out leaving a small scorch mark.

Severus raised an eyebrow at him but the unruly mop of black hair just shrugged, unintimidated.

"What? I was curious at what it would do."

"Such a worthy pursuit of knowledge, how could I do anything but condone it?" It may have been sarcastic but there was partial truth in it, a small amount of curiosity was needed to learn anything.

"Allow me" He threw his own Lumos much harder at the wall where it left a much larger burn mark and plunged them into darkness. A wand tip lit up revealing a bemused Potter who stared at him as if he'd just grown an extra head.

He himself had rather enjoyed the impromptu move, it seemed to have relived a bit of tension.

"Sir?"

"Well, is your idle curiosity satisfied?"

Potter's grin spoke of mischief but for once he wasn't about to take as many points as possible from Gryffindor.

"Not completely." Potter then preceded to blow up a very large Lumos and hurled it at the unsuspecting wall where it left an even larger darkened patch of wall.

"Think I'm good now sir."

He was not about to let himself be outdone by another Potter, no matter how petty it was. He raised his wand, this time uttering Picta Lumos and the usual light that appeared was now blue. He smirked at Potters look of astonishment and threw it at the wall where it left a bright, cobalt blue smudge.

"Professor, how did you do that? Can you show me?"

Ugh, he hadn't counted on having to now teach it to Potter.

"Fine, simply utter 'Picta Lumos' and imagine the colour you wish the light to be."

He watched as the boy stared at his wand in concentration and a bright orange light flared out of it. It wasn't a particularly hard spell but it had annoyed him that the 5th year had gotten it so fast.

That infernal grin returned and the ball of light met stone once again.

Potter tried more colours and Severus even threw in a few of his own. The cavern was lit up with bright pinks, magentas, lilacs and greens then thrown into darkness over and over again. Only when the wall was fully decorated with large smudges of colour did they stop.

"I think you were right sir, that was a worthy pursuit of knowledge."

"I am a teacher, after all."

Unfortunately the jubilant mood didn't last long. he bent to pick up the bag and his sleeve pulled up. In the way his arm was angled, it showed a very clear tattoo of a snake and skull. Potter was staring at it too, ruling out Severus's hope that he'd missed it. Once again he felt the intense hatred of being branded by the Dark Lord in the first place and having the boy so clearly seeing it. He held his breath waiting for Potter to make a scathing comment.

Instead Potter shrugged, "It least it's not on your forehead."

He was so surprised he actually let out a very short laugh, the sound shocked him; it had been a long time since he'd so openly laughed. It was true in a way, his branding wasn't nearly as visible as Potter's but that mattered very little.

Not knowing what to say he started walking and was quickly followed by Potter. A small part of him was almost sad that they now had to go back to their monotonous walking after their brief respite.

It did give him time to think though, especially about the young wizard behind him. He wondered if anyone had actually spoken to Potter about the events of the Triwizard tournament, Albus would've, for sure, but Albus's talks were not normally half as reassuring as they should be. So that meant, after seeing a fellow student murdered, watching the darkest lord of their time resurrected and finding out a staff member was actually a Death Eater in disguise, he had been sent to deal with it alone, in the comfort of his 'relatives'. It was a wonder that Dumbledore's golden-boy hadn't had a breakdown yet.

That left another matter; he'd made a vow to protect Lily's child, and had done so. But he figured he could do it by putting a great deal of distance between himself and Potter, partly because he disliked the boy, partly because he hated the image of James, and partly because it was too painful to see that small semblance of Lily. But now, did the term protect also extend to Potter's mental health? he hoped not. Surely that was what Granger, the mutt, and the horde of Weasly's were for.

All the same….

"Potter, what happened at the end of the Triwizard tournament?"

The boy looked as if he'd been stung;

"I'm sure you know professor." he all but growled out.

He knew the important details. He knew that the dark lord was extremely displeased with the fact that Potter had gotten away. He knew that the resulting meeting was painful for all of Voldemort's followers specifically himself since he hadn't responded to the first call.

"I know the story vaguely, I'd like to here it from your perspective."

"Well ask someone else."

He was going to have to press for information, "Potter."

"How about a deal? I'll tell you the whole story, nasty bits and all, if you do something for me."

Now this was intriguing.

"And that would be?"

"Stop calling me Potter."

What? "No, I am your professor, I do not call students by their first names."

"At school you can call me Potter all you want but, c'mon, here we're in some dank tunnel. Who's gonna know?"

He considered it, it wasn't that difficult of a request and he really did want to hear the boy's account of events, surely it was worth sacrificing a little bit of pride. The boy was also now walking level with him so his face was in view.

"Alright….. Harry" he cringed at the strange informality but Potter's expression visibly brightened.

"Now, explain what happened in that graveyard."

That quickly wiped the grin off. "Where do you want me to begin?"

"How about, how you got there?"

He wondered if the caves they trekked through had always been this quiet or if they too were now paying attention to the small voice of an adolescent boy.

Guilt and pain were completely threaded through the boy's speech. "Well we were in that terrible maze and Cedric was stuck, vines were pinning him down. I went back to help him, and we found the cup together. He insisted I take it, but I wouldn't. He deserved it more than I did, and we'd found it at the same time so I said we should take it together… I shouldn't of… That was so stupid.."

Potter of course had acted the picture of Gryffindor then, and Diggory had in turn showed the intense loyalty of a Hufflepuff. They would've probably stayed life-long friends had the cup simply brought them back to where it was supposed to.

"Pott.. Harry, unless your Sybill Trelawney's next protégé, you did not know what was going to happen. Please continue." He hardly recognise the partially reassuring words coming from his own mouth, since when did he say please?

"The cup. It was a portkey, it took us to the graveyard. I knew something was wrong instantly, I'd seen the place before, in my nightmares, I knew it was somehow connected to Vold-… You-Know-Who."

"You dream of the Dark Lord?" this was not good.

A solemn nod made him inwardly curse. He was going to have to teach Potter Occlumency, a connection between the boy and the Dark Lord was a very very bad thing.

"Continue."

Potter looked like he was grinding stones together when he got the next words out.

"I told Cedric we should leave but before we could do anything, this voice spoke, 'kill the spare'. Worm tail he…..murdered…..Cedric."

Severus let the teenager wait however long he wanted to before speaking again. He dammed that stupid Tournament to hell, it was all a set up from the start and an innocent boy had lost his life simply because he'd been in the way. Too many had been killed because they'd been an inconvenience to Voldemort, far too many.

"After that Wormtail bound me against this large tombstone. I was fully trapped with no way of escaping. I watched as Wormtail created a potion using a bone from Tom Riddle's father, his own hand and my blood."

Severus had always wondered how Wormtail had lost his arm, he figured it had happened after the mongrel got himself into a scrap that had been too hard to get out of and faked his death again.

"How did he get your blood?"

"He cut my arm." Potter's hand ghosted over the spot where Severus presumed, the knife had sliced through.

"After that Voldemort was brought back to horrible mortal self, snake features and red eyes. He called all of his followers, I guess you would've felt that."

He had, it had been horrible realising the Dark Lord had well and truly returned, the black snake coiled in a skull had flared to life on his very forearm, promising pain and destruction. He was tempted to go to that call, to see if his worst nightmare was indeed true, but Albus had stayed his hand. The old wizard had been worried about the great deal of things that happened and asked Severus to stay by his side, Severus could still be considered a spy later and give Dumbledore's insistence as a valid excuse to that horrid creature.

"A few Death Eaters showed up, about 20. He spoke to them, making a big theatrics about his return. Then he turned his attention to me." The boy visibly gulped and Severus was finding himself ever the more curious about how Harry had actually managed to escape.

"He explained that my mother's protection had gone, that he could touch me now. He did, and, and it felt like my entire body was on fire. He wanted to kill me in front of everyone there, prove that it had been nothing but a fluke. He released me from the headstone and told me we were to duel.

"When he asked me to bow, I wouldn't do it. He used some spell to force me. Then we began the duel. I was hit instantly with a crucio."

Snape tried to hide his semi gasp, he had felt plenty of pain in his time but he'd never been crucio'd at the tender age of 14 . He wouldn't wish it on anyone, the absolute pain that filled your core was enough to make any sane person go mad, case and point, the Longbottoms.

"And then?"

"Well there was another Crucio and... I don't really know how to explain it, I shot out a spell at the same time he did and our wands connected."

"This connection between us turned gold, and all these people appeared. People Voldemort had killed. I saw Cedric and… my.. mum and dad."

This time Severus couldn't suppress his pause, the boy had duelled the Dark lord and seen his dead parents? Lily?

"I asked Professor Dumbledore later what happened. Apparently the two cores of our wands were taken from the same Phoenix and Priori Incantatem occurred. The spirits attacked Voldemort and gave me time to get away, I grabbed Cedric, accio'ed the cup and ended up back at Hogwarts."

Severus could certainly remember the image of a distraught Potter clutching the corpse of Diggory. It was one he would never forget. But that still wasn't the end of the story.

"What happened with Crouch Jr?"

Harry took a deep breath and continued. "He took me away from the crowd, at the time I thought he didn't want me to see…everything. Now I think he wanted the full story, most importantly how I escaped."

Damn Albus for not noticing Potter disappearing, damn himself too.

"He gave it away when he mentioned the graveyard, I hadn't said anything about that yet. He was running out of Polyjuice potion to. He cornered me and was about to kill me when you guys burst in."

He really hadn't realised how close a call that had been. Albus had been mad though, tearing through the hallways at lightning pace and disarming Crouch without a wand. It was these small glimpses that truly revealed Albus's true power.

"I take it, after that you were escorted to the hospital wing?"

That was after all, the next time he had seen Potter. During Fudge's idiotic rant.

"Uh, later. I explained what happened to Dumbledore and Sirius first."

That seemed a little harsh, they had made the boy explain straight after it happened? could they not have waited one night?

"And then a given a heavy Cruciatus and dreamless sleep potion I suppose?"

A puzzled look from Potter was thrown his way "Cruciatus Potion?"

"The Cruiatus curse has a toll on the body. Stimulating so many pain receptors at once generally leads to tremors and eventually loss of feeling and spasms. The potion counteracts that"

He spoke from experience after all.

"Huh, I don't think I ever got that potion."

How had that been overlooked? how seriously had the boy's wellbeing been considered in the whirlwind of events that transpired after the tournament?

It was the end of the story and apparently the end of their conversation. They both lapsed into their own thoughts for the time being.

It was obvious the physical work was having a toll on both of them. With little food and no sleep they were exhausted. Potter stumbled on rocks every now and then, it was after the 4th time that he firmly face planted into the ground.

Severus stood and patiently waited, he was beginning to lose hope that they'd ever find this damn stone. It was at this point he was about to call it time for dinner that something interesting and unexpected happened.

 

****

Harry was close to falling every step, he wasn't about to say anything though. He had perhaps a bit too much pride for that. His one awkward face plant had been embarrassing enough. Currently even the thought of even his terrible mattress at the Durslye's looked inviting, therefore he thought he was hallucinating when he heard something akin to…Laughter?

But Snape had stopped to, were there other people? He and Snape made eye contact and quickly hurried to the source of the sound. They were much more careful now when they turned to go left or right, before it had been random, now it mattered.

When there was faint reflections of light flickering on the wall Harry felt the strong urge to start sprinting. Only Snape's cautious looks stopped him.

They neared a narrow corridor of stone that ended in bright blinding light. Only when they reached the end of the corridor and walked into a size nearing the great hall, did Harry's eyes fully adjust and take in his surroundings.

There were about 4 tents pitched and lanterns placed around the whole area haphazardly. A large fire sat in the middle, lighting the space up, and 3 men currently sat around it joking back and forth.

Harry and Snape had already put away their wands, when they had become unnecessary, and therefore where now obscured in darkness. Snape placed an arm in front of Harry preventing him from going any further.

Harry whispered in quiet tones easily covered by the crackling fire and roars of laughter from the men.

"Shouldn't we go say hi? look they even have tents, maybe they know where to go"

Snape matched Harry's volume "We have no idea who they are, friend or foe, magical or muggle, and you want to just walk straight in?"

He was about to refute Snape's point but something else caught his eye, a long skinny shape had just moved from the shadows and into the circling light of the campfire. It moved silently and effortlessly, slithering across the ground and stalking it's prey perfectly. None of the men had noticed that it was within arms reach when it poised itself to strike, long pointed fangs seconds away from sinking into flesh. Harry's decision was made for him right then.

He ran out of cover and straight towards the men,

"STOP!" Harry guessed that he'd spoken parseltongue by the way that only the snake looked anywhere near comprehending.

"Don't attack him!" Ignoring the looks of utter astonishment across everyone's faces he aimed the words at the great big dark green Python. To Harry's utter relief it backed down and instead, slithered towards him.

"A sssnake ssspeaker? It hasss been a great amountsss of time since I have seeennsss oness of you."

"Uh well nice to meet you, I'm Harry." He could've slapped himself for sounding so stupid.

"It issss nice to meet you alsossss. I will beesss finding my diner elsewhere I guesssssss."

"Yeah thanks for that…" It slithered away towards the corridor he'd just come from.

It was now that the immediate danger had passed that Harry noticed how many people were staring at him. Snape had followed Harry in his sprint, though keeping a reasonable distance from the Python, and stood close with a his wand held discreetly in hand by his side.

The men looked frozen and shocked, very different from the animated laughing figures they'd been seconds ago. Like pressing play on a movie, they began to move again; regaining a little composure.

Snape too returned to his stoic mask, though, still kept his wand out.

Harry thought he might as well break the tension. "Hi, uh nice to see other people down here."

The man with stringy brown hair and a crooked chin recovered first. He edged out from the group and spoke with a confident yet friendly tone.

"I quite agree young man. Especially when they've just saved your life from a great big snake. Nice to meet you both, I'm Thompson."

He held out a rough hand marked with calluses and Harry politely shook it.

"I'm Harry and this is Professor Snape." As soon as the words escaped his mouth he knew they were foolish. Normally he would always be much more careful about keeping their identities a secret but in the chaos of the past minute he'd become a little distracted.

Snape too sent a scathing look his way and looked like he wanted to obliviate the men. Instead he surreptitiously tucked away his wand and walked a few steps in front of Harry.

"Yes nice to meet your acquaintance. Tell me, what exactly are you doing down here?"

The two men stood against each other eyeing the other up and down. Harry knew from experience that taking on Snape was a scary endeavour so the man must of had some bravery. Apparently Thompson found whatever he was looking for because he smiled encouragingly and replied.

"Same thing I'm guessing you're doing. looking for the Vincere Stone."

Harry wondered if Snape was going to confirm of deny the accusation. Instead he evaded it in typical Slytherin fashion.

"So you are not muggles then?"

Thompson cracked a crooked tooth grin, "Ah not completely. Most of us are squibs, myself included, but we do have two magical folk along with us."

As they spoke three others walked outside of the tent, two women and one man. Harry wondered which people were the wizards or witches in the group.

"Tell you what. You people look dead tired, how about we cook you some dinner and we talk a little more? Tim here makes a great stew and its the least I can do since your boy there saved my life."

If it had been another circumstance Harry was sure Snape would refuse, as it was, Thompson was right on the mark. They needed food and rest, the group in front of them seemed to be offering the perfect solution.

"Thank you for your hospitality, we accept your offer."

Harry nodded in agreement glad that Snape hadn't let paranoia win over common sense.

The men on the bench still looked at them with awe and some other expression, triumph maybe? but hastily moved over to make room . Harry signed in contentment with the warmth of the fire soothing his cold aching muscles and let himself relax. Finding other people down here was great luck, now they would surely work together and have the task done in no time..

Chapter Text

Waking up inside a tent on a comfortable bed was pure bliss. Harry hesitated at the idea of actually dragging himself out of bed to face whatever inevitable tasks today would bring. Figuring that sleeping would not help matters, he pulled his mottled grey cloak over himself and left the tent.

 

Unsurprisingly Snape was already up and glaring across at the other men and women from the far end of the makeshift camp. He caught sight of Harry and made his way over. Harry could already tell the man was in a bad mood from the angry set of his shoulders and the purposeful movement of his strides.

“We should leave, we have no idea who these people are, or their motivations.”

Harry was not about to relinquish his soft bed quite so easily, “Sir,” best to start off respectful, “I understand why you say that but we are much worse off alone don’t you think? Like you said, we were running out of food and had no idea where to look. Where would we even go now? these people are searching for the same thing we are, why not work together?”

“I am forever in awe at your naivety Potter. This is not one of your Quidditch matches where we work happily as a team. Suppose we do find the stone, then what? who gets it? shall we play of a match of Gobstones to decide?”

 

Harry sighed in frustration but kept his voice low as to not attract attention to themselves.

“These people have showed nothing but kindness since we arrived, we have no place to go, why don’t we just stick around to see if they know anything else. At the first sign of trouble we’ll leave.” He briefly added. “Sir.”

 

Snape didn’t say a word and just turned his gaze to the sleepy forms of their campmates, Harry optimistically took that as a yes.

The man Harry recognised as Thompson from yesterday exited one of the larger tents looking jovial and well rested. He took one look at Snape and Harry and quickly made his way over.

“How’d you fella’s sleep? We got a big day ahead of us.”

“Fine thank you!” Since Snape obviously disliked interacting Harry took the task upon himself.

“What exactly do you mean a big day?”

The mans crooked teeth were shown as he talked through a smile. “Well young man, theres no need for the ‘sir’ business here. And teh’ answer your question..... we sometimes send people ahead, see what’s what ya know? and our scouts Tracy and Donavan came back last night sayin that there was something up ahead, they didn’t go too close but we’ll be travelling there.”

Snape’s low drawl finally joined the conversation, “We will be...?”

Thompson didn’t even bat an eye, “Well our group will be, and yeh welcome to come. figured since we’re looking for the same thing we should stick together.”

“Sounds good to me.” Harry interjected before Snape could say anything.

He helped pack up the makeshift tents and marvelled at the way they packed away into small neat squares. After everything had been collected and the fire had been fully put out they made their way futhur down the tunnels with the guiding blueish light of the lanterns. Harry briefly wondered exactly what the lanterns were, they definitely weren't the normal muggle type as there was no flame. Instead the glass contained a very bright blue liquid.

Snape’s dark voice addressing Thompson interrupted his brief wonderings.

“And what exactly did these scouts of yours find?”

“Well Trace and Donny are the only ones with any magic, they only have a little bit but its enough to cast a few scanning spells. They said there was something up ahead, not entirely sure what.”

Snape made a small annoyed huff that Harry knew all too well. He heard it whenever the man checked Neville or his potion and found it several shades darker or lighter than it was meant to be.

Harry was actually beginning to get a little excited by the prospect of finally finding something (he wasn’t about to include the river because that had just been embarrassing and he was trying not to think about that). So when Thompson said it was somewhere around here he was nervously buzzing in anticipation.

Therefore it was a little anti-climatic when they walked into a another cavern not dissimilar to the one they’d spent the night in. The difference being there was now holes in the roof where sunlight beamed through and fell and the rocky floor. It was fairly large, big enough for 60 or so people.

One of the older men with short fuzzy grey hair, like stuffing inside a soft toy, seemed to find something and walked confidently towards it.

“Oy, look over ‘ere. Think I got somethin’”

Indeed there were bold letters engraved into the wall. A deep rough voice from their group with better diction than the others began reading them outloud;

‘If it’s treasure that you seek than its treasure that you’ll reap.

Time melts and you shall freeze for this is not a task of ease.

One small clue, for the brave among you.

The light shines a path that brings nothing but doom

Stick by the shadows and you’ll find what you seek soon.”

Almost the instant the reader was finished the words flashed gold as if activated. The whole cave gave a slight rumble and Harry wildly looked around for the source. It wasn’t hard to find, some of the group gasped as they spotted it. Gold was dripping down from the top of the wall, it moved slowly, edging it way down and encompassing everything in its path with a luxurious golden tint. Harry’s gaze swept around the room to find it happening on every wall. What might of been the exit was almost instantaneously golden, leaving them no way to continue forward.

The whole group took a small subconscious step backwards towards the centre of the cavern.

“Suppose we gotta figure out the riddle eh?” Said the grey haired man from before.

Harry wholeheartedly agreed and Snape stayed silent.

“Wonder what happens if…” the man took a few step forwards until he was directly in front of the wall and held out a small finger. Harry realised what he was intending to do and held his breath in anticipation. The very tip of flesh on the digit made contact with the swirling gold sludge and a soft cry was all that was heard before the man crumpled to the ground.

“TIM!” one of the another men rushed forward and checked for a pulse. The man looked up with a haunted look and no one had to ask what the assessment revealed. Regardless the man spoke anyway

“He’d dead.”


All eyes were trained on the now corpse, it was easy to see the life had left him, his whole face was blue, much bluer than it should be. Now that he looked really close, Harry could see a layer of frost covering his lips and something akin to small beads of ice in his now, milky white eyes. His grey hair even seemed to lack less colour than it did before.

The same man who pronounced Tim dead was looking at the corpse with the same morbid curiosity Harry had.

“I think…. I think e’ froze.”

Without giving time for everyone to wallow in their, no doubt, maudlin thoughts Thompson stepped out and gave instructions like a commander to his army.

“No one go near the walls. Lets organise ourselves inta’ a group at the centre of the room, cept’ for Tracy and Mike, you too search for exits. If anyone has any ideas about the riddle, now would be the time to say so.” He waited patiently for anyone to speak up,

“No? lets go then.”

Harry and Snape had no choice really but to follow along with Thompsons orders. They too moved to the middle of the room and away from the pulsating walls.

“Do you have any idea what we’re meant to do?” Harry asked subtly, he thought it very possible that Snape did have some theory but was keeping it secret from their group, the paranoid man he was.

Indeed Snape’s jaw moved slightly as an indication of thinking.

“No, nothing yet. Although I most definitely wouldn’t have suggested touching the strange substance dripping from the walls. This task was made by a Slytherin, the answer must be more discreet and require cunning. ”

Harry nodded contemplatively. The golden goo was dripping ever closer and the panic was beginning to seep into the group, people fidgeted and moved closer until they were pressed up against one another. Two people, Harry recognised as Tracy and Mike from Thompson’s orders, were moving around the edge of the room inspecting cracks and gaps. Harry doubted they would find anything, he was pretty certain there was one way in and one way out. Unfortunately those exits had been throughly covered in a thick coating of gold by this point. It seems they would either need to solve the riddle or join Tim in a cold icy death.

For Harry this was all too much like the third task, with its riddles and deathly consequences. At least this time he wasn’t completely alone, the burden to solve this didn’t lay solely with him. He tried to think about the sentences from before. If it’s treasure that you seek than its treasure that you’ll reap, well that seemed to have taken place with harsh irony, the deadly gold was almost definitely what it was referring to. Time melts and you shall freeze for this is not a task of ease, simple enough, they were on a time limit, fail to solve the problem in the time limit and find yourself an icy popsicle. The light shines a path that brings nothing but doom, ok then, don’t follow the light? Stick by the shadows and you’ll find what you seek soon, now that had to be the most useful line in the whole stupid thing. Shadows, well there were a few shadows around, most being cast by the small patch of light from above hitting the large stalagmites protruding from the ground.

Snape’s expression lit up like he’d just found out that Neville was being taken out of his class permanently and Harry knew he’d cracked it.

“Listen here if you want to have any chance of making it out of here with all you vital organs still at body temperature.” As usual he had the group to hung onto his every word, he was just effective as Thompson had been.

“We follow the shadows. see.” he pointed to one of shadows being cast by a particularly large stalagmite.

One of the women was already screwing her nose up sceptically,

“Whadda ya mean ‘follow’? its not exactly pointing us the directshun’ ”

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, a definite indicator of stress that Harry knew by heart now.

“Allow me to demonstrate.”

Snape stepped much closer to the travelling mass than any of the rest of them. He eyed it warily but continued on.

“Its safe to step on the shadows.”

He walked to where the stalactites statue started and gingerly lifted a foot. Harry was a second away from calling out to him to stop, he’d already seen one body, he didn’t want to have to watch his git of teacher also die. Not now…

Still he held his tongue, the words trapped forever in his throat. Snape having no idea of the internal struggle Harry was having didn’t look up once. When his foot made contact there was a small wince from almost everyone, but there was no jolt or collapsing. Instead Snape steadily placed the other foot onto the golden platform beneath him and turned to the rest of the group as if they truly were complete and utter moronic first years.

Harry walked out next, placing his feet exactly in the same place Snape had. Indeed the ground beneath him didn’t seem quite so much like the thinner liquid still moving to fill the cave, it was hard and stable.

Next was the mousy looking women who was questioning Snape before, Harry supposed she was the type to be easily convinced. Then came Tracy and Mike looking slightly relived now that there frantic searching was over. They were taking up almost all of the space cast by the shadow so Snape stepped onto the next one and Harry followed to give the others space to come across.

Snape continually led them through the overlaid shadows that really did seem to form an elaborate pathway to the door. Harry was focused on his footing when a small noise altered him to someone falling behind him. The women desperately tried to stop herself from meeting the volatile gold and grabbed out in distress to anything nearby. Unfortunately, Harry happened to be nearby and he was not large enough to stop her descent, Harry’s own panic kicked in as he too was now falling and seconds away from meeting his death, instead of hitting the gold, a strong grip grabbed Harry’s collar and stopped his velocity. This too had the effect of stopping the other women from falling.

There was a few seconds of heavy laboured breathing as they took in what just happened. Harry looked up at his surprising saviour and nodded a small thanks. Snape rolled his eye and snarled a “Be careful!” in the direction of the mousy women.

They continued towards their way of escape but Harry was now more than just aware of his own footholds, but the balance of the people in front and behind him as well. Snape too had taken to excessively checking over his shoulder, no doubt waiting for the next inevitable fall, thankfully there was none and they arrived at archway, the size of a door, shrouded in gold.

At first Harry was worried that they would be stuck here and unable to get through. However as soon as Snape approached the doorway is glowed green and the gold blocking it, vanished. Soon they were all through and back to the claustrophobic tunnels that characterised this place. The tension of the group evaporated and people began to joke about the strange occurrence. Harry to let out a sigh of relief and noticed that even Snape seemed a little less rigid.

Thompson came up next to them and clapped a large hand on his shoulder that made him wince slightly.

“I suppose I owe you two thanks, ‘specially you Professor. Cunning man you are hey?”

Snape didn’t drop his usual scowl, “I suppose.”

Harry though that was a rude way to respond to a compliment but kept his own mouth shut. Once more they found themselves marching into a different type of shadows.

***
Severus was beginning to dislike this man and his followers more and more. He was too friendly, too polite, he always regarded such traits with heavy suspicion. He didn’t know their motivations, connections or allegiances; a dangerous situation. He did know one thing however, they were interested in Potter for some reason. They knew there names but maybe they also knew who they were? Severus often caught the strange look Thompson would throw the boy’s way, he made a promise to stay alert. He was a spy after all and collecting information was a job he knew how to do.

When they stopped for lunch, he surreptitiously checked the food and water for any sign of potions and found them clean. Checking food and water that wasn’t his own was a habit he’d had since his days in Hogwarts and it had proved very useful a few times.

The boy seemed completely oblivious of course, happily chatting away to a a few of the group about the gross dampness of the tunnels. Severus once again fought the urge to roll his eyes, Potter had absolutely zero subtlety, how the boy had managed to survive he had no idea.

He also found himself wondering about the newly acquired information about Potter’s treatment at the hands of his relatives. How had Potter hidden it for so long? surely the boy had hordes of adoring fans who would be up in arms if anyone so much as looked a the boy wrong….. but apparently not. Instead there was only he, Severus Snape, who knew that the Boy-Who-Lived had lived his life in a cupboard for 11 years. A fact that still made him bristle in anger. He was having trouble reconciling the fact that Dumbledore had not known, the Headmaster had mysterious ways of being pretty much aware of everything that happened in and round Hogwarts. But the idea he had known and done nothing… well that thought just didn’t bare considering. Besides they had more immediate problems to be considering, like how they were ever going to find this dammed stone.

He waited until Potter was alone and approached him.

“Do you truly still believe we’re better off with these people Potter?” The boy jumped in surprise and turned his leafy green eyes on him. Regaining his composure he set his feet apart and spoke

“ ‘Harry’, remember, you made a deal. And yes, doesn’t today prove that? we got out of there alive didn’t we?”

Annoyance quickly built and bled into his voice. “Hardly, I believe that room would currently be filled with corpses if I hadn’t been there. They’re unfortunate idiots at best.”

“Professor, staying with them costs us nothing and we get food and water out of it.”

“Are you so sure that it does not cost us anything? What of the time we waste while we travel at their slower pace.” He rebuked. “Or the the fact that they may indeed try to use us to their own advantage.”

Potter’s eyebrows drew together in anger “Maybe your just completely paranoid or maybe, you really do hate everyone else around you!”

Severus bristled, and said in what was almost a growl “Do you think this is a matter of personal preference? I assure my paranoia is justified and is you weren’t so full of Gryffindor arrogance and bull headedness you might just perceive that we are not in a situation where everyone you meet wishes you well. Understand this, you are only here to. Serve. A. Purpose. Potter. You do not, get a say.”

The boy’s bravado faded almost completely much to Severus’s satisfaction. “Alright I get it.” The next part was only just audible “And it’s Harry.”

There was an awkward silence for a few seconds as Severus pondered if maybe the boy did have a point, it was very possible he was being over-paranoid and he was sure that if it came to a fight they would be over power the group. Their low stocks of food and water proposed another problem, they could steal some but Severus didn’t know if he was completely heartlessness enough to let these people die. Potter would certainly have a problem with it.

“I believe that perhaps we will continue with these people, but that does not mean I trust them. Neither should you.”

Potter looked up in surprise, then faintly smiled. Damnn the boy for getting his way. Not wishing to participate in the conversation he turned and walked away to a fairly secluded corner. He almost let out a heavy sigh as Thompson approached him, could he not get a minute of silence?

“Handsome young lad you’ve got there, how’d you two end up ‘ere anyway? Aren’t you ‘is professor?”

“Yes I am his teacher, and as for how we’re here I suggest you mind your own business.”

It seemed there was nothing he could say to deter the man, “Ah well, can’t fault a man for tryin’. The boy though, he’s certainly something ain’t he. Didn’t even blink when ‘is life was at stake.”

“Yes, the stupidity of bravery, how awe-inspiring.”

The moans throaty chuckle continued to grate on Severus’s last nerve. “I suppose you can call it that. Just curious about such a strong young lad. Care to tell me anymore?”

Severus stopped trying to nurse the growing headache he was developing and truly looked at Thompson, the man seemed honest enough with such a warmth about him but his underlying tone was enough to ring alarm bells for him.

“Just stay away from him. And me too for that matter.”

A very brief flash of annoyance crossed the older man’s face before it settled into a look of nonchalance and he shrugged his shoulders.

“Alright, suit yourself.”

Watching the man leave, once again Severus felt a bit wary about his decision to stay. He looked over at his apparent charge and watched him help stoke one of the campfires, why must the boy attract trouble at every, single, turn.

***

Harry felt the eyes on him as Snape watched him. He was surprised at the mans change of decision, in fact he was surprised at pretty much everything Snape had done since he’d first seen him this summer. He acted like a reasonable, albeit stern, human being; something that seemed impossible to him since he’d set foot in a potions classroom. The fact that Snape knew so many of his secrets made him extremely wary of the man, the potions master had enough ammunition to make the rest of his time at Hogwarts an absolute hell.

He let the thoughts go as wrapped his cloak around him and settled into the warmth of the fire. The dancing flames providing a welcome distraction from his troubles. He didn’t even realise he must’ve fallen asleep until a hand was shaking him awake.

“Potter, wake up.”

He opened a eyelid made of lead and viewed the dark figure figure in front of him.

“Snape..?” he slurred as his brain worked through his mouth.

