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Summary: Forcing himself to falsely breathe, Angel centered himself and stood tall, affecting control over the situation. "I know you're there so you might as well cut the disappearing act."

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Angel-Centered > Pairing: OtherAngelfirenzeFR18950,84844015,0582 Oct 1010 Jul 11No

Thrust

Illustration

New All Over
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Rowling and Whedon own all, though at the moment Rowling gets all the credit. Sparta. "Splinters.". EMI, Geffen, Hollywood, Dreamworks, 2004.

Summary: Snape's face blanked, then, with much practice even in death, and then Harry saw something on Snape's face that he'd never been privy to, even when lost in the memories of Snape's life in the Pensieve: hope.

Notes: I don't actually remember how this idea came to me, except that the middle of the beginning came before the actual beginning. I just know I couldn't let it go. Also, yes, the title is a nod to Wes/Lilah. *still adores it*

More importantly, the Harry Potter part comes first for set-up reasons, but it will become an HP/BtVS crossover later. Both the HP and BtVS timelines will remain intact in something I write for once.

Chapter I: Thrust

...The balance is broken, a lifetime of choking leaves you blue...

Harry figured he probably should have said something, anything, rather than simply walking out of the castle and continuing onward down the road to the gate, but he hadn't been able to think of what to say.

Words seemed so trite in the face of all the tragedy around them. It seemed the previous six years had been simply a warm-up -- even the battle in the Department of Mysteries hadn't left him this drained, almost desiccated. Harry finally forced himself to sit down and lean back against the gate, staring upward and blinking past the sunlight to see the familiar winged boars atop the parapets.

He couldn't understand this feeling inside him. The entire time they'd been chasing Horcruxes, he thought constantly of Hogwarts, wanting to be sleeping in his four-poster bed, eating in the Great Hall, strolling across the grounds or down to Hagrid's hut. Harry refrained from looking back at the blasted wreckage of the school, the bodies he knew were inside...the Forbidden Forest with the Resurrection Stone somewhere deep within.

Harry frowned. It occurred to him now, the haze of everything having left him, that simply dropping the Ring in the Forest wasn't nearly the protection against someone finding it that he had assumed at the time.

Or had he assumed anything? His parents, Sirius, and Remus were walking alongside him after all, their ethereal forms comforting and encouraging him...until the very end. He hadn't been meant to come back from last night, of this he was certain -- why, he wasn't sure, but he was. But where did that leave him now? He was the Master of Death -- or had been, possibly still was.

He couldn't allow anyone to find it, he suddenly realized, lest this whole monstrosity happen all over again however long down the line. He wasn't the same person he'd been when he'd first walked through the doors of this castle, no, that was impossible. He'd faced death -- even died -- no less than seven times...he couldn't allow suffering and simply sit by. It was the Mirror of Erised all over again.

What had Dumbledore told him that night? Men have wasted away before it, wondering if what they see is real... That tore it. Harry scowled resolutely before shoving his aching body to his feet and pointing his wand toward the Forbidden Forest.

Accio Resurrection Stone, he thought clearly and listened hard until he heard a whizzing noise that to him, oddly, sounded rather like a Snitch. Without thinking, his hand flew up and instantly the Stone was grasped in his hand once more. Harry closed his eyes, forcing himself to clear his mind, before suddenly his eyes flew open.

"Snape," he whispered before he knew what he was doing. "Severus Snape," he said, this time with more force.

"Potter," a deep, drawling voice said beside him and Harry turned slowly to face him.

"You came," Harry couldn't quite keep the surprise from his voice.

Snape frowned slightly, though the effect was dulled by an undeniable expression of long-sought for peace having settled over Snape's face, seemingly against his will. "You have the Resurrection Stone, Potter, it isn't as if you gave me much of a choice in the matter."

Harry sighed, blinking at the ramifications of those words. Then he frowned purposefully once again. "That's exactly why I can't let anyone else find this Stone. When I let you go, you'll go and I refuse to let anyone drag you from your rest ever again."

