Through a Glass, Darkly

BY : Lexin
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male > Harry/Snape
Dragon prints: 23916
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

**

"You've met Voldemort." As soon as he finished dinner Potter went down to the dungeons.

"Don't you have prep?" Snape asked.

"Brought it with me."

"I just hope you don't need the library, it's a long walk from here."

Potter made his way to his usual place on the end of a bench. "I wanted to ask you about Voldemort. I mean, you have met him."

"Yes."

"What's he like?"

"Tall. Thin. Pale. Red eyes." Snape thought for a moment. "Genuinely frightening."

"Am I like him?"

"No."

"I'm a parselmouth."

Snape's eyes flicked upwards, but he said, "Are you?"

"You don't seem bothered."

"Should I be? You don't have any snakes to talk to down here, and I refuse to panic about nothing. You should know that by now." Snape consulted a dirty looking textbook and opened a jar. At once, a foul stench filled the room. He measured out two tiny spoonsful and closed the jar.

"What are you making?"

"Reversal mixture. It will arrest most spells and completely remove the effects of some of botched transformations. Madam Pomfrey ran out after McGonagall decided to teach the fifth years to transfigure each other into a range of small animals. Stamford is a rather odd looking pigeon and Creevey is currently a very creditable poodle. I'm not sure it's not an improvement, the lack of Stamford in Potions madrestrestful change, but Madam Pomfrey insists."

Potter laughed. "Besides, what would you tell their families?"

"I would imagine that Creevey's mother would shed bitter salt tears, but I rather think Stamford's in your position."

"It's horrible how many of us don't have families."

Snape was adding a strange pinkish fluid to the mixture. "That's

Voldemort for you," he said. "Sets himself up as the wizard's champion against the Muggle world and then kills both. I don't think he'll stop until he's killed us all."

"Black said you were one of Voldemort's closest supporters." Harry remembered this from his time in the infirmary.

"Yes. And you can see how much good it did me, stuck here teaching potions to morons."

"I've wondered about that - you could go anywhere, do...almost...anything."

Snape glanced at him. "I suppose you'd believe me if I said I enjoyed teaching?"

"No. The only master here who does is Lupin."

"And he's certifiable. No, I didn't think you'd accept that."

"So why?"

"The Dark Lord likes his tools to hand. Lupin, Sprout, me...the others if they were any use at all, which they're not." Snape stepped back from his cauldron. "Are you going to do your prep or not?"

"They wouldn't dare say anything if I didn't. But I suppose I might as well. It fills up the time until I die."

"What makes you think you're going to die?" Snape didn't seem surprised.

"Voldemort's three times my age."

"Five, I believe. Not that I've ever asked the Dark Lord his age."

**

Potter couldn't understand what Voldemort was waiting for; had he been the challenged one he'd have sought out his rival. But Voldemort seemed content enough to leave him at Hogwarts, alive and unharmed. Only two explanations occurred to him - either Voldemort didn't consider him a serious rival, which seemed unlikely after their last meeting, or he was seriously worried. That made sense, but didn't make Potter feel any better.

He couldn't even see any movement on the part of Voldemort's supporters. Potter had few friends at Hogwarts and didn't bother trying fool himself that he did, but none of his many enemies made a move. He would have felt better if they had, at least then he would have had some idea of what he was dealing with.

**

He was in Snape's room when a knock came at the door. This was unusual, Snape had few visitors. Potter opened the door to find Weasley Sextus, looking rather nervous. "Oh," said Potter. "I'll get my cloak."

"Wouldn't he want me in there?"

"I've no idea. But it's a bit dull when he's not here. Where shall we go?"

They walked over to the Quidditch pitch, mostly in silence. Finally when they were well away from the school Weasley said, "I hear things - you know? Through the Pater."

"Oh?" Potter knew Weasley's father worked for the Ministry of Magic.

"The Dark Lord...and Snape. Harry, he's going to try to kill you."

"Your father told you this?"

"Not exactly." Weasley shuffled for a moment. "Pater's not exactly high up in the Ministry - and he's not one of the Dark Lord's closest supporters. But he does hear things. Could hardly not."

"And he's found out that Voldemort's told Snape to kill me."