“Professor Snape. And yes,”

Gradually he came back to the world of living and felt the unforgiving stone beneath himself.

“Evidently, Potter, you seem to have decided that the ground would offer the most comfortable bedding despite it being made made of solid rock. The tent to my right is free or, if you rather you can continue your little siesta out here.”

It took a minute to translate all of Snape’s sentence and understand what the man actually meant. The thought of collapsing onto a softer bed was enticing enough to agree with Snape had said so he just nodded dumbly.

It earned him a rather exasperated glance as he struggled to get vertical. Eventually he was walking, following Snape. The moment he saw the camp bed, he fell onto it.

“It’s Harry,” he mumbled out, surely the man could simply just say his name. His eyes closed but he still heard the unexpected response.

“Alright, have it your way. Goodnight Harry.”

Chapter Text

The next day the mood was sombre, a man had died after all. Harry wondered if that was the first person they'd lost or if there had been more, he daren't ask it though. Instead he went with a question he was just as curious about.

"How long have you been searching in these caves for?"

Tracy, one of the few of the group who could actually perform a spell or two; albeit only small ones, gave an exasperated look.

"Who would know? we've sorta lost track of how much time has past but I'd wager, it's been a few months."

"Months!" he couldn't be stuck down here that long! what about Hogwarts and Ron and Hermione.. and ..and… Hedwig?

Tracy laughed a little in a way that reminded Harry of Tonks.

"Well the way I see it. We're bound to find it soon since we've been down here so long, and besides, we know where to go now."

"You do?"

Tracy looked down at the floor and rubbed her forehead.

"Uh yeah. There's a door, you see, been to it three times before but haven't been able to get past. Pretty sure that's where the stone is."

"How come you didn't stay at the door then? why keep moving?" "Well that the weird thing about these caves. We camp out the front of the door but when we wake up. Bam! we're somewhere different."

Weird, I wonder if its like a defence mechanism or something, Harry thought to himself.

"Breakfast?" Tracy indicated with a nod of her head to the fire where a saucepan full of sausages sat. Harry needn't of answered as his stomach grumbled in response,

he laughed a little, "Yeah sounds like a good idea."

After breakfast and the subsequent clean up, Harry caught up with Snape.

"Find anything?"

"Hardly,"

The professor gave him a quick glance,

"You seem to know something though."

Indeed the man could read him, he tried to stop bouncing on the balls of his feet, sure it was his tell.

"Yeah, well, apparently they actually have a destination in mind, they've been to this door before but always get stuck there. "

Snape actually did look interested, "Well, I wonder why they didn't mention this before."

Harry crossed his arms, "Probably just forgot to mention it, we have been pretty busy."

"Mmmm, and what make them think they'll be able to pass the door now?"

He shrugged, "No clue. Maybe they're just hoping?"

Snape looked at him in a sceptically but didn't make further comment.

Thompson, having said good morning to everyone else, made his way to them.

"Hey'a fellas. How's your mornin' been?"

Snape turned an unimpressed gaze towards him, "Great, pure paradise."

Harry laughed but amended it to a small cough that didn't go unnoticed by Snape.

"Great to here, great to hear," Thompson nodded distractedly. A few seconds later he seemed to remember something and focused on Harry, he squirmed under such an intense look.

"See Harry, I was wonderin' if I could show you something later. It might interest you."

"Uh, okay?" He wasn't sure at all what Thompson was talking about but he was certainly curious. As soon as he'd said yes the man lit up and clamped a hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry instinctively leaned away,

"Good, nice strong lad you are eh? certainly do some heavy lifting." The conversation was getting strange and Harry was saved by Snape.

"Yes, well, I suppose we're heading off soon? I cannot say I'd like to spend anymore time in this place then we have to."

Thompson stared ahead into the tunnels and waved a hand flippantly.

"Yep, be leaving in about two minutes. Reckon we're close now." He smiled like they'd already gotten the stone

 

***

 

Severus was beginning to wish for something he'd almost never wished for in his life; a walk outside amongst the sun and wind. He was no stranger to spending hours, potentially days, locked down below in dungeons but even he could not fight the dreariness of the cold dark underground. That was not the only thing bothering him though. Having to spend so much time around these infernal squibs was draining in itself. Some of them continued to pester him with questions despite his harsh rebukes. Asking about different types of magic. Whether he thought it was bewitched to always be daytime in the room with the gold. Whether it was possible for squibs to use magical objects like brooms or floo powder. He almost never gave a proper answer.

He wondered about the door Potter had mentioned; it seemed likely that the stone was there or, perhaps, it was another trap designed to kill them all.

The one thing that had thankfully gone his way was the fact that the sadistic madman he had made the sorry mistake of joining had yet to call. He was still unsure of how that would go down. He guessed 'Sorry my Lord, I was on a mission with the boy you hate more than any other wizard in an attempt to gain the object you've been trying to locate for months' wouldn't exactly go down well.

Oh well, one problem at a time. Starting with the best spell to remove caked on mud from his shoes.

 

***

 

Another day of, what was fast feeling like pointless walking, was done and Harry found himself hoping like hell they wouldn't be stuck down here for months like Tracy had said. He and Snape had already set up their tents and were now building a fire to keep away the biting cold.

They didn't say much, both lost in dreams of the above ground world. Eventually Harry had become hot from sitting idle in front of a roaring fire so he'd taken off his charcoal cloak.

"I'm gonna have a look around." He wanted to move, he'd become agitated there thinking about the closeness of the walls otherwise.

Snape didn't say anything but gave a small nod in affirmation.

He walked for awhile in a small line around the tents and offered to help set up a few; no one accepted. He was about to return to his own tent when a hand landed on his shoulder again and he already knew who it was.

"Harry, remember 'ow I wanted to show you somethin'?"

He turned around to face Thompson who was standing up tall with his shoulders set back. Right, he had forgotten about that. The man didn't give him a chance to answer, instead taking his his arm and pulled him forward

"C'mon."

He shrugged out of the grip but continued to follow.

Harry shivered as the warmth was leeched from him and he wished for his cloak back as they walked towards the tent set much furthur than the others. Thompson's pace was fast and Harry was having a difficult time keeping up. Especially since they were heading further and further away from the centre of camp, their main source of light, and into the dark where it was very easy to stumble across rocks and twigs.

The darkness was encompassing and he was relived they had reached the tent, that was, until Thompson turned around. His smirk was dangerous and his sunken eyes so hidden in the dark that they resembled the tunnels they were previously traveling through. Harry took a tentative step back and Thompson only smiled so widely that it couldn't be anything but fake.

"C'mon lad, I promise its worth seeing."

He no longer wanted to be here, whatever Thompson wanted to show him, it could wait until another time.

"I, uh. Have to go the toilet,"

He turned around but instantly regretted it when the large man left his field of vision. Instead he focused on the glowing light ahead of him, he took two steps forward before that dreaded hand landed heavily on his shoulder again. He turned back around and the man took it as an opportunity to grab the fleshy part of his upper-arm and pull him, hard, back into the tent.

All pretence was gone and Harry reached his hand down to where the pocket that held his wand was, only to find, it wasn't there. Panic swept through him as he realised his wand currently sat back at the camp in his cloak and he was completely, and utterly, disarmed. He tried to wrestle his emotions and looked up defiantly at the large frame of a man in front of him.

Thompson's hair was messed wildly and he had his mouth half hanging open not unlike a rabid dog. His hand that still held Harry's arm tightened and pulled him intimately close, so much so that Harry felt that the hot puffs of air when the man spoke.

"Oh yes, youse are a strong one aren't you. So much fight in ya'. Good. It makes it so much better."

He was left in little doubt of the danger he was in and the repulsiveness of the man became ever the more clearer. He snatched his arm away roughly and tried to run but two arms encircled his middle and threw him towards the floor of the tent.

Pain lanced through his left hand side and he cried out.

"Oh shut up." His head snapped up towards the approaching figure. Dazed, he picked himself up off the floor only to be shoved against the canvas of the back of the tent. Though he tried to turn his head away he couldn't get far from that hungry expression only millimeters away from his own face. The scent of the mans breath smelled of coffee and cigarette butts.

"The tent's soundproof, so scream" the man forcefully tilted his head back, "All you want."

He couldn't even comprehend what was happening, he lashed out and kicked blindly. His foot connected but the man only swore and punched Harry hard in the temple. The forced sent him reeling and he couldn't stop himself being pinned to the ground and having the much larger weight forced on top of him.

"STOP!" it was futile but he yelled it anyway, unable to do much else.

His mouth was assaulted and the taste of the cigarette butts and coffee proved to be so much stronger than the smell. A fat sweaty hand reached downwards. No, no, no, no. This wasn't, couldn't be happening. Fear shot through him and aimed itself at the man on top of him. The weight lifted and there was the sound of body landing with a thud, followed by a grunt.

He couldn't move, not for a few seconds. Eventually he gained enough courage to lift his head up; his attacker laid in a crumpled heap and wasn't moving. Seeing it as an opportunity; he jumped to his feet and with shaking hands, unzipped the tent.

He ran as fast as he could but didn't quite reach camp before his knee's buckled and nausea rolled through him in waves. What the man had been trying to do….. it was too much, he vomited. Continued to vomit even when his stomach was completely empty and it ended up as harsh dry-heaves. He placed his hands on the cold ground to steady himself. He couldn't think about what had just happened. Didn't want to.

Gingerly he picked himself off the ground and wiped the bile away from his mouth with his sleeve. His eyes scanned the campsite until he made out a figure dressed completely in black at the secluded fire, along with the mottled grey lump that was his cloak. The area looked so safe, relief became his primary emotion. Snape was there and though the man hated him, he knew Snape would protect him and right now thats all he wanted. He walked shakily towards it, like a drowning man to a life raft.

When he was close, Snape looked up and made eye contact, he cast his own eyes down. He walked towards his sleeping mat that was thankfully, laid out close to the fire, and dropped onto it. He grabbed the cloak and draped it over himself in a makeshift blanket; feeling its reassuring weight and warmth. He stared into the flames in front of him, watching the orange sparks fly upwards, his mind completely blank.

A few minutes later there was a shuffling noise and Snape stood up. The thought of Snape leaving left him with such an intensity of emotion that he couldn't stop himself,

"Don't… Don't go. Please." It was spoken with a light tremor that he failed to hide.

he expected some snide comment from Snape about not being his caretaker, he wasn't completely sure he would've been able to handle it. Instead he got a word, solid and reassuring enough to stop his lip trembling and the rest of him breaking down.

"Okay."

 

***

 

Severus wasn't actually planning on leaving at all, he was only going to grab the firewood that sat a few meters away and stoke the smouldering coals. The tiny voice that came from Harry had surprised him, and made him all the more concerned. When the boy came back, he looked paler than death and so shaky that Severus felt the strong urge to steady him. Then in the eyes of the scruffy unkept teen; a look so haunted that it stilled any comments that were about to come flying out of his mouth.

It was the small way it was spoken, with so much fear, that the request had him feeling a very strange feeling indeed. So he had sat back down. He didn't fail to notice the grey lump that was his charge, begin trembling.

An hour later and the coals were well and truly, beginning to die out. He grabbed a log and pushed it into the make-shift fire, he also took the chance to sneak a look at the teen. Harry was still wide awake, his eyes wide and unseeing. An unsettling feeling took root in the bottom of Severus's stomach. He knew which way Harry had come from, knew there was only Thompson's tent over there. He thought of asking Harry what happened, but the boy looked so panicked he doubted he would tell him. He would get answers. He was not willing to leave Harry yet, but the moment those emerald eyes shut and the boy slept, he would get answers out of Thompson.

So he waited, and waited. All the other camp occupants had well gone to bed, only the small blue glowing lanterns remained as light sources. Still he noticed that the boy's breathing did not settle into that of sleep but rather stayed irregular and erratic. It was hours before Harry finally fell asleep, and he silently stood up.

Even with the small amount of light he was able to navigate to Thompson's tent with only the quiet swishes of his cloak creating noise.

He unzipped the tent and set eyes upon the man now snoring on a camp bed. Taking out his wand he aimed it at Thompson's head.

"Legilimens"

There was absolutely no resistance, it was oh so easy. He sorted through the memories and pulled out the ones containing Harry. He watched as the boy first came into the tent, curios and cautious. Then what the disgusting creature had tried to do..….. he could sense the thoughts of Thompson in the memory and it made him all the more repulsed. A small part of him felt relief as he watched Harry's accidental magic and subsequent escape. But the much larger part of him could feel nothing except pure rage.

He left the mans mind, violently, and came back to the present. Thompson was on his knees and breathing hard, sweat dripping of his fat nose. It must of been quite the rude awakening, good.

Severus's fist clenched hard enough for his fingers to make crescent shape marks in his hand. His eyes; blacker than a beetle's wing, looked onto the excuse of a human being before him. With an animalistic snarl he pointed his wand at the man's heart.

"Cruico"

His curse, filled with more hate than even Voldemort could muster most days had the mans screaming and writhing. It gave the sadistic part of him great pleasure.

Seconds later he realised his mistake of not putting up silencing wards as the tent was still unzipped and the noise carried. It was of little matter, he and Harry were leaving anyway. He only had one more thing to do,

"Exacuere Vade"

Red ribbons of blood appeared on the mans arms and torso. He left the man panting for breath and bleeding out.

Exiting the tent he noticed others were stirring, thanks to Thompson's screams. He made his way back to his and Harry's campsite and found Harry standing rigidly with his wand out,

"Are we running or fighting?"

He noted the boy's face was still ashen but his determination poured through his stance.

"Running, right now."

Harry nodded and grabbed his sleeping mat and whatever food was around, Severus did similar. More and more people poured out of the other tents looking around in confusion but not knowing exactly what the source of the screams were. Severus right then was glad they had chosen to camp so near the tunnels next exit. He swiftly grabbed Harry's arm, ignoring the flinch, and ran.

Once the tunnels became too dark to see, he cast a wordless Lumos and saw Harry do the same. They kept running until they were both panting and on shaky legs before finally allowing themselves a brief respite. Severus was expecting questions, but there were none. Harry was withdrawn and fidgeting with the edges of his cloak.

The ex-Death Eater was completely out of his depth, what on earth could he say to help? Harry didn't even know he knew. All he could do was think to change the topic and have Potter focus on something else.

"I assume you did your potions assignment before we left?"

He congratulated himself when Harry snapped out of his reverie and stared at him with wide eyes.

"What?"

Rather than scold the boy for not paying attention like he would do any other time, he simply repeated the question.

"Oh, um yeah."

"Then tell me, why are powdered frog brains conducive to making an effective Biswald potion?"

He allowed plenty of time for the answer, not even sure he would get one.

"Uh, cause all reptilians carry inherent properties that effect water and frogs genrally work on wizards due to their higher level of natural magic?" He nodded, surprised the answer had been so thorough.

"Here, an easy one, what is the use of the Biswald potion?"

Harry spoke with a bit more confidence, "It keeps it's user dry for three hours, regardless of how much water they make contact with."

Having successfully drawn the boy out he stopped asking questions. It wasn't long before Harry asked one of his own,

"Sir, what happened back there?"

How much to tell? should he try an attempt to talk about what had nearly happened to Potter? or would that result in the boy shutting down on him? Only one way to find out.

"Well, Pot..Harry." the name changes were most infuriating but necessary right now. "What happened after you initially left your sleeping mat to go for a walk?" If possible, the boy paled further. Even in the dim wand-light Severus could make out the turbulent mix of shock, embarrassment, fear and shame. How one could cycle through emotions so fast was baffling.

Harry spoke quietly, his mouth only just making out the words, "You know then." A definitive statement.

For all the times he'd scolded the boy for being slow, Harry was actually quite quick on the uptake.

He nodded carefully, "Yes I do."

Harry buried his face in hands and Severus was cut off from seeing the boy's expression. He listened and made out a mumbled string of words

"The Prophet's going to have a field day with this…ughh…Ron….Hermione….Malfoy.." "I don't see any reason why anyone would have to know."

Harry lifted his face and stared holes into Severus.

"You mean you're not going to tell them?"

If he was honest he was a little shocked that the boy truly thought him that cruel.

"No Harry, I wouldn't dare spread something like that."

Harry's tensed shoulders relaxed but the wariness stayed. Severus knew nothing he could say would have it disappear yet. He wanted to get one thing clear though,

"You know what that vile man was trying to do….. It has no reflection on you, it was his own repulsive… ideas." Harry dragged a hand through his now muddy and matted hair, "I… Yeah I know." He nodded half-heartedly. "I'm just so sick of being utterly useless, I could even use magic here and still couldn't defend myself!"

"You shouldn't have to. Even so, you didn't have your wand and you still adequately fought away your attacker."

Harry looked at him, his irritation plainly written across his face. "Doesn't matter that I shouldn't have to, I still should be able to fight off a. Damn. MUGGLE!" Severus noted the boy's clenched shaking fists.

"This isn't just about Thompson is it? you know, your ability to defend yourself should not be commensurate with your own worth."

The boy's face scrunched up a few times before weakly dropping into a stare at the floor, his anger dissipating around him. He thought the boy was done talking until Harry's voice now devoid of its earlier rage spoke.

"What….what does commensurate mean?"

He couldn't help a little of his former snarkyness coming back. "Would it kill you to pick up a dictionary?" He was pleasantly surprised when Harry gave a very brief smile. "It means equal extent, proportional."

He didn't say anything after that, neither did Harry. They let themselves rest for a few minutes, glad to focus on nothing.

Like they were both thinking the same thing, they got up and walked away from their grungy, dark, pit stop.

 

***

 

Harry didn't know what to feel anymore. He could give in to the feeling of shame and powerlessness he'd been feeling earlier. Or could summon the anger that awaited in the shadows of his mind. He didn't think he could bring himself to try and find the optimistic attitude he taken for granted earlier though.

Instead he tried to feel nothing, let himself drift through useless thoughts and endless wonderings. He wasn't always successful, sometimes he couldn't help it and a stab of loneliness or sadness would win.

Snape's conversation had been strange, not exactly unpleasant, but strange. Try as he might, he couldn't find motivation for the usually hateful Potion Master's actions. It puzzled him to no end but like everything else in his world currently, he tried to stay apathetic about it.

Kicking one pebble to another, he didn't even bother to check where he was going. Simply holding his wand ,with its small glowing ball, aloft and following the dark shoes in front of him. Every now and then the man would shoot him a small glance, check he was alive and following Harry assumed.

He wanted to move fast, he really did; getting away from those people topped his priority list. But he couldn't find in himself to travel any faster than the mild pace they were doing. If Snape noticed anything he was quiet about it. Apart from the sound of shoes on and gravel and the swishing's of cloaks, the whole cave was silent.

When Snape stopped Harry didn't notice in time and ran into him. He waited for a remark but there was none, just a step away and their usual routine of laying out their sleeping mats. He ate the soup meekly and settled onto the mat, unfortunately with no task to do his mind couldn't run away. He was locked with his own thoughts for the remainder of the night.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Running on adrenalin, they sped through the tunnels faster than any other day. Snape didn’t say a word, for which Harry was grateful. He didn’t want to speak either. He had questions, like how had Snape known? What exactly had Snape done to set the group against them? where to go now? but he couldn’t bring himself to ask.

 Instead he focused on placing one foot in front of another and the gross squelching sound it continually made. After a while his vision started blurring but he didn’t falter, even when little black dots sometimes swam in his sight. He’d worked hard before, from being in the hot sun weeding at the Dursley’s, to studying all night for the Triwizard Tournament, this was manageable. It was actually Snape’s endurance that surprised him; the man moved fast and didn’t even break a sweat. He supposed Snape’s second ‘profession’ required fitness.

After what happened the other night, he found himself constantly grabbing at the wand inside his cloak. Touching the long stick of wood and reassuring himself it was there. Snape was currently casting enough light for them both to see by so it wasn’t needed to have it out. Still occasionally he couldn’t stop himself from taking it out. He couldn’t believe he’d ever been stupid enough to leave himself unarmed, he carried his wand everywhere, except for that one moment. He wouldn’t make the same mistake ever again.

 Something felt vaguely wrong and he looked up to find Snape frozen. He himself immediately stopped moving, mirroring Snape, and looked for the source of danger. He found it, barely two meters away. A large fat snake with bright red stripes running down its scales and across its belly. It poked it forked tongue out while eyeing them.

 “Potter…… now would be a good time to intervene.”

It was true, the snake moved ever closer and raised its head. He began speaking, hoping that it was partsletoungue.

 “Uh, Stop! we’re friend not foe. ” The Snake immediately changed its focus from Snape to him.

“Isss that right? And whysss would I believe you?”

He was stumped, how could he convince the reptilian? Then he noticed the broken fang.

That,” He gestured to his own teeth, “Must hurt a lot.”

 The snake shut its jaw, when it next spoke it turned so that the fang was obscured from view. 

Perhapssss.”

 He looked to Snape, who did not look happy in the least at his lack of understanding. 

“Do you have a pain killer potion that would work on a snake?”

The man, for once, looked perplexed. Then understanding dawned as he connected Harry’s gestures with the snakes broken fang.

“You want to help it?”

Harry gave him a small deprecating laugh, “I’d say that’s in our best interests sir.”

The snake was looking quite agitated by being left out of the conversation, Snape seemed to sense this and moved to retrieve the vial more quickly.

 He handed a pale yellow and green potion to Harry. The Gryffindor then held it out to the snake,

 “This can prove we are friend. It will take away the pain, you will need to drink it though.”

The Snake curled around itself a few times deciding before its head remerged. “Alrightsss then, young one.”

It held its arrow shaped head out and opened its mouth, Harry poured the vial in. They sat in tense silence, the snake flicking its pink tongue out.

Once a minute had passed it hissed softly, “You are correct fledgling, it hassss removed the painsss. I thank you” 

Harry breathed out a relieved sigh, Snape made eye contact with him and he nodded softly.

It seemsss I was wrong to attacksss you. Let me repay you.”

He listened curiously.

 “There issss two thinngsss you should perhapssss know. Up ahead you will findsss another challenge. The previous humansss who completed it, scratched out itssss original instructions so that othersss would fail. To passs you must reveal a secret. Something that meannnsss something to you and that you have told no other living soul.

Harry listed intently to every word the snake spoke.

 “You should alssssso beware, these tunnelsss don’t follow the rulessss of the above the ground world. They move and change in wayssss that shouldn’tss be possible. Good luck fledgling.”

 The Snake seemingly finished and nodded its head once before slithering away.

Snape looked at Harry, clearly asking him to explain. “I presume that snake is not going off to find more of its friends and attack us in our sleep?”

“No, actually it was quite grateful for the pain reliever and wanted to help us.” 

“It did, did it?” For some reason Harry was finding talking to Snape, and talking to the snake, to be eerily similar.

“Yeah, it said two things…” He relayed what the reptilian had said trying keep the words the same as best he could.

The professor rested his hand on his chin for a few seconds, “I suppose we shall better go see what its talking about then.”

They didn’t have to walk far to find it. The cavern was small and a very tight space, lit by one green flame in a metal holster fixed to the wall.

In the middle was a column of grey stone, smoothed and polished. It was obviously the centrepiece of the room and Harry and Snape walked cautiously towards it.

Now that he was closer he could see a small orange gemstone sitting on top. Then he noticed the writing beneath it,

To continue on you must give up something of which you value, hold the stone and…

 He couldn’t make out the rest, etched crisscrossing lines obscured the words from view. The sentences were completely illegible. Snape too read it, and stared around the room.

 “ I suppose this is what you cold-blooded friend was referring too.”

 “Yeah. I think so.”

“However, it is a question of are we willing to trust to a snake?”

Harry snorted a bit. 

“Something amusing Mr Potter?”

“Uh well… I think its just funny sir. You, the head of Slytherin, asking if we can trust a snake.”

“I suppose there is a certain irony in that.”

Harry stared back at the words wishing their meaning would become clear if he simply stared hard enough.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice.”

“For once in your life Potter, you may be correct.”

Rather than take the insult, he said “Potter this, Potter that. You promised to call me Harry remember?”

“Fine… Harry.” it wasn’t exactly said with a friendly indentation, but Harry took what he could get.

“So, you or me first?”

 Snape didn’t answer, instead he walked straight up to the pedestal and placed his hand on the glittery stone.

“I threw out my latest potions experimentation due to the monkswood being too acidic when combined with boomslang skin.” 

Harry thought that had to be one of the most boring ‘secrets’ he’d ever heard. Still he waited for something to happen, some exit to be shown. Nothing did.

 “I think, I think sir, it has to be a secret you actually value. One that you haven’t told for a reason.”

“Oh? perhaps you would like to give it a try then.” Snape angrily moved aside to allow Harry full access.

Damnn, he definitely didn’t want a turn. What was he even going to say? a secret that meant something, that he hadn’t one anyone else. That unfortunately ruled out everything he’d ever told Ron and Hermione, and that was a-lot. A couple of things about him and Voldemort came to mind but he’d Dumbledore about all that. 

Something came to him then, a distant memory that hadn’t thought about for years. But he wasn’t about to share that in front of the person who used any and all information to mock him.

Unfortunately Snape had noticed his realisation,

“Come now Pott..Harry. I know you’ve got something, surely you little secret isn’t worth the lives of every person at Hogwarts. Because that is what will happen if this stone falls into the hands of the Dark Lord. Are you willing to trade all their lives for your privacy?”

No, he was not. He tried desperately to think of something, anything else, but nothing came. He took a tentative step forward to the menacing honey orange stone.

 “Could you, ahh. Just not listen or something?”

The look he got was a very clear no.

He muttered to himself in way of motivation, “Alright here goes, just gotta talk about one little thing. Faced much worse before…even if this is a little pathetic…”

He placed his hand on the cold stone, surprised to find it fixed to the pedestal, and stared blankly at the wall ahead. He didn’t move his gaze once he started speaking.

“When I was younger, about 5 or 6, there was this really cold week. Sometimes, in winter it snows in Surrey and this was one of those times. I… there had been this…. altercation inside the house and I was sent out. I walked around for a few hours and came back, but the door was still locked. I was freezing, I only had a shirt and pants on and it was snowing heavily.”

He took a deep breath,

“I walked around for ages, until it got dark. I remember feeling so cold that I didn’t know where I was going — I couldn’t see properly either. I accidentally walked onto this lake covered in ice and I… it started to crack and I fell in.”

“I can’t remember much about that part, only that I was sure it was over, that I was going to die. Then the next thing I realised, I was in a warm room next to a fireplace, wrapped in blankets. A teenager, about 17 or 18 walked in. He was surprised but glad I was awake and okay. He had jumped into the lake and saved me, he told me he thought I wouldn’t make it. I’m pretty sure it was my magic that kept me alive. He gave me a hot chocolate and told me to stay the night. I was super happy, even though I’d just fallen into a lake.” One hell of a freezing lake.

“The next day I had to go back to the Dursleys. I made sure I remembered his name though; Mathew Cresus. Everyday for the next 5 or 6 months I went back to that house looking for him. I never found him.”

 He couldn’t stop the blush rising from his pathetic admission and he glancing at Snape was out of the questions. Although if he had, he might’ve seen something different from the usual scowl. Throughout his story the stone in his hand grew warmer. Now it was hot to touch, but not uncomfortable. There was a small ‘pop’ noise and a doorway appeared. Eager to leave, Harry moved towards it.

He got a few steps forward before noticing Snape wasn’t behind him. He turned around and saw the problem, Snape couldn’t get past the doorway. Every time the man tried to put his arm or leg through it bounced off like some kind of force field.

“It appears, that to pass, I must also speak.”

 Still too embarrassed to say anything, Harry nodded dumbly. He walked back through the doorway and found it had no effect on him. He stuck his hand through just to be certain and found he could pass in and out as if there was nothing there. Not even a flicker or magic to attest to its existence.

Knowing he couldn’t help, he stayed silent and let Snape decide on his own secret. A few minutes of deliberation later, Snape walked up and assumed the same position Harry had when speaking earlier.

He levelled a rather vicious glare at Harry, “If you tell anyone about this….. I promise the Dark Lord will not be your biggest concern.”

 “I won’t tell anyone I swear.” He raised his hands in what he hoped was a placating movement.

He also wished he made Snape swear to the same secrecy as well. 

The professor stared dead ahead, like he could force the wall to crumble by staring at it.

“After the ….fall out, between Lily and I, we still sent presents to one another on each others birthdays. Lily’s gifts were always extravagant and personal, I looked forward to them every year.” He sounded as if every word was being forcefully pulled out of him.

“When her present for my 18th arrived I was too… scared to open it. I’d become a Death Eater and I could only imagine she’d sent something….unpleasant. Especially as she’d just married James. I could never bring myself to unwrap it, even after — especially after ---- her death. To this day it remains unopened in my chambers at Hogwarts.”

Harry couldn’t give a voice to the millions of burning questions he had. The shock of everything Snape said sunk in. He felt more confused then ever about his mothers life and how it involved one Severus Snape.

Said man walked purposely to the doorway and didn’t even hesitate before stepping through it. He met no resistance and continued on. Seeing it as his cue, Harry hastily walked forward until he was behind the professor.

 He didn't have the words to say anything about his or Snape’s admission, neither did Snape apparently. So they stayed quiet.

***

 

The boy was staring, he could feel it. Was it too much to ask that Potter give up his insatiable curiosity for a few minutes? he supposed it was. At one point or another he guessed he would probably tell Harry about his friendship with Lily. 

He hated that stupid challenge, it was pointless and useless. He expected something better from a Slytherin. Not this emotional Hufflepuff nonsense.

Although he wasn’t the only one being forcefully embarrassed. Harry’s story had been truly aggravating, he realised that perhaps they might’ve lost the boy-who-lived before he even got to Hogwarts. Albus’s careful manoeuvring will have been for naught, his little weapon destroyed before it could ever be moulded. And his own promise? If the boy had died then, he would have failed terribly. If was infuriating how they were all looking for the danger in the wrong places and it had been the boy who’d had to pay for it. The story had been yet more evidence of categorical neglect and abuse. 

The only thing he could do now was to make sure those abominable relatives were dealt with. He had seen his fair share of revenge acts from other Death Eater’s and he certainly had some ideas. Then came the conundrum of the boy himself. Where was he to be placed? It wasn’t as if he could become a Ministry minor like other orphans, and who was there to take him? perhaps Minerva or one of the other teachers who favoured Potter could be convinced.

Presently however, he was very much charged with Potter’s protection. And he’d already failed. If it hadn’t been for the boy’s bout of accidental magic then…. the thought didn’t bare thinking about. He could only hope that blasted stone was close by. He was done with this place.

 They were unfortunately settling down for another restlessness night of sleeping on stone. He was sure to cast a few extra wards around them this time, aware that they now had potential pursuers in the tunnels. He would’ve cast more but admittedly, he was tired. He would never show it but the days were taking there toll. He’d almost been tempted to take a pepper-up or energy restorer potion but had been worried about the potential that they’d make him fuzzier later on.

He glanced across to his sleepy charge and wondered how he was faring. He was quite astonished the boy had yet to complain, it made sense since because of his ability to hide injuries. That reminded him of the injuries he himself had inflicted, he hoped they were mostly healed. Hope wasn’t enough though, he needed proof.

“P..Harry. How are your injuries from the glass?”

The boy was actually startled, probably from the fact that not a word had been said for several hours. 

“Uh, their fine sir.”

 He sighed loudly in an act even he had to admit was a tad dramatic.

 “Show me.”

 there it was, panic that once upon a time, he would’ve been overjoyed to see in Harry. Today, it left him with a very uncomfortable feeling.

 “Please Harry.” It was said with a tone much gentler than one he’d ever use months ago.

It was plain as day the struggle that took place across the teenagers face. He could only wait until common sense won out.

The boy nodded, an action Severus would normally reprimand, and moved fingers to undo his cloak and take off his shirt.