Snape's eyebrow raised and something approaching approval actually seemed to come to his face. "Very well, Potter. To what...pleasure do I owe the true Master of Death, irritating and self-righteous though he may be."

Harry rolled his eyes at Snape's half-assed insult. "I'm pretty sure the Headmaster was worse, Professor," Harry pointed out and Snape did naught but sigh in acquiesence.

"I want your permission to move your body out of the Shrieking Shack. I don't...you deserve a choice in the matter, after all this rubbish -- this utter shite you've had to live through. Where do you want to be buried, sir?"

Snape looked absolutely astonished then, both eyebrows raised and his mouth falling slightly open. "Potter, I...you do not owe -- "

"I owe you every year of my life at this school, even when I wasn't here. Even when you couldn't stand the sight of me, you protected me...for her..."

Snape's face blanked, then, with much practice even in death, and then Harry saw something on Snape's face that he'd never been privy to, even when lost in the memories of Snape's life in the Pensieve: hope.

"Godric's Hollow," Harry whispered, somehow simply perceiving Snape's greatest wish. Easily, he nodded, then, beginning to pace back and forth on the spot. "Well, sir, do you want your body...do you want to be cremated, sir?"

Snape simply stared at him, then, astonishment forcing its way onto his face. "What?"

"Do you want to be cremated, sir, so...so your ashes can..." Harry took a deep breath and blinked suddenly at the tears coming to his eyes. "So your ashes can be scattered over my mum's grave? Or do you simply want to be buried alongside her on her other side?"

Harry swallowed, resisting the urge to shove his hands into the pockets of his tattered jacket.

"I mean...I think...I think you deserve it and that...my mum deserves to spend eternity with the two men who meant more to her than anyone else..."

Snape blinked, actually speechless and Harry ran a hand through his own still bloody, matted hair in embarrassment.

Then Snape surprised him by shaking his own head, his hair clean and well-groomed for once. He seemed reluctant to speak, but managed to force the words out. "Not anything else...Harry."

Harry's head snapped up and he had to force his mouth back shut. Snape was...staring hard at him now, his black eyes locked on Harry's own...green ones. Harry blinked hard to clear his vision and snatched his glasses off to rub hurriedly at the watery haze over his vision but when he went to put them back on Snape said, "Stop."

Not harshly, not even loudly. Just..."Stop."

Harry breathed unsteadily as he stared at Snape's now mercifully very blurry form. It was then that Harry felt a cool brush of air against his cheek and a very slight pressure.

Snape actually sighed, "I never wanted to admit how much you looked like...like Lily. It was...easier to pretend you were your father -- a different sort of pain, but it was always there, I couldn't make myself not see it. Still, I was a fool. Just the same fool as your aunt, to pretend that Lily wasn't in every millimeter of you."

Snape seemed to be trembling now and Harry found himself astonished.

"Justification..." Snape muttered, his voice barely a sigh. "And yet you would...I deserve to -- "

"No, Professor," Harry commanded then, putting his glasses back on before realizing they were smeared with tears, flecks of blood, and Merlin only knew what else. Silently Scourgifying them, Harry finally replaced them over his eyes. "I didn't ask you what you thought you deserved. I asked you what you wanted. Dumbledore said he'd promise not to tell anyone about the best side of you and I'll make that same promise, but you have to answer my question. Where do you want to rest?"

Snape stared at him, then, and Harry got the distinct impression that he wanted to shudder. "I will tell you...Harry...if you will...accept my...apologies -- for my despicable behavior toward you in favor of maintaining a selfish delusion, a ridiculous grudge I had no right to hold, let alone keep."

Harry took a deep breath, "If God can forgive you, sir, then why shouldn't I?"

Snape seemed to laugh convulsively, his face taking on a disbelieving expression, his translucent hand coming up to almost 'touch' Harry's face before dropping again as actual tears slipped out of his eyes. "You would honestly take my body to Godric's Hollow, P-Harry?"