"Well...not in so many words." Weasley sighed. "He was waiting outside a room somewhere when Malfoy's father and another man passed him. He overheard tsay say that...that the Dark Lord had a solution to the 'Potter problem'. That's you. The way he said 'solution' made him think of poisons. And the only master poisoner round here's Snape."

"Yes," said Potter. "Yes, I see."

"I... I'm sorry."

"I know, Ron. Thanks."

"I couldn't say nothing and then you..."

"I realise that."

Ron looked up from the grass of the pitch. "What will you do?"

"I have no idea." And he didn't. Challenge he was ready to face. This sort of thing he had no clue how to deal with, none whatsoever. And the person he would have asked was the one he could least trust. It all made sense, though, not least Snape's distracted air - for him. He lived with a known poisoner in a room full of poisons. He had to do something. He just didn't know what.

And yet..they'd lived together several years - Potter still officially had a bed in the Gryffindor tower but that was a polite fiction and they

both knew it - but he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Snape had offered him either food or drink. If he wanted anything he was free to get it, or have the house-elves bring it for him, but Snape rarely offered him anything. It seemed Snape was more sensitive to his reputation than Potter had ever realised.

They walked back to the school, Weasley casting worried glances at him from time to time. He still had no idea what to do next.

**

Three days later he collapsed in the middle of dinner.

**

Potter woke up. He felt as if he'd fought off Voldemort for the second time - which in a sense, he had. He hurt all over, even his hair hurt, which was impressive. Snape was sitting by his bed, reading.

"Was it you?" Potter asked.

Snape looked up, his eyes were dark fathomless holes. He said, "No."

"Ron... Weasley Sextus told me that Voldemort asked you to kill me."

"He told me to, yes. Voldemort never asks anyone anything. He made it out to be an opportunity to redeem myself."

"And you said no?"

"On the contrary. I agreed."

Potter tried to sit up, "You... You what?"

"I have never found lying to be a moral stumbling block. Still less lying to Voldemort." The fathomless look was still there. "Believe me, Harry. If I had tried to kill you, you would be dead. I don't make stupid mistakes about dosages."

"Have you any idea who it was." Strangely perhaps, Potter trusted Snape's word.

"No."

"None?"

"I can safely eliminate two people, and they are both present. I doif yif you would poison yourself, and definitely not with [?] root, and it wasn't me. There are two more I think unlikely; I don't think it was Lupin, he thinks the sun shines out of your arse and anyway he has no talent for potions. I'm reasonably convinced that it wasn't Black; I thought he was going to rip my head off - but of course that could have been feigned."

"So it could have been anyone else in the school - about three hundred people."

"Yes."

"And when Voldemort finds out I'm still alive he'll blame you."

Snape showed his yellow teeth in one of his rare smiles. "Probably."

Potter lay back, exhausted. "Let's run away together." He closed his eyes.

"Of course, he's also blame whoever it was who really tried to kill you. I'm not foolish enough to believe that he relied on me. Not after that debacle in the Great Hall."

"Good," said Potter. "I'd hope they suffer except that no doubt we will suffer alongside them."

"Unless they were doing it outside his orders as an attempt to curry favour."

Potter groaned. "In a book," he said, "the butler usually did it. That means it was probably Filch."

"It could have been anyone."

Potter was aware of a kiss, the briefest of benedictions on his forehead. He opened his eyes in surprise; casual affection was not normally part of their lives.

"Black will come and sit with you," said Snape.

"Not necessary."

"Someone in the school is trying to kill you. Allow me - us - to make sure that doesn't happen."

**

Potter returned to school two days later. He still felt rather as if he was suffering from a particularly bad bout of influenza - he'd had that in his second year and remembered it vividly.

Ron walked beside him to their first lesson - Transfiguration; they were arguing fiercely. At last he said, "You know him better than I do, I still say he's a greasy murdering bastard."

"And you're right...but he didn't try to murder me."

Ron sighed as if unconvinced but refused to take the argument any further.

**

"What were you doing at lunch?" Snape asked.

"Ron invented it. He calls it the plate-swapping game. Seems to think it's funny."

Snape frowned at him.

"What?" asked Potter.