 Severus once again had to fight a little to keep the impassive look on his face as his eyes were drawn to the silvery scars. He forced himself to look at the much newer remnants of cuts. Thankfully they were healing, all of them closed. Although there was always room for improvement.

“It looks like there healing fine. I still could give you a mild remedial potion though, it might speed up the process a bit.”

Harry immediately shook his head, he couldn’t blame the boy for the distrust. Harry bit his lip before speaking and Severus made sure he was listening closely.

“Do you... Actually don’t worry.” 

“What?” It came off a little more intimidating than he meant it.

“Well, you don’t have anything to stop it scaring do you?”

Ah, that made sense. He could understand why Harry would want a few less scars.

“Yes.” Harry’s face brightened and felt a little guilty about what he had to say next. “But I didn’t bring any of it with me. When we return I will be sure to give you some.” He intended to make good on that.

“Oh, Thanks.” There was a note of disappointment but it will still said with gratitude. Who knew that a Potter would ever speak to Severus with gratitude? Though he wasn’t just a Potter was he? it wasn’t just those eyes either, he realised that now. The gentleness, the selfness that quiet yet often fiery demeanour; that was all Lily. Before he could stop it, it slipped out of his mouth,

“Has anyone told you how much you are like your mother?”

 One of the very few times he’d said something without meaning to. Harry regarded him quizzically then his expression turned darker.

“Sometimes. Dumbledore and Remus mostly. Though… It kinda doesn’t mean much to me. Don’t get me wrong, its… Well I never knew her, its like being compared to a total stranger. That and the fact that it was used as an insult for so long.” 

Without meaning too it seemed he opened up an interesting line of questioning.

“An insult? How so?” he couldn’t help a little bit of anger bleeding out.

“Well my Aunt said it a lot. She used to always say I was like my no good parents, drunk and laze-abouts. Said it was in my blood.”

 He didn’t know what angered him more, than insults at Lily or what they had told her son.

“Yeah that was pretty crap. I had no idea how they’d died actually until Hagrid told me, I thought it was a car crash.”

“A car crash!” He said unknowingly mirroring Hagrid.

“Like some common muggle accident?! and you believed this?”

 “Well I was two at the time, what was I supposed to think? That there was a whole other world involving magic and my parents had been hunted down by a dark wizard because of a prophecy that existed about me? I barely understood what a car crash was!”

He knew it had been unfair to accuse Harry of believing them, hearing it spelled out, he saw just how many lies his relatives had told him. The mere thought of 11 years without knowing the true reason for Lily’s and Potter’s death made him cringe.

“Yes you are right. Your beliefs were entirely plausible and it is in no way your fault.”

That seemed to deflate some of the tension and both finished setting up some of their bedding. There was one other thing that was annoying Severus though and he couldn’t let it go.

“Earlier, you seemed unhappy at the comparison between you and your mother and not just for the fact that she was a stranger. Why?”

Harry’s face was turned away from him but he could still hear the words perfectly.

 “Sometimes I just wish they weren’t so well known by everybody. All my life I’ve been compared to my mother or father, it gets tiring. I’m not either of them, I’m not Lily, not James, I’m just Harry.”

The words spoken with so much sincerity they actually managed to have quite the impact on Severus. It was true he was of the many guilty for comparing the boy, he hadn’t seen the 15 year old as a person in his own right. What he hadn’t realised was the fact that he wasn’t the only one measuring the boy up to his parents.

Harry, still turned away, shrugged half heartedly.

“Sometimes I wish I could change my eye colour and looks, I reckon that would make things different.”

What a strange thought, many times he wished the boy had been born without the infernal green eyes, but the thought of a world where they didn’t exist just seemed cold.

 To be honest, he didn’t know what to say. 

“Sir, I’m sorry if this is way out of line but.. When we get back, I think you should open that present. I may know nothing about my parents but if my mum was anything like me…. well I would never send something cruel to Ron or Hermione regardless of what they did.”

Again the boy had managed a feat not many had done and left him with no words. Harry was perhaps the one person who might be able to predict what Lily would do and if what he said was true then… perhaps he really did have nothing to fear. The thought filled him with optimism and took off some of the weight that box had left him with. He couldn’t say nothing so he said what he normally would say,

“It is none of your business anyway. ”

He couldn’t see it but he could imagine the expression on Harry’s face, again those small tendrils of guilt bothered him.

“Okay, sorry sir.”

A voice, perhaps his conscience, was urging him to say something more. It was certainly not the first time he ignored that voice, he was not a nice man and his days of listening to some moral compass were long gone.

 

*** 

The next day passed in a blur of cave walls and wand light. Somewhere along the way everything had turned rather dewy, and not in the nice forest kind of way either. No more like an empty sewerage tunnel dewy. At one point Harry had gotten bored and changed the light at the end of his wand to a nice shade of indigo. Bathed in a purple glow, everything looked more interesting. Snape hadn’t made a comment so every now and then he’d change it to a different colour. He was particularly fond of blue; it reminded it of the sky that had been so absent recently. 

He couldn’t shake the fixation with his wand either, it just felt wrong whenever it wasn’t in hands. Again the perceptive professor, Harry’s new nickname for him, noticed. He gave Harry a bit of a weird look every-time he turned it over in his hands but had made no substantial comments so far.

He liked whatever weird truce he and the professor had worked out. It certainly beat the hatred from before. Sometimes he even found himself amused by the mans sarcastic comments, when they weren’t aimed at him. He swore that Snape too seemed a little more tolerant of him as well.

That night broke the monotony of tunnel walking in more ways than one.

After having settled in and falling asleep, unbeknownst to Harry and Snape, others approached. Unfortunately the tunnels had positioned two groups rather close together. Donavan, a scout sent out by the others, felt the wards. He immediately went back to his own group and reported his suspicions. All of them had been in agreement,

“We need the boy, we’ll never get past that ruddy door otherwise.” 

“Besides I think we owe him a few anyway for what he did to to you Tommy.”

For Thompson, not wanting to speak the truth, had blamed all his injuries on the younger wizard. It was much easier to explain it as a volatile act of accidental magic then the deliberate act by the man in black it had been. Seeing their leader injured in such a way had brought feelings of rage out in the others and they were eager for payback.

It was now only a matter of getting the little twerp. If possible, they’d try to avoid the other man. He was a fully trained wizard and it was obvious they’d be better off not trifling with him.

Donavan, the strongest out of the group in terms of magic, spent a while trying to deconstruct the wards that would likely wake their prey if crossed. He was by no means a great wizard so it had taken a great deal of energy, after it was done he had fainted from the exhaustion.

The group put him in one of their tents and returned to the cave that housed Severus Snape and Harry Potter. It was decided that only three of them would go in, Jerry, Thompson and Mike. Less chance of waking the older one that way. Mike was one of the few among them who could perform any small spells. He managed to cast a silencing spell across their shoes and had tried, and failed, to cast charms that obscured them from view.

Harry, oblivious to the danger now moving towards him, was sleeping steadily. However, even in sleep he had a tight grip on his wand. Mike cast the strongest silencing spell he knew on the boy then nodded to the other two. All were grouped around the slumbering teen, Mike on his right, Jerry at his head and Thompson on his left; closest to the Snape.

 They moved in rapid unison. Jerry placed hid hand tightly on Harry’s mouth and Mike and Jerrry restrained his arms and legs. The moment Jerry’s hand made contact with his face, Harry’s eye’s flew open. Upon seeing the three shadowy figures he knew he was in danger. He went to kick and yell but his voice came out as silence and he could barely move his arms and legs more than a few centimeters. He could still feel his wand in his hand and tried desperately to free it. A strong fist collided with his head and an agonising bolt of pain went through his skull. When it had calmed to a dull ache he realised he was being moved. He fought as much as he could, writhing and squirming to free his wand hand. Finally he managed to shake it out of the grasp of one of the men and tried to shout a stunning spell, only to find once again no sound escaped his mouth.

Quickly he thought of a spell he could perform silently and hoped to merlin it would wake Snape up. A strong white glowing ball of light was thrown across the cave, briefly illuminating everything in its path including the malicious expressions across his attackers face. He recognised Thompsons and fought even harder; panic, fear and anger all mixing together. A fist connected with his stomach and he immediately doubled over in pain, choking for air. He lost any opportunity he had and his attackers descended in a flurry of blows that caused excruciating pain. Again and Again his head was hit until one blow was so strong it knocked him out completely.

Snape a blinding white light hitting the wall before everything went back to black. Hearing nothing, he looked around. His eyes adjusted and he could make out a group of dark silhouettes moving away.

Instantly he sent his own lumos into the air to act as a light. He recognised the men and sent a stunning spell their way that missed by a hair and wildly searched for Harry. His breath caught when he noticed the limp scruffy figure the men were dragging away. With rapid succession he was wordlessly firing complex hexes their way in an impressive feat of magic. One of the men had put up a block that broke on contact with one of Severus’s spells. It had been weak but it bought the men enough time to sprint and disappear into darkness carrying the limp teenager.

Severus was on his feet and running, his heart pounding hard in his chest. He shot spell after spell but the tunnels divided into three and he had no way of knowing which route the men had taken.

 He yelled loudly in frustration and fired more blasting curses down the tunnels. He was hesitant to do anything more damaging lest he hit Harry. When there was no yelp of pain or solid thud to indicate he’d hit anyone his fear set in. Then came the actualisation that they had taken Harry. They had taken the very person he was charged with protecting. It was the terrible image of them carrying away Harry’s unmoving body that stayed with him as he looked into the never-ending darkness.

Chapter Text

In his anxiousness he began pacing, however he stopped as his foot stepped on something. It appeared to be a long stick, on closer inspection it was a wand – Harry's wand.

So not only was the boy bound and unconscious but unarmed as well. He pocketed the wand, resolutely thinking about how the phoenix core wood would be reunited with its owner in the very near future. He continued to pace between the mouths of the three tunnels.

He tried hard to compose himself. he was actually having some trouble thinking logically; a testament to how much he was truly affected. He was a spy, he told himself, high stakes and tense situation were what he did. The only difference was now, it wasn't only his life on the line. That simply meant, he would not fail.

Taking a few steading breaths he forced himself into thinking of the next step. He paused and looked down at his feet an idea coming to him. The ground around him bore marks where he walked, they weren't clear but they certainly signified his presence

It was something.

...

The strong pounding in head made him instantly want to retreat back to unconsciousness. It was like a merciless jackhammer drilling into his brain. It wasn't even the only source of pain; his chest, stomach and arms were all throbbing something awful. He could feel some type of warm liquid dripping down his chest and realised worriedly, it was most likely blood.

Something – possibly someone – bumped into him and he let out an involuntary groan.

"Wakey wakey, gotta fun day ahead of ye' "

He cracked a crusty eye open and felt the absence of his glasses making itself known.

"There we are! can't 'ave ya sleeping all the time. Whats the fun's thad?"

He tried to speak, tell his captors to stuff their fun somewhere else, but all that came out was another groan.

He gave another shot at composing himself and finally managed to grind out "Go….To….Hell."

The man in front of him who had waited for Harry's response cracked up laughing.

"We're already there. This place," he waved his hand around to emphasise the cavern. "We've been here for months."

"We were sick, tired and about to give up. You see we could only get 'ta that door, but never past it."

The same look of triumph that he had seen on that first night once again crossed the mans face.

"Then you showed up, and you could talk to that snake! that meant you could open the door. Our 'iddle miracle maker eh?"

He ruffled Harry's hair in a mockery of affection. Harry tried to pull away but his body didn't respond like it should of.

"Why," He spat out a glob of red metallic spit, "Be so nice then? why….. not just take me?"

"Much easier to take a willing prisoner than an unwilling one. Besides who are we to fight real, wizards, we're just some squibs, we mean nothing to you people."

"Jerry!" Both Harry and the other man turned sharply towards the new voice.

"Are you going to tell him your life story or hurt him? I think the less we say the better,"

Jerry apparently disagreed and scowled back, well Harry was pretty sure it was a scowl, hard to tell with his blurry vision.

"Who cares what the skimp thinks? s'not like he's gonna tell anyone."

The new intruder was still outside of Harry's line of sight so he didn't see the reaction.

"Fine fine, lets get to the good bit eh?"

He didn't feel the blow at first. The shock of the punch taking over for a few micro seconds — then the blunt intense pain. The Gryffindor in him spoke before he could stop it,

"What….That…..All…. You got?"

He winced before the next blow even landed, not that it saved him from the pain. This time it was aimed clearly at his stomach, for a few second he struggled to take in air and the panic of suffocation had him gasping.

"You see you little brat, being a wizard doesn't make you invincible. You bleed just like the rest of us."

The man's gaze swept to something behind Harry on his left.

"You do, unfortunately 'eal a ickle bit faster. Have no fear…"

One hand clamped on Harry's shoulder while the other hand reached for whatever Jerry had been staring at. He brought the glinting metal right in front of Harry's face.

"We simply have to do a little more permanent damage."

Harry's eyes didn't stray from the hammer from the moment the man brought it out.

...

He was prepared, he had a plan. He thanked merlin that he always stayed a paranoid bastard and thought to grab a few hairs off one of the men. Having brought the polyjuice potion that had caused so much trouble before their leave, the answer was clear.

Follow, pretend, escape.

The tracks in front of him were often impossible to see but he didn't let up. He held the strongest lumos he could and eyed every shift of dirt.

He knew he was losing time, he would be traveling much slower than they were. He planned to make up for it by travel through the night.

He stopped his thoughts from drifting to what was happening to Harry, only having eyes on the path in front of him.

...

This time he well and truly wished he was back unconscious. Unfortunately the relief of darkness wouldn't come, only the intense thudding in his shoulder. Every time it thudded it brought through an agony of white hot pain. Be no longer yelled out, he had the first the first few times, very loudly, much to his tortures delight. Instead he just tried to focus on breathing through the pain.

Thud, inhale. Thud, exhale. Thud, inhale. Thud, exhale.

Gradually the world began to come back into focus. The sound of some voices talking through water, the feeling of rough stone underneath him, a persistent rock that dug into the space between his shoulder blades. His hand on his uninjured arm was resting on something soft, moving his fingertips slightly he could feel soft fur. A small comfort ran through him as he realised it was his mottled grey cloak.

Just as quickly, that comfort was gone. He wasn't sure how was supposed to make it out of this, especially now with a broken shoulder. The last times he'd been in mortal danger like this he'd never been alone, well, never started off alone. Ron and Hermione had been there for majority of the time with the stone. Ron and even Lockhart had been there for the basilisk, not to mention Fawkes and the sorting hat. He was with Sirius for the dementors in third year, and his parents had saved him that night at the graveyard.

For the first time he was utterly alone. And it terrified him.

Perhaps he was wrong, Snape had to be somewhere right? he might dislike Harry but he'd never want a student to die surely? The man was scary enough that the thought of him on Harry's side seemed reassuring.

In the mean time he just had to make it through the painful thudding of his shoulder.

He flinched reflexively when something was pressed against it, eliciting more pain. He forced his breath through his teeth and looked to the source of pain.

A women, the mousy faced one from before, was tying a bandage around it. Her wispy dirty blonde hair falling over her eyes as she did so. She demeanour was vacant, like she'd been subjected to a dementors kiss.

Methodically she passed the bandage underneath and around his shoulder, giving no reaction to his softs hisses of pain. Any idea of finding a sympathetic ear disappeared.

Fine, if she did not care about her actions he would at least find out why.

"Who are you?" his voice was raspy and quiet but she was close enough that he knew she heard it.

Nothing.

"Do you not care?"

a strong yelp as the bandage was pulled over a particularly tender area.

"Do you think that whatever messed up things you're doing here are okay?"

His anger quickly bubbled to the surface as he was continually ignored in favour of her task.

"That it's fine to torture kids as long as you get what you want? The ends justify the means?"

She finished wrapping and fastened in place with a sliver clip and stood up.

"Fine, walk away! I hope you can be okay with yourself at the end of the day!"

He didn't even see her move, only becoming aware when her face was close to his, wispy hair flying behind her.

"Do you think I started out like this? That I ever wanted to do this? I. Didn't. have. a choice."

She was about to walk away but it looked like she couldn't bring herself to leave. He pressed his advantage of it.

"Everyone has a choice."

Her grip on the bandage roll tightened but her head stayed bowed, hair obscuring her face.

"I never set out to be the villain. We were the underdogs, everyone treated us like the dirt beneath their feet. No magic, no home, no family."

That vacant look was still their but it was overcome by sadness.

"This stupid stone would finally give us power that we'd never have before, give our kids a future where they didn't live on the streets. I'm sorry. I really am, but if one 15 year old has to be hurt to give a whole'lotta others hope, well then, I think your answer is pretty clear."

Before she fled, Harry grabbed her wrist with his uninjured hand. Grimacing when even that small movement caused a strong bolt of pain. He made eye contact, hoping his face could express what his words could not.

"No, its not. Getting this stone won't change anything for you. Voldemort, he will take it off you and slaughter everyone you know. It's not enough to protect you or the ones you love. Please just let me go, torturing a kid won't do anything."

He knew it wasn't enough, she pulled her wrist out of his weak grip.

"I'm sorry. I've come too far now to believe you're right."

She passed him a canteen full of water but he didn't bother taking it. She gave him one last look before standing up and out of his field of vision. He could only see her dirty, used shoes walking away from him.

He continued staring at the cave ceiling listlessly, in the hope that some new idea would come to him and he would be able to free himself. Shifting to his left and right revealed that he didn't even has his wand, he felt completely vulnerable without it. No matter how hard he tried, could not think of a way he could runaway. He wasn't even sure where to go if he did. He had no way of finding Snape, the Stone, or an exit.

He let out a small dejected sigh, sinking into despair. He'd never honestly thought that he would die in a way other than Voldemort. The cruel irony of it was just occurring to him now. Spending so much time worrying about a threat that wouldn't even matter in the end.

Perhaps Snape was rubbing off on him. That seemed a plausible reason for his sudden, depressingly cynical, look at the world.

The sounds of footstep came from his left and he turned his head to see the person leaning down. He instantly recoiled as he recognised who it was - Thompson.

"Hey kiddo. Long-time no see. Gotta say I'm not such a fan of that friend of ya's"

Thompson ignored Harry's obvious movements of escape, and held up his own forearms. Interestingly they were completely covered in bandages.

"He cert'nly leaves a mark don't he?"

Snape had done that? When? currently it didn't matter, Snape had obviously made this man very mad and that was bad news for Harry.

"I think it's only fair I get a little retribution, eh?"

Harry was furiously backing away but a hand wrapped around his throat stopping him cold. A vicious blow landed on Harry's temple, reigniting all the pain from the punches he'd received in his kidnapping.

He kicked out weakly with his legs as his airway was cut off. It didn't serve much purpose but finally Thompson dropped him. He was on his hands and knees gasping for air.

"Some wizard you are. t'think, you people view yourselves so highly above us… and here you are like some defenceless 4 yer' old. "

Harry didn't have enough air to speak yet so he glared violently at the man. Thompson only laughed.

He clenched his fists and tried valiantly to stand up. Fortunately his legs held and he only wobbled slightly.

"You can't beat me in fight boy! you have nothing to defend yourself with, your stick is gone."

He didn't bother replying, simply holding his ground and raising his chin in defiance.

Thompson lashed out with a fist aimed at his broken shoulder that he managed to side step. He wasn't so lucky the next time and a strong push sent him sprawling. He was pinned to the ground too quickly to react.

"You're a little to active, I think I c'n fix that."

With one hand pressed against Harry's chest he used the other to reach into his pocket and pulled out a syringe.

Harry tried to buck and pull away but he was locked in an iron hold.

"Little bit of a sedative, hold still this might pinch."

He grabbed Harry's forearm and stuck the needle in harshly, pushing the plunger all the way down.

He continued to pin Harry for about a minute before finally moving away. Harry tried to scramble away but his body wasn't completely responding. He put his arm out behind him only to have it collapse and fall flat onto the floor.

"Stay away fr'm me." he slurred out.

A growing fuzziness seemed to be creeping up on him, blurring his thoughts and speech.

A voice called out that wasn't Thompson's, he thought it was far away but he couldn't completely tell.

" 'Ey Tommy, 'ave your fun later. We need some 'elp over here."

Thompson's crooked yellow teeth were all Harry could manage to focus on, not whatever the man said next. He did however feel himself being gruffly dragged towards one of the smaller tents and dropped inside.

Once the squib left, Harry slumped over. Not finding the willpower to move much more.

...

Severus had found the campsite. The loud voices and laughing carried a long way. The laughing didn't seem at all welcoming as is it had last time.

Despite the fact he was quite the powerful wizard, he wouldn't be strong enough for a 15 on one scenario. Plus he would need to get Harry out and he wasn't sure if the boy would be injured or not.

No, much better to do this stealthily and destroy them.

He downed the vial in front of him, grimacing at it's terrible taste. Quickly he began to feel the transformation as he grew a few centimetres and his hair rapidly shortened and turned into a dusty brown colour.

He tried to remember the name of the person he would be impersonating. J - something, John? Jeff? Jerry, that was it. He would be first on Severus's hit-list, it wouldn't do to have two identical people walking around.

He cast silencing charms all over himself as well as charms that would partially obscure him from view. This would be all so much easier if this entire place wasn't warded from top to bottom, he would be able to simply apparate in, grab Harry and disapparate away.

He took his first steps into the camp, very careful to avoid the pools of light cast by the lanterns. He scanned the area looking for Harry, but there was an absence of the scrawny mop-headed teenager. He then looked for Jerry - and found him - sitting on a rock in front of a tent, chatting with another women.

He moved behind the tents, until he was within meters of them. Pointing his wand at the women he frowned in concentration,

"Confundus"

The women shuddered as the spell hit but Jerry didn't even notice, still caught up telling some story about his cousin who owned a bar in east London.

She stood jerkily, and interrupted Jerry. "I think, there was something Donvan asked for before."

"Oh, ah okay."

She nodded and walked away, looking upwards in a daze.

"Stupefy"

Jerry slumped forward instantaneously and Severus quickly pulled the limp body behind one of the tents. It was a particularly strong spell and Severus guessed the man would be unconscious for a few hours. The thought of killing him and the others had crossed his mind, it would certainly have been a bit cleaner.

But, some part of himself argued that, if it was within his ability to incapacitate and not kill, he had a duty to do so. That, and certainly Harry would disapprove.

He held no such promise for Thompson though. He'd been given warning already.

He uttered a few spells until his clothing resembled the unconscious man's and pocketed a shrunken version of his own robes.

Seamlessly he took the seat Jerry had been occupying and did his best to look relaxed and casual.

His eyes darted around searching for any sign of Harry, a flash of the grey cloak or a pair of owlish green eyes exacerbated by those terrible glasses; only to find nothing.

He turned his attention to the people.

Six or so were on one side of the camp, seven on the other. Plus the one woman who'd gone to a tents as a result of his spell. There was one missing.

He walked casually towards the group currently nursing whiskey's and stoking a fire. One of them quickly caught sight of him,

"Hey Jerry, theres you are! come, we're celebrating." he held out a bottle towards Severus who took it and pretend to drink before handing it back.

The other man took a lengthy swig before wiping his sleeve across his mouth.

"Cheers to a life with a little more power!"

Everyone else nodded in agreement. The man seemed to take this as his cue to continue,

"Good luck locking us up or putting us in body binds when we 'ave that stone."

He pointed to himself and everyone else "We all came together because we were sick and tired of how we were treated. Ridiculed because of something we couldn't control. Many of you have brothers and sisters who were favoured because they were born with magic. Favoured because they were born better."

Severus fought the urge to roll his eyes, how tragic.

"Now we 'ave the boy, we can get past the door and get that stone and our freedom!"

The rest of the group responded enthusiastically with comments like 'well said' and 'Here Here!' but Severus was distracted by the mention of Harry.

This was taking too long.

He discreetly aimed a non-verbal wandless spell at a canvas bag sitting near the fire. Instantly it burst into flames capturing the attention of the group. One women was quick on the uptake and grabbed a canteen full of water, pouring it on the fire. However it wasn't enough to full douse the flames which spread to another two bags.

Other group members kicked into action, frantically looking for more water.

The women who now held an empty canteen spoke up. " 'Ey Tommy, 'ave your fun later. We need some 'elp over here."

Severus's blood ran hotter at the meaning of the words and he whipped his head around to see where the pig would emerge from.

The broad man walked out from a small tent, positioned next to a large dark opening in the cave wall that Severus had missed earlier.

He resisted the urge to run and instead walked rapidly towards it - only to be stopped by a firm hand on his shoulder.

"You 'eard her, they need 'elp." Thompsons hands was within centimetres of his face and for a moment, he had the insane urge to bite it. Instead he gave a friendly smile.

"Of course," He purred. He supposed it was a little out of character for Jerry but Thompson was already thrusting a water canteen into his hand and pushing him back towards the small fire.

He hated the idiocy of having to put out a fire he himself started, using muggle methods, while he knew Harry was so close.

One quick agumenti and it would be handled. He would've done it but Thompson was watching him, probably suspicious considering 'Jerry' had just tried to run away.

It was over in a matter of minutes, it felt like hours to Severus.

"How in the bloody 'ell did that 'appen?" asked the man who had given the speech before.

Many others seemed to be wondering the same thing, most were looking around for the source of the blaze. Curiously one mousy-faced woman who was yet to speak, wasn't reacting at all. Severus found her lack of…. presence? disconcerting.

They all sat down ready to continue from where they left off. Making toasts and laughing about decrepit humour with one another. Severus nodded and smiled with the rest of them but internally it was grating on his nerves.

One person made a comment that caught his attention instantly, "So where is our little trouble maker? I sure 'ope you didn't leave him where he could escape Tommy."

When Thompson grinned widely any and all reservations about killing the man disappeared.

"Oh, I doubt 'e can get anywhere. Don't worry he'll get his very soon. Perhaps a little visit later tonight…."

his hand half concealed under the grubby brown jacket, clenched tightly. The only visible signs of his fury.

The conversation once again went back to other topics and he only half payed attention. Finally one other group member said goodnight and went off to his tent. Severus was just about to do similar when a terrible pain shot through his forearm, causing him grab it with his other hand and hiss in pain.

No, not now.

This had to be the absolute worse possible timing. His strange actions seemed to draw attention to himself as a few other were now watching him quizzically. He was forced into speaking,

"Small cut from before, its really nothin' " he lied seamlessly, impersonating Jerry's accent.

When nobody added anything and went back to their personal conversation he breathed slightly heavier in relief.

The pain in his forearm continued, like a worm burrowing deep into his arm. Getting more aggressive the longer he didn't answer. He fought hard to keep his expression neutral and mostly succeeded. Eventually it dulled to a uncomfortable ebb, promising retribution later. He pressed the thought to the back of his mind and concentrated on the problem at hand.

A few minutes later he excused himself for bed. He hoped to merlin that the tent he apprehended Jerry at had actually been the man's tent.

He walked in and no one made comment, so he assumed he'd guessed correctly.

Using he wand, he cut into the back of the tent. A section large enough to fit through. He stepped through and stitched it up once again, moving around the stupefied body of Jerry.

He edged his way around the campsite without a sound. Making his way to the very dark alcove in the cave wall. On the floor he noticed something wet, at first he thought it was water from the fire-extinguisher effort from before but he quickly realised it was took thick to be water. Blood, it was blood.

He was finding Harry, now.

He did the same thing he'd done with the other tent, cutting the canvas from the back, and stepped inwards.

Relief poured through him when he took in the dark form leaning against the side of the tent, unmistakably Harry.

The boy became aware of his presence also. Moving away in slow uncoordinated movements.

Severus took a step closer but it only panicked Harry more who raised himself upwards, trying to be defensive.

"Stay… 'way. "

Severus frowned at the sloppy speech. Unable to see what state Harry was in, that was a worrying sign.

"Harry, I'm not trying to hurt you."

the boy snorted, "Yeah right…"

He held his hands up in a passive gesture, then moved to grab something in his pocket.

This did not have the desired effect as Harry retreated even further and the voice that came was full of confidence masked fear. "I'm not… No… Keep that away."

Severus withdrew his hand, holding Harry's wand.

"Take it."

Harry eyed warily, then snatched it away.

Severus couldn't see his expression but he was sure it was one of shock. He needed Harry to realise who he was,

"Lumos." The tip of his wand lit up in a blue ball of light, slightly dim as he didn't want the light to escape the tent.

It was enough however to glimpse Harry and his face broke its usual un-expressive state. Snarling viscously as he took in the bandaged shoulder that hung unnaturally, and the colouring bruises across the boys face and arms.

His lumos had however, had the right effect and Harry relaxed.

"Professor Snape?" he whispered in relief.

"Yes."

At the confirmation Harry's dark shadow even slouched smaller before making an unsteady effort at standing up. He made it part way only to fall again. Severus caught him before he completely fell.

"What did they do to you?" Something was wrong, other than the obvious injuries.

"Needle….Sedative.."

Ahh that answered a few things, the growing anger in the back of mind continued smouldering.

"Can you stand?"

"Mmmmm not sure,"

So no then. Severus looped the uninjured shoulder around his neck and took majority of the weight.

"Thanks for comin' "

Severus scoffed,

"Like I wasn't "

Harry gave him a lazy smile that he could make out even in the dark, and he turned away. Unable to meet such intense emotion in those eyes.

"We need to move quickly, the polyjuice wears off soon."

Harry stumbled but finally stepped out of the tent.

"Yeah, I remember."

"Remind me to get the full story of that later."

"Nah, think I wanna…. enjoy some… detention free school."

Severus bit back his own reply as they neared close to the main campfire. He would get Harry out and safe somewhere, once the boy was healed, he'd consider coming back to cause a little destruction.

He was a little caught up and didn't notice Harry's next stumble in time to catch him. Harry fell forwards, hitting the stone harshly. Giving a muffled cry as he landed on his shoulder.

"Jerry? I thought Tommy had called dibs on the boy."

Severus froze, slightly thankful Harry was on the floor and not in a more incriminating position. He turned to face the women who he'd cast the confoundes on before.

"Well, the bastard bit me when we took 'im. I wanna little payback."

She shrugged her shoulders but didn't leave. He was immensely grateful that Harry had stayed still this entire time.

"Well I think we're all owed a bit'of a reward ey?"

He instantly disliked where this was going.

'C'mon lets bring 'im to the whole group. HEY GUYS!" Her shout drew almost all pair of eyes their way.

She grabbed Harry by the collar and pulled him fully into the light. Severus stood there uselessly as many mouths turned into shallow grins, eyeing Harry like a piece of meat thrown into a lion's cage.

Chapter Text

 

Harry took a second to realise the many people looking at him. He’d stayed still when he’d heard the other voice, hoping Snape would be able to fix it. Apparently not.

He tried to pull away from that infuriating grip on his collar, but it only tightened. He met the eyes of the unfamiliar face that was his professor, hoping the man had a plan. His stomach plummeted when Snape gave a very subtle shake of his head.

He wanted to run but his legs was so tired and his body wasn’t responding, he’d get less than ten steps. Perhaps that was also part of the meaning of Snape’s shake, don’t try to run. In ordinary circumstance there’s no way he would have listened to the advice; now however...

“….Alright, but keep ‘im in one piece yeah?” He only managed to catch the last section of the sentence, his brain sluggishly recognising the voice. Thompson, of course.

He was being pulled forward, hard. Too hard. He fell face first and put out his hands to catch himself, he yelled when the impact sent a bolt of pain spearing through his shoulders. Tears sprung to his eyes but he blinked quickly to dry them.

Again he was so focused on dealing with himself that he’d missed whatever was being said. He knew roughly 3 or 4 people were speaking, one of them being Snape.

He was lifted to his feet, surprisingly gently. When he was pushed forward again, the arm doing the pushing moved violently but the actual push itself was soft.

He hated this sedative, hated it with a passion. What good is having magic if you could still be susceptible to muggle drugs?