"We can go right -- " Harry froze, startling slightly before frowning slightly in contemplation. "Sir, do you mind if Hermione, er, comes with us? She was so...horrified...and she was too injured to be with me when I buried Dobby. I really think she'd want to say goodbye to you, get a chance to tell you...whatever she wants to."

Snape looked confused now, "I practically spat on her every chance I got, Potter -- what well wishing should she possibly have for me?"

"Well, Professor, considering I know Hermione a great deal better than you do, I think we should leave that up to her, don't you think? Even in First Year, when Ron and I were already suspicious of you, she held out for ages even if it was partially because you were a professor."

Snape managed to actually snort and then sighed, "Which reminds me that I owe her rather a metric ton of backlogged praise for her astounding work in my classes."

Harry grinned, then, "Well, I'd be happy to pass that message on, sir. So, do you mind if I contact her? It'd only take a moment."

Snape gazed at him, then, seemingly seeing Harry for the first time. "You performed your first Patronus Charm at age thirteen...I should tell you, even though I kept my foot on your back...last year, you were my best Defense student. Against my will, I will be honest, I was not surprised."

Harry blushed, then, resisting the urge to look away. "I had the proper...motivation, sir. Voldemort and all..."

Snape nodded in what would have been a grim way before saying, "Your Charms marks were always very good if I recall, as well. Just...like your mother."

Harry bit his lip, "Well, last year, if you recall, I had rather a lot of help in Potions from a certain...Prince."

Snape snorted lightly then and sighed, "If Miss Granger would like your mother's copy of her own Advanced Potions textbook, it is in my parents' house, in the main room."

Harry nodded, promising himself to get it for Hermione. Then he smiled bitterly. "I wish I still had your copy, sir."

Snape chuckled ironically. "I daresay I'm opening a door I'd rather keep closed, but you will be...gratified, it seems, to know I replicated my own copy, as I did most of my things, as your father and godfather had a habit of destroying them at their leisure."

Harry blinked, then, a heavy pit forming instantly in his stomach at the thought of what he'd seen in the Pensieve. "Thank you, sir...I...I'm sorry my father...strutted."

Snape shook his head. "Your apologies are better kept to yourself as I outdid them each tenfold upon yourself, Miss Granger, and Mr. Longbottom, H-Harry. I have no right to demand anything from you in light of that. Please...accept my textbook and your mother's as meager repayment.

"If I could apologize to the pair of them, as well, I would. They deserved more from me than they received. It is unacceptable that with the peril that routinely befell all of you, I frightened Mr. Longbottom more than anything else. It is disgraceful."

Harry thought for a moment, frowning before turning and surprising Snape by sending not one but two Patronuses into the school.

"What are you doing, Potter?" Snape asked, surprise and actual nervousness coming over him, which Harry found interesting considering the man was dead.

"Giving you a chance to make your peace, sir," Harry supplied. "Say nothing of giving Hermione and Neville a chance to forgive you."

Snape's face fell in astonishment, followed by shame, but Harry regretfully took advantage of the Resurrection Stone's power to keep him there and face his more recent past. Sure enough, within moments, both Hermione and Neville could be seen hurtling up the long path away from the school.

All too soon for Snape, Harry knew, both reached him, barely out of breath, what with all dashing about for their lives both had been forced to do for nearly a full year.

"Hermione, Neville, there's someone who wants to say some things to you and I think you both should listen." Hermione's hands immediately flew to her mouth and her eyes widened in comprehension as she gazed unerringly at the ring on Harry's hand while Neville was confused.

"What do you mean, Harry?" he asked, but Harry simply removed the Resurrection Stone and Snape flickered out of sight for him. He gave it to Neville, who put it on before paling dramatically as he stared at what had to be Snape. Sure enough, Neville stuttered, "P-p-professor S-s-snape..."