"That's another," said Snape. Potter must have looked blank because he went on, "People I can be sure didn't try to kill you. Vereverever of

Weasley to think of it. You should thank him."

"Does that mean you know how it was done?"

"I can guess."

"Go on."

"Work it out for yourself. What I don't know his how - but it is not possible to bribe a house-elf, so you can forget that idea."

"Wouldn't it be quicker just to tell me?"

"It would, but I doubt he - or they - will try that method again, so it wouldn't achieve much. Try logic."

"Logic?"

"Yes, logic. There are some things power won't get you."

"I've got you for those," Potter grinned at him, and put an arm round his waist.

"And when you leave?"

"You'll still be mine."

Snape didn't make any reply that, not that Potter expected him to.

**

Potter entered their rooms only to stand stock-still and look. "What's that?" he asked.

"It's a foe-glass," said Snape. "It's yours. Or it will be."

"Mine?"

"Yes. You want to know who your enemies are, don't you?"

"I know who my enemy is," Potter pointed out. "Some days I can think of nothing else."

"Not just him - though you will see a lot of him, I would imagine."

"Will it work for you, too?"

"Not at the same time, the rule is one foe-glass per person. But if it makes you feel better your enemies are nearly all mine. All, I should think." Snape looked at him consideringly. "What it should do is show you which is the most dangerous at any particular time."

"That should keep me on my toes," said Potter. "What do I do?"

"There's an incantation which activates the mirror, then you bind it to you by touching the frame."

"This must have cost you a fortune," Potter was awed.

"Twice that, but I had help."

Potter looked enquiring.

"Black and Lupin. Well, Black I would imagine since Lupin doesn't even own the clothes on his back."

Potter unrolled the scroll containing the incantation. "I like Mr Lupin's clothes," he said, idly.

"So do I, but they wouldn't suit either of us."

"Why can't I see faces?" Potter asked, once the foe-glass had been activated. He stared at the indistinct shapes, worriedly. "There are a lot of them."

"A great many wizards owe positions of great influence to Voldemort. You can't expect them to give those up easily, and most would see you as an enemy even if they didn't exactly use the word."

Potter turned away from the milling figures. He kept on thinking he recognised a shape, head or shoulders, or the cut of a robe, but the next moment it was gone. "Yes, I see what you mean. It is depressing to be hated by so many."

"Yes."

"And when I can see them clearly I'm in immediate danger?"

"That's how it works, yes."

"Severus?"

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." Snape gave his customary half-smile.

"I don't suppose you'd buy me the best racing broom in existence?" Potter had no such hope, but thought he'd try his luck.

The corner of Snape's mouth quirked, an outright laugh from anyone else. "No," he said. "You do perfectly well on the one you normally use."

"And you wouldn't want to give Gryffindor an advantage."

"Have I ever given you the impression of caring who wins at Quidditch?"

"And you a housemaster."

"Everyone has to make sacrifices for the school. Mine is pretending to give damn about a game."

"And having sex with me."

Snape gave that half smile again, "I don't do that for the school."

***

Being at school irritated Potter more than ever; he was like a tethered goat here, vulnerable for all he had Snape, Black and Lupin watching over him - he trusted them and Weasley of course - but he was aware that this might not be enough. He longed to take the battle to the enemy, but though he could have run he had no money and no idea where Voldemort was. With money he could have solved the problem but without it he was stuck. He was disinclined to ask for it, it seemed ungentlemanly, particularly when both Black and Snape had been so

generous in other ways. He also didn't d tha that they would guess what was on his mind and refuse.

He wondered, too, why he was so anxious to meet the madman again. Did he have a death wish? It seemed likely.

He confided none of this to Snape - or Black. The recipients of his confidences were Weasley, who listened even if he didn't understand, and Hagrid, who simply listened. Potter couldn't tell if he understood or not.

***

Potter knocked on Hagrid's door one day in the September of his final year. Hagrid opened the door, drying his hands on a tea towel the size of a bedspread. His whiskery face broke into a grin, "Come in, Harry."

Potter stood just inside the door. He'd never known Hagrid to have a visitor before, and didn't quite know what to say.

"Ah," said Hagrid. "This is Aleastor Moody."