The underwater effect was more than frustrating, hearing bits and pieces was worse than hearing nothing at all.

“….First?”, “Only, maybe..”,  “Shouldn’t we….”

A strong sting in his face blossomed – he’d been slapped. The second one was on the other cheek. His reaction was about 4 seconds later, a very minimal movement.

Maybe the person wasn’t pleased because this time a heavy punch landed on the bridge of his nose. Strangely his first thought was hopefully my glasses can still sit there.

Something was pressed against his hand, and it was hurting. When he felt the liquid drip off it he realised that it must have been a knife since he’d been cut. Someone’s finger ran the length of the cut and managed to focus enough to see the cut was deep, not that he’d needed his vision to tell that. He pulled his hand away and curled it to his chest protectively.

A fingertip moved up and down his arm, like a paintbrush on a canvas. Maybe for a minute, maybe for an hour. It was mesmerising in a way, something to focus on other then the stinging heat on his cheek, the throb in his hand and now the agonising pain of  something on his leg.

When the finger moved away, he tried to steady his vision to the point where he could see whatever masterpiece had been drawn. Smeared and messy but the letters were still recognisable W……I…….Z…….A…….R………D. Wiz-ard, wizard. Spittle landed on his face as someone yelled, a face that looked as red as Harry’s felt.

Pain and numbness were the two states in which he changed between. He should’ve landed on the floor hours ago, but there was some sort of support against his back stopping him. It seems even that wasn’t to be his choice.

When his shoulder was shook harshly, moans of pains escaped. Again and again, so many parts if his body ached. And though he may hate it, he wished for more sedative. At least he’d be able to escape this.

***

Once upon a time, Severus Snape had felt a twinge of sympathy for squibs. It wasn’t there fault they were born without magic, yet they were universally hated by the wizarding world for it. Thrown out, disowned, even Albus Dumbledore himself had cut off his own squib sister. Oh yes, Severus knew about that, he’d at least researched the man who he had committed his life to.

Despite all of this, there was not an ounce pity of in his shadowed face as he watched them torture a student. It was even worse feeling the small shakes of the boy’s body as they hit, spat, kicked and cut him, he held firm to the teens shoulders hoping to offer a modicum of support. His wand itched to be used in the pocket of the tawny robes he’d transfigured. Harry’s too, sat there, he’d swiftly taken it off the boy after they’d been exposed.

He knew the odds, he could not fight, and he would not die here. Neither would Harry Potter. The boy-who-lived could not possibly find his end in some muddy cave. Although a part of him might be amused at the Dark Lord’s anger if he were to find out his nemesis had been dispatched by a group of strangers who had no bearing in this war.

No, not even Voldemort’s humiliation and anger would be worth this. He’d thought of about 15 different ways he could draw his wand and attack, but every possibility didn’t end well. Four or five spells max he could get away before they’d overwhelm him. Then they would both die.

This way, at least they stood a chance. Stealth was the only way.

So for the next few minutes he imagined the ways he would destroy these people covertly. When Harry slumped against him, he was jolted out of thoughts. He missed whatever they’d been doing and with a morbid curiosity he watched. When he realised what they were drawing he turned away in disgust. These people were doing far worse then whatever supposed atrocities had been committed against them.

He thought about many different things in that time, possible improvements to the way one harvested monks wood, whether silver stirring spoons would be needed to be placed on this years N.E.W.T class booklist and what this new teacher the ministry would be placing at Hogwarts would be like.

Eventually after centuries, people began to tire.

“Jerry, don’t chu wanna turn?”

It took him a second to realise Jerry was him. No, he most definitely did not want a turn. “No thanks, had me fun watchin’” He carefully mimicked the rough accent the other spoke with.

Some others now watched him and he realised he was drawing suspicion.

“Aw, c’mon. Remember what their kind did to your Auntie? Now’s your turn for some pay back.”

“Here I’ll even take your spot holding the freak up.”    

Some stout man, took Harry from his hold and he was suddenly left with no excuse. Frustrated at the situation he was forced into, he balled his fist, certain it would be misinterpreted. A small piece of rock imploded near him, but he paid no attention to it. Only a few of the crowded circle around him turned quizzically towards it.

He met Harry’s eyes reluctantly. The boy was delirious, couldn’t tell a hippogryph from a grindylow. However somehow, Harry gave him a very small minute smile and moved a touch forward. Giving Severus his full permission.

He swallowed his hesitations, he’d done worse to keep his cover in different situations. He lifted his fist, and swung it into the teens chest where it hopefully wouldn’t do much damage.

The others cheered and he cringed.

Again he hit, again and again. Sometimes his punches would be much softer then they should have, in these cases Harry still made noises of pain, acting the part. Severus thought he’d make a good spy, then instantly dismissed the notion. His knuckles quickly ached but he paid them very little heed.

His shoulders sagged in relief, when a women with dirty blond hair stepped between him and Harry.

“Save your fun for later boys. He’s done for tonight, anymore and he’ll be useless to us.”

She took Harry’s shoulders and guided - pushed - him to what looked a makeshift first aid kit. People began retreating to their tents and Severus was at an impasse for what he was to do. He certainly didn’t want to leave Harry, but there would only be questions if he stayed. He decided he would leave, return, stun the women and get Harry and himself out of here.

Retreating to ‘his’ tent he went behind it to check if the man he was impersonating had woken up yet. Indeed he had timed it well, as the real Jerry was beginning to stir. He murmured a small stupefy and sat waiting for a few minutes. Watching as each lantern was turned off like squashed fireflies.

He was tempted to undo the transfiguration on his clothes knowing his usual black robes would offer more stealth but disbanded the idea, if they were to be seen again it would be important to be seen as seen as ‘Jerry’.

After about thirty minutes he departed his spot. There was only one source of light now, with two figures under is pool of illumination. One unmoving.

It took very little work to make his way towards them now that it was dark. From anyone else’s point of view he was only a silhouette.

He steadily aimed his wand at the women and uttered stupefy so softly the word was inaudible. The noise her fall made had him wincing but he pressed on.

When he finally made his way to Harry his did a quick check. The womens inadequate bandages were wrapped around his torso, shoulder, leg, and hand. Those idiotic broken glasses sat nearby and the boy himself was still a confused mess.

He mended the glasses, and tried to heal some of the small cuts, abrasions and bruises. The bigger stuff would have to wait until later when he could inspect them properly or better yet, at Hogwarts.  He then did a quick pain relief spell he’d seen Pomfrey do.  When he’d done what he could he linked an arm beneath the boy’s shoulder and began lifting him up, ignoring the groans of protest.

He moved agonisingly slowly towards the exit, but eventually they made it. He turned around , carefully manoeuvring Harry, and aimed his wand at one of the very flammable tents.

A spark of red flew from the tip of his wand to the canvas of the nearest tent, setting it flickering with tongues of red and orange. Again he pointed his wand at a different tent and performed the spell. He repeated until there was not a tent left that hadn’t been set a flame.

The whole cavern heating up and awash in a hues of reds and oranges.

Let them burn, for once again, there was no twinge of sympathy.

***

If  he’d ever been drunk, he was sure a hangover would feel a little like this. And he hadn’t even opened his eyes yet.

When the restless pounding in his head subsided to the noise of dull drum, he moved. Not much, but a little.

He was having a fair bit of trouble remembering what had happened, it all got a bit blurry after the sedative. He was sure Snape had been there, although that didn’t make sense since he didn't actually remember seeing the man.

What would he see now if he opened his eyes? would it even be worth trying?

Of course it would. He wasn’t about to sleep in a cave forever.

The cave ceiling was lit with a soft white from somewhere to his right. Enough to see the shadows cast by the cracks but not enough to see the actual cracks themselves. It was steady and unwavering. Certainly cast with magic then, did that mean…?

He was lying on an actual soft blanket so yes that must mean, he’d made it out. Somehow.

Turning his head he glimpsed a very familiar black leather potions bag, if he was left with any doubt that nullified it.

“Harry?”

Well he’d never heard that tone before. What was once a very intimidating figure, appeared in his line of sight.

“Hey..” he coughed, throat scratchy and sore. “I din’t even need to correct you that time.”

“Indeed.”

There wasn’t even an insult, he must be in pretty bad shape.

“So, uh, can you explained what happened. Gotta say, I’m a little sick of waking up like this.”

Snape’s face transformed into its usual agitated and annoyed scowl, but Harry was sure there was an eyebrow out of place or something.

“You were taken by the group I had previously expressed doubts about, and  I, performed my usual role in saving your life.”

“Yeah… I really owe you a Butterbeer or something don’t I?”

“How about you just stay out of trouble for more than a minute? that would be adequate payment.”

“I’m only promising things I can stick to.”

Snape snorted in an unusually undignified manner, “Figures.”

Harry began to sit up, uncomfortable with lying on his back. Strangely enough the movement brought almost no pain. He managed to make out the small grey blur that he recognised and his glasses and put them on.

“Careful, I’m not entirely sure the extent of your wounds yet, some were severe. Especially the one to your shoulder.”

He grimaced at the reminder, the image of the hammer being brought down all to clear. Yet he could feel only a dull soreness in his upper arm.

“your leg is not faring well either.”

“How come they don’t hurt so much?”

“Because you’re currently dosed with about four different pain reliever potions.”

Ah, that did make sense, strangely it didn’t put his mind at ease. Instead he felt his stomach churn slightly.

“None of them are like, sleep-inducing, are they?” he pulled at one of the edges of a bandage on his hand, much to Snape’s disapproving eye.

“One. Why?”

“Can I not have that one?”

He carefully place the bandage back down, clipping it to the one behind it.

“Yes. It would be pointless now anyway. ”

Harry held up his bandaged hand in front of his face in a very sudden movement.

“What happened here?”

“You were cut, I’ve cleaned it so it won’t get infected.”

Hmm, he didn’t even thick about their knives not exactly being sterile.

He pointed to dark bruise on his calf and Snape picked up the silent question.

“Kicked, I believe.”

Then the long bloody bandage across his shin

“Some type of knife wielding revenge.”

He pointed to his chest where a myriad of colours blossomed.

“Here?”

“Must we go through each one?”

“Hey, next time you wake up covered in injuries you vaguely remember getting you get to ask all the questions you want.”

Snape looked a little disgruntled. Probably reluctant to admit Harry had a point.

“I hit you.”

Harry scrunched his face, slightly put out. “I’m revoking that offer of Butterbeer”

Snape looked away, towards the stone wall. “It… it wasn’t like that. I was forced to. For what its worth I apologise.”

“Well you got me out soooooo, no harm no foul.”

Snape turned back slightly startled. “You’re fine with it it? just like that?”“

Harry shrugged, “Not like you coulda done anything else, and we’re both safe and sound because of what you did.”

Harry thought Snape looked like he was searching for something else but he stayed quiet until a thought occurred to him,

“You know that’s something that doesn’t really make sense.”

“I’m sure many things don’t make sense in that small brain of yours.”

Harry frowned but continued, “ Anyway…… I thought, well, you’re the head of Slytherin. Going into a camp of dangerous strangers to get someone you hate, just doesn’t seem, well – Slytherin. It seems more brave, and impulsive than anything, Gryffindor -like. ”

“You are seriously comparing me to a Gryffindor? One action does not expose one’s true values. You would make a terrible sorting hat.”

“I dunno ‘bout that, I think I’d be great! As long as I wouldn’t have to sing at the start of every school year.”

“Merlin forbid.”

Snape disappeared briefly and returned with a bowl full of stew. Harry was salivating just looking at it, he wondered how long it’d been since he’d eaten. It was difficult to judge time down here.

When Snape offered it, Harry snatched it like a rabid animal.

“Feeling hungry are we?”

He didn’t bother to stop eating before giving his reply, “Yep, str’ving”

“Well we’re running low, so heres hoping we get out of here in the immediate future. Or else we both shall starve to death.”

Harry was too happy with his meal to pay the words much heed. There wasn’t much they could do about it anyway.

“So,” he shovled mouthfuls of food in between speaking, “Whats the plan?”

“Yes, well that is still being considered.”

“You mean you don’t know?!”

A strong sneer made him regret being so out spoken.

“Well I’m considering whether we abandon our task. A teenager in poor health makes for a difficult travel companion on the best of days. ”

“Yeah well, you’re not exactly roses and peaches either...” Harry grumbled to himself. Snape had undoubtedly heard every word. He pressed on before the man could make a comment,

“Look, the way I see it we have a task. Get the Vin-, Vin…. something stone. Now we know we have a little competition for it, its even more important that we get it.”

It seemed to Harry, that he continually spent a lot of his time trying to convince Snape of something lately. Well, hopefully it wouldn’t turn out as badly as their last disagreement had, Snape had definitely been right there.

“I do not fear so much what would happen if those …. disgusting people…. gained possession of the stone. Their group could be disbanded with little effort by a few strong wizards. I fear, that it will be the Dark Lords servants who will overwhelm them and then, we shall truly be at risk.”

Harry followed perfectly, if Death Eaters got the stone Hogwarts would be ruined. Not to mention He’d be dead pretty quick.

“I can see that happening. Thompson would probably let it slip, seems like the type to brag…..”

“Nevertheless, that does not negate the risk posed to ourselves if we continue our pursuit.”

“Since when has anything we’ve ever done been risk free? Your a spy, everyday is risky for you. I’m hated by the deadliest wizard alive. I think its more about picking our battles than it is about risk.”

“And you’d be willing to pick this one? even after what you just went through” There was an honesty in Snape’s face, as if he truly wanted to know.

He shifted a little, uncomfortable at the reminder. “Yeah I suppose. Now we know about them properly I guess we’re a bit more prepared. Even if they have my wand…..”

While they were talking he’d felt for it out of habit, realising where it must have ended up was like another blow. Defenceless and missing part of himself were never a good feeling.

“About that….”

A spark of hope had him watching Snape closely as the man picked up the nearby potions bag and produced a long thin wand.  When it was offered he took it instantaneously, feeling a strange sense of Deja Vu.

“Thanks! how did you manage that?”

“When we had been discovered, I managed to remove it from your person discreetly.”

He had absolutely no recollection of that but he was glad Snape had the foresight to do it.

“Well thanks…” there was a slight awkwardness, Harry wasn’t entirely sure what to attribute it to.

He made a sudden move to stand, pushing himself of the ground using his arm. He immediately remembered his shoulder as it pinged uncomfortably. He was glad the potions still were effective.

Snape looked ready to jump up, as if he were about to fall. He tried to appear a little steadier.

“You really should be careful with that. I’m sure at least your shoulder blade is broken, Pomfrey would be able to do a better job than I. For now I simply put a stasis charm to stop it from moving and applied a few charms to heal the muscle surronding it.”

“Its fine. I’ve had worse.”

Snape brow furrowed deeply, “The fact that you’ve had worse does very little to reassure me and certainly does not take away from the importance of your current situation.”

Taken by surprise, he didn’t really have reply. “Uh… well… it doesn’t really matter. We have a stone to find right?”

Snape left him in silence which certainly didn’t help the awkwardness.

***

They were close, he didn’t actually know for certain but Severus instinct told him they were close.  Every winding walk way, shifting rock and dark passage had him expecting to see something around each corner. Of course, he was disappointed every time.

He kept an eye Potter, seeing through of course, the blatant attempts at appearing unharmed. He disliked being put in this situation, there were so many things going wrong. Potter was injured, the Dark Lord had called him and he had not come, they was another group searching for the stone; although surely after the fire he’d set they’d been….. set back.

When they got back he almost wasn’t sure what his first steps would be. Drop Potter in the hospital wing, secure the stone with Albus, answer and plead for forgiveness from the Dark Lord. Then if he survived that in one piece he’d have some choice questions for Albus.

“Uh, Sir?”

Of course, they’d have to actually get back first.

“Yes?”

“Umm I don’t really remember much clearly from my time with …them, but they did mention this door. I think, maybe, they’ve got to the door and been stuck. Like maybe that’s the final step, and you gotta speak parseltongue to open it. I’m pretty sure that’s why they kept me alive.”

A door, that was what they were looking for, if Potter war correct. Seemed so…. mundane.

“And this door, did they mention a location?”

From the edge of his vision he saw Potter shake his head. Of course not.

Now that he knew what he was searching for almost everything seemed like a door. A stack of rocks, a large crack. He briefly wondered if Potter saw it too.

There was a very soft noise, he strained his ears to even be able to hear it. When he heard it properly it was clearly recognisable as a water drop’s echo. He listened for the next one but something interrupted it

“Water? down here?”

“Shhhhh!”

He heard it again, clear as a bell being struck. Deciding they may talk, he started.

“Yes, it seems we must be near a body of water.”

“Well we did enter in near the ocean didn’t we?”

It was clear why Potter was no Ravenclaw.

“We’ve traveled days inland, we should be very far away from it by now.”

“Curiouser and curiouser ..”

“What?”

“Don’t worry.”  He didn’t bother decoding whatever that had meant.

“Do you think it means we’re close?”

“No idea.”

Their dark tunnel seemed to be getting minutely brighter, it was so gradual at first Severus hadn’t noticed it, but now it was more light than he’d seen in days.

Potter glanced at him, coming to the same conclusion.

He dampened his own Lumos and it was still light light enough for him to make out the shapes of the rocks beneath him. Finally, they came across a skylight.

There was a whole in the ceiling, all the way to the above ground. Gushing light came through and filled the cavern. He and Potter both stopped to inspect it.

“I suppose its day then.”

He peered through it carefully, his eyes still adjusting to the new light. He couldn’t make out anything more than the sky it led up to, not even a cloud.

He began walking away again a fast pace, Potter scrambling after him. He stopped dead a minute later, and was promptly bumped into.

In front of them was a extremely large stone arch, big enough for a giant or troll to fit through. More holes lined the ceiling, illuminating the entire area. The arch was the outline of mahogany door, the grain of the wood deep and smooth. The middle had a crest of sorts; a spiral that, on closer inspection, was a very detailed snake sleeping.

“It’s here.”

For a second he’d believed they’d done it.

Then the cold silver blade was pressed against his throat.

A very burnt and disfigured Thompson appeared in his line of sight.

“Finally.”

Chapter Text

He put his hands up in what he hoped was a calming manner. Thompson could perhaps be talked down, at least until he could get the upper hand.

He couldn’t help but be a little disgusted at the mans face. The right eye drooped, gravitating towards the mouth. Layers of skin were peeling off  and the skin underneath was red and irritated. His hair, already wispy, was now brittle, burnt and greatly reduced; vaguely reminding Severus of Wormtail.

Thompson tilted the blade upwards forcing Severus to move with it, lest the knife slice him. Purely a power play.

“I spose’ you hoped I died in that fire?”

It wasn’t worth replying. Either he’d deny it, and they both knew he was lying, or he’d admit to it.

Severus’s eyes darted to Potter as the boy went for his wand in the folds of his cloak.

Thompson, unfortunately, spotted it too. “STOP…… one more move and I’ll slit his throat. Right here right now ”

As if too illustrate the point the bladed was pressed painfully into his neck where it broke the skin. Potter lowered his wand and then copied Severus in raising his hands.

“Better.” Thompson relaxed ever so slightly, “You two…… what a mess you made…”

He briefly wondered if he could summon his own wand wordlessly fast enough to free himself.

“Living down ‘ere, it gets rather depressing. No light, no warmth, no……… creature comforts of home.” His gaze moved to Harry’s and smirked.

He pushed Severus forward who couldn’t help but stumble. “You see, I’ve been here before, to this door that is.” He spoke with venom, a mockery of the grandfatherly tones he used before. “But never past, turns out all we needed was you” He paused for his own theatrics,

“the boy ‘oo could speak to snakes”

Of all the monikers that Potter had been given…

“Well, and one other thing.”

He moved his free hand to knock on the wooden door. Everyone’s attention was fixed on the little snake who began uncoiling itself and yawning. As it moved away it revealed words that it had been previously lying on top of, burnt into the wood.

ASK ME FOR ENTRANCE, PAYMENT: A LIFE

Ahhh, he should’ve predicted this.

“Now then, I’m obviously not dying. The boy‘s gotta speak and I might keep him around for later….. So that leaves you, professor.”

He turned to Harry and gestured to the door with his free hand. “Ask the snake to let us in.” Harry didn’t move and Thompson’s expression morphed into something even more hideous.

“Now!”

Severus dectected a minute flinch but it was almost imperceptible. The boy made eye contact and refused to look away.

“Why? If your going to kill him anyway, why would I help you?”

Bluff. But, courage was courage, fake or not; perhaps the boy deserved a little credit. The stupid thing was, he knew Harry would not be content to let him die. Even though that was certainly the easiest exit. Let him die, apprehend Thompson, who would then have no leverage, then stroll right through and take the stone.

“ ‘Cause then you get to pick. You’re no longer needed after you talk to that snake.”

Bloody self-sacrificing Gryffindor if he….

Harry’s mouth opened and the whispery echo’s of parstletoungue filled him with dread. Indeed, the snake nodded and watched patiently; a small god content to watch the show.

“Harry you idiot!”

The only leverage they’d had just vanished.

The boy completely ignored him and boldly faced Thompson. “I pick me, kill me.”

Thompson eyed the scene with amusement, “Dunno how you ever got ‘im too be so loyal.” Me neither, “Gonna be a shame to kill such a fine specimen but… a deals a deal and I am a man of my word.”

He pushed Severus forwards hard into the ground and lunged at Harry – moving the blade towards the heart of the teen. Severus frantically reached for his wand. Every second he delayed was a possibility that… no.

The second his fingertips made contact with wood he fired with accuracy and without hesitation.

Avada Kedavra

A bubble of silence surrounded them where everyone was frozen in time.

The blade poised over Harry Potter’s heart was a few centimeters deep before the momentum propelling it forward ran out and the force behind it disappeared.

The spell had taken on the role of death for a brief moment and whisked away the man who stood before it. Leaving behind a teenager and a man staring at a corpse.

The snake who watched hissed approvingly and the door swung open, forcing Harry and Severus out of their silence.

***

Harry had seen death before, but never had he been on the side of those inflicting it. A spell that had taken his mother, father and school mate used by an ally to protect him. A confused jumble of emotions he was too tired to deal with warred inside him. Now was not the time or place to deal with whatever moral conundrum had just been brought down.

Almost as soon as he decided to feel nothing, there was the flare of pain in his chest and the dagger clattered to the floor. Snape grabbed his shoulder and said something, it took a second for his brain to catch up.

“What? Oh yeah I’m fine.”

Snape pointed his wand at the bleeding wound and muttered something he didn’t hear again.

“Good, because we need to grab that stone and leave.”

He moved into action, noticing only now that the door had been opened. They both stepped into the enormous cave held up by pillars of stone and lit from behind them with the brief patches os sky. In the middle was a pool of aqua blue water that glistened and sparkled. A walkway of obsidian stone stretched across the water leading to a risen platform slightly taller than a person. Floating above it, was a stone that reflected different shades of blue as it slowing rotated.

Harry gaped at the beauty of the scene, the spectacle it presented was nothing less than astonishing. He didn’t tear his gaze away as he spoke,

“Do you think it’s a trap?”

It all seemed too inviting, just waiting to devour someone stupid.

“No, actually I do not.” He was too tired and weary to even be a little surprised that he was the one being cynical.

“The man who made this place, and the stone, lived in solitude and obsession. When he managed to create something that could break through any wards he was fearful of its power, and rightly so. He devised these tunnels as a way of weeding out those with ill intention figuring they would have neither the devotion nor intelligence he possessed.”

Snape was silent and Harry struggled to figure out what that had to do with his original question. Neither of them had moved forward yet, or stopped staring at the smooth platform and the levitating stone.

“And we passed?”

“Exactly, we passed. He was not so much a man of trickery or humour.”

“Sounds like you two should be friends.” He had long learnt that his hold on his thoughts tended to slip when overtired.

“I shall take that as a compliment. Back to the point, I highly doubt he would have put all of this in place only to trap and kill those who had actually passed his test.”      

Harry still wasn’t so sure but kept silent. Snape began to walk towards the stone and Harry trailed behind.

The Vincere Stone, like so many things in the magical world was not actually ostentatious; rather only a slightly glinting of the extraordinary magic it possessed. Harry thought that made it look more powerful than if it been bright purple and glowing.

As he placed one foot in front of the other on the metallic black path, he wondered why Snape had ever been stuck with this task in the first place. Why hadn’t it been another member of Dumbledore’s apparent club? like Remus or Mr Weasley? Not that Snape was nearly as bad as he had first thought. The man was clever, confident, quick as a whip and all round not bad company – when not at school. Though he’d rather cut off his tongue before admitting it out loud.

What would happen next? would Snape now go back to despising his every fibre? and would he have to return to the Dursley’s? He really hoped that wouldn’t be the case, he wasn’t sure how long he could force himself to stay there. He would give into the temptation of running away sooner or later and then he’d be dead.

Perhaps this was an inappropriate time to dwell in his thoughts. They certainly weren’t out of the woods yet.

Harry watched with bated breath as Snape fingertips reached for a smooth stone larger than a pebble and smaller than a fist. As Snape’s fingers curled around it, light flared up around them. The water that encircled them had flames dance across their surface, an unusual and intense sight. It was as if the liquid were made of flammable oil rather than water yet it couldn’t possibly be so.

Despite being magnificent, it was not dangerous. It seemed rather celebratory and Harry felt a grin take it’s place on his face. In fact despite his many, many, pains, aches, sores, and fatigue he let out a small cheer.

Woooo. We did it!

Always the one to burst a bubble of fun, Snape stopped him. “Not quite Potter, we have to get out of here first.”

The flames melted away and the cavern returned to its semi-lit state.

Well that seemed easy enough to Harry, “We have the stone, why don’t you just break the wards on this place and apparate us out?”

Snape didn’t even seemed to be using his snide tone as he corrected him. He must of felt a little joy at claiming the stone. “Think for once in your life. When I brought us here, I had eaten a decent meal, slept for more than three hours and was not sore and exhausted. All of this is a way of saying I was strong enough to apparate two people across a very large distance, a feat I am not currently capable of. ”

“Can you apparate one?”

The man huffed a little put off by the suggestion. “Yes but not very far, and besides, I’m not exactly about to leave you here and have Albus nagging at me for everyday in the foreseeable future.”

“So you won’t leave because Dumbledore wouldn’t want you too?”

Snape considered for a moment. “I suppose.”

Something about the Professor’s answer disappointed him but he really didn’t want to unpack that.

“Okay, so whats the plan?”

Snape produced a small leather pouch from the endless pockets in his robes, and placed the Vincere stone inside.

“We go find somewhere to rest and —”

ACCIO POUCH

A man Harry remembered vaguely as Mike stood at the wooden door pointing a wand at Snape, and he watched, horrified as the bag hurtled through the air and made it’s way into the short man’s hand. Behind him were several more of Thompson’s pack.

Snape had his own wand out in a flash,

Stupefy

Mike dodged the red light only just and made and flashed a triumphant grin before sprinting away.

Harry aimed his wand at the stone wall, “Confringo”. It crumbled and would have blocked the path of the fleeing group had it been seconds earlier.

“Expulso” “Petrificus Totalus” “Locomotor Mortis” Snape continued firing non-verbal spells but they were too late and they knew it.

They began sprinting, but the rocks now blocking their path slowed them down and they lost significant time. Snape stopped running and Harry came to a halt. Both stared into the dark abyss the thieves had disappeared into.

Oddly a dark silhouette moved towards them and as Harry squinted, he could make out the shape of a human. Perplexed he watched as the figure became bigger and bigger, at about ten meters away he could make out the shape of a face and astonishingly he recognised it as the mousy woman who’d bandaged him before. It was also becoming clear that she was running at top speed and hotly pursued.

“Catch!” she threw the leather bag at Harry, who thanked his seeker reflexes for diving to catch it in time. When he next looked up the people behind the women had arrived and he moved violently to the right as one of them tackled him for the stone.

Quickly he scanned the area for Snape who, right at Harry’s shoulder, pulling him up. He thrust the pouch into the man’s hands and took hold of his forearm “Get us out of here now!”

Snape quickly removed the stone from the pouch but not before somebody grabbed onto Harry’s injured shoulder and wrenched it backwards. Something terrible clicked and he yelled in excruciating pain. Realising how little time he had, he managed to shake off the hand through clenched teeth and force of will.

The pulling vacuum of appration sucked him away, and sent him into a violent tail spin. It was akin to going down a water slide ten times faster, blindfolded and without gravity.

When he landed he gasped air as if he truly had been underwater. It had been the worst apparation he’d ever been subjected too and certainly hadn’t helped his shoulder; which was now throbbing so hard it made him feel faint.

He collapsed onto whatever was beneath him, glad when it turned out to be soft and cold. He shut his eyes; though there was little light anyways, in an effort to regain some sort of control.

After a few moments, a repetitive sound from somewhere near began to calm him and his breathing fell in line with it. He quickly realised what the sound actually was. The ocean.

He moved his finger tip’s slowly to confirm his suspicions that, yes, he was in-fact on a beach and lying on sand.

That was all he needed for the moment. The rest could wait.

He let himself drift with the noise of the waves crashing onto the sand bank and the cold breeze that ruffled his cloak and hair.

When at last his shoulder and the cut in his leg and even the wounds on his chest became a manageable pain, he opened an eye.

It was night, that was immediately obvious. The moon was visible hanging just above the water and was nearly full. It illuminated almost the whole beach and in it’s white washed glow, Harry was even able to see the grains of sand his hand were buried in.

His next priority was to find Snape. He could not seem him from where he was lying so he made the monumental effort of sitting up. It was not until he turned around that he spotted the black lump that one might mistaken for a large rock. It’s steady rise and fall however, told a different story.

He grew anxious as Snape did not instantly stand up and scold him for wasting his time in the sand.

Two more minuted passed and distress outweighed his need to lie still. He began to crawl slowly, as if he were a toddler, to where the professor lay.

It took longer than he liked to admit but eventually he made it. Snape’s face was paler than usual although that might’ve been from staying so long in sunless caves. His breathing was deep and steady which was the only thing stopping Harry from panicking.

“Um, Sir?”

When there was, predictably, no response he wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. He decided he was willing to risk Snape’s wrath and reached out – with his good arm – to gently shake the man.

“Sir….. Professor…… are you okay?” Please let that be a yes.

There was nothing, absolutely no response. He felt on the verge of tears, the exhaustion and magnitude of it all were taking their toll.  This should have been the end, they were supposed to be done! mission complete. Not stranded on a beach who-knows-where.

He couldn’t do this, not alone, he needed Snape to wake up.

“Sir, please!”

A word, a movement, something!

When nothing happened the weight of the isolation began to crush Harry and he couldn’t stop the sobs that wracked his body. They hurt, painfully so, but his crying went unheard and uncared for. Lost on the whispers of wind and the tides gentle rhythm.

Fatigue took over and he succumbed to the numb world of sleep.

 

When he next awoke it was still dark, whether a day had passed or it was still the same night he was unsure. He was grateful that at least the tide has not risen and washed them away.

He was so parched, he briefly wondered how he was ever going to be able to find water. Then he remembered he was a wizard.

Augementi” He directed the stream into his mouth and swallowed greedily. If only the problem of food was solved that easily.

He reached over to the Snape’s unmoving body and gently shook his shoulder,

“Sir?” It was worth a shot.

Harry jumped in shock as Snape did actually begin to stir. All at once Snape went rigid, then in one fluid moment, withdrew his wand and had it pointed at Harry’s heart.

When he recognised the person he was aiming at, he went limp and fell back into the sand.

“Potter.”

Harry instantly cheered up, despite being held at wand point seconds ago.

“Professor! Thank merlin you’re awake. Are you okay?”

The question seemed a little redundant as Snape began to lift himself up onto his feet. He wobbled slightly but that was the only indication that anything was wrong.

“Fine.”

Now that Snape was awake, they could surely get back to Hogwarts.