"Neville," Harry scolded, clapping Neville on the shoulder. "Didn't I just watch you cut Nagini's head off last night? Dumbledore's Army?"
Neville seemed to gather himself and nodded, "Hello, Professor," he said, if a bit coolly and Harry watched their one-sided conversation while forcing himself to ignore Hermione's panicked, yet inquiring looks.

Finally, after more than ten minutes, Neville smiled and said, "Sure, Professor. Thanks. I do forgive you, sir. Dumbledore wasn't very patient or fair with you, either. I can understand. Besides, next to the Carrows and Lestranges, you're a fluffy little bunny rabbit and I got on alright."

Harry grinned and by the time Neville slipped the Stone off to give to Hermione, he was holding back laughter. "Snape said he was glad I was finally showing my mettle and do not ever refer to him as a 'fluffy little bunny rabbit' ever again."

Harry laughed as Neville snorted and turned to Hermione before finally handing her the Resurrection Stone and giving her hand a squeeze. "Go on, Hermione -- if he was waiting to say all that to me, Merlin knows you've got great stuff coming."

Hermione smiled in a watery fashion before glancing at an encouraging Harry, slipping the Stone on her finger and gasping loudly. "I -- hello, Professor!"

Both Harry and Neville watched, this time with identical smiles on their faces as Hermione had her own discussion with their erstwhile professor, neither surprised when she began to cry at what must have be six, possibly the full seven years of hard work and endless dedication finally getting the recognition it deserved.

Neville seemed surprised when Hermione did not snap back to her senses, but continued to cry before saying, "Oh, God, Professor -- I wanted so badly to help you, Harry and I both -- we had to force ourselves not to come into the Shrieking Shack until Voldemort had gone! Oh, I only wish I'd had some antivenin with me or something! That was horrible, you didn't deserve that!"

Harry shuddered even as Neville turned to stare at him in shock and paled once more.

Harry was clenching his fists in abject misery as Snape's last moments played over his mind's eye yet again. Gritting his teeth in deeply held anger, Harry turned to Neville again and clasped his friend's shoulders before saying fiercely, "Thank you for cutting off that bloody goddamned snake's head, Neville. Thank you for being worthy of Gryffindor's sword and the Sorting Hat. Thank you for avenging Professor Snape and everything he worked for."

Hermione glanced at Harry once, then twice before saying, "Er, Harry, Professor Snape would like you to watch your mouth and that that's five points from Gryffindor for language."

Before either could stop themselves, Harry and Neville both laughed loudly and grinned at Hermione, who was holding back her own giggles, it seemed. All three calmed down slowly, though, and then Harry got back to business.

"I've had an idea. I've asked Professor Snape where he would like to be buried and I was wondering -- which is part of why I called you down here, Hermione, but anyway -- would you and Neville like to come with me back to Godric's Hollow? Professor Snape would like to be buried next to my mother."

Both Hermione and Neville froze, their eyes wide, before glancing at one another and then looking back to Harry.

"Oh, Harry, you already know I'll go," Hermione said, tears back in her voice as a few more slid down her face.

Neville tilted his head in what he knew was Snape's direction, taking a moment to consider his options before saying, "What about Ron?"
Unexpectedly for Neville, both Harry and Hermione scowled deeply. "That's a long story, Nev," Harry said quietly, but with definite anger in his voice. "And I'd be glad to fill you in on the way to Spinner's End, if you're agreed to going, anyway."

Harry glanced back at the school, where he knew Ron was and while he was with his family at the moment and distraught over Fred's death, just as they were, both Hermione and Harry knew that, in the end, Ron's selfishness and insecurity tended to shadow him wherever he went, no matter the purpose of their adventure.

Eventually, with enough of a prompt, he'd probably abandon them again and simply hearing that they wanted to bury Snape's body, knowing Ron as they did, would likely be enough.