"Mr Moody," said Potter. He sat down in the chair Hagrid indicated.

"Aleastor," said Hagrid, "this is Harry Potter."

Moody heaved himself to his feet and offered his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Mr Potter. Hagrid's mentioned you many times."

"Pleased to meet you, too, sir." Potter stood and shook hands. He could hardly take his eyes off the stranger. Moody looked old, older than the Headmaster, and his hair was a darker grey. One eye was small and piercing, the other was a see-all, constantly moving. He had a spectacularly scarred face, and one leg was gone and had been replaced with a square table leg at some time in the past. His clothes were patched and torn, and had clearly seen hard wear.

Potter tried not to stare, as Hagrid made the tea. Moody didn't seem at all bothered by Hagrid's cooking, he tucked in as if he hadn't had a square meal for several weeks. Looking at him, Potter decided it was quite possible he hadn't. Nor did he seem too worried by Potter's obvious curiosity.

"How are things up at the school?" Moody asked, putting away the last of Hagrid's rock cakes.

"They seem all right to me," said Potter. "I'm more interested in the world outside."

Moody looked at him curiously; even the see-all was still. "You read the paper," he said.

"Of course. But I'm aware it's Voldemort's mouthpiece - how could it be anything else?"

"What's in the paper is as much as most people know," said Moody.

"But there must be more."

Moody looked him over and said nothing.

Hagrid didn't seem at all disturbed by their odd conversations, but nor did he join in.

***

Snape was in his rooms when Potter got back. He glanced up as Potter sat down, reached for his tea, and went back to his book. Potter watched him turn the pages slowly, eyes flicking along the lines of text. Now and then he'd go back and re-read something, but not often. It was restful to hear only the turn of a page and the occasional crackle of a log from the fire. Potter relaxed, slowly.

"I thought you were going to see Hagrid," Snape said, finally.

"I did. He had a guest."

"Oh?"

"Does the name Moody mean anything to you?" Potter wasn't sure it was wise to mention this to Snape, but it wasn't as if he had many choices.

Snape looked up, "Mad-eye Moody?"

"He's got a see-all, if that's what you mean."

"That would be the one. He's a friend of your godfather's, and as much of a lunatic. Well, I say 'friend' but that would be going a bit far. They know each other, but Moody's from the direct action school of opposition to the Dark Lord. Your godfather, much as I despise him, isn't quite that stupid."

"But I'll have to face him eventually." Potter seemed to have been saying this for half his life. Though he knew that to be an illusion.

"Yes," said Snape. His eyes were unreadable.

"Sometimes," said Potter, "I feel that it had better be sooner rather than later."

"And I would far rather it was later. Much later."

"When you think I'm ready? What about my right to choose?" He looked more carefully at Snape. "It's isn't that at all, is it?"

Snape was silent for a moment, then he said, "Is it so odd that anyone should care what happens to you?"

"Yes."

"I doubt we'll ever agree on that. Talk to your godfather, he knows far more about this than I do - or want to."

Potter stared at him.

Snape went on, "They don't trust me. I don't blame them. So whatever they tell you, I don't need to know."

"How can you bear it?" Potter asked.

"I'm a realist."

***

"Professor Black?" It had taken Potter some time to track him down - not surprising in a place the size of Hogwarts.

"Yes?" The man turned, already looking wary.

"There is a...matter I wish to discuss with you. In private."

"Very well." Black swept off down the corridor but Potter kept up with him easily. All that Quidditch didn't go to waste, after all.

Lupin was in their rooms when Black and Potter arrived. Black said, "Shouldn't you be resting?"

"Sirius, if I rested any more I'd be dead."

Potter heard Black mutter 'that can be arranged' and from the expression on his face he knew Lupin had heard it, too.

"Sit down, Potter," said Black. "What is it?"

Potter sat and waited. It seemed Lupin had no intention of moving - and why should he? This was his home.

"I understand you're acquainted with someone called Moody?" said Potter.

"Yes," said Black. Potter saw Lupin stiffen slightly.

"I met him at Hagrid's."

Lupin and Black exchanged glances. "I had no idea Hagrid knew him," said Lupin, neutrally.

"What can you tell me about him?"