“What exactly happened sir? Where are we?”

Perhaps he should have waited a minute for Snape to fully wake up for the look he was receiving was downright murderous.

“Do you recall our discussion from before?”

He wasn’t sure exactly which one Snape was referring to but he nodded anyway.

“I told you I could not apparate us away.”

“But you did…?”  

“Yes I managed to, however it took deal of energy and focus, more than I possessed at the time. I’m guessing I have been unconscious, I suppose that is because my magic and body needed to restore the energy I’d lost.”

“Okay... So now you’re back to normal now?”

Snape grumpily frowned, “No, I need a hot meal, ideally a few potions and perhaps I would even allow a once over by Pomfrey.”

He laughed, an outright, overtired laugh. Snape stared at him in a way that made him realise his odd behaviour.

“You need everything I just listed as well it seems.”

After he got a control of himself, he went for another question.

“Where did you say we where?”

“I didn’t. You are lucky we made it too land, when I apparated us I knew I could not make it to Scotland or England. Instead I threw us as far as I could and then tried to direct us towards any land. If I had to suggest an idea of where we are, I would guess, Shetland Island. Technically part of Scotland, it is a small island between Iceland and Scotland.”

“Cool…. Good to know. Now how do we get out of here?”

Snape began looking rather uncomfortable,

“We must do it the muggle way, or wait for me to regain more strength. Either way should try to find a town of some sort.”

He found it amusing that Snape was so against the idea of travelling using muggle means. The idea of Snape on a plane was so funny he once again laughed a little inappropriately. He could just imagine the professor being checked by security.

He would not tell Snape the reason for his laughter of course, so he was forced to quit chuckling and say nothing. Earning him another concerned look.

“You really are delirious.” Snape muttered, Harry couldn’t even refute it.

The moonlight provided more than enough light to see by so as they walked, neither bothered to cast a lumos.

Although Harry would have sold his soul for a bed and a proper nights rest, the walk wasn’t actually unpleasant.

Where they were, was actually quite beautiful. Tall trees bent backwards and forwards with the wind, the sea foam lapped at the shore and every now and then, Harry spotted tiny crabs burrow into the sand. It was freezing of course, but warmth charms and movement were enough to stop him getting too cold. He figured he should have probably been in a bit more pain from his injury’s but a mixture of numbing potions and spells were keeping it at bay for now. He was rather content to stare at the moon and brilliant stars as they flashed in and out of existence.

He could hardly believe they’d done it, he wasn’t even sure how long it had been, certainly not more than two weeks. Thoughts of actual reality seemed to taint the peacefulness of his location and he tried to steer away from them. Every time one came up he would start counting the stars until they were gone. He spoke out loud mostly to himself, almost forgetting he had company.

“I’ve never been to the beach before.”

“Indeed?”

Why Snape was interested was anyones guess, but while they were stuck here, he felt no compulsion to stay quiet.

“I suppose there was the one time. When Hagrid came to deliver my Hogwarts letter. We stayed in a hut on this big rock, it wasn’t a beach though, not like this.”

Snape didn’t respond and they both remained silent as they walked. Harry’s eyelids began to droop and his legs felt like fragile sticks but he stayed focused ahead.

Surprisingly, it was Snape who broke the casual silence.

“When we return, you will not return to your relatives.”

He grinned, for years he had begged Dumbledore, to hear it said so plainly….. well it seemed so simple, so matter-of-fact.

“However there is the small matter of where exactly you shall stay. There were certain protections in place that made it necessary for you to stay there, replicating these will not be easy.”

His grin dimmed a bit, he knew this was the case.

“Can’t I just stay at Hogwarts? ” It was already his home in his head and it was surrounded by protections.

Snape shook his head. “No, there are times where the headmaster must leave and majority of the wards only exist for when school in session. It would not be unreasonable to expect the Dark Lord to amount an attack if he were to find out you were staying there.” Snape stumbled, a clear sign to Harry that the man was losing strength. “That is also excluding several rules about students staying during summer.”

He looked across at the waves, he had always known the answer would be no.

“You could stay with the Weasley’s however –”

“No, It was bad enough when I only stayed for a few weeks, if I stay there all summer I’ll almost definitely being putting them in danger.”

He partly expected a sneer and a comment along the lines of ‘How noble, we should nominate you for the Order of Merlin award’. Instead Snape looked like that was exactly the response he had expected,

“And the same goes for Ms Granger?”

“Yes.”

And that was it, the end of his list. A longing for his parents twisted like the dagger that had nearly been planted in his heart. No home, no place to go, no safe haven, such thoughts had often entered his mind at the end of every school year. Plaguing his goodbyes and promises to catch up like a dementor.

He thought Snape had finished speaking, having ran out of options but the quiet baritone continued.

“There is the Order’s headquarters and Black’s ” – as usual, the name said bitterly – “ house, Grimmauld place. Unfortunately the ministry views it as uninhabited and if they were to find out you were staying there, you would become a ward of the ministry. A very undesirable outcome. More problematic is the fact that Albus would most certainly interfere as well.”

All at once there had been glimmer of hope that was shredded in front of him. He had no idea that such a place even existed, and Sirius was living there?  He truly was the only one without a home.

The next two minutes went by as he began counting again. It wasn’t working very well.

Snape’s voice only just loud enough to be heard over the waves.

“I may have an offer, it is not exactly what you would hope for, but it might make do for the time being at least.”

Was Snape being indirect? the man who usually spoke with the bluntness of a rusted hammer?

“You may stay at…. Snape Manner. Its location is known only by myself, the wards across it are extensive and it unlikely anybody will suspect you are living there.”

He hadn’t even realised he’d stopped walking until Snape stopped too. Had Snape just…?

“You’re inviting me? to your house?”

If he wasn’t convinced Snape was a spy for the light he’d be sure this was a setup to take him to Voldemort.

“I do believe that it what I said.”

He couldn’t help it, he felt drunk on fatigue and stars, he quickly hugged Snape.

Almost immediately he released and stared very very far away from the intimidating man’s gaze. He started walking again hoping to rid himself of the embarrassment.

“I take that as a yes?”

He didn’t trust himself to speak without mucking it up somehow so settled on nodding vigorously.

“It’s an imperfect solution – we must convince Dumbledore that you are still with the Dursley’s which will take some coercion on their part. If it were ever to be known you resided there we’d both be dead by the end of the day.”

He was happy to hear his own voice sounded normal when he replyed. “It’s okay, we can mange that. You’re in quite the business of deceiving old all powerful wizards aren’t you?”

“I suppose so.” He figured he was getting slightly better at reading the man and heard a slimmer of amusement in Snape’s voice. Or maybe he just heard what he hoped.

The sea breeze ruffled his hair and pulled it away from his scar, in a brief moment he saw Snape’s eye’s flicker to it.

Something in him felt lighter, and freer. He nearly out paced Snape, an accomplishment which most thought impossible. Unburdened with the idea of returning to the Dursley’s be was beginning to feel like his life was his own. Now if only they could make it to his new residence.

It only took two hours before they managed to spot a small group of lights up ahead.

“Village?” Snape paused, “Almost certainly.”

A small unsealed road was their next turnoff, hopefully leading them to the twinkling lights.

For whatever reason, the last stretch of distance felt longer and more uncomfortable than the beach they walked. His wounds were beginning to burn and cause pain again and he was getting to the point that the moss on the edge of the road would make a good pillow.

Finally they joined up to a main road and then it was a only a few minutes before they approached the village.

It had quaint cobblestone paths and warm light spilling from windows. A small tavern with a scratched brown sign beckoned them and he and Snape mutually moved towards it.

Opening the door was like entering a dragon’s stomach. Heat warmed him to his core and the substantial light was a welcome change. Snape gave no indication that he enjoyed the pubs interior but Harry was sure he was not alone.  

It was almost deserted, two men with tumbleweed beards and a round faced lady sat by the bar. The bartender was polishing some scuffed glasses with a rag that had seen better days.

“ ’ullo, you two look like you’ve had a go of it.” He looked them both up and down before deciding a course of action, “Let me fix ye a bez.”  The accent was a strange mix of Scottish and Norwegian.

“No thank you actually. We wish only to know if you have a room we might stay in?”

“Alrighty, it’s free bucky in the morning and the rooms got two beds and a view of the town square, 22 Pounds it’ll cost ya.”

“Thank you.” Harry saw Snape’s wand covertly move beside him and Snape pulled out the correct amount.

The man smiled and handed them a copper key. They both went to move but the bar keep laid a hand on Snape’s shoulder to stop him. He leaned in close,

“Don’t worry about Eirik, Christian and Fiona over there. The boy’s are sloshed and she’s a pretty burd. They won’t be givin’ you trouble.”

Harry just nodded and Snape said nothing. In such close quarters the man’s gaze quickly caught on something on Harry’s shirt.

“Are you right son? looks like you’re bleedin’ a bit.”

“ Uhh… fine just fell over and scratched myself..”

“Well holla’ if you need. Your rooms upstairs, first one on the left.”  The bar keep moved aside to allow them through.

“Thanks.”

With the last obstruction between him and a good bed gone, Harry moved quickly in Snape’s footsteps. Entering the room, he found a bed and fell onto it.

Snape didn’t move much from the doorway and Harry peered curiously at him.

“Professor? aren’t you sleeping.” “Absolutely, but I’m checking the room has no enchantments and casting our own protections first.”

Oh, that made sense.

“Sir, can you really conjure up muggle money like that? Wouldn’t poor wizards just move into the muggle world and make money that way then?”

Snape frowned at him as he concentrated on doing magic that made Harry feel a small tingle.

“No, I did not ‘conjure money’ I exchanged galleons for scottish pounds. A handy spell but the rates are extremely poor, I lost a few galleons in the process.”

And just like that he was done, done withe questions, answers and walking. His bed was all he needed and he drifted off into sleep before Snape had even finished his incantations. So close to Hogwarts and the promise of never returning to the Dursley’s.

Chapter Text

It took a few seconds of staring at the wooden ceiling boards before he had any idea where he was. The sunlight was a welcome sight after so long in a dark cave, so too were his memories when he realised that they’d safely got the stone and… Snape’s offer. He played the moment again and again, not quite believing it real. He turned his head and saw no sign of the man, the room was empty. Only the dust particles visible in rays of light were company.

His stomach grumbled loudly and he briefly wondered how long it had been since he had food, 6 hours? 8 hours? more? when he went to move an agonising burning sensation shot through his shoulder and he instantly tensed, making it worse. His leg too, was now throbbing uncomfortably and he was a little scared to put pressure on it. He really hadn’t noticed how much those pain potions had masked until now. He never could’ve made the walk here without them. His stomach twisted painfully and made more noise reminding him of his absolute need for food.

Throwing back the covers, he was willing to brave the pain of his shoulder, leg and every other sore part of his body, in the pursuit of food. Just as he braced himself he noticed something he didn’t see in his initial scan of the room. A hot steaming bowl of porridge. How he didn’t notice it before was a wonder when the smell alone was now making him salivate.

It sat on what might be described as a desk; if it’d been sawed in half and stained 17 times with spilt drinks. Harry had only eyes for the porridge and he stumbled in a sleepy pained walk towards it.

The first spoonful in his mouth was bliss; on another day he might’ve described it as tasteless gruel but today it may as well have been the Halloween feast meticulously prepared by the house elves every year. The bowl was gone in record time and he instantly longed for more, the logical part of him supposed that it was probably a good thing there wasn’t more as he would’ve almost definitely made himself sick.

Sitting back done he couldn’t decide on a course of action. His options were either, wait for Snape, try and find Snape, or explore a bit. The pain his shoulder was acting as a strong deterrent but he was fully aware of boredom that was creeping up on him. Just as he’d made the decision to leave the creaky door swung open.

“Hello professor.”

Snape was still dressed in his dark and practical robes. Although they looked like they’d had a cleaning spell or two applied, instantly making Harry jealous.

“Hello Potter.”

Harry frowned unhappily,

“Fine. Hello Harry.” Snape still said it foreign, like it wasn’t even a name at all, but it was enough.

“Are we leaving today?”

“Yes, if you’ve had breakfast, we will be going now.”

Harry shuffled and threw the blanket fully off himself in an effort to look a bit more prepared.

“Now? are we going by magic or muggle?”

“I believe muggle methods still pose a significant risk. You and I are still very recognisable figures who any wizard might see, I could apply some appearance charms but they would be hard to maintain for long periods of time and distances. ”

Harry bet that on a normal day that wouldn’t be such a problem but in his weakened state Snape was having more trouble than he liked to admit.

“How are we going then?”

“ By apparition, although not all in one go. We shall do a series of jumps.”

“Are you really strong enough for that Sir?”

Snape grit his teeth and narrowed his gaze, “Yes, I am. It is paramount we make it back to the safety of Hogwarts and deliver the stone to the headmaster. We are in constant danger every minute we do not.”

“We’re always in constant danger….”

“So we are.”

Snape walked away and Harry took it as a sign he was meant to follow. Leaving their small space (although Harry still reckoned it beat the hell out of his bedroom at the Dursley’s) they walked down the stair case, causing a fair bit of pain for Harry.

The man  who had given them the keys last night smiled and waved. Snape quickly told him that they were leaving and gave him no information beyond that. If it ruffled the man, he didn’t show it.

The pathway that had been only been illuminated by street windows the night before was now in full view and Harry marvelled at the amount of chips and cracks in it. It was a wonder he hadn’t fallen and broken his ankle last night. Especially with his already screwed up leg.

Snape led him to a small side street that was invisible from most eyes. He made eye contact with Harry,

“Are you ready? this will be unpleasant for both of us. Disapparation is very jarring on injuries,” He gave a pointed look at Harry’s shoulder and leg reminding him that he had not forgotten, “and it will take alot of energy out of me.”

“I’m ready.”

Snape nodded approvingly, grabbed Harry’s arm and a look of intense concentration replaced his expression. Harry gave in to the vortex feeling, hoping if he didn’t fight it, it would be gentler.

It wasn’t.

When he next opened his eyes, his vision was still spinning so much he couldn’t see anything at all. He might’ve fallen over if not for the vice grip on his arm.

He blinked in an effort to clear the blurriness and finally made out the shape of cars, building, highways and more. They were in a city much bigger than their previous town.  He looked at Snape – who was looking pained – for conformation.

“Belfast”

Harry nodded, not wanting to make the man talk when it clearly cost much needed effort.

Snape’s grip on his arm had never wavered in strength and all too soon he began feeling a familiar feeling coming from it. This time felt messier than the last, where before had felt like straight from A to B, this had been a zig zag through A C D E and then B.

He waited to open his eyes, thinking it might help. What he did see after a few seconds, was a paddock. They were standing in the middle of a farmers paddock with sheep grazing all around them, not the least bit startled that two humans had just appeared out of nowhere.

Snape was now visibly shaking and Harry could feel it through his arm. His shoulder too now began its incessant throbbing and he leg felt like the grass being gnawed on by sheep.

Snape didn’t bother to say anything this time, focusing instead upon regaining his breath. Once he had done so after a few minutes, he stood a little straighter and closed his eyes.

This time was akin to being shaken up and down inside a snow globe. Everything was hurting and the feeling of naseua only increased. Instead of focussing on what he saw this time around, Harry pulled away from Snape and vommited. He coughed and spluttered, hard pressed to continue standing on his messed up leg. Whether Snape had noticed or not Harry was not sure. The man stared vacantly and only now did Harry begin to realise their surroundings were that of familiar London.  They had landed in a small side street where there were few people moving too purposefully to notice anything strange.

This time they waited longer, both needing it. Only when Snape wiped away a fine layer of sweat and let out a large exhale, did he try again.

This one was thankfully short, throwing them both abruptly to the ground before the sensation fully took over. Harry’s injuries were screaming and he did his best not too let out a noise of pain. They only thing that had remained a constant this whole time was the fingers firmly pressed into his arm.  

When he raised his head Harry made a choked laugh of relief. The gates of Hogwarts were standing proud in the cloudy weather.

Snape withdrew his wand with some difficulty and muttered some sort of password that made the air around the gate shimmer. Both Harry and Snape began making the long trek up to the hospital wing were they could have Poppy give them a pepper up or a rejuvenation potion and safely contact Dumbledore.

Although being in Hogwarts had always been an awe inspiring sight and usually filled him with happiness, Harry was beginning to hate just how large the castle was. When a staircase moved the wrong way he cursed continuously under his breath, hallways seemed to stretch and morph, not matching the images of his memories. Why they had ever decided to put the hospital wing high up was a mystery to Harry.

They eventually reached the large doors of the infirmary and Snape swept them open with no preamble. He shot Harry a wary look,

“Go sit on a bed, I will go call Pomfrey.”

Harry blearily nodded and found a bed that was slightly more out of the way from the long light beams streaming from the windows.

Snape went to the back of the infirmary and possibly used the floo network or sent a patronus, Harry had lost interest and couldn’t tell.

His eyes closed rather of their own accord although he stopped himself from really sleeping, settling for a light doze were he could still listen to everything around him.

He heard the fireplace flare up and the authoritative tones of Madam Pomfrey coming out in a long continues jumble.

“Severus! We have heard nothing from you, nothing! what happened? are you okay? is Harry okay?”

Snape replied evenly, with no bite. It seemed he’d rather get rest than participate in a sparring match with Pomfrey.

“Yes, yes. We are both alright and we acquired what we needed. However we are very tired and I would prefer not having to explain myself twice so I believe you will have to wait until the headmaster arrives before you receive the full tale.”

Harry couldn’t see her response but he imagined it was some sort of annoyed huff and resigned acceptance.

Their footsteps came closer to his bed and although he planned to get up when Pomfrey arrived, he couldn’t really find it in himself to move or open his eyes. Also not having to talk seemed a major bonus right now.

“I’m doing a diagnostic on you both, just from the look of you two you’ll be staying here a few days.”

There was an annoyed harrumph but no further objection.

Harry felt a very slight tingle run through his body, it was not unwelcome, but unexpected.

Pomfrey talked quietly, probably for his sake.

“More than a few days for this one. My how this boy ends up here even during the holidays baffles me. Extreme blunt force… what on earth happened to his shoulder? or his leg for that matter? this is on top of already previously sustained injuries!?” by the end her voice was louder and Harry heard silence as he imagined she tried to recompose herself.

“Severus you are a very competent wizard and were in-trusted with a minor’s care by Dumbledore. If I find out for any reason that you did not, to the best of your ability, ensure you and the boy were kept unharmed, their will be consequences to pay.”

Harry felt a little touched by the care Madam Pomfrey was showing, he knew the women was often brittle and harsh but deep down she cared for everyone of her patients, however he had thought he may have worn out his welcome a long time ago.

He was intrigued to hear Snape’s response. Of course the claims were completely unfounded – Snape really had done everything he could.

“Madam Pomfrey, I fully understand my responsibilities and the risks that were posed with this task and….. I apologise. For I don’t think I was quite enough…. there were times were I nearly failed completely and I take full blame for that. In my current state, however I am not up to the task of attempting to justify, explain or continue apologising so I do request we have this conversation at a later date. ”

Pomfrey replied with a mumbled “Of course.”

More tingling sensations went through Harry and a warming numbness spread across his shoulder leg and the small cuts littered across his body. He let out a deep breath of relief. It was as if all the pain and tension had been drained from him and the only thing left was a deep ache for rest that was becoming harder and harder to fight.

Still he clung on to consciousness, desperate to continue being aware of his surroundings.

Footsteps retreated back to the floo and Pomfrey and Snape talked in low tones. He heard the familiar sound of the fireplace flaring up and another set of footsteps joining those already there. Harry could guess who it was even before he heard the quiet, powerful tones of Dumbledore.

He could only catch snatches of the conversation,

“Tell…..everything”

“ Yes, and … it didn’t …. saw others…..”

“ Not …. great shape……. heal….. days.”

Eventually, the annoying need to sleep was too strong and soon he was no longer faking being unconscious.

***

The moment Dumbledore had appeared out of the floo, Severus had let go of  much of the tension he’d been holding. Dumbledore was perhaps the one person he was willing to give up his ever present paranoia for. He was certain the older wizard could protect them from almost anything and he no longer needed to be so vigilant, nothing was required of him. Except of course to explain everything that had just occurred.

The first thing he did was unpocket the dark grey and ocean blue stone, handing it to Dumbledore. The wizard took it uncertainly but happily.

“Are you sure it’s the real thing?”

“Yes.”

“Certain?”  Dumbledore’s one bushy eyebrow was raised questioningly

“Yes.”

The old man’s fingers curled around its surface and he placed in an inner pocket of his black and gold robe.

“You did very well Severus; getting the stone, yourself and young Harry all out and remaining undiscovered. You ought to be congratulated!”

He put a hand on Severus’s shoulder who looked at it apathetically.

“Albus I would not say this was a complete victory. We ran into others down in the caverns and Potter was injured in the process. Yes we managed to obtain the stone but at a rather large cost and risk.”

Dumbledore’s face stayed somewhere between serious and happy, “Tell me everything.”

So he explained in an extremely summarised version, the objective events that took place in the tunnels. Leaving out the parts preluding them and the new information he’d learned about Potter.

At the end Dumbledore did not respond to him but to Pomfrey,

“Physically,  I trust that now they are under your brilliant care, they are both okay?”

“ I have yet to check Severus, although it is the very next thing I’ll be doing. Harry was not in great shape but he’ll be okay. He will need to stay up here for about a week and half to heal and recuperate his energy but there is no long term, or permanent, effects.”

“Well I shall leave you to check over our potions master. I won’t be far, I do plan to come back very soon to hear a more in depth tale of Severus’s story and check how you both are going. Farewell.”

Dumbledore stepped back into the fire and it flashed green before returning back to its normal red and orange. Pomfrey immediately turned her attention to him. Running a thorough diagnostic spell that was so strong he even felt a small tingle indicating it’s presence.

She tsk’d and tuttered, complaining about the injuries he’d sustained and about exhausting himself by stretching his abilities too far. Particularly in side along apparition. It was a good half an hour later before she finally allowed him some space. She made him take a few potions that he himself had brewed and in a rather juvenile moment, he had almost considered complaining that Potter hadn’t had to take any potions. Of course he reasoned in his head, Pomfrey would make the boy simply take them when he was awake.

He was left with the order of getting some deep sleep and not waking up too early. He was all to happy to comply but he kept the thought internal.

One last look at Pomfrey,  the deeply sleeping Potter, and his surroundings to remind him that everything was well and he allowed his body to fall onto the mattress. In normal circumstance he hated anyone else seeing him sleeping. It was all too vulnerable, but for now he was willing to put that aside.

***

Harry woke up slowly, allowing himself to continue sleeping until he felt fully ready to embrace the day. When that moment arrived he sat up and pushed a fist into his groggy eyes. A quick glance confirmed that he was alone. None of the beds, besides his were occupied, – which made sense given it was still the holidays – though even Madam Pomfrey was gone.

Not knowing where anybody was and when of if they were coming back was a thought he found a little disconcerting.

Deciding that; whatever happened, at least he’d want to appear ready, he picked up his grey cloak he’d lazily dropped the night before and straightened out his pants and top. He considered performing a few cleaning and uncreasing charms but he wasn’t so sure he was allowed to do magic.

As he stood up further he stretched himself fully out and felt the now familiar pain in his shoulder and leg. The rest had thankfully disappeared and even that of leg and shoulder was still distant, not nearly as debilitating as they had been before. It would still be a little longer before he was ready to go ride a broom or some other extreme activity but he was on the mend.

Sitting back on the bed he was just about to call for Dobby when one of the giant doors of the infirmary swung open and revealed a short portly man with a bowler hat. Harry’s eyes narrowed and he was instantly on guard. Fudge.

What on earth was he doing here? from the glance he had at Snape’s paper all that time ago, Fudge had been busy calling him and Dumbledore a liar for the events at the world cup.

The man made eye contact and gave a weak smile that was completely see through. He walked towards the bed and Harry fought the intense urge to pull his wand out.

“Ah Harry! I was hoping I would be able to find you here.” why that was he didn’t say.

“Nice to see you Minister.” He had a very short tolerance at the minute and he almost dared Fudge to push it.

“The pleasures all mine my boy. Now I think its right time you and I had a proper discussion eh? Just us two, one and one.”

“About what?”

“Oh you know, this and that. I really think now is the time for truth above all else, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Whole heartedly.” He tried not to make it to sarcastic.

“Glad to see we’re on the same page! Now why don’t we take a walk hmm?”

Harry glanced towards the door hoping anyone of either Pomfrey, Dumbledore or Snape would walk in and deal with Fudge.

“I’d rather stay here professor, if you don’t mind.”

“Actually….I rather do. Its a beautiful day out there and surely a boy of you age wouldn’t want to miss it? I never get any fresh air down in my officers, it really would be a treat for both of us.”

Harry was quiet as he tried to figure out what to say in defence.

“Great! shall we go then?”

It was with great regret that Harry stood up and followed the curiously alone Minister. He figured as long as he stayed on Hogwarts grounds he’d be safe. Fudge certainly wouldn’t attempt anything to sinister here.

When they had left the infirmary Fudge made his first inquiry,

“So Harry… what exactly has you here, – in the hospital wing of all places – during the holidays?”

Well that was a difficult one to answer, “ahhh. Ummmm, I’m not sure its exactly my place to say minister”

“Why of course it is Harry! It’s your life, don’t let Dumbledore get into that smart head of yours.”

“Well all the same sir, I think you’d better ask him if you truly want the full story.”

“Alright alright, I suppose I shall see soon eh?”

Harry had no idea about that but he was happy to deflect this to Dumbledore. They continued walking down the stairs and Harry noticed almost all of the paintings were asleep, since it was still light out he assumed it must be some time after dawn.

“Look. Harry, perhaps I should be a little more direct.”

“I think that would be a relief to us both sir,”

Fudge frowned at the disrespect but continued on.

“Well I understand you’ve come from a rather difficult life - with the unfortunate deaths of Lily and James and all - and perhaps you want to draw attention to yourself, but these…. tales.. you and Dumbledore have been spinning… they need to stop.”

Harry was absolutely taken aback, then rage started pouring in.

“Excuse me? What I said was the truth, Voldemort is back! and Cedric was killed by one of his servants; Wormtail!”

Fudge let out a long sigh, “He who must not be named was killed along time ago. You of all people should understand that. There is no point stirring up rumours to make your friends all worried is that clear?  why have them live in fear of something that doesn’t exist?”

“But–” Harry couldn’t even find the right words to express his anger. “It does exist! There is a real threat out there minister! Just because you don’t believe so doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”

“Harry” Fudge used his most deep grown-up voice to scold him. “Your story doesn’t work on me. I see right through what you and Dumbledore are doing, and I hope that in future you will make the better choice and tell the truth.”

“I already am.”

Fudge’s face grew red but after a few more moments of  walking out into the courtyard it went back to its normal colour and he simply shook his head.

Harry could now clearly see that the sun had only just risen, its reflection on the black lake was making it a vivid red, as if the lake was on fire. It reminded him briefly of the caves when they had got the stone.

He nearly jumped when two people apparated beside Fudge. They were instantly recognisable as ministry employees with offical looking robes including embroidered crests.

Fudge acknowledged one by tipping his hat and asked quietly “Is it done?”

The man nodded once sternly and Fudge noticeably brightened. Harry took it as an opportunity to ask something that bothered him.

“Minster, how is it that you’re… employees are able to appparate here inside Hogwarts?”

Fudge grew happier as if it were a compliment. “Ah well for the ministry to carry out important tasks, it is sometimes necessary to access places other wizards can’t in a… timely manner. ”

It didn’t really answer his question but he figured that Fudge wasn’t actually about to tell him properly anyway. Relived that his awkward and angry encounter with the minster for magic was finished, he turned back towards the hospital wing already imagining the angry outburst if Madam Pomfrey found him out of bed. He had to admit, she had a point, he could already feel some familiar aches.

He had taken two step when Fudge put a hand firmly on his shoulder,

“Ah Harry, the least we could do is save you some trouble and drop you back home.”

His blood turned to ice in his veins.

“Sir..?”

“Number 4 Privet Drive, little whinging I believe.”

He didn’t even know when he had begun panting or his hand had started trembling.

“No, I.. uh….”

“Nonsense! it’s no trouble, we’ll have you there in no time.”

Harry had taken a few steps backwards and was about to start running when the sickening feeling of being pulled, stretched and expanded back again overtook him.

Being already nauseous, the disapparation pushed him over the edge and he collapsed vomitting onto the now pavement.

He was dimly aware of Fudge speaking, “First-time disapparation I see, well.. almost everyone ends up sicking up breakfast the first few times. Although I can’t recall doing so myself…”

He was fully trembling now, his arms shaking so much they could barely support him. When he had finished, he looked up to a sight he had hoped he’d never see again. Its small garden and lawn was now overgrown and the paint on the house had been slightly  chipped.

He turned to Fudge in a last bid for freedom, “Minister. There’s been a mistake! I..I am supposed to be at Hogwarts, not…Here.”

Fudge actually had listened and for a fleeting moment, Harry had thought he’d take him back to Hogwarts and Harry could pretend this never happened.

Instead he gave a smile normally reserved for photographs in the Daily Prophet.

“Harry, Harry, Harry. Family is where you should be, not locked up in school over the holidays!” he turned back to serious, “ I would like you think on our talk though hm?”

Harry really didn’t care about Fudge’s talk in that moment. He was far too busy trying to discern a way back to Hogwarts.

Fudge and the two ministry officials walked right up to the front of door of number four and knocked, making Harry wince.

It was Petunia who answered the door and her eyes widened dramatically as she took in the three, very clear wizards and the bowed head of Harry.

“Nice to meet you Mrs Dursley, my name is Cornelius Fudge . I’m just dropping Harry off for the summer.”

He held out his hand to shake but she made no move to take it.

“VERNON! you’d better come here.”

As she waited she seem to realise that she needed to answer Fudge,

“Ah well, thank you for um that. ”

Vernon turned up in the door way and blocked half the entrance. He too took in the robes hats and wands and Harry more than ever, wished he was back in the hospital wing.

Fudge, now finding this awkward, gave a polite wave and said “Goodbye, enjoy your summer. Farewell to you as well Harry, remember our chat won’t you?”

Harry nodded dumbly, he really wish Fudge hadn’t included him in that last part. Now all attention was on him. Fudge and his minions walked back out onto the pavement and disapparated out of existence.

Leaving Harry alone with an absolutely fuming Uncle and a sour faced, cold aunt.

Chapter Text

Despite Pomfrey’s insistence he didn’t let himself spend too long asleep. Immediately he checked the time when he woke up, finding that he had spent a total of five and a half hours sleeping. He wondered why he hadn’t insisted on returning to his own quarters given his distaste for sleeping in a hospital bed.

His gaze rested on the heavily sleeping Potter. It was a miracle the kid wasn’t a head case in St. Mungo’s by now really. Although, given the iron will of both his parents, maybe it wasn’t such a surprise. He had remembered his proposition to Potter, of course, and he did intended to make good on it. The only question was whether to let Dumbledore in on the change of plans. If he did, the elder wizard would undoubtedly object and if he couldn’t convince him, it would make both his and Harry’s life much harder. If he stayed silent, it was very possible that the man would find out anyway and then they’d be more fury to pay.

He allowed himself to sit and rest a little more before he would do anything. He had long learnt that in difficult times it was best to rest whenever possible or risk burnout in important moments instead.

After all, he would soon need to stand in front of the darkest wizard of their time and explain why he didn’t come when summoned. His mind went in circles just trying to come up with an excuse.

An hour or so passed and Pomfrey’s face emerged from the fire place, he was just about to come up with a response for why he was not asleep when the stressed look on her face stopped him dead.

“Severus… You’d best come to the Headmasters office. Now.”  Her pinched cheeks and curly hair disappeared in a twirl of colour and Severus soon followed.