"Ron hates Snape. I...we can't trust him with this, Nev," Harry said softly, if with clear resentment. "Besides, after we go to Godric's Hollow and Spinner's End, I plan to visit my relatives' house. I have something I have to ask my aunt and it's pretty personal. Ron wouldn't understand."

"But I would?" Neville asked uncertainly, and Harry nodded. "You better than almost anyone else."

Neville looked taken aback but eventually agreed and with that, they set off toward the Whomping Willow, Hermione casting a silent Immobilus charm so Harry could walk up and press the appropriate knot.

"Hey, Hermione," Harry asked, faking an off-hand tone. "Remember back in third year when you asked if that was really what your hair looked like from the back?"

"Harry! Ooh!" Hermione reached over and lightly punched Harry in his arm, eliciting a yelp and a laugh from Neville. Apparently Professor Snape said something else because Hermione blushed furiously and pointedly looked forward as they bent down to enter the tunnel.

"So the Whomping Willow covers a tunnel into the Shrieking Shack?" Neville asked, keeping well clear of Hermione's fists for any reason despite being bigger than her now.

Each of his Housemates nodded and they began the difficult crawl through the tunnel's twists and curves, aided by Harry and Neville's now-lit wands.

Finally, they re-emerged into the incredibly filthy, dust-laden main room of the Shack and immediately Neville began sneezing in thunderous bursts before Hermione cast a Bubble-Head charm over him so he could breathe more easily.

"I didn't know you had allergies, Nev," Harry remarked and from the confused expression Neville gave him, Harry figured Neville hadn't either.

Then the boys turned back to find Hermione frantically smothering hitching sobs as she stared down at Snape's prone form, now having become covered with its own layer of dust to add to the slowly drying puddle of blood and memories the man still lay in.

Harry gritted his teeth as tears came back to his own eyes and he risked a glance at Neville to see his friend's distorted head open-mouthed with shock at the sight before them.

Slowly, Harry dragged his feet forward and forced himself to kneel once more in the very spot he'd been in as Snape took his last breath. Suddenly, something cold was being pressed against the back of his hand and Harry glanced down quickly to see Hermione pressing the Resurrection Stone into Harry's skin.

He reached up and took it from her, sliding the ring back on and from there watching Snape's now-translucent ethereal form staring calmly down at his own body. Suddenly, Harry turned away from the scene and found himself being sick on the floor in the nearest corner. His vision was blurry again and Harry swiped at his glasses before ripping them off again and wiping his face on his sleeve.

Slowly, he got to his feet and conjured a cloth to wipe his face with before conjuring Hermione a handkerchief as she'd now covered both of her eyes and given up altogether on doing anything but crying.

"None of you has to do -- "

Harry slowly straightened and turned back around, his face hard and serious.

"Professor, if you finish that sentence," he snapped, glaring at Snape now. "I'm taking this Stone off and doing this without your input. I'd really rather not. Do yourself a favor and kindly belt up. This is about you, get over it."

Snape seemed torn between reprimanding Harry again and being contrite. He seemed to pick a middle road and remained quiet as Harry got to work gently clearing the dust away from Snape's body, now joined by Neville and, eventually, a blotchily red-faced Hermione.

Eventually, they got him free of all of it and Levitated Snape in order to turn him over and again slowly clear his backside of all the grime and dust stuck to him.

Finally, once Snape was clean again, Harry and Hermione, having experience with Snape's body moving through the Shack's tunnels, both took over gently moving his body back outside, taking care not to let his head hit the low ceiling.

"Hey, Professor," Harry said in a would-be light-hearted voice, "Remember that time we all Stunned you and cracked your skull or whatever?"

Snape's only response was to snort and Hermione actually let out a small giggle. "As amusing as I'm sure my head trauma is, I assure you it was much less fun on my part."

"Are you kidding, sir? Hermione went spare! We attacked a teacherWe attacked a teacherWe attacked a teacher...!"

"Well, we did!" Hermione defended shrilly and Harry was shocked to see Snape actually smile. "It's nice to know there was compunction on at least one of your parts."