***

Three days later, in the dead of night, Potter left Hogwarts for the first time in six years. He had no money, that was true enough, but Moody said he had enough to get them where they were going.

"Ready, boy?"

"Yes." Potter suppressed his irritation at being called 'boy' as best he could. He didn't know how long his temper would last if Moody made a habit of it, though.

"Good." Moody led way way through the forest setting a fairly quick pace. The place was deathly quiet as if the creatures which lived there were holding their breaths. They encountered nothing, but all the time they walked Potter was aware of a feeling like being watched.

On the other side of the forest lay the railway line. Potter had known it must be there somewhere, he come to Hogwarts by rail, and even heard it from the Gryffindor dormitory during warm sumnighnights. Not from the dungeons, nothing penetrated there.

They crunched down to the railway line, and crouched down by the tracks and waited. The sound of the train at last, and they both got ready. As it slowed for the curve, they jumped onto the back and inside. It wasn't that they minded paying for a ticket, they didn't want anyone to see Potter leave. He was instantly recognisable as coming from the school.

Once on board the train, they found seats near the back and waited. Potter didn't remember much about his journey to Hogwarts, he'd been too nervous and it was a long time ago, but he didn't recall a ticket inspection. On the other hand, the train had held nothing but Hogwarts pupils, so he supposed there had been little need for one. In any case, once on the train Moody paid for third class tickets.

They could hold any but the most superficial conversation, the train was too crowded all the way down to Northampton, where they got out. Moody had explained before they left that it would be safer to get out there as the news of his leaving Hogwarts would reach London before they did. It would be safer if they got out before it reached the terminus.

Moody explained that had he been alone he would of course apparated. That wasn't possible for the two of them, and he didn't have a broom so that option was out. Potter had offered to steal two brooms from the school, but they didn't want to draw the kind of attention that stealing would bring. A boy running away from school was one thing - it had happened before - but running

away from school taking expensive school equipment was something rather different.

Northampton turned out to be dirty grey. Potter supposed that before the Dark Lord's rule it had been an ordinary Muggle town. Now it was half derelict, many of the shops were boarded up , closed forever. There were very few people about, and those he did see ignored them as if their lives depend on it. Which they might very well do. Their being wizards garnered some respect, but that was only to be expected in a world in which annoying a wizard might well be the last thing you ever did. For the same reason, nobody wanted to be drawn to their attention.

Moody strode through the streets as if he hadn't a care in the world, and Potter walked beside him trying to do the same. "Always looks as if you're in the right place," said Moody. "That's the secret of not being noticed."

It did seem to work, nobody questioned them, nobody stopped them.

"Where are we going?" asked Potter.

"Home of a friend," said Moody. "At least, a friend of mine."

They stopped at long last outside a dental practice. The windows were flyblown, but inside was clean enough, and the middle aged woman behind the desk looked brisk and efficient.

"We're here to see Mr Granger," Moody said. Potter gathered Moody had been here before because the woman didn't look at all surprised by Moody's attempt at an ingratiating smile.

The dentist - Mr Granger - had an office as well as a surgery, and it was there they were invited to wait while he finished with his patient. On the desk was a Muggle photograph of a brown haired girl with rather large teeth. Potter had a feeling she ought to be familiar, but couldn't place her. He was sure he hadn't met her, he'd met so few girls he'd remember that. He frowned.

Mr Granger, when he appeared, was obviously the girl's father. He had rather similar teeth and eyes. He stood in the doorway for a moment, then said, "Aleastor? I wasn't expecting to see you."

"William," said Moody. "This is Harry Potter."

"Oh," said Granger, as if he'd heard the name before. Potter wondered what had been said. Then Granger went on, "Pleased to meet you Mr Potter. Aleastor, why have you brought him here?"

"We had to go somewhere. Where is the Dark Lord?"

"Now?"

"Yes now, what did you think."

"He's in London. Do you have a plan?" Granger sounded sceptical.

"Of course."

Potter turned to look at Moody, wondering what he would say, how far Granger was to be trusted. Moody, however, said nothing more for a moment. Then he said, "Has his route changed?"

"Not since we last talked."

"Good. We need some things from your boys..."