When he arrived in the very familiar office, his attention went immediately to all those in it. As expected Pomfrey was there, looking red with anger, Dumbledore stood serenely in the corner yet still seeming to be the largest presence in the room. Most interesting however, was the ministry officials now searching furiously through the office. Including inside the many strange contraptions adorning the space. Cornelius Fudge stood in the middle of all this chaos watching the proceedings intensely.

“Ah Severus, good to see you.” Dumbledore’s greeting seemed to be in direct opposition to the atmosphere of the room.

He was going to return the greeting when Fudge noticed his presence and spoke.

“Ah! yes! very glad you are here Mr. Snape.”

“May I enquire as to why you are here Minister?”

“Most certainly. You see, matters here at Hogwarts are becoming of great concern to the Ministry. Between Mr. Diggory, the convict Black running rampant, business with a Basilisk and the death of a teacher, you can see why it’s high time the ministry intervene.”

“Intervene? and you are currently….?”

“Searching this office with full permission from Wizengamot, excluding of course, that of Albus.”

He held out a very important looking document with a detailed red stamp.

“Why do you believe you’d find anything here? all the matters you’ve previously listed weren’t the fault of the Headmaster.”

“Ahh quite the contrary, Mr Snape. The Headmaster is accountable for all happenings inside of a school and the need to search this office is a very practical and reasonable action.”

Done with Fudge’s delusions he directed his words to Dumbledore.

“And you? You’re okay with this?”

Fawkes made a loud noise of protest as one of the men searching caused part of his stand to tip. Severus had his hand poised over his wand instantly, then slowly brought it back to rest by his side.

“I am…”

“He doesn’t have to be okay with it. Let us not forget that Hogwarts is under the full jurisdiction of the Ministry and that –”

“Cornelius please. Severus, I am perfectly fine with the necessary lengths the ministry must go to make sure our students are safe. They will find nothing of interest here and we may all continue on our way with a strengthened peace of mind.”

The warning in Dumbledore’s smile did not go unnoticed by Severus and so he allowed the men to continue searching. He was not however, the only one begrudgingly staying silent. Pomfrey looked at high risk of hexing someone every time they opened a draw.

After some minutes of rifling, opening and searching possessions the men stopped and quietly whispered to Fudge who nodded.

“It seems.. that other than a few instruments that will be further examined at the ministry, there is nothing particularly harmful here. Presently.” He spoke as if the words were coming through gritted teeth, which they probably were.

“That does not mean that our investigations are finished. All three of you will be taken to the Ministry for further questioning.”

At this he could no longer hold his tongue and neither could Pomfrey

“Minister! we do not –”, “ I will not be –” “Have certain obligations..”

“Severus! Poppy!” Both quieted down.

“Cornelius, I would be happy to accompany you. However I must ask if my staff may remain here. I doubt they would be able to help you any further. Any questions you have of them could be asked nowand I personally can attest to the good nature of the both of them.”

Fudge had already begun shaking his head and Severus knew Dumbledore would never be able to get through to him.

“Albus, these two have a fair bit to add I suggest. The school healer who would be able to tell us the direct injuries the students here have suffered, and their causes. And of course, a former Death Eater who as part of his agreement in escaping Azkaban, is able to be questioned by the Ministry at any point.”

A regrettable stipulation that he had never really agreed to. He had never believed the Ministry would act on it unless he drew their attention. Fudge turned to the four officials who were waiting on his instructions,

“Lasnder, Elmeny, Williams, Taylor. Take these three Wizards into the Department of Magical Law Enforment on level two. Elmeny and Taylor report back once it’s done. There are a few other things I’d like to inspect before I’m done here.”

All of them nodded and moved towards Severus, Pomfrey and Dumbledore. Fudge left the office happily and Severus snarled angrily behind his back. Immobilising spells were cast on their hands and their wands were taken from them. One official stood with each of them and the leftover women with black hair led the group, casting weary glances at Dumbledore. It seemed they were all sure that is it came to it, they would be overpowered.

True to form, they were apparated directly into the ministry. It’s large scale, latin mottos and many wizards and witches rushing about were all quickly forgotten as they were pushed into an elevator that moved quickly upwards. They arrived at one of the Ministry’s many long corridors. This one however, put Severus on edge, having being detained here for many hours while nearly being put on trial and sent to Azkaban. Dumbledore had vouched for him then and he hoped the man would get them out of this predicament quickly.

He shared a glance with Pomfrey and Dumbledore before each of them were taken to seperate rooms. Once he was inside, his attendant left and he heard the soft pop of disapparation and the immobilising charms on his hands disappeared. His room was a little better than a cell, there was a desk with two chairs on either side facing each other, some sort of coloured cabinet, a glass of water and a copy of the latest Daily Prophet. There was no toilet, but he supposed that was a good thing. It gave him an excuse to try and escape if it came to it. Although, he would not leave without his wand.

He went to the cabinet first, intrigued by it being bright blue with gold detailing. Unsurprisingly, it was locked. A few strong pulls also indicated it was magically locked. If he had his wand with him he was sure he would be able to dismantle the spells but, frustratingly, the only thing he could do was pull.

After a few more attempts of pulling and slamming the cabinet, he gave up. It seemed it was impervious to damage, showing not a single scratch despite his efforts.

He eyed the water warily; he would not drink it unless he was trapped in here for a very long period of time and if that were the case, he may have other problems to deal with.

He spared a thought for Potter, the last time he saw him, the boy was resting peacefully. Hopefully they’d all be back before he was up and he’d be none the wiser. If not, well the boy might be a little anxious when he could find no one around but he would be fine. He’d rest up if he knew what was good for him, he was still in rough shape. If the kid really were that desperate he could always call on that house elf he’d befriended or go see the owl he’d left at Hogwarts before the summer. Severus rather thought he should focus on his own dilemma.

It was a few very boring hours before anybody came for him. He had even succumbed to almost reading the entire Daily Prophet.

When she arrived, she spared him a very brief glance before taking a sip of her mug and walking towards the cabinet. Her back was turned to him so he was unable to see the way she opened it.

“Ah, Mr Snape. I remember your little complex file floating through our offices a few times, you’re a rather hard one to figure out you know that?”

“Yes well. If we were all predictable, the Ministry would be out of a job wouldn’t it?”

“Too true. Too true.”

She sat on the chair opposite him and opened up a glowing orange folder. Inside where moving pictures of him as a Hogwarts student, one of his mother, bold headings like ‘possible convictions’ and at the bottom in blocked letters ‘Spoken for by Albus Dumbledore’.

“There’s quite a lot we don’t know about you Mr Snape.” Her long blonde hair swung slightly as she spoke, partly obscuring one of her eyes.

“And I would prefer it to stay that way.”

“We are all friends here. We all have the same enemy. Correct?”  She leaned closer in as an effort to seem earnest.

“Yes.”

“Well I don’t see why we should have much of a problem.”

“And who exactly are you?”

“Jennifer Ashton, an investigator of the Magical Law Enforcement branch.” She smiled cheerily, like she was glad he had asked.

“Well Ms Ashton. Can I ask that we finish this matter efficiently so that you and I can return to our oh so important lives?”

“Sure. After all, being a teacher must be very taxing on your precious time.”

Not rising to her bait, he crossed his arms and leaned backwards.

“Any questions?”

“Many, such as did you at any point, see the convict known as Sirius Black?”

“No.”

She took out a purple quill with a gold tip and began writing on parchment, briefly glancing up at him as she did so.

“Have you had contact with any past Death Eaters proceeding the demise of He Who Must Not Be Named?”

“No.”

“What about Igor Karkoroff? During the Triwizard Tournament?”

“Perhaps briefly. Less than a few sentences.”

“Were you involved with any of the major incidents that have recently occurred at Hogwarts within the past four years?”

“I helped put protections on the Philosopher’s Stone, I ….mistakenly…. reported seeing Sirius Black and I was involved with some of the tasks in the Triwizard Tournament.”

“Were you involved at all, in the making of the last task?”

“No.”

She continued smiling cheerily and asking him question upon question. All the while, her quill scratching away. She asked about his whereabouts at certain points, people he’d talked to, what he knew of a plot to overthrow the minister, how Cedric Diggory had died and many, many, other draining questions. Finally it came to a point where she seemed to have run out and the quill stilled.

“The Ministry thanks you Mr Snape for cooperating with us. As part of standard procedure, we’ll be viewing the last couple of spells you cast.”

She removed from her pocket, his black wand and placed it on top of the file between them. Picking up her own wand, she performed complex hand movements and pressed the tip of her wand to his where it glowed a soft gold.

“Prior Incantato

A small,  washed out, clock appeared and beneath it, the word Tempus. The spell he’d done to check the time earlier. Next was a small coin turning into a muggle coin and the word commutationem. Not the most innocent looking spell, it had been the one he’d use to pay for the room in the Shetland islands. Finally, the wand shifted a bit to the side, as though fidgeting in nervousness. Hanging a few centimeters above it, there was a simple line of faded green smoke and the words Avada Kedvra. Jennifer flinched back and Snape had the terrible realisation of what exactly his last three spells were.

Her voice was not nearly as confident as it was before when she spoke. “Uh.. Mr Snape. You have performed one of the three … unforgivables recently. Highly illegal spells that are never to be used unless the express permission of the ministry …. is given – granted. Or, the user was acting in full self defence. The fact that.. .. these spells were used means we will have to detain you until you can prove your innocence or a court proceeding… can be…. can be had.”

She quickly packed up her folder and stowed her wand. She went two steps before turning back and and hastily grabbing his wand with the green smoke still above it. Rushing out of the room, it seemed all desire to stay had fled her.

Severus let his head lean back against the wall as he began thinking of any possible way he could spin this.

***

Harry had wished he had been more grateful for the time he had been given away from the Dursleys. Although it hadn’t exactly been a holiday, almost anything was better than this.

His hands were red and irritated, a few of his fingertips bleeding. He was currently being forced to clean all of the pots in the house. It would’ve been no worse than a bad detention if it wasn’t for the metal cleaner he was using. He tried his best to avoid contact with it; every time even the slightest bit of skin would touch it, he would feel a burning sensation and the skin would become red and rough. That and scrubbing with a wiry metal brush were certainly taking its toll.

His uncle had been furious as soon as the door had been shut. Slamming him face first into the wall and demanding to know why he’d brought those bunch of bafoons here. When he didn’t have an answer he was shoved into the white paint again. This time, leaving a smear of red. He was keenly aware of the wand in his back pocket, itching to be used. He almost had reached for it, but it was all too easy to fall back into the natural patterns at the Dursley household. Plus he did actually agree on one thing with his uncle, he never wanted to see Fudge again.

Perhaps his uncle had seen a small movement to reach for it for the next thing he knew, it was pulled out of the waistband of his jeans. Over his shoulder he saw the man grab it in both hands and knew if he didn’t intervene they’d be a sharp snapping noise next.

“NO!”

Desperate to say the right words an excuse just fell out of his mouth.

“You can’t snap it! It…… will bring more of those people! They’ll come for it! Do you really want them here for longer?”

He could almost smell the smoke as the gears worked inside the brutish mans brain.

He shoulders dropped in relief as his uncle furiously stomped to a closet where he removed a box with a lock on it. Opening and shutting it violently, the wand was placed inside. Vernon Dursley then marched through the house with an equally mad Petunia and a warily following Harry. When they got to the backyard, Vernon picked up a nearby shovel and dug.

It didn’t take long before a large pile of dirt amassed and a rather deep hole sat in the middle of the square backyard. Vernon made a show of dropping the box inside and Harry winced as he heard it crash. He then looked Harry dead in the eye.

“There will be No. magic. in my house, Clear?”

“ Yes.”

His uncles eyes blazed and he quickly corrected himself,

“Yes sir.”

A fatty hand grabbed his collar and he was smacked in the head.

“Don’t forget your place here. Whatever you’ve been doing, if you’re staying here, you will learn respect.”

He nodded hastily. Whatever he could do to make his uncle go away. The hand on his collar released and he fell hard onto the ground, jarring his shoulder so bad he felt momentarily winded.

The large feet of his uncle moved away but the red slip ons stayed. It was a mistake to believe that Petunia was not as vindictive or cruel as her husband. While Vernon dealt in-the-moment blows and quickly changed rules so that Harry was at fault. Petunia would always have longer lasting torment. She cut deeper with malicious words that would wound him and envisioned ways in which he would endure longer lasting pain.

Such as his current predicament with the pans. As a strange an unusual punishment she’d made him take his shoes off, he hadn’t seen why it was such a problem until he stepped outside. The asphalt had spent all day heating up in the intense sun and felt like the equivalent of a pan on a stove. At least standing on the kitchen’s cold tiles gave his feet some relief.

After all this, he held hope that he wouldn’t be stuck here. That Snape wouldn’t turn back on his word and the man would arrive here in his menacing black, and intimidate the Dursley’s to the point where they wouldn’t say a word as he dug up his wand. Imagining the moment often provided a happy escape from whatever punishment he was receiving.

Although at night laying awake in a cupboard – given the ‘privlege’ of Dudley’s second room was confiscated — the doubts crept in. The fact they’d been no one in the hospital wing when he woke up, the fact that apparently no one had even noticed his apparent disappearance. Not even Hedwig had come to visit with a letter from Ron, Hermione or Sirius. It felt like he’d been smuggled back into his old life and nobody had noticed.

As one day became two, then three, hope started slipping away. His life quickly turned into hell. Dudley had been ecstatic when he found out Harry had returned. He’d apparently formed some sort of a gang and they were all very keen to prove themselves. He was a fast runner usually, but a lame leg and running on almost no food and water had an effect. Even Dudley could catch him occasionally, evidenced by a large purple bruise on his collar bone and blood stains on his usual baggy shirt.

In general, he tried to stay out of the house and away from Dudley and co. His most frequented spot was the children's playground, sitting on the plastic swing chairs provided a sliver of peace. Nobody else came to the park much either, the few children and mothers he saw kept well clear of him. Obviously fearing he was some sort of young delinquent with a pension for fighting.

His swing creaked as he pushed back and forwards staring into the few smears of clouds above.

***

Severus had been given an upgrade. Well, not exactly the correct term but still true. His cell was more of an actual cell, complete with rough bed and dingy toilet. He’d been moved here after the wand incident and was still yet to see hide or hair of Dumbledore or Pomfrey.

At least it had given him some time to think. When confronted he would do his best to explain how it had been in self defence, which wasn’t a complete lie and therefore he could say it while under the influence of veritaserum.

His story went that he’d been walking through the streets of London when he was mugged. He had been slightly hurt; explaining his few bruises and scratches, and therefore wanted a room to stay in; rather than apparating, hence the money exchange spell. He had not said anything because, given it was a muggle affair, it would be best to leave it to the muggle police.

He had spent time narrowing down the specifics such as what exactly his mugger looked like and what time he’d roughly been threatened and he now had a very complete story.

Of course none of this helped when there was no one to tell it too.

Finally, after two days, someone approached his cell. Although Severus was surprised by who it was.

“Lucius? What are you doing here?”

“A better question I think, it what exactly you are doing here my friend.”

Lucius was dressed in slender green and black robes that were quite formal. His metal cane was also close by.

“I heard you got into a bit of trouble hmm? performing a few naughty spells that the ministry takes issue with.”

“Yes it seems I am in a rather inconvenient situation.”

“ You must tell me the whole story Severus, I’m dying to know.”

Severus knew he could utilise Lucius in this specific circumstance but it would come with a cost later.

“I’d be willing to share if I were not in such a confined manner.”

“Yes well I suppose I could help you out old friend. Being a man with my privilege comes with its fair share of benefits. ”

He stayed silent. Either Lucius would help or he would not, there was very little he could say that would persuade the man.

The blonde gave an exaggerated sigh and looked down at his cane. “It would mean I might have some explaining to do later….. but whats life without a little challenge? and these days, challenge is to be expected.”

Lucius touched the tip of his wand to the lock and the door swung free.

“Voilà”

Severus tentatively stepped forwards and did his best to portray no emotion to Lucius. The less human the man saw him the better. Cold blooded creatures are less likely to kill other creatures of the same type.

Lucius led the way out of the ministry, Severus refused to call it the way to freedom.

The blonde withdraw a pitch black slender wand, “You’ll be needing this I would assume.”

“Thank you.” Indeed he was grateful to have it back in his possession

“So what exactly have you been doing that has made you such a busy man Severus?”

The story he gave now would need to be the same one he gave to the Dark Lord. Any inconsistencies and Lucius would spot them immediately.

“Dumbledore sent me on somewhat of a mission.”

“Indeed? How intriguing”

“Well it was unsuccessful. Any other details you may want to know will have to wait until we’re somewhere a little more private.”

Already a few witches and wizards glanced there way. Lucius it seemed was more than well known here.

“Can be done immediately. We shall go to Malfoy Manor and you shall tell me all about this little tale of yours.”

It was an interesting bet Lucius was making. Face questioning in his job but get to here what Dumbledore was up to firsthand from the spy, before even the Dark Lord knew. It could be useless or invaluable. For Severus right now, it was beneficial.

He needed no directions from Lucius in apparating there. He had learnt a very long time ago, how to do so and the place was ingrained in his memory. Like a cemetery you had to walk past to get to where you wanted to go.

Out of the floo and into cauldron it seemed.

Inside the wide and tall living room, he exchanged greetings with Narcissa. Strangely there was no Draco to be found.  He was barely given tea before he felt something dark coming. Like seeing shadows near you that were not your own.

He didn’t have to look to know it was behind him.

Lucius went to his usual grovelling self in an instant “My Lord. I was not expecting you or else I would have prepared something more…”

The voice that had plagued the nightmares of many crawled across the manor.

“No need Lucius. I will not be here long.”

Severus knew that the Malfoy’s were in the Dark Lord’s good graces but he hadn’t quite realised that the man was making house calls.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled and he knew he had been noticed.

“Severus. How nice to see you again, you have been rather absent of late.”

He did his best to return to his Death Eater self. Making himself appear smaller and in awe of the thing in front of him.

“My Lord, forgive me. Dumbledore sent me some place remote in an effort to find something to use against you. It was covered in anti-apparation wards, I could not leave.”

Partial honesty seemed the best method.

“Ah, the old man believes he can find a weapon to defeat me? how entertaining. Tell me Severus, what was it and did you find it?”

He carefully avoided making eye contact, his occlumency shields were weak at best currently. Also it helped make him appear more subservient.

“It was a stone my Lord. It was said that it could break through any wards put up by a wizard. We unfortunately were unable to find it.”

“We?”

Dammit. Yes we, Harry Potter and I.

There were others there searching for the stone. I utilised them then disposed of them.”

“How cold of you Severus.”

Understanding dawned on Lucius who connected the dots lightning fast. “And that is why you were detained in the ministry.”

“Yes.”

There was a tense silence where both Severus and Lucius were too afraid to say anything. Eventually Voldemort broke out of his musings.

“While I can see why you were absent, disobeying requires…. punishment. However I shall be lenient, it will be done privately.”

He was already shivering and could hear his heartbeat in his ears. This is what he had feared.

Cruico.”

It was indescribable. Waves of hot agony twisting their way through him. Like swallowing a thousand burning knives. He could not see or hear anything else. He was unsure if he was even crying out. All other thoughts turned to dust, the pain was more intense than even seemed possible. Every nerve ending on fire, every piece of him screaming and all at once it stopped.

As his thoughts were put back together and his vision returned he could see the burning pieces of coal that were the Dark Lord’s eyes. Oh how he longed to drive a dagger through that empty heart.

“ Goodbye Severus and Lucius. I shall see you again.”

The Dark Lord disappeared and Severus picked himself of the polished floor boards. Lucius smirked at him, likely enjoying someone suffer at the hands of their master.

The false concern was quickly returned. “Shall I get you the potion? And a fire whiskey perhaps?”

He valiantly tried to make his voice like steel. “No.”

Satisfied, he spoke a full sentence. “ I must go, there are other things I have to attend to.”

And he didn’t trust that anything of Lucius’s wasn’t poisonous.

He apparated away and arrived at the gates of Hogwarts. He was shaking all through the wandwork to open the doors. He tried to steady himself but to no avail.

He made it to the Hospital wing with black spots dancing in his vision and saw Dumbledore and Pomfrey in an intense discussion. Both stopped when they noticed him. He sat on the beds and Pomfrey was on him an instant.

“ Cruciatus I presume?”

He nodded wearily.

Pomfrey accio’ed a potion and almost force fed it to him. There was a moment of relief as all of his muscles stopped shaking.

He allowed himself to relax and Dumbldore appeared beside him.

“Severus, how I wish you did not have to do this.” It was true, those blue eyes had softened in sympathy. There was nothing he could say, they’d had this conversation before and they both knew the answer.

With his remaining strength, he glanced around the place and noticed Potter was not with them.

His next word was more mumble than word. “Pott’r?”

Dumbledore replied, “I suspect he has gone to stay in Gryffindor tower. He was never much of a fan of the Hospital wing.”

Again he nodded clumsily.

***

When Harry collapsed onto a set of old dirty pillows he was holding onto a very small slice of hope. There wasn’t so much as a letter explaining why no one had come for him, why no one had shown up. He felt miserable, every part of his body ached from one sort of punishment or another.

Faith in Snape was diminishing. Perhaps the man had acted differently purely out of setting and the moment he put a foot back in Hogwarts things would go back to their usual. Except he wasn’t sure he could go back to usual. He understood Snape now in a slightly different way, knew the risks the man took on his behalf and knew why Snape had played the role he had.

Day by day he sunk lower and lower, his nightmares about the final task and Cedric’s death returned. A green light flashing before he woke up in a cold sweat and wiped the excess moisture from his brow. Some nights he would yell to warn Cedric and some nights he was the one  that held the wand that stole the light from the young boy’s eyes.

On nights like these he would not sleep; instead peering through the gaps on the bars of his window, at the cloudy and moonlight sky. Watching the limited traffic down below and wondering what each person’s life was like. Anything to get his mind off of what he had just seen.

On the nights he woke up screaming; they’d be be hell to pay. His uncle or aunt would come to the door and smash it open in anger. Looking down at him in disgust.

He barely found the energy to get up anymore. Crawling out of one desolate hole into another, in the darkest times he weeped, for the loss of all that had been and all that was to come. He would never let the tear stains show, desperate to show that he could beat the world. No matter what was thrown his way.

He would be back at Hogwarts in two weeks, he just had to hold out until then.

 

 

Chapter Text

Severus was highly irritated that yet again, he was in the hospital wing.

“Severus, what exactly happened to you?” Madam Pomfrey and Albus both looked curious and wary. Both, no doubt, having partly figured out where he’d been.

Before giving time for him to answer, she explained her own escapades. “Albus and I where both questioned for ages in the ministry. We were there for days! we only really just got out properly a few hours ago. We were here talking about where you might be when…. well, you show up! More pale than usual and shaking like a leaf. What in merlins name happened?”

It was interesting that both Pomfrey and Albus had been detained for so long despite doing nothing. What had Fudge really gained from that?

He begun recounting his tale explaining his own confinement and eventual release by Lucius and finally his ‘punishment’. Pomfrey had turned a little greener at the mention the Cruciatus curse but didn’t interject.

Albus showed no sign of any other emotion besides some concern. His intelligent eyes and crooked nose taking in every detail and storing it in that brilliant mind of his.

“I think we all require a bit of rest after our various ordeals, wouldn’t you agree?”

Pomfrey as usual, had a small objection. “Yes I think that would be much appreciated, but I best visit Harry to examine him Albus. That shoulder was pretty badly broken and that leg needs checking to make sure an infection doesn’t set in. ”

Dumbledore gave a small laugh in amusement. “I’ve always been glad I chose you as our healer Poppy. However, I would be wary. Disturb Harry to much and you may find he won’t willing come back to the hospital wing when there is trouble. It is late and I think you should sleep,  Harry is smart enough to come here if something is wrong.”

“He never should have left; I told him to stay. ” Pomfrey grumbled, although it was a bit half-hearted.

Severus did have to agree with Pomfrey. That boy was trouble, always. He didn’t quite believe Dumbledore’s statement about the boy being smart enough to come here either. Potter was more the suffer in silence type. It seemed practical to keep the boy within eye sight as a general rule. Although he had to admit, the kid was 15 and needed some space. Perhaps it would be best to let him rest a little longer. He would go find the brat in the morning.

As he scanned the beds of the hospital wing, his eyes traveled to the bed Potter had been on. On the bedside table something mottled grey caught his attention. Of course; the cloak he had given him. He would happily admonish the boy later for not taking care of it and leaving it here.

Finally he could take his leave before the crisp white bedsheets of the hospital wing started suffocating him further. The smell of medicinal potions and bandages alone had him longing for his own quarters.

He bid Pomfrey and Albus goodnight and settled in his chambers with a lit fire, a few biscuits and a book. For one of the first times in a long while, he felt it was justified. Before going to bed, he had a quick look through his cabinets and found what he was searching for almost immediately. A soft pink potion with a scrawled fraying label and a cork stopper. Back in the caves he had promised to give Potter something to be rid of his scars. He didn’t intend on breaking his word.

***

His dizziness in the hot sun was getting harder and harder to fight. His knees were scratched and bleeding as he worked on the flowerbeds in the backyard. Yanking weeds from their pre-made homes and displacing them into a bucket.

His face was most likely covered in dirt, he knew the rest of him was. At some point in the near future he would need food and water, or else he’d faint. It was a matter of fact. Once he finished the garden beds, he would pluck up the courage to tell his Aunt this; in a polite manner of course. Any disrespect would be met with sneers and punishment.

So, as he pulled the last gangly green weed from the back edge he’d missed before, he went inside. For a Gryffindor the task seemed stupidly fear inducing.

His Aunt took the bucket without comment, checking that he’d pulled up a decent amount of weeds. She turned her sooty nose up at him, handing him back the plastic handle, and went to leave.

“Wait! Can I please eat something? I can’t work if I don’t have enough energy to do anything.”

She looked him up and down, assessing him.

“Fine, a glass of water and a sandwich. But make it fast!”

He nodded and dashed to kitchen. The water felt like liquid heaven trickling down his throat and the sandwich didn’t quite cure the ache in his stomach but it helped a fair bit. He was watched by a pair of beady eyes the entire time, tracking his every move. The moment he was finished the plate was yanked away from him.

“You’ve had your fill! go outside, I don’t want you in the house anymore. You’re covered in dirt and stink. And don’t come back till sundown!”

Again he nodded but his stomach dropped. Being here meant at least avoiding the wrath of Dudley and his boyband-gang. His cousin had been going to great efforts to introduce them to what ‘Harry Hunting’ was and his wanderings outside where now filled with fear.

He wished for his wand badly, a few spells and he would have sent them all running. They wouldn’t dream of coming near him again after copping a few jelly-leg curses.

He almost missed Malfoy, the boy was a prick but at least he could defend himself in their fights. Plus, it was generally one on one. There was no humiliation as he stood there and took punches.

It was during a particular stroll down a large alleyway due to boredom, when he was spotted. Of course he began sprinting immediately.

Feeling a sense of fear he hadn’t felt since before Hogwarts. There taunts echoed down the alley way

“Come back Pansy Potter!”

“Running to mummy and daddy? oh, wait!”

“Fight you piece of crap!”

The instant he was out of their sight he ducked into a small nook. It didn’t provide much protection but he hoped the group would run straight past him. He held his breath as the expensive trainers swept past, each one belonging to a douche bag in low hanging jeans.

He was safe – until he knocked over the broom next to him.

His panic spiked and the slowest boy at the back with a partly shaved head  turned and made eye contact.

“Boys! he’s here! ”

The rest of the group turned around and he was quickly trapped against the wall; leaving him absolutely no where to go. Dudley stepped forward, obviously trying to be the leader.

“Hey Potty. Not sure why you left, we haven’t caught up properly for ages

He didn’t reply.

“I’ve heard you, at night you know. Screaming from your big scary dreams. Cedric this, Cedric that. Crying like the baby you are. You’re a coward you know…… probably got it from mum and dad. I don’t know why they even let you stay at that freak school of yours, maybe they just don’t know how pathetic….”

That was enough, he pushed Dudley backwards forcing him to stagger, “Pathetic? well Dudders if i’m pathetic why are you hear facing me six on one? If I’m pathetic why don’t I need mummy coming to pick me after every time I stub a toe? You think you would’ve learned how to live by yourself you pathetic lub of fat. ”

He had gone to far, a humiliation in front of friends. The first few seconds were a stunned silence, no one had really hear Harry talk back to Dudley much. Certainly never imagined he would do it to this extent.

Then Dudley reclaimed what little words he had left. “You’re gonna pay for that Potty.”

He shoved Harry, to which Harry shoved back. Next was a fist to the edge of his forehead which he felt the sting of pretty quickly. The rest of the boys stayed back, apparently interested to see how this played out.

Harry managed to side step most blows with a few exceptions. He actually had to give Dudley credit for being smarter than he imagined when the blonde went for his swollen shoulder and pushed his fingers in firmly. Eliciting a pained shout from Harry.

Harry threw as much force as he could into a punch that landed squarely underneath Dudley’s eye. He regretted it the moment it made contact. Dudley walked backwards howling in pain and clutching his face. Already blood was dripping from it as Harry’s fingernails had scratched the skin.

He stuck a shaky finger at him; “You’ll pay for that you will. Just you wait. You’ll wish you never even looked at me wrong!”

Harry backed away from what felt like a crime scene. Breaking into a sprint that would take him far away from there.

He ran until his lungs heaved and he felt like throwing up (not that there would be anything much in his stomach to throw up). He gave himself a minute of heaving breaths where he sucked as much air in as he could; like oxygen would somehow give him strength. When he finished collapsing, he stood up and brushed himself off.

Swiftly walking he was surprised to find a wetness on his cheeks and a salty tang in his mouth. He hadn’t cried for days, it had felt like he wasn’t even able too anymore. A quick glance in the reflection of a shop window confirmed his blotchy face and hazy red eyes. He wasn’t even sure why he was teary and furiously scrubbed at his nose.

For a moment he felt a fiery flare of anger at everyone. His aunt and uncle, who had no right to treat him like this, like he was less than human. And Dudley, for having an ego the size of a hot air balloon and a head thicker than wood.

All those at Hogwarts definitely deserved a mention, Ron and Hermione hadn’t written at all. Did he even pass their mind once? Dumbledore who he had once held in such high regard, never seemed to intervene when it was Harry’s welfare on the line.

Sirius, his last living family member. Not even an owl…. nothing.

Lastly Snape. The man who had made a promise and broken it without so much as a second thought. Just when he was beginning to understand the man… he thought Snape deep deep down was beginning to develop somewhat of a grudging tolerance to him. He thought somewhere, in those grisly caves, there had been a flicker of compassion.

All at once, his anger was snuffed out. He stopped for a moment against a brick wall and closed his eyes. Leaning his head back against it. He couldn’t find any actual anger within himself anymore, it was not up to the people listed to watch him. He was the one who kept falling prey to muggles, he was the one who was simply not strong enough.

He bit his lip and summoned what courage he had to return home, knowing what awaited him. A dusty pink sky made for a nice backdrop and at least he found reason to sadly smile at that.

He had actually covered more distance than he expected. The walk was quite long, although not unpleasant. The though of actually just staying outside for the night crossed his mind a few times. It was certainly warm enough. He knew that it was a stupid idea, his safety was already in jeopardy every time he took a step outside of the house. Or maybe it was the street; who knew how those wards worked.  Justifying risking his life just to avoid a punishment didn’t quite seem to add up, god knows what Snape or Dumbledore would say. Not that he considered that priority number one.

He hesitated at the door knob. Maybe he could just change his name and appearance and somehow…. No, he would take this. Cedric had suffered a worse fate, the least he could do was will the courage to approach his uncle.

He walked in before he over-thought it.