"Well, I would have been more sorry except you'd pretty much gone off the deep end. You weren't listening to anybody. You know, when astronauts go mad in space, the States recommends they be strapped to a chair with duct tape and have that be it. Stunners were really all we had to work with."

"Ha ha."

"What's an 'astronaut'?" Neville's distorted voice asked and both Harry and Hermione laughed a little.

Harry sobered immediately when he thought about what had happened next. "When Lupin transformed that night...even though we'd just Stunned you, you...you protected us all with your own body..."

Harry bit his lip and glanced at Snape's translucent form as he forcibly stared ahead. "What was I to do, Potter? Stand back and allow you to be mauled to death?"

"My uncle gladly would've," Harry reminded and was surprised to see an actual scowl fall onto Snape's face for the first time in all the time he'd been brought back with the Stone.

"Your uncle should not have been trusted with a goldfish, let alone the child of Lily Evans -- and James Potter. Your aunt has not changed at all since I knew her."

"I can't believe you all grew up near one another," Harry said softly and Hermione and Neville were both staring at him but he only had eyes for Snape. "I thought when she said 'that horrible boy' she was talking about my dad."

"An easy mistake to make," Snape said simply, his voice without malice when discussing James Potter for the first time in Harry's -- or Snape's memory.

"That was the year I blew my Au -- my uncle's sister up like a balloon. She..." Harry found his breath hitching and forced the words out. "She said, 'You see it all the time with dogs -- if there's something wrong with the...the bitch, then there's something wrong with the pup -- '"

"Excuse me?" Snape's voice had become frigid and cold in a manner all too familiar to Harry with the exception of him not being the target.

"She insulted my mum," Harry bit out, trying not to let the memory of that particular night overwhelm him again. Hermione and Neville were staring worse than ever, but he ignored them. "She -- the Dursleys said my dad was an unemployed drunk and that my mum was basically a dog that had needed to be put down."

"Oh, Harry!" Hermione's voice echoed through the tunnel, slightly muffled by her hand covering her mouth. "Why -- why on earth did Dumbledore leave you with those people!"

"Albus Dumbledore," Snape said in a familiarly harsh tone. "Had a difficult time seeing people as more than a means to an end, a problem he had his entire life."

Harry stared at the floor of the tunnel as they began to climb through the narrowest parts of the tunnel. "He cried about it when I was with him...after Voldemort destroyed the Horcrux in my scar. He asked me if I could ever forgive him. He cried about his brother and sister and how badly he treated them, too."

"As well he should have," Neville bit out unexpectedly after cancelling Hermione's Bubblehead Charm and everyone looked at him as they finally emerged into the warm morning air.

"Abe told us when happened the night he and the headmaster fought Grindelwald when they'd been boys -- how he saw Grindelwald murder his little sister and how his brother practically blocked the entire thing out for years afterward.

"He told Ginny, Luna, and I, I mean. It was on the night he began to help us take care of everyone in the school. He showed us Ariana Dumbledore's portrait and how it was a tunnel into the Room of Requirement. I think he'd kept that to himself his whole life."

Harry frowned and stared at the achingly familiar lake they were now passing. The Giant Squid was doing lazy backstrokes over the surface and he sighed.

"The piece of Voldemort's soul that had been inside me was there with us." He could feel everyone's eyes on him, then, and forced himself to keep talking.

"It was Tom...when he worked in Borgin and Burke's. He was tied to the chair and kept trying to get free. He couldn't speak, but his mouth was moving. The bit of Voldemort that had been in me...it was still human. Just like the one that tried to possess Ginny from his diary Horcrux. Dumbledore said I was an accidental one, so I don't think he could control the bit that went into me. So he was..." Harry shrugged. "Still a...still a kid, if you could ever call Tom Riddle a kid."

Harry sighed, "Dumbledore never told me what would happen once the Horcrux was gone. I don't even know how it was supposed to work but there's tons of stuff I'm not sure about now and even if Dumbledore were here, would he give me the answer? Habits are really hard to break, I know that from personal experience."