***

They spent that night in a small run-down hotel near Euston station, having travelled from Northampton by rail on a local ticket which Moody said would garner less attention. The beds were lumpy but Potter for some reason slept well. He didn't think Moody had cast a spell on him, he would have detected that, but his head felt remarkably clear and composed.

The breakfast was surprisingly good, but as Moody pointed out the place was used by commercial travellers and other people who lived on the road - bad food would lose the place business faster than lumpy beds ever could. It felt - good - to be away from Hogwarts, from the stultifying atmosphere of the school, from not knowing who his enemies were. He felt at last that he had some measure of control over his life.

Breakfast eaten, he and Moody headed through London. It was clear and still, the weather just starting to show the chill of autumn, the leaves beginning to colour and fall.

London streets were busier than Northampton, but at this time of the morning not greatly so. Once again, on seeing that they were wizards most people avoided them. It was starting to get on Potter's nerves rather, but he supposed it was the natural result of forty years of Voldemort's rule. He shivered.

They arrived at long last at Hyde

Park Corner. After a comprehensive look round Moody led Potter into the park. "We're a bit early," he said. "We don't want to draw attention to ourselves by hanging about. Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," said Potter. In truth he felt a bit sick, he hadn't forgotten what had happened the last time he'd faced Voldemort.

He couldn't go on hiding at Hogwarts - and it wasn't as if he was even safe there. Not really. He wished more than anything that he could say goodbye to Ron and even more importantly to Severus.

They turned and walked back along the neatly swept path. It was curious, Potter wanted time to both slow down and speed up at the same time; it was a most disquieting sensation.

Hyde Park Corner was becoming busier, as they had expected. Potter and Moody waited apparently talking, and occasionally looking up the road towards Knightsbridge.

Potter saw the carriage first, open topped for the bright weather. He waited, now he'd seen it he was no longer nervous, hinds nds were quite steady. It drew closer and he could feel the pain in his scar, in his head like the clangour of some distant bell. He let his wand fall down his sleeve into his hand, ready but not yet visible.

The carriage slowed for the turn onto Hyde Park Corner and Potter stepped forward. He looked into Voldemort's red eyes, felt the spike of pain, but he raised his wand and spoke the words of the killing curse, "Avada Kedavra!"

Power swept through him, seeming to come from the earth itself. He was rooted to the spot, could not have moved even to save his own life. He knew he should have been closer but knew also that it didn't matter. Voldemort would die.

Voldemort slumped back, but his bodyguard aimed his wand at Potter and spoke the words. As he had in the Great Hall at Hogwarts Potter held his wand in that certain way and spoke the word, "Delinare!" The spell rebounded back on the man who had cast it. He too collapsed. Potter turned to Moody; he was too late, the green light of Avada Kedavra encompassed him and he slid to the floor. Potter hadn't seen who cast it.

Suddenly able to move again, Potter ran. Traffic had stopped, horses stamped and neighed, the strange horseless carriages maddened them, ahe che chaos of spellcasting created an atmosphere which made them uncontrollable. Potter had expected that Voldemort would be escorted by troops, and he wouldn't have been able to escape them, but it seemed not. Halfway down Grosvenor Place he stopped. Why weren't they pursuing him? He looked back. No, there was no sign of anyone. He walked on, wondering where he was going.

He'd honestly expected to die in the attempt...what if he hadn't succeeded? No, he knew somehow that Voldemort would die, if not immediately before very long. He was as sure of that as he was that his own name was Harold James Potter.

A name he recognised. Victoria. He vaguely remembered being brought through Victoria when he'd first gone to Hogwarts, Little Whinging, where his Aunt and Uncle lived could be reached from there. Abruptly, he stopped again. He'd lived down to his Aunt and Uncle's expectations. He'd killed, and used magic to do it. Before he could stop himself he vomited over a railing and into someone's basement yard. A maid came out and waved a mop at him. He smiled weakly at her, but she yelled, "Be off with you! Drunken lout! At this time of the morning, too!" Potter looked away, ashamed of himself.

What should he do? He carried on walking towards the station, rather hoping something would happen and make his mind up for him. An omnibus stopped, and a lot of people got off. He looked up and noticed it went to Kings Cross. He got on - it was going in the opposite direction to the one he'd been walking in, but that didn't bother him, and Moody had given him half the money they had in case they were split up. It wasn't much, but it would get him somewhere.