It didn’t take long for his aunt’s sharp cheekbones and pointed nose to come face to face with him.

“You really are a horrible thing aren’t you? My son. You attacked MY SON. Dudley just got back from the hospital you know, thanks from the pain you put him through. If it wasn’t for those freaky people, I would throw you out. Right here, right now, like the scum you are.”

He kept his head low and bowed during her rant. It was a little hard to here that the only reason he had a place to stay was thanks to the threat of Dumbledore. She didn’t stop there however,

“You know, sometimes I intervene if he got a bit out of hand. Step in for your sorry sake. Tonight you went too far, I won’t help you. Not anymore. You’re on your own.”

She walked upstairs leaving him in the hallway. He didn’t want to walk into the living room but his feet took him there regardless.

Dudley sat on the couch eating from a large tub of ice cream and had a pale bandaid underneath his eye. There were hints of a yellowing bruise, Harry had actually had managed to make a bit of a mark. When Dudley saw him he grinned broadly and got up, walking back towards the stairs. As he passed he tapped Harry with the spoon he’d been using to eat, causing Harry to wince.

“Oh just you wait freak. You should never have come back.”

Harry stayed stoically silent. That is what he would he’d do for the entire night he’d decided, stay stoically silent.

“Boy!”

He gave a proper flinch this time. His Uncle entered in from the backyard pulsing with anger. However much Harry had seemed to grow up vanished. In that instant, he was right back to his defenceless six year old self and all that tactics he’d used then, came flooding back. Don’t talk, don’t try to run, don’t make eye contact, think of something happy.

He was rammed against the wall, carefully, he kept his eyes on the ground.

The fury of an untrained bull radiated off of Vernon. “I have had it with you. Those freaks of yours showing up with you on our doorstep once again. Should’ve left you to freeze to death the first time they did it. I hope you know that this is not your home, it never was and it never will be. You have no home, you have nothing.”

A distance voice in his head yelled that he had Hogwarts but that voice was quickly fading away.

“You know you deserve this punishment, you knew it the minute you took that swing at my boy. So you will take this without complaint, and you will never speak of it.”

His uncle shoved his head in the wall and he briefly saw black. Think of something nice. He tried but each happy memory was tinged with sadness. Laughing with Ron and Hermione was only bringing up questions of why they’d yet to talk to him. Riding a broom gave him a horrible feeling that he’d never ride one again.

His uncle grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him outside. When he let go, Harry fell to the ground thanks to his already-injured leg.

A foot connected with his his face and the metallic tang of blood swelled in his mouth. He instinctively curled in on himself, not that it did much good; the next few kicks were just as bad. One connecting with his ribs having him gasp for pain. All the time his instincts kept telling him to stay silent.

He stared lifelessly at the grass blade millimeters away from his eyes. Focusing on it even as a fleck of blood discoloured it. One particularly bad hit to his head had him feel nauseous and sleepy, he knew he was supposed to fight the sleep so he did. Carefully clinging on to consciousness with the pain yelling and the blade of grass all spinning around him.

He wasn’t quite sure what the damage was, only that everything hurt. Everything. He bit his lip and was careful not to let his eyes water to the point they would be teary. He managed to keep them just on the verge.

The yelling took a very different tone he curiously glanced up, careful to avoid his Uncle’s face. Someone was standing only meters away in full black robed glory, a look of absolute frenzy on his face and a dangerous glint in his eye. Those coal eye’s flicked to him and his emotions threatened to fully engulf him, he smiled and realised that the kick to the head must have done more damage than he thought because it was impossible that Snape would be standing here.

But his Uncle’s thrashing had stopped, he had to know whether it was a delusion.

“Sn’pe?” his voice sounded slurred even to him.

Disappointingly he never got his answer, his ability to hold out against that sleepy sick feeling he’d gotten since that kick to his temple, claimed him.

***

Severus had begun the day much later than usual. Owing to the fact he’d slept in; a more than unusual occurrence. His chambers at Hogwarts were one of the few places it was even possible.

He only had one task for the day, find Potter. It was almost beginning to irritate him that the little miscreant had alluded him so far. Especially after their discussions, he’d imagined the boy might show a tad more cheerfulness. Perhaps Potter was having second thoughts, perhaps he was writing to the mutt in a dramatic plea about how terrible professor Snape was. Yes, Potter was going to have to face him sooner rather than later.

He started with the hospital wing, assuming Pomfrey had dragged him up from the depths of wherever the boy lurked.

Pomfrey was in a flurry of action, running to and fro stacking supplies, potions, bandages, medicinal books and more. She jumped when she saw him.

“Oh Severus, you scared me. Listen, I’ve told Dumbledore already and you should know too. I’m leaving today, I was never really supposed to be back here this long. St Mungo’s needs all hands on deck, there’s been more dark curses of late than I’ve seen since, well…. You Know Who first rose to power. I’m being sent somewhere remote, places where healers are sorely needed and are in few supply. I’m sorry but you won’t be able to contact me...”

Her words were as flurried as her packing but Severus still caught all of it.

“Sounds like you’re talents are in high demand. I’m sure others will be very thankful for you’re service.”

She beamed at the compliment

“Thank you.”

Something else caught her eye and she accio’ed it into her outstretched hand.

“Before I forget, could you please give this to Potter when you catch a hold of him? I was going to do it last night. Also ask how his leg and shoulder is, I believe you have enough mediwizard training to know what to look for.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

She took another two minutes putting everything into a bag with an extension charm and finally stepped into the floo.

“Take care of yourself Severus. And do right by that boy, he needs all the friends he can get.”

“Goodbye Poppy.”

The castle immediately felt a little emptier at her absence.

The next place he looked was Gryffindor tower. He loathed the place but that didn’t mean he didn’t know the password. He expected to see a mess of black hair and a scrawny figure curled up on one of the plush couches, but he was wrong. The fire was not lit, the remaining soot looked like it had been there for days.

He walked to the dormitories, every bed was in the fine state of cleanliness that only a house elf could achieve. One bed however, was adorned with a few extra objects. A picture frame, a broom and a trunk with the golden initials H.P . He did not want to snoop, knowing the value of privacy and he quickly left before he succumbed to the urge.

He walked to the Quidditch grounds, the vacant frames of the stand  looming over the grass in the afternoon sun, casting tall shadows. Even from a distance it was easily spotted that there was no Potter flying like a nat in long loops and dives. That map he knew the boy was in possession of would be extremely handy at present.

Walking back into the empty main hall he was forced to do something he’d rather avoid.

“Dobby, the house elf.”

A ‘pop’ like a stopper in a bottle echoed in the vast hall.

“Master Snape sir! Dobby was unware that Master Snape had returned sir! what is Master be needing?”

“You were unaware I was back? meaning you haven’t talked to Potter?”

“Master Potter is here!? I is not being see Master Potter, he has not summoned me….” The elfs ears began to droop slightly.

“Well I need you’re help finding him. Would you be able to do that?”

“Of course sir! that would be my pleasure.”

Great. Now he’d involved the house elf.

At least while Dobby searched he could be rest assured. Potter was probably stirring up trouble somewhere in the mysterious parts of the castle and Dobby would be able to find him most efficiently.

He summoned a Daily Prophet from his rooms to see if there had been any mention of the going on’s in the ministry. As usual Fudge’s smiling happy face was plastered all over the front cover along with a few of his lackey’s. In the background of one of the photo’s Severus was able to spy the blonde hair of one Lucius Malfoy. Fittingly, it was in an article about law enforcement and the dangers prisoners pose to aurors.

He continued reading for perhaps a further two hours before the bottle pop noise was heard again.

This time Dobby appeared distraught and with tears rushing down his face.

“Master Snape! Dobby is so sorry. I cannot find him. Master Potter sir! He is gone. Not in the castle. Dobby searched everywhere! everywhere! he is not in any room in Hogwarts.”

At this point the elf began to cry more intensely.

“Dobby. Are you saying Harry Potter is not at Hogwarts at all?”

“Yes!”

The elf vanished again, apparently out of shame. Severus stood up abrubtly knocking the tea he’d been drinking and the newspaper on the floor.

Where was Potter?

He swiftly walked to the infirmary. Hoping by some miracle the boy would be in there ready to be scolded for sending his house elf with false information.

When he got there it was eerily vacant, with only his footsteps making any noise. Never had he imagined he would lose the boy in Hogwarts of all places. The last time Potter had been here must have been when he was here in the Hospital wing after they’d just returned.

So what happened between then and now?… Fudge’s visit. Now it made sense, yes, Fudge had come after Dumbledore but he’d also come after Harry. That was his intention to keep them seperate and silence them both. Getting him was just an added bonus.

That still left the important question of where was Harry now?

He assumed the Ministry, but was not sure. If Fudge was separating Harry and Dumbledore why take them to the same place?

“Dobby?”

The wide red rimmed eyes appeared before him.

“Yes, Master?”

“I need you to do something to help me find Potter. It will involve breaking some laws, can you do this for me?”

The elf brightened immediately.

“Anything for Master Potter! anything!”

“Good, I need you to break into the Ministry for Magic, specifically the law enforcement division. Now they have plenty of anti-apparation laws, but none that I know of for house elves. I need you to search each cell and tell me if Potter is in any of them. Make sure you’re very thorough and be careful not to get caught.”

Dobby nodded cheerfully and snapped his fingers, vanishing without a trace.

Severus meanwhile had a horrible hunch that he would pursue while he waited. He went to the headmasters office which was vacant just like the rest of the castle. Dumbledore apparently busy with business elsewhere which was fine by Severus.

He found what he was looking for with little searching but struggled to find the surname ‘Potter’ in the unorganised mess of files.

Accio Harry Potter’s file.”

The paper sprang to his hand and opened over the headmasters desk.

Potter’s results across the years were present in high detail plus comments from teachers, his own scathing ones included. Under the ‘incidents’ section were a long list of Potters escapades, longer than perhaps even those of the Weasley twins. A scan over a few more pages and he found what he was looking for, a home address. The first time he went Dumbledore had given him the address but he paid little mind to it and forgot it quickly. Only when it was given to him in small print in the top right hand corner of the parchment did he remember, #4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging.

He was tempted to leave and dispel his fears but he would wait for Dobby, lest the elf came back with any information.

He sat down and after a few agitated minutes, guilt began to naw at him. He had not sought the boy out and had not even noticed he was missing. How long must Potter been gone and believed he had been forgotten? that he, Dumbledore and Pomfrey had not even noticed the absence.

“Looking a little troubled there Snape.” Phineas Nigel’s portrait was its annoying usual self.

“Keep quiet you or perhaps I will find a nice new location for you to hang.”

“We both know you wouldn’t. What’s got you all bent out of shape anyhow? last time you were this much of a wreck was after that werewolf attack. That one who then got himself hired back his a a professor…”

“I’m deadly serious Phineas, one more word and I will begin casting silencing charms.”

The portrait shrugged but offered no other commentary. Dobby finally returned right at Severus’s feet.

“Master Snape, Master Snape! I is failing again, I checked and checked but Dobby is not be finding Master Potter Sir!”

“Are you completely sure?”

“Most definitely” Dobby squeaked.

Severus wasted no time in rushing to the gates of Hogwarts and outside the bounds of the anti-apparation wards.

He arrived in Little Whinging almost immediately, the sleepy town almost completely dead at night with only a dribble of traffic passing passing.

The cookie-cutter houses dotted the street and only the numbers on the letter boxes proved any indication they were different from one another, he’d arrived at #53.

His anger and rage was quickly bubbling to the surface once again as he remembered the conversations he’d had with Harry and the horrible woman he knew when he was younger. By the time he’d reached number four, he held his wand tightly between his forefingers.

A muttered Alohomora sent the door nearly flying off it’s hinges.

He stepped inside the carpeted house and scanned the surroundings for Harry. He heard noise coming from further down the house and followed them.

When he comprehended the scene of the towering brute standing of the teen curled up on the ground, it was enough to trigger a burst of accidental magic that threw Dursley  into a fence like he was no more than a fly.

With teeth bared and wand raised he was ready to descend on the man. He hesitated when he heard a small voice tear through rage. Perhaps the only thing that would’ve been able to stop him in that moment from claiming yet another life,

“Sn’pe?”

And there the boy was, lying like on the grass like an idiot. Blood smeared across his forehead, eyes filled with tears and a broad grin stretching across his face. That was until those green eyes rolled back and his body went limp.

Instantly he was by the boys side with two fingers pressed against a pulse. There were spells that accomplished the same thing but the muggle way always felt more certain. He lifted one of the boys arm behind his neck and dragged the light teen into the house willing to get him back to the safety of Hogwarts. He just needed to get out of the wards first.

A screech stopped him in the halfway and a short boy who was half walrus half boy stared at him with wide eyes. Too stupid to run obviously.

He flicked his wand and the lump was forcefully pushed aside.

Next Petunia and her jutting out jaw blocked his field of view.

“You! I remember you! You’re that creepy little kid who used to play with Lily. What, you think saving him is some kind of penance to her? You’re too late, where were you 15 years ago?”

He stuck the end of his wand underneath her chin and pulled his face close to hers. She went still,

“Ahh so you do know what I can do with this. Perhaps you remember from when we were young, well Petunia, I’ve learnt so many new tricks since then, I dare you to keep going.”  by the end he was practically whispering, yet he was certain she caught all of it.

He looked at her and the fat tub of lard quivering in the hallway still.  He summoned the voice from his youth, were he’d been drawn into the dark fantasies of being a Death Eater. It came out low and velvety.

“I’ll be coming back later.”

What a menacing silhouette he must look as he stood over the threshold of the wards and vanished in a complex twisting of dimensions.

 

Chapter Text

His apparation got them to the gates of Hogwarts,

"Dobby!"

The elf appeared instantaneously. His eyes going round at the sight of the limp Harry Potter

"Master Snape! You must be fixing him! "

"That's the plan. Take us to my quarters please." He actually had to think for a minute before knowing where to go.

"Most certainly, Sir"

The elf took his and Harry's hand and they appeared moments later in the cool silver and black of his living room. He set the boy down and ran a diagnostic. Of all the days Pomfrey had to leave…

when the diagnostic returned he had to push down an uncomfortable feeling forming in his throat. The boy had been severely mistreated, physically beaten, denied food and water for days, forced to work with his injured shoulder and leg. To say nothing of emotional abuse. He had allowed this to happen, hadn't even noticed the boy missing.

Potter had every right to hate him, even without their history.

Once again he set to work healing as best he could, even casting a sleeping charm when Potter showed signs of stirring. He couldn't deal with Potter yet, he... wasn't done rebandaging that injured shoulder. The shoulder he realised wouldn’t be able to be fully healed with magic, given that most of the process had been thoroughly interrupted. It would require at least a week or two healing, quite a few potions and maybe a couple spells. He thanked merlin that it wasn’t permanent.

The head injury worried him most, even now there were still specks of blood scattered across the hair and face of Potter. Slowly moving his wand downwards he erased each and every one and held the wand at the boy’s temple. Long complicated spells poured from his mouth in a hushed voice that was barley audible. The only way of telling for certain whether they worked was when Potter was awake.

He was tempted to go see if Albus was in his office, he was mad at him for a variety of reasons, it was his fault Potter had ever been with those people, it was his fault that Pomfrey was gone and his fault that nobody went to check on Potter for so long.

Although the last two couldn't be completely blamed on the headmaster.

It was uncommon to see Potter in a position as powerless as the one he’d witnessed, the boy fought dementors, dragons and basilisks, but that fear as Potter had bit his lip and slightly trembled … he'd seen Potter so distressed a few times. It was the similar to the look Potter had when he first returned from the maze, but back then it had dissolved into grief quickly.

He had Dobby make a quick dinner and he settled into a seat beside the couch containing Potter. He needed to assess the boys condition once awake, and hopefully get some food into him.

It was 10am when there was some movement. The teenager groggily rubbed his eyes and look at him. When he kept staring Severus raised an eyebrow, that was enough to break Potter's concentration.

He spoke even slower and clearer than he normally did. “Can you hear me?”

“Yes?”

“Thats a good start.”

"Professor? Where am I? What.. happened?" Potter’s head flicked left and right in as he only half looked at him.

"From your perspective or mine?"

"Ahhhh, yours?"

Severus quickly filled the boy in on his time at the ministry, leaving out a couple of things. Like the threats to Azkaban.

"This is making more sense I….. I remember Fudge."

"So he was the one who brought you to Privet Drive?"

"Yeah, he gave me this warning speech about how I shouldn't get too cosy with Dumbledore and everything I said last year was a big fat lie."

"Fudge is terrified."

"Yeah well… who isn't?"

He let that go for the moment and retreated to the kitchen. Potter needed to eat. He slipped a nutrition potion into the cereal and brought it back. Annoyingly the boy didn't touch it,

"Eat."

"Aren't you having anything?"

"No."

"I uhh, I shouldn't."

"Why not?"

The boy was clearly starving.

"I don't know! Just give me some bread or something"

"Potter, whatever rules have been drilled through that thick skull of yours, forget them. Here in my rooms, you eat."

"Fine.." he grumbled an half heartedly took a spoon of Corn flakes.

He kept his intimidating gaze on Potter and the bowl until he was satisfied. Only then did he vanish it with a wave of a hand.

"Sir?"

"Yes?"

"Was all that true? You know about you being questioned at the ministry and stuff?"

"Of course"

He understood where this was going immediately.

"Well, I was thinking it may just be an elaborate way of saying you, Pomfrey and Dumbledore forget me. And I'm okay if that's the truth too, I'd rather know, okay? just give me the truth."

"It isn't, however I have no proof so it is up to you to take me on my word."

Potter frowned and nodded, truth was a tricky thing.

He was exactly the wrong person for this but it needed to happen quickly regardless.

"Was there something you wish to say about what happened in Privet drive?" If only the boy would stop averting his eyes and focus for a minute.

"No.. just thanks for showing up when you did"

Gratitude? Oh what a strange wizard Harry Potter was.

He shifted and replied, “You should never have been in their care regardless. I, knowing what I knew, should never have let you return."

Potter didn't speak and kept his head bowed so low Severus couldn't see his expression.

He disliked this interaction, it was a Potter too submissive and sad. A year ago it's exactly what he would've wanted.

"You may visit the Quidditch pitch if you wish."

"Really?“

"I believe your broom is still in the unsightly Gryffindor common room."

"Hey better than the dark mangy Slytherin common room."

"And when exactly have you been visiting the Slytherin dorms?“

He flashed a quick guilty smile, “Uh part of the Polyjuice story I’m never telling you.”

“We’ll see…. and I was serious before. Gryffindor’s seeker may have a chance to practice before anyone else.”

The smile faded quickly, “Yeah thanks.. maybe I just… I just don’t know.”

Time, Potter just needed time and persistence.

 

***

Harry in spit of being in Hogwarts, did not feel happy. Whatever happy was. He wasn’t sure how much of the daze he was experiencing was physical and how much was mental. Despite spending weeks with him, Snape seemed almost more intimidating than ever and he was uncertain about every interactions with the man.  After all the time he spent with Snape had been in its own context. Trapped in a frame of time that was now over.

By dinner, Snape had made him eat and continue sleeping on the plush couch he’d woken up on. Dobby had made a few appearances, asking all sorts of questions but eventually he got tired of the elf and asked in the politest way he could, for Dobby to leave. Weirdly, Dobby had made eye contact with Snape, nodded slightly and then vanished. When they had become such friends was a mystery to Harry.

He had no idea who knew he was here, he was partially attempting to avoid Dumbledore so he didn’t breach the topic.

Snape had explained that it may take a week or two for his shoulder to properly recover. He didn’t really mind that, it didn’t seem that big of a problem in the larger scheme.

Two days later and a few more stifled conversations with Snape, the floo turned green and a person came rushing out. A mass of scraggly hair and sharp jaw that could only be Sirius.

He looked like his old wanted posters from years ago as he held his wand to Snape and wildly searched the room.

Snape was not slow to react matching the thick brown wood with his own dark, sleek wand.

“Give me my godson Snivellus!”

“I cannot stand mangy dogs inside me quarters Black, you have exactly five seconds to rid my home of your presence.”

Harry stared dumbstruck, and got up, right as Sirius made eye contact with him.

“I’m not going anywhere without Harry! and if you don’t do what I say I swear to god Snivellus - ”

“Enough! both of you. You’re on the same side remember?.”

Sirius softened a little but still kept shooting glares at Snape. “Yeah I’m not so sure about that..”

Then Sirius’s face contorted once more into full blown rage and stuck his wand dead centre at Snape’s chest.

“What happened to Harry’s arm why is it bandaged! Why is their a bruise on his face? and why is their blood all over his clothes. What the hell did you do to him!”

“Nothing! he did nothing Sirius. Please can we just put the wands down.”

Begrudgingly both lowered their arms. Harry already felt exhausted and used it as a chance to sit down again.

Sirius was quick to bring the discussion back to his point.

“Now will someone explain why the hell my godson is in Snivellus’s quarters?”

Harry didn’t exactly have an answer so Snape stepped in.

“There was an attack on the Dursley household. Potter needed to be brought here in order to secure his safety, unless you wanted the boy to be put in danger purposely? ”

It was a mystery why Snape lied, Sirius was after all a fully fledged order member.

“Of course not. But why wasn’t I told? and why wasn’t he taken to Grimmauld place instead?”

“Given that the house had been compromised it was possible any Order safe houses were no longer protected. Why the headmaster neglected to pass any of this information onto you is a matter you’ll have to take up with him.”

Snape seemed slightly amused and Harry had to admit he was impressed by Snape’s ability to both give a plausible excuse and offend Sirius in the same sentence.

Sirius indeed looked annoyed. “Fine I wasn’t included in any of this for unknown reasons, but now I am. And Harry is coming with me.”

Snape arched an eye brow “Are you sure thats wise?”

“I don’t care what you think is wise. He’s coming home with me now.”

“Potter has experienced a large ordeal and has not fully recovered healing from it  –”

“Cut the crap Snape. Why don’t we ask Harry what he wants.”

Harry, who truth be told was disliking the intense nature of the argument, was now fully caught off guard. Both Snape and Sirius were waiting for his answer. Snape with his usual mask of indifference and Sirius giving him a broad shining smile.

He hated being put in this situation and his hesitation was obviously confusing Sirius.

“What, did you poison him or something Snivellus? I would think thats very your style.”

“Nobody poisoned me.” He frustratingly exclaimed.

“Harry I’m sorry but from the looks of things you seem a little out of it. Just trust me okay?”

And he wanted to trust Sirius, oh he wanted to trust him. So he let himself be passive. He was sick of constantly trying to fight for his position and sick of losing. The fight leaving him must have been visible as Snape gave him a strange look.

Sirius grew increasingly impatient. “Look, I don’t know why theres even an argument here. Harry belongs with me, not with his greasy potions professor who has taken every opportunity to make his life a living hell. We’re going. Now. ”

He summoned Harry’s trunk, Hedwig’s cage and the much smaller version of the Firebolt. All of which Harry had barely even known were in the room.

Sirius grabbed Harry’s arm in a rather tight hold and walked towards the fireplace. Snape continued to watch Harry even while he talked to Sirius.

“Do you really think it wise to take him to an Order location, and away from Hogwarts?”

“Like I said. I could give rat’s arse about what you think is wise Snivellus.”

Snape managed to get one last sentence in. “Your precious godson might require a few more potions before he is to back to his shining self. Try not to let that slip you imbecilic brain.”

Sirius threw a sneer that looked more like a growl before he threw the floo powder in and dragged both himself and Harry as well as Harry’s things, away from Snape’s quarters.

***

When Harry arrived at Grimmauld place it was surprisingly a hub of activity. The dusty old house was currently inhabited by many, including some familiar faces, or more appropriately, some familiar red hair.

“Harry!” Mrs Weasley exclaimed as she caught sight of him during her dusting. She enveloped him in a bear crushing hug and he tried to resist the urge to step backwards.

“ ‘ullo Mrs Weasley.”

The womens attention however moved to Sirius who was sending all of Harry’s things whizzing upstairs somewhere.

“What on earth are you thinking Sirius? Bringing him here?”

“He was with Snape of all people! any longer and the greasy bastard would’ve probably poisoned him or somethin’ .”

Harry tried to dispel the tension between the two, “What exactly is ‘here’ anyway?”

He had a faint idea from his conversation with Snape but wanted to know more.

Sirius led him further in too a living room that looked like every couch and cushion had taken a pummelling and been left to sit for 50 years. It was rather suffocating.

“This was one of the Black family residences. I spent a fair bit of my youth here before I met your dad, now that most of the Black family is deceased or … worse, I inherited the house. I didn’t exactly need it but its hidden location and old warding made it a perfect candidate for an Order safe house.”

He couldn’t help but let a bit of bitterness leak in as he wondered why he wasn’t allowed to stay here then if it was so safe. He tried to vanish the thought and kept his attention in Sirius.

“Harry.. I don’t really understand how you ended up with the greasy dungeon bat, – ” He cringed at the name, “– what happened?”

He was stuck for a moment. He didn’t want to tell Sirius everything knowing that many parts of it would be difficult to explain, including his encounter with… Thompson, and being back at #4 so he went with a lie for now.

“Like Professor Snape said, there was an attack and Dumbledore sent Snape to get me since he was close and available.”

“An attack? What kind of attack? Is that where your injuries are from?”

“Uh, yeah. Snape sorta arrived just in time before they could grab me.” Just in time indeed.

Well, are the Dursley’s okay?”

He tried not to laugh at the question.

“Yeah they’re fine, Snape came back for them and apparated them somewhere safe.”

Sirius nodded an was about  to say something when, Hermione’s voice sounded behind him.

“Harry!” just like Mrs Weasley she too hugged him, although a little lighter.

Ron was by her side and smiled and tipped his head. “Hiya Harry.”

He was stung even Hermione was here, truly everyone but him huh?

He was bombarded with a few more questions from Sirius, Ron, Mrs Weasley and Hermione and he tried to answer as best he could but to say it was taxing was an understatement.

By the time Ron had asked how much of an evil git Snape had been with Sirius listening in, he’d had enough.

“I’m sorry but can we cut this short? I’m just really tired.”

Mrs Weasley melted instantly, “Of course. There’s a room upstairs that’s empty, third door on your right.”

Grateful for his chance to escape, he moved upstairs quickly. He could still hear some of the conversation as he left.

“What’s his problem?”

“Ron! You can’t expect him to be over the moon, he was just attacked by Death Eaters for Pete’s sake.”

“Who’s Pete?”

He finished going up the stairs and left his bickering friends behind him. Inside his room he let out a sigh. Sometimes being alone was a big relief, he loved his friends and Sirius of course but their questions were daunting. He was glad to see all his possessions neatly sitting in the corner of the room.

He rolled his shoulder experimentally and – holy merlin, collapsed onto the bed in pain and seeing blurred vision. He caught his breath back and sat up. The dull ache had not been forgotten but he didn’t think it was quite that bad. Cautiously he inspected his other injuries in a tall mirror next to the wardrobe.

The bruise on his forehead from Dudleys punch and a darker one on his temple gifted by his Uncle were none too flattering. They would fade – thankfully – hopefully before school started. There was also a large scab running from above his ankle to a bit below his knee, it only really hurt when he bent his leg so that was a plus. Finally he took of his shirt to inspect his shoulder which was till partially bandaged. He didn’t think he should take off the bandage so he kept it wrapped. Black bruising peeked over the cream white and the middle of the bandage was tinged a reddy brown. He was glad Snape had said he has disinfected it, the last thing he wanted to worry about was becoming diseased.

He opened his trunk and happily found one of the new sets of pyjama’s he had bought two weeks ago in Diagon Alley. It was much nicer than sleeping in one of Dudley’s oversized shirts.

He felt a bit bad that he hadn’t exactly defended Snape when Sirius had come but the words ‘he’s actually been a really cool dude and saved my life continually’ weren’t about to flow naturally out of his mouth. Not that Sirius would’ve even believed him either, poisoned! he honestly thought Harry had been poisoned against him. Like Harry was incapable of making his own sound decisions and needed someone to step in and take control. It was insulting.

He went to sleep uncomfortably.

***

The next few days had passed without much changing. Except that everyone walked around him like they weren’t sure if he’d self destruct or not.

In all fairness he had gotten rather angry ay one point when Ron and Hermione had told him they’d been there for almost all of Summer. How exactly was he meant to feel? weeks at the Dursley’s, hearing almost nothing from anyone and finding out they’re all here having the time of their lives?

Yeah he’d shouted a little and from then on they had been careful mention the time they’d spent without him. Sometimes he’d play a game of exploding snap with Ron or Sirius would tell him a story about his Dad that mad him laugh and feel wistfully sad at the same time but he began to keep to himself a bit more.

Every now and then he thought of Thompson, having nightmares about what would’ve happened if his accidental magic didn’t flare up when it did… or a vision of himself mercilessly killing the man in cold blood. Two men he’d killed, Quirrel and Thompson. Three if he counted Cedric which he did. Three people dead was not something he could reconcile with his conscious and it showed. In his nightmares his eyes turned red and his friends watched in horror as he first killed Quirrel, Thompson and Cedric each in different ways. It would leave him with a disconcerted feeling that would linger for the rest of the day.

Other times he though of his very much alive Uncle who was undoubtedly still seething with rage aimed at him. He would feel phantom pain in his back if he pondered on his memories just a bit to long, or he would wince at loud noises when trapped in his thoughts. And still found himself avoiding eye contact and mouthing the word Sir at the end of his sentences.

He wanted to tell Sirius everything, badly. But he was just to unsure about the mans reaction. What if Sirius did something rash and went after his Uncle and got caught by the ministry? Harry couldn’t be responsible for Sirius going back to Azkaban. What would be even worse, Harry thought guiltily, would be if Sirius partially blamed Harry for not fighting back. For not doing what James Potter would have done.  He didn’t know if could take that.

He decided he would tell Dumbledore about some of his fears and see whatever wise words the man could give him.

Unfortunately Dumbledore didn’t turn up for a while. Sirius was also still looking to talk to the Headmaster about why he hadn’t been included in the so called attack on #4 Privet Drive. So when Dumbledore finally made an appearance, Harry wasn’t sure if he was happy or worried.

“Good afternoon everyone. I thank you once again Sirius, for the use of your home.”

Sirius shrugged and waited somewhat impatiently as Dumbledore sat down in the living room and Mrs Weasley brought out a few biscuits. Harry stood in the corner, visible but not quite part of the conversation.

“Why exactly was Harry taken to Snape’s after the attack in Surrey? Dumbledore you know if there’s anywhere he should go; its here.”

To his credit Dumbledore didn’t even react to the lie about an ‘attack in Surrey’.

“I’m afraid we had such little time that the fastest thing I could think of was to bring Harry to Hogwarts. Severus was the only teacher on school grounds and I had a few urgent matters, so I trusted Harry’s care to an Order member. Something I would do time and time again.”

Harry was beginning to understand Dumbledore’s trust in Snape. He himself seemed to have developed a grudging respect strangely enough. It seemed with Snape, his actions not his words carried weight.

“Fine, but why not bring him here after? You yourself told me you had him at Hogwarts the other night, why not bring him before.”

“Because as far as I could see, he was completely safe in Severus’s care. Was I to take him anywhere, it would be back to his home in Surrey after the threat had been taken care of.”

Harry went rigid as he listened, he hoped like hell that Dumbledore wasn’t actually planning on taking him back there. He couldn’t, Sirius wouldn’t let it happen right? and Snape…. Snape had said he was never going back and when Snape said something, it almost always happened.

His fears were mostly relived by Dumbledore’s next sentence. “However, for the time being, I see no reason why he shouldn’t stay here.”

“Damn right  he’s staying here.” Sirius replied. The words didn’t exactly give him the same amount of joy they did when he’d heard them two years ago after finding out he had a godfather.