"Harry, just because you were a Horcrux doesn't mean..." Hermione suddenly looked confused. "Wait, Harry, what do you mean?"

"Harry shrugged, "I'm not sure. Dumbledore said I could choose to go on...supposedly to the rest of the afterlife of I could come back. I chose to come back and fight, but the bit of me that was Voldemort was left behind. Um. I guess there's been some things everyone's been assuming and we've had good reason, I guess.

"But Hermione, you've told me tons of times that the Founders lived many thousands of years ago and who knows how their descendants scattered. I mean, besides The Grey Lady, we've only met two that we know of. And the pureblood families were all intermarried. What...what if I didn't get my ability to speak Parseltongue from Voldemort? Dumbledore wasn't right about everything, after all. And besides, Hermione, if you hadn't gone into Gryffindor, you'd've been a cert for Ravenclaw.

"And Professor -- even though you were a half-blood like me, you wanted to be in Slytherin since before you'd even come to Hogwarts. Voldemort -- another half-blood -- went into Slytherin, too. Personal preferences aside, who knows anything? I mean, the Bloody Baron was a Slytherin but he was in love with Helena Ravenclaw. I just don't think everything was as black and white and clear-cut as everyone's always assumed."

"You think you might still be a Parselmouth," Neville offered and Harry sighed and nodded.

He paused and the others did with him, Hermione taking the time to gently lay Snape's body, now protected in a wrapped bundle like Nagini had been, upon the ground to prevent him anymore bodily harm. Harry sighed and pulled out his holly wand, pointing it at the ground and thinking Serpentsortia so that a long, golden snake came out of it and landed on the ground before them.

Taking a breath, Harry looked it in the eye and said, Hello. When he glanced at the others, they were all staring at him and he knew he'd spoken Parseltongue. Despite his lingering sense of ill-ease, he thought, Take that, Snakeface. You didn't make everything about me and you never will.

Harry looked back at the snake and smiled at it, a pang in his heart as he thought of Hedwig.

I'm so sorry I didn't let you out of your cage to fly ahead, Hedwig... he thought to her, mentally saying a true goodbye before considering the snake before him.

You speak it, the snake asked curiously and Harry nodded, remembering when Tom Riddle, Jr., had met his uncle, Morfin Gaunt. Yes, I speak it. My friends don't, but I do.

May I eat them?

Harry almost laughed. Is eating all snakes think about? he asked before shaking his head. No, you may not. I will be happy to get you rats as soon as I can, though. We're going to a place that's likely full of them. As long as you keep out of sight, hunt to your heart's content.

Behind him, Harry could hear Snape speaking now, "P...Harry, kindly remember that you are the only Parselmouth here."

Harry sighed and nodded, further conjuring a terrarium around the snake and picking it up. "Hermione, can you Vanish him to Godric's Hollow? We should be there soon enough."

Hermione nodded, guiltily unsure as to whether to be bothered or not since it wasn't as if this was the first time she'd watched Harry talk to a snake.

"Oh, hey, wait." Harry stayed her hand before setting the terrarium back down for a moment. "There's no sense in him starving in the meantime."

Harry found a nice-sized rock and Transfigured it into a mouse, slightly surprised by his success. Without further comment, however, he dropped it into his new snake's terrarium and then stood back up, "Okay, he's ready, Hermione. I'll think of a name while we're off."

Hermione sighed, but did as Harry asked, then turning back to everyone and asking, "So...where to next?"

Harry could tell she was afraid, but appreciated her effort not to make him think she was uncomfortable with him. "My new snake is going to the graveyard, but that likely doesn't have rats in it. I figure once we get to Spinner's End, he can hunt. But first..."

Harry looked up at Professor Snape's shimmering essence, not exactly certain of the look on his face but not needing to suss it out for now. "I keep my promise."

...TBC...
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