The omnibus went back through Hyde Park Corner, and Potter saw that even in the short time he'd

been walking the mess had all gone. The carriage, Voldemort and the guard, Moody's body, it was all gone. He felt sick again, and shivered.

It took some time for the omnibus to get to Kings Cross, he would have missed it but for the memorable crenellated battlements of St Pancras station. Moody had told him it was a hotel, but obviously it was far too expensive for them to stay in.

A ticket to Hogsmeade was more money than he had, even third class. He could just about afford one to Glasgow, and even that only left him 8 knuts. He sighed. "You could send a post card, though," said the ticket seller. Potter looked at him. Why hadn't he thought of that? "Post office is just across the road," he was told.

In the end, Potter decided on a letter as being less likely to be opened, though paper and ink in addition to postage left him with only five knuts. "How long will it take?" he asked.

"Be there by tonight," said the woman behind the counter.

It was odd to be alone; he realised now he'd rarely been completely alone since the last time his Uncle had shut him in the cupboard under the stairs - the only times which came to mind were odd times he'd spent in the dungeon waiting for Severus. Strange.

With the money he had left he could just about have afforded a cup of tea and a cheese sandwich. He was hungry - more especially since he'd been sick - but he just had the tea. He might need the rest of the money.

Potter still couldn't quite believe he wasn't being hunted, it seemed most peculiar; he kept looking around for Inquisitors or policemen, but saw nothing.

***

Halfway to Glasgow the guard came round to each carriage and made a short announcement - Voldemort was dead. Potter couldn't stop a smile crossing his face, but next to him a woman in a dusty brown coat started to cry. He grief was such that Potter didn't know what to say - should he try to comfort her? He tried to school his face into he same gravity as those he could see around him, but it was almost impossible. He wasn't sorry. He would never be sorry.

He got out of the train at Glasgow, moving like an old, old man. It was mid afternoon and he wondered what he should do, but with little money and no sense of which direction Hogwarts was in there was nothing he could do. He found a bench on the station and waited.

A youngish man in a suit came and sat down. He'd been reading the evening paper, but when he got up to catch his train he left it. Potter picked it up, and saw the headline: "Dead!" One stark word. He smiled again. He started to read.

***

He'd actually been asleep on the bench when he woke up to find himself looking at a familiar robe. He struggled upright, and stood, nearly overbalancing.

"Yes, I should imagine it is beginning to catch up with you," said Black. He drew something from his robe pocket. "Here, hold this."

"What is it?"

"A portkey. It should activate..." Black drew a pocket watch from his robe, "about now."

There was a sickening pull just behind his navel and a confused blur of colours and shapes. Then suddenly they were at the station at Hogsmeade. Potter staggered for a moment, managed to right himself and then yawned. "Why the station?" he asked when he could speak.

"You can't apparate - or disapparate inside the castle," said Black, tightly. "Well, the Dark Lord could, but we can't. That includes travel by portkey."

"Oh."

"Besides, we have to make it look at least vaguely as if you haven't just murdered the Dark Lord. For the time being at least."

"Oh, yes. Right."

"You could have been killed," said Black, still in that tight voice.

"But I wasn't."

"I had noticed."

Potter was exhausted. It washed over him in waves, but he made himself carry on walking. He said, "The world outside...what he did to it...it's terrible."

"It's worse than you know," said Black.

"I would imagine..." Potter yawned again.

"What?"

"Nothing. Will it get better now?"

"It might."

***

"What's happened?" Potter asked as they walked. He'd been thinking about that odd tone of voice Black had been using.

"Inquisitors," said Black. "They arrived almost as soon as you disappeared."

Potter felt his hands grow cold. "What did they do?"

"Snape and Weasley Sextus. They're alive. Or they were when I left."

Potter ran to the hospital wing. He arrived out of breath and Madam Pomfrey looked disapproving - even more so than usual. "How are they?" Potter gasped.

"Professor Snape will live. Or he should. Weasley...I'm sorry, Potter. He was too badly injured. He died just a few minutes ago."