Mrs Weasley was just bringing out a few small cakes when Dumbledore waved her away, “Molly there is little need. As usual you have generosity in bounds, but I’m afraid I must go. It seems much of my time these days are spent arguing with the ministry. ”

“Oh, what a shame Headmaster. Your fully welcome to return any time and we’ll keep that cakes ready. ” She cheerfully replied.

“I cannot thank you enough. Was that all you wished to ask Sirius?”

“For now I suppose.”

Albus Dumbledore made his way out of the room and Harry gave chase.

“Professor! Professor!”

He chased the man down and Dumbledore turned only slightly towards him.

“Yes Harry?”

He found himself seemingly nervous now, “Well there are a few things I wanted to talk to you about… A few things I need to ask your advice on –”

“Harry, as you know my door is open, however right at this very moment I do in fact need to tend to a few pressing matters. You should really tell Sirius about some of theses concerns, I’m sure he’d be more than happy to help. ”

“Well its just I’d really like to talk to you.”

“Perhaps another time, I will see you very soon once school begins after all.”

He deflated as Dumbledore talked, I mean, the man barely even looked at him. Rather done he nodded his head, “Okay.”

Dumbledore went to leave but hesitated. “And Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“I think you should try to limit lying to your friends and Sirius. They undoubtedly want to help you.”

It seemed like terrible advice but he nodded despite Dumbledore not really being able to see him. He had only followed Snape’s lie about why his was at Hogwarts. He didn’t even know if he was allowed to mention the Vincere stone, and, the only person who could tell him if he could was walking away!

The headmaster left, his strangely patterned maroon robes and wispy white beard disappearing though the dark doorway of Grimmauld Place. To Harry the visit had felt absolutely pointless, unless it was purposely meant to make him angry.  He had succeeded at that.

“Harry?”

Sirius had spotted him from the kitchen.

“Thinking of going anywhere?” Sirius said it jokingly but it still had a serious note of disapproval.

“No, I was just trying to talk to Dumbledore.”

“Trying?”

Harry walked back to the kitchen.

“Well he won’t ever hold more than a two minute conversation.”

Sirius laughed a little. “Well he’s like that, trying to have a straight conversation with him is like pulling nifflers from gold.”

“Yeah but…”

“What did you want to tell him anyway? maybe I could help. ”

Alright what the hell, maybe he’d try a little.

“I’ve just had a ton on my mind, I mean with the ministry telling everyone I’m lying.. and that night in the graveyard… then having to go back to my aunt and uncles ” I also killed a man but you don’t need to know about that.

Harry, I know its been tough for you lately but remember the Order is doing everything in their power to help you and Dumbledore. Everybody get’s stressed or sad sometimes, maybe you just need an activity or two to keep your mind off of things. ”

He wasn’t very sure an ‘activity’ was what he needed but he nodded anyway.

Sirius smiled, “Great then its settled. We’re going to catch all the Doxy’s in this place.”

“Doxy’s?”

“Sometimes I forget you didn’t grow up in a wizarding household. They’re little fairy things but covered in dark hair and four arms and four legs. The curtains here are infested with them.”

“They sound terrible.”

“They are, but we’re getting rid of them. First one to collect ten wins, and to make it fair, I won’t use magic either. ”

“Okay” he shrugged.

They both went to different rooms to begin searching.  Harry found one after about fifteen minutes but catching it was proving tricky. It was a slippery little thing.

After a good hour, he’d captured six and was keeping them in a grimy jar he’d found under the sink. If he was honest, it felt a bit like a chore and did nothing to stop his thoughts drifting to flashbacks but Sirius had been happy afterwards. Given the man was confined to this place, that was a definite bonus.

He was beginning to feel a little faint and nearly fell just as he managed to grab onto the stairs bannister. He reluctantly admitted perhaps he should eat a little more and wandered to the dining room for dinner

 

Chapter Text

Severus slowly finished stirring the cauldron of Pepper Up potion and placed the stirrer on the table. It was a bad habit considering how many potions were able to melt through wood but it was convenient.

Dumbledore had recently visited, telling him the Vincere stone was now safely enclosed inside the Headmaster’s office. The man had also asked how his interaction with Sirius Black had gone; he had needed to put a dampener on his anger when that question came out. How had he think it'd gone? He already been mad at the Headmaster for even putting him in that position to begin with.

Dumbledore was the only one who knew where Potter had been, thanks to a quick conversation he had through the floo where the headmaster had spotted the boy. He had apparently seen fit to dump that information on Black.

Well the matter was done now, he had cleaned his hands of all of it. Potter wouldn’t go back to his relatives, Black would ensure that, and the boy would have his fan club back again. Whatever emotional baggage Potter had, that house would clear it all away.

He would continue, as always, being the one fixing everything in the background. Subtly changing things so that this whole train wouldn’t go off the rails.

For now, that simply meant concocting a few potions for Madam Pomfrey before school started. Doubtless they’d be those who manage to land themselves in the infirmary on day one. Longbottom came to mind.

That night, he felt the wards on his house at Spinner’s End being strummed lightly.

Immediately he went through the floo in his chamber and arrived to the doorbell ringing. Taking a second to calm his expression he opened the door.

“Lucius.”

The tall blonde man flicked his head left and right before taking an uninvited step in.

“It is good to see you a free man Severus.”

“I suppose it is to you I owe that pleasure”

Dust was already coming off the walls simply from the small movements him and Lucius made. It fluttered onto their clothes like dirty snow.

“Why do you live here? It smells of must and mold.”

“Unlike you, I refuse to confine myself to one location. It is not preferable to be so easily found. ”

He knew he shouldn’t admit to having more than one house but a small sliver of pride couldn’t help but protest Lucius’s notion that he lived here.

“You’ve always been a touch too practical haven’t you? I could send a house-elf you know, just to keep the place up to scratch while you’re away.”

And have a mini Lucius spy here?

“Thanks but I do prefer to be alone. House-elfs tend to irritate me.”

Lucius shrugged, “Suit yourself.”

Severus didn’t move and simply watched as Lucius picked up and toyed with a couple possessions. Including, a Dark Arts book, a Quill with enchanted orange ink and an emerald ring.

“Is there a reason I owe to the pleasure of your visit?”

“Yes as a matter of fact there is.”

Of course Lucius didn’t elaborate causing him to probe,

“And that is…?”

“Well, it was quite the fiasco at the ministry after they’d found you gone. An Avada curse after all Severus, I’d expect you of all people to be a little more subtle. I mean why not use that curse you yourself invented; Sectump- Sectil- Sect something.”

“Yes…. well, I was quite pressed. It was what they call, a do or die situation.”

“Anyway it took quite a lot of smoothing over. Obliviating one Ms Ashton, an investigator who you met, burning a couple ministry records and a bribe or two. ”

“Well I would never doubt your ability to persuade the ministry Lucius. ”

“And I would never doubt your ability to manipulate the shadows. That is why I must call in a favour.”

He stilled, even Lucius had put down all the trinkets. He stared Severus dead in the eye.

“I need you to help find  some particular students in Slytherin. Those who have the intelligence and skill to join our cause. The Dark Lord will always have his faithful servants such as you and I, but he needs fresh blood. We need the new generation to take up this fight and herald our world into a new age.”

This would be tricky, he would not put his own students at risk but he would need to find a way to appease Lucius.

“Of course, I am happy to be of service.”

Lucius smiled smoothly and clapped his hands together. “Excellent, once you have candidates, give me their names and invite them to experience the pleasure of Malfoy Manner. Perhaps encourage Draco to befriend them – if he hasn’t already done so.”

“Consider it done.”

“It was good to see you Severus.”

He didn’t miss the fact that Lucius had pocketed the ring.

“You too, I hope to meet again very soon.”

“As do I, as do I.”

The sharp features cheekbones and pointed chin vanished from his doorstep and he let himself breath a little more.

Let Lucius have the ring, it was cursed to attract bugs anyway.

***

It was a very busy house for one that had been so recently abandoned. That was part one of the irony.

Fred and George had popped, literally, into his room a couple of times now. He had got them to stop doing it by trading the jar of Doxy’s he’d collected. Apparently, the twins had wanted to try using them for their newest creations. Whatever that entailed he didn’t particularly want to know.

After that he’d been mostly left to his own devices. He often attempted to join in with Ron, Hermione and sometimes Ginny, but conversations had a way of stopping around him. He’d wandered around the house for a little bit instead like an aimless ghost wearing in the carpet.

Hermione managed to ambush him in one of these wanderings.

“Harry, you’ve got to tell me what’s going inside that head of yours.”

He nearly laughed, of course she’d be onto a problem.

“Well, rather a lot.” He was gripped by an urge to spill a little more. “If I tell you something can you promise not to tell anyone else? not even Ron?”

She nodded earnestly and he found he could trust her.

“This summer, I wasn’t with my relatives the whole time..”

She hid her surprise well, “Who were you with?”

“Uhhhh….. Professor Snape?”

This time she slipped a little more. “Professor Snape? Why?”

“Dumbledore needed him to get this… stone. Only problem was you needed Parstletoungue, thats where I came in.”

“Harry! You hid this from me for how long?! ”

He quickly came up with a defence. “Its not entirely my fault! I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell anyone or not, Dumbledore and Snape seemed to want to keep it hush hush. ”

“Well if they didn’t want you saying anything…” Of course Hermione would side with the teachers.

“That brings me to my next question. How much do you trust Snape?”

“Harry” she sighed, “We’ve been here before, Dumbledore trusts him, therefore you should too –”

“No, thats the thing. I think….I think I do now. Don’t get me wrong; he can be a real git, but he has been, well, continually saving my life now. Even telling me things that I needed to know about Voldemort and the like.”

“Wow, sounds like this trip really changed your opinion of him.”

“It did, even before then…. I think the Snape at Hogwarts in front of a room full of wannabe Death Eaters is different from the normal Snape. ”

She rolled her eyes at him, “You think?”

“Fine fine. You mighta been right. Thing is, some other not so great stuff happened on that trip too.” He couldn’t quite get the words out to say what but that was all Hermione seemed to need.

She nodded slowly. “Its still bugging you, isn’t it? I know you haven’t been sleeping well, I can see it. You barely talk and you look like you get lost in your own thoughts more and more these days.”

“Well thats quite a well rounded assessment, ever considered becoming a healer?”

She completely ignored his comment, urging him to be serious.

He ran a hand through his hair, “Everything’s bugging me. The graveyard, that trip, my Aunt and Uncle. Hell how about the fact theres now a homicidal manic in a position to kill others thanks to me?”

Her face softened with sympathy. “You know that’s not…”

“My fault? it kinda is. Other things that I can’t even tell you happened too…. I just, I feel like I’m going crazy.”

“Have you talked to Sirius? maybe he can help.”

He angrily let out a huff of air. “I tried talking yesterday and he suggested I take a walk. I think I just need time.”

She hesitantly nodded. “Maybe, maybe you need something more too.”

“Such as?”

She shook her head. “I don’t really know. Remember you can always talk to Ron and I though, you know that right?”

“Yeah yeah.”

“Is your arm okay?”

The question actually threw him for a few seconds. He hadn’t even known Hermione knew about that. Much less would ask about it.

He glimpsed at the small part of bandage exposed by his top; it looked good enough. A little bit of bleeding but nothing else.

“Yeah I think its fine. I’ll be up to a high five soon.”

She laughed a little. “Well tell me when you are. I’ll be ready to indulge.”

Harry distantly heard Ron calling Hermione’s name. She glanced at him and he nodded. She gave him one last quick smile before disappearing.

He spent the rest of the afternoon reading about himself in the Daily Prophet. Regretting it later given how useless and degrading the information had been.

Everything seemed a little slower, a little quieter at dinner. Hermione kept trying to catch his eye, even Ron kicked him under the table a few times to no avail. He just felt a bit too tired to involve himself in anything.

He went to bed early sick of hearing the voices nearby underwater; muffled and meaningless.

At lunch the next day Sirius confronted him.

“Harry, you doing okay?”

He was well aware that the kitchen was particularly big and others could probably hear this conversation easily.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Sirius obviously wasn’t convinced. “Its just… you haven’t exactly been engaged the past couple of days.”

“What do you mean?” he knew exactly what the man meant but he was stalling.

“Well, you’ve been a bit mopey…. kinda a little sad. Draining, if I’m really honest.”

Ouch, “Maybe a little, but thats not really a big problem right?”

“Yeah not a big one. Maybe you just need to get over whatever it is thats been eating you. Whenever your dad was upset he used to say ‘Padfoot, this sucks but never forget, we’re the lucky ones. We have everything we ever need right here.’  ”

He nodded perhaps a little too enthusiastically. “I know, and your right. We are… I am lucky. Lucky to be with you and Hermione, Ron and everyone else in this house. I’ll keep it in mind… and maybe I’ll let go of, you know, the extra junk.”

Sirius grinned and returned to his cocky self, obviously  feeling a little uncomfortable playing  mind healer. “Great. Gotta say I could use some cheer around here being you know, so … trapped. ”

“I know, I can’t imagine how tough that is.”

“Not’so bad when you’ve got good company.”

He laughed and walked away.

His cheeks were burning by the time he got to his room. So essentially he’d been bumming everyone out. Perhaps thats why Fred and George kept apparating around him; they’s been encouraged by the rest of the house.

He needed to get over himself and fast. So what if Cedric had died, people have loved ones die all the time and they do just fine. Thompson hadn’t actually done that much besides well, drugging him and severely injuring him. But that was nothing compared to those subjected to torture from Death Eaters.  He himself had seen the fallout of that first hand. His Aunt and Uncle? well he was far from special in that regard.

Going to the makeshift library covered in fine layers of grime, he picked up a book on potions. It didn’t have anything along the lines of what he was looking for so he grabbed a new one.This time with a dark blue embroidered cover, but again, useless. This cycle repeated itself a few times before he finally reached something he found interest in.

‘Wistful Dulcis’ or simply just called ‘Dulcis’ for short.

It would apparently make him joyful, happier. Smiling, talking and laughing more. He knew it wasn’t exactly a permanent solution but that was fine. He just needed something to make everyone think he’d kicked himself out of his daze, then he could quietly work on himself in peace. It wouldn’t even be long until Hogwarts started again, at the very least he would just wait it out until then. He couldn’t bare making Sirius any more miserable than he already was, to have lived in Azkaban for 12 years only to be trapped in his childhood home…. It was more than unfair.

Reading through the recipe he was confident everything he needed could be found in the Black household. They had kept a very well stocked pantry after all. It would be hiding his brewing that may prove difficult;  smells, fumes and spills always had a way of making themselves known.

It was a plan of action though, and that was more than he’d had for days.

***

He finished scrubbing the inside of the scratched black cauldron and placed it upside-down to dry. Finding muggle supplies had actually been the hardest part of all this. He’d asked Remus if they could go on a small outing, citing that he needed to get out, and the man had agreed. There was a little bit of suspicion when he’d grabbed a few cloths and detergent but he told Remus that he desperately wanted to clean his room of the grime. The manual way.

Now he just hoped Remus wouldn’t come in and see that he’d yet to actually clean any of the room. Everything else had practically gone without a hitch… well, he had a little trouble getting the potion to cooperate but he’d always struggled in that field.

His end product now sat in a vial resting on the nightstand. Half of it was all he needed; just one night of frequent jokes, smiles and laughter. Harry promised himself that he would make Sirius just a little happier even if it was only for one night.

Nobody had really questioned his confinement to his room, that was pretty normal for him. Two nights later, when Harry came out, they were most pleasantly surprised.

***

Severus threw one of his vials at the wall, watching as it smashed and the green liquid splayed out over the black marble. He didn’t even bother with a cleaning spell before grabbing another vial and doing much the same thing.

He brushed away the sweat that had accumulated on his forehead and heaved in a few gulps of cooler air. Finally, he lazily waved his wand at the wall and the glass began knitting itself back together.

Mad at himself, Dumbledore and every other person he’d ever had the misfortune of encountering in his life time.

He was yet to think of a solution to Lucius’s proposal, of course, and Dumbledore had almost out right ignored him the past few days. When he’d dropped by the Hospital wing to drop off his potions he’d found all the stocks had been full already.

Rendering his work, completely pointless. Hence why the wall dripped with a Calming draught (ironically) and a Blood Replenishing potion. He never quite got the hang of controlling a temper.

He was feeling ready to almost chuck another one when a knock at his door stopped him.

Opening it he was greeted by the stern face and tall navy hat of Minerva Mcgonagall. He felt hers was a name that should often be said in full, even if it was just in his head.

He was almost glad to see her, had it been the headmaster he might’ve thrown one of his vials at those half moon glasses.

“Minerva. What is it you want?”

“Order meeting; today, preferably now. Number 12 as usual.”

“Really? Now? why do we even have ‘new’ meetings when there is no ‘new’ information?”

She was already looking entirely out of patience with this conversation. “I don’t know Severus and since I didn’t call the meeting, I doubt I’ll ever be able to answer that.”

She turned away and left. Severus actually enjoyed the no-nonsense exterior she had presented. Too often he got sick of small talk or pretence.

Bracing himself he slipped back into his quarters and towards the fireplace. The unfortunate connection Dumbledore had made between Order floo systems saved time, however it also meant Sirius Black could come traipsing in whenever he pleased…. if it was up to him… well..

When he arrived nobody noticed his presence. Not that he expected them too, or wanted them too, in fact it was a very good habit for a spy.

He heard a knock at the door and went towards it. A quick spell revealed it to be Minerva and he began undoing a few of the locking charms. Why she hadn’t also used the floo was beyond him.

Apparently the mutt had also heard the knock and came thundering down the door way.

“Letting in some Death Eater friends Snivellus?”

He let his full annoyance show as he glared and rolled back his shoulders.

“Hardly call Order members Death Eaters but if you would prefer to lock a Hogwarts professor out… be my guest.”

He stepped aside dramatically to allow Black full access to the door. Of course the man uttered the same spell he had to check her identity and opened the door.

He shot Severus a wary look, “How the hell did you get in here anyway?”

He stepped closer happily invading the mutt’s personal space. “What, you don’t enjoy having others entering your home unannounced and doing as they please?”

There was a sweet satisfaction in seeing Sirius Black completely fail to come up with a response.

The man was saved by Minerva who pushed past them both to main dining room where almost all meetings were conducted.

“You’re on the same side of this war. Act like it.”

He let Black go first, there was no way he was having that man behind him out of eyesight. Apparently Black felt the same considering he did a quick shield charm around himself. Severus felt the urge to laugh in the mutts face; if he wanted to curse Black, a flimsy shield charm like that wouldn’t stop him. Not much would.

He glimpsed into the sitting room as they walked past and saw a familiar lanky teenager throwing his head back in laughter. Granger and Weasley apparently hanging onto his every word.

Of course he had been right, these people were so enamoured by Potter that they’d reverse any harm done to the boy in a matter of days. He would be back to his bratty and arrogant Hogwarts self that Severus knew so well.

Stepping into the dining room he tried to chase away any thoughts of Potter. Even the default ones he had about the damaged shoulder and leg. He had actually been waiting for Black to request more potions for the boy and enjoy the satisfaction of having the mutt beholden too him. Of course Black hadn’t trusted him not to poison wonder boy, probably had sent one of the many pets here to go get some from the apothecary in Diagon Alley. He inwardly snorted, as if he would poison Potter after so long spent trying to save him.

The meeting was more than slow. Severus didn’t speak for the entire duration except when Dumbledore had asked him if he had anything to report. A low-toned ‘No’ was Dumbldore getting of lightly in his opinion. The Headmaster had not been forgotten in his frustrations.

Apparently the whole meeting had been called due to the rumour that the Dark Lord was out to get something in the Department of Mysteries. He, and a few others, knew exactly what that was and the thought of it had made him feel almost ill. That stupid Prophecy made by that old bat Trelawney had devastated his life. Yes he had taken an axe to it well before that, but the day that Prophecy was delivered to a homicidal psychopath, he had crossed a line he could never return from.

To here the group talking about it so moronically made him clench his teeth.

By the time Mad-Eye had stopped throwing him glances and asked Dumbledore for the millionth time ‘Why is the Death Eater here?’ he resigned himself to not listening in at all. If, on the off chance, anything remotely interesting happened, Minerva would probably fill him in.

He knew better than most, important conversations and true decisions didn’t happen by democratic murmuring. They happened in locked rooms and on the whim of choices made by those conveniently in the situation. Besides, when Dumbledore was your friendly dictator, there were no choices to be made anyhow.

When the slog of a meeting was over he patiently waited on the corner of table. As usual he would watch everybody else leave first. They would shake hands, tip there hats to one another and maybe glance suspiciously in his direction.

Dumbledore walked over to him and he sent the man a warning look that stopped senior students in their tracks.

“Severus I have am sorry that I- ”

“Don’t. I don’t need to be one of the people lining up for a minute of your attention. I am not one of the clueless wizards here supporting the cause. You will tell me anything and everything I need to know and I’ll offer the same courtesy to you.”

Dumbledore gave him a sad smile, “Okay. Whenever you want more than a trade of information, you needn’t look far.”

He didn’t bother saying anything else.

Eventually it was just him sitting on the extra long, (thanks to some transfiguring), dining table of grainy oak wood.  Even Black had chased after Dumbledore and forgotten Severus was there.

His wand was at his fingertips in an instant, pointed at the doorframe.

Slowly, Granger appeared with her hands held out in front of her.

“Professor Snape Sir. Its uh, Hermione Granger.”

“I am perfectly well aware of who you are Miss Granger having had the displeasure of the ‘golden trio’ in my class for four years. Now why are you here.”

He didn’t exactly mention she had perhaps a little more right to be here than he did. This wasn’t exactly a private area after all.

She awkwardly fidgeted with her striped jumper and looked slightly to the left of him.

“Its… Well its about Harry Sir.”

“Is anything ever not about the famous Gryffindor?”

To her credit, she didn’t seem affected by his comment at all.

“Look, he kinda told me that you and him were on some sort of mission – ”

“In doing so violating one one of the many rules he swore to abide by….” Not that he had thought that rule wasn’t going to be broken in a heart beat.

She got a little more distressed and met his eye, “No! he didn’t tell me anything except that it was you and him I swear! I’m the only one he’s told too, nobody else knows.”

“Calm down. I’m not exactly about to start docking points, although now I mention it ..”

She looked a tad fearful but ploughed on anyway, “Sir, please. Harry trusts you now for whatever reason and I’m beginning to think you’re the only person who can fix him.”

He let a little amusement show, “And what, pray tell, does he need ‘fixing’ from? From what I’ve seen he is more than happy here.”

“Er yeah” She shot a look towards another room.

“Thats the thing, he’s been really miserable ever since he’s been forced in this old house. I haven’t seen him solidly sleep more than five hours and he rarely eats properly, just enough to fool Mrs Weasley. ” A little bit of guilt seemed to be fighting her as she confided her best friends secrets to the Ex-Death Eater Professor. “But today…. He’s been really happy. Saying all these things about how amazing everyone is and what great luck it was this place even existed.”

“And this is a problem because….?”

“Its not right Professor. Nobody goes from barely talking to life of the party.”

“Fine. Let’s pretend there is something wrong, what do you want me to do that his godfather can’t?” He almost congratulated himself on managing to not insult Black.

Granger got ever the more frustrated. “I’m not exactly sure Sir. I just want you to talk to him, thats it. Then I’ll leave you alone.”

He thought for a about a minute and then waited a little longer just to make Granger worried.

“I’ll do it. Relief from pestering Gryffindors is too great an offer to dismiss.”

Whether the comment annoyed her he didn’t see as she was already speeding out of the room; obviously expecting him to follow.

The room they went to was the same one he’d spotted Potter in before. Of course now it was minus Weasley.

The boy sat comfortably on the sagging couch watching the fire. He turned and smiled broadly at both Granger and him.

It was a little off putting.

“Uh Harry? Snapes here. ”

The boy didn’t move but was giving off so much energy he may as well have. “Professor? well, the more the merrier. Is that an expression in the wizarding world? who knows, and who cares.” he shrugged his shoulders carefree as he glanced between the fire, his friend, and the head of Slytherin.

“Potter. Granger here believes that your not feeling particularly well, care to explain?”

Again with the incessant shrugging except this time Severus caught a definite wince. “Dunno whats she’s talking about. I’m feeling great, I’m not even close to some mortal peril situation.” He laughed at his own joke and Granger gave Severus a look as if this was the cue that something was very wrong. He was almost inclined to agree.

“How is the shoulder Potter?”

“Oh uh, dunno to be honest. I thought it was fine but now its seems to be hurting just a little more. An incy wincy bit.” Potter drew down his T-shirt a little revealing the thing was still bandaged making Severus frown.

More worryingly, it looked like there was still a few fresh blood stains.

“And you’ve been taking what potions to stop infection setting in?”

He grinned stupidly, “Do I lose points if I say none?”

Severus was already gritting his teeth, “You lose an arm actually.”

Harry faltered a little bit and did stare at it for a few seconds longer. “Guess that’s why we’ve got two of them.” He burst out laughing and Severus noticed even Granger smiled a little, seemingly finding the laughter infectious.

Severus pulled out his wand and slowly lowered it as Harry every so slightly winced.

“Potter I’m running something similar to a Diagnostic.” In reality it was a little more complicated than that. Half of what he was doing was checking if Potter had been charmed cursed ect. the other part was a spell that would tell him the condition of the boy’s muscles, nerves, blood vessels, skin and bone.

Harry nodded enthusiastically and held his shoulder up.

“Whatever you need Doc.”

When Severus finished he was borderline angry, very curious, a little amused and slightly impressed about the fact that Harry Potter was under the influence of “Wistful Dulcis” .

“Granger please leave the room.” He didn’t know exactly why he was sending her away but it felt right.

She started to protest and he held up a hand to silence her, “There is nothing seriously wrong with Potter, however I do believe he and I need to speak.”

She glanced between them both, unsure. He could see she needed a tad more convincing.

“I swear that I’ll do nothing to harm him, I just want to talk.”

She finally nodded and left. He couldn’t help but cast a muffliato spell, seems habits die hard.

Potter kept staring at the closed door, even as he talked. “You know, if I remember correctly, you were supposed to call me Harry.”

“Never did I agree to do so in front of others.” sick of the distraction he jumped to the point. “Would you like to explain why your currently feeling the effect of Dulcis?”

He watched to see if the information confused Potter, when it didn’t he had his answer about whether this was done purposefully.

Potter cringed instead. “Look I had no idea there was gonna be a whole Order meeting tonight, I definitely didn’t know you were gonna be here.”

“Would that have stopped you if you had known?”

Despite the serious conversation Potter was half laughing through everything he said. “Hell yeah! I’m not stupid enough to take a potion in front of the potions professor. I knew you’d see through me in a heart beat.”

“Why even take it?” As far as Severus was concerned it didn’t actually do much.

“Dunno.. A night where everyone didn’t keep looking at me like I’m gonna blow.”

“So fake happiness is the best option?”

“Yes actually.” Potter grinned wildly.

“How long ago did you take it?”

“Five hours.”

Thank god, it would be wearing off soon. Potter was annoying at the best of times.

“I was serious about the shoulder question earlier. What did the mu– your godfather buy for it? To stop infection?”

Potter’s forehead creased for a second, “Like I said. Nothing, I think he and I kinda forgot about it. Besides didn’t you put something on it that already did that?”

He felt an urge to break a vial again. Even when he was nowhere near it, he was still cleaning up messes.

“No, Peronish only temporarily stops infection as you should know. Can you show me it?”

Potter completely unbothered, took of his T-shirt so Severus could see the full bandage. Luckily it seemed fine. Only a little bleeding, less than he’d originally thought. He tried to keep his stare away from a few other scars.

He gestured for Potter to put his shirt back on. “As usual Potter, you escaped on pure luck.”

Potter happily collapsed back on the couch.

“Professor?”

“Yes?”

“I never quite actually said thanks. Thanks for everything that happened and thanks for not telling everyone what you found out. Despite what the Prophet thinks, I’m actually not that big on attention.”

“You are not telling your.. godfather?”

Potter screwed up his nose in a familiar gesture. “No. I can’t imagine how that’ll go down… Just thanks anyway.”

Unsure what to do with a thankful Potter he left the room. Not before placing three potions on the ornamental cupboard with a note saying ‘FOR INFECTION’.

As he rounded the doorway the very person he was still trying to avoid came to an abrupt stop in front of him. The man even had a half formed apology on his lips before realising who he would be apologising too.

“What are you still doing here? skulking around my home as if it belonged to you.” “Well it doesn’t quite belong to you now does it? convicted felons can’t own property.”

“One day they’ll find the right people to put in Azkaban and when that happens, I’ll be there to throw away the key.”

Rather than respond with something that would mostly definitely escalate the situation, he bit his tongue and shouldered past the mutt.

Of course that irritating voice followed him down the hallway.

“Why do you have to be here? why not just make everyone happy by staying far away? We’ll call if we need our little spy.”

He swiftly turned and flashed his wand dangerously. Only Black was already looking smug, giving his game away. He would not attack Black if the man did not actually give him proper cause. He simply would not be able to explain himself in a manner that did not sound immature.

So he stuck with words. “At least I have the luxury of leaving. Have fun spending the rest of your life  in the old Black Household. Nearly as bad as Azkaban if you ask me.”

Not willing to let himself be tempted, he finally made it to the floo and arrived back in his quarters without attacking Black once.

*** Harry felt the effects fading but they were still there, like pouring out golden honey where the last remnants clung to the bottle.

No matter how hard he tried, he really couldn’t stop smiling. It was almost starting to hurt.

When Sirius walked in he didn’t even feel the least bit apprehensive.

“ ‘ullo!”

Sirius looked like he wanted to turn into his animagus form and rip something to shreds. He did give Harry a brief quick smile though.

“Hiya. Not having too much trouble with old Snapey?”

“Not at all, he just dropped these off.” Harry gestured to the potions sitting on top of an ornamental glass cabinet.

Sirius held up his wand and banished all three of them.

“Hey! what are you doing?!”

Sirius gave him a slightly quizzical look. “You’re really going to trust that? jeeze I thought a few run ins with danger would make you a little more suspicious hahah.” “I can be suspicious, just of the right people.” “Honestly bud, you gotta get a little better at reading people. Snape? he’s not your friend, I don’t what kind of brainwashed crap he was telling you why you were trapped there but if it really served his cause, you’d be dead.”

He was finding even with the potion his happy exterior was slipping.  “You don’t know that! You don’t even know what his ‘cause’ is.”

“I know its certainly not something honourable... Look lets just change the subject, you’ve seemed really upbeat tonight and I wouldn’t want to..”

“What? wouldn’t want to ruin it? wouldn’t want to go back to having Harry all moody?” “

No kiddo thats not what–”

“Look Sirius I’m sorry but could you please acting like I’m some petulant child?”

“Well then maybe you should stop behaving like one!” Sirius was looking all the more angry and seemed to have found something to latch onto. “What am I supposed to say? You stay up all night, not talk to anyone and then act like its us who’ve pissed you off!” “It’s not that… I’ve just been trying to deal with everything that keeps getting thrown at me–” “Look around! everyone’s dealing with something. I think it’s Dumbledore or someone else whose perhaps convinced you that you are more special and your problems are bigger. Guess what, if some girl doesn’t like you or you lose a Quidditch match doesn’t mean everybody has to drop what there doing!”

He was stunned for a few seconds. He knew he wasn’t special, he didn’t need reminding and hearing it from his last remaining family (the Dursley’s didn’t count) stung a bit more than he thought it would.

Sirius seemed to realise he’d gone a bit far and let out a long sigh. “I’m sorry, I didn’t really mean it like that. Let’s just call it a night and try again tomorrow hey? ”

He supposed there was enough Dulcis left in his system that he wanted any and all conflict gone. So he smiled briefly and nodded. “Okay. Goodnight.”

Sirius began leaving and tiredly threw out “Goodnight James.” Harry made himself forget it by morning.