"Oh, no. No, please." Potter sat down. He wanted to cry, but tears wouldn't come.

"I'm sorry," said Madam Pomfrey. It sounded as if she meant it. "You...do you want to see Professor Snape?"

Potter stood, slowly. "Yes."

She led him through into the long ward. The first thing Potter noticed were the bruises; Snape's face - the only part of him which could be seen was black and blue and his eyes were closed. Potter's breath caught for moment, but then he saw Snape breathe.

Snape's mouth opened slightly and Potter moved closer. Wha cou could see of Snape's hands were black with bruises, but that wasn't much, most of them were bandaged. "It should have been me," Snape whispered.

"No," said Potter.

Snape opened his eyes, it looked as if he hadn't been expecting an answer. He said, "Weasley had his life ahead of him. It should have been me."

Very gently, Potter covered Snape's left hand with his right. He didn't know what to say.

***

Weasley's father arrived next day with Weasley's brothers, the little sister he'd occasionally talked about and a strange girl. Seeing them, Potter wished he were dead - he had no family who would mourn him. If anything he thought they would be pleased.

"Mr Weasley?" Potter said. Mr Weasley had overseen the loading of the coffin containing his son onto a carriage, and Potter hadn't wanted to interrupt.

Mr Weasley turned and looked down. He was a tall man, tall and gangling as his son had been.

"I'm sorry." Potter knew his words were inadequate. "If there's anything I can do?"

"You're the Potter boy?"

"Yes."

"Ron told me about you in his letters home. Your friendship meant a lot to him."

Mr Weasley couldn't have said anything which would have made Potter feel worse. "I'm sorry," he said, again.

"I know."

"Mr Weasley may forgive you, but I do not." A female voice, the strange girl.

"Hermione," Mr Weasley said. "Forgive her, she doesn't know what she's sayin

"I do. I know exactly what I'm saying. If it hadn't been for you, Mr Potter, my Ron would still be alive. I do not forgive you, and I never will." She turned away and Potter heard the frou-frou sound her skirts made as she walked along the drive to the carriage.

"Hermione and Ron were going to be married," Mr Weasley explained. "She's distraught."

"I know," said Potter. "Ron told me about her. He loved her very much."

"Please don't hold it against her."

"No. I blame myself. I should have warned Ron. And Severus."

"Ah, yes. The Potions master. I trust he'll recover?"

"They seem to think so."

"Good. Good. Come along," Mr Weasley was speaking to his other children. None of them said anything to Potter. He watched them drive away, the carriages crunching on the path.

***

Everyone seemed surprised that he returned to classes, but he couldn't think of anything else to do. His mind wasn't really on his work, but none of the masters seemed to mind. He sometimes felt that death would be easier than this.

Severus recovered slowly. Very slowly. Potter had no idea what the Inquisitors had done to him, but they had clearly used very powerful and damaging spells. Potter could do nothing but worry, he had no medical skills, or none that would be of any use in this situation.

Potter sat quietly by Severus' bed. He covered the damaged left hand with is own and Severus opened his eyes. "Oh," he said. "You're back." It sounded as if it was a surprise.

"Yes."

"Ah, good."

"Are you feeling better?"

"Marginally."

"Black and Lupin send their regards," said Potter.

"Do they?" It sounded as if Severus didn't believe him.

Potter hated this peculiar stilted conversation, but wasn't quite sure what to do to change it. Madam Pomfrey bustled in, "Someone to see you," she said, looking at Potter.

"Who?" He was surprised and must have looked it. The only person he could think of who might visit him was Uncle Vernon, and he doubted it would be him.

"The Minister of Magic."

"Barty Crouch? To see me?" Potter stood in astonishment.

"As it became obvious you weren't going to come to see me." Crouch turned out to be surprisingly young; Potter had read his speeches, but had never seen a picture of him. "Good afternoon, Severus," Crouch went on.

If he hadn't known him so well, Potter might have missed the sneer. Snape said nothing.

"I wondered if you had any instructions for the Ministry," said Crouch, turning to Potter.

"Instructions?" Potter stared at him in astonishment.

"Certainly, Mr Potter. You are now the Dark Lord."

****

End part 2.

****

Part 3 will be posted in due course.


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