Continuing Tales

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 52 of 60

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Hermione had planned to tell Harry more or less as soon as she saw him that morning, just to get it over with so they could move on, but as the four of them settled to breakfast she realised she hadn't got the faintest idea how to broach the subject. 'Hi, Harry, did you know those weird shared dreams were because you've got a piece of soul inside you belonging to the most evil scum we've ever known and that's probably why you're quite good at magic'? Focusing on her food to stall for time, she tried to think of how best to phrase it, absently biting her lip between mouthfuls.

Almost inevitably, Severus came to the rescue again, sitting back as he drained the last of his coffee and saying nonchalantly, "Potter."

"Yes?" Harry asked, slightly warily.

"We've been making progress and we think we may have a possible solution. If you've finished eating, I need to use Legilimency briefly to see if it will work or not; then we'll tell you what's going to happen."

The boys stared at him, startled, before Harry frowned. "Do you have to? I hate Legilimency."

"No, I'm suggesting it for my own amusement, because exploring your teenage angst was so entertaining last time that I miss it," Severus told him dryly, and Hermione smiled a little as she watched them. This was her lover's version of a good mood, after all.

"Is it going to take long? It hurts, you know."

"It won't hurt," Severus said impatiently.

"It did before." Harry glared at him. "So you were deliberately trying to hurt me last time. I knew it."

"No, I wasn't. Equally, though, I wasn't trying not to hurt you," Severus admitted casually. "Don't fight me and you'll be fine."

"Easy for you to say."

He sighed. "Potter, how many times do you imagine that I have been on the receiving end of Legilimency from the Dark Lord? Believe me, he was far less gentle than I am. This won't take long and I won't be looking at any memories except the one of your being possessed in the Department of Mysteries. Stay calm, focus on that memory and don't try to struggle, and it won't hurt. This isn't a negotiation. I'm not asking you, I'm telling you; we can do this by force if you'd prefer."

"Hermione," Harry whined, appealing to a higher authority. Trying not to smile despite her anxiety, she shook her head at him.

"This is important, Harry. It'll let us know if our idea is going to work. Please just do it."

He surrendered with bad grace and almost grudgingly turned to face Severus, opening his eyes wide and remaining motionless. There wasn't really much to see from a spectator's point of view; the only sign anything was happening was Harry's pupils dilating and the familiar little crease of concentration appearing between Severus' brows. After a couple of minutes Severus blinked slowly and looked away as Harry exhaled heavily and reached up gingerly to touch his scar, apparently out of reflex, and Hermione watched her lover anxiously for a response.

He looked at her with a pensive expression, shrugged slightly and offered her his crooked half-smile. "It's worth trying."

Relieved, she breathed out shakily and smiled at him. "Good."

"Okay, lovely. Can someone tell us what's going on now?" Ron asked plaintively.

Hermione sighed, licking her lips uneasily. "Sit down, Harry. Okay. You're not going to like this, but hear me out, please?" Taking a deep breath, she resisted the urge to look at Severus; she owed it to her friend to tell him herself. "Dumbledore told Severus in the memories he left for him that the reason your scar links you to You-Know-Who, the reason he affects you so much... his soul split again, the night your parents were killed. When the Killing Curse rebounded. It made a seventh Horcrux, an accidental one, that anchored itself to the closest magical object. You."

A thick silence followed her words. Ron had gone pale enough for his freckles to stand out; just as she had when she had first heard, he'd obviously realised that this fit every odd thing they'd ever noticed or heard about, fit so well that it had to be the truth. He looked absolutely horrified.

Harry just looked blank, before scowling. "That's not funny, 'Mione."

"No, it's not," she agreed softly.

"Come on, seriously, what's going on?"

Suppressing another sigh, she looked at him steadily and said nothing, watching his emotions playing across his face as he went from irritation to shocked realisation to stark frozen numbness in the space of about thirty seconds. The silence dragged out as everyone else stared at him apprehensively; even Severus had dropped his pose of casual indifference and leaned forward slightly, his eyes narrowing a little.

Finally Harry spoke again in a rather strained and distant voice; Hermione wondered briefly if she'd sounded like that when Severus had told her. "...You're saying I'm – that I'm a... a Horcrux."

Not sure how to respond, she settled for nodding uneasily; she really didn't like the look starting to creep over his face. "Yes."

Harry took a deep breath. "And you didn't tell me?"

"Harry, you know why I didn't. You said you trusted me. Now we think we've found out how to deal with it, I've told you. Telling you before now wouldn't have achieved anything..."

"I trusted you because I assumed that if it was something really serious, you'd have told me! Guess I was wrong about that, huh?"

Trying to stay calm, she replied quietly, "Look, Harry, you've had a bad shock. It's a pretty horrible thing to learn. But it's going to be okay –"

"Don't patronise me!" His eyes were blazing with rage. "You're no better than Dumbledore! And at least he kept things from me for my sake. I think you just like being in charge now, bossing us all around, just because Snape's started trailing after you like a puppy!"

Even just a few short months ago, she probably would have fled in tears at this point, Hermione reflected quietly as her best friend snarled at her. She certainly felt like crying. But at the same time, she was thinking that over the past couple of weeks she and Severus had been working themselves into the ground to try and find a way out of this mess; she'd cried herself to sleep in his arms more than once, and when they were alone and he dropped his shields she'd seen how much of a toll it was taking on him, and she was on her feet before she knew it.

"How dare you, Harry Potter! When have I ever kept anything secret from you? It's been six years, I'd think you could trust me enough by now to believe that I had a good reason! And don't you ever compare me to Dumbledore," she spat. "He kept things from you to keep you close, to make sure you only trusted him. I was trying to help you, damnit!"

"Oh yeah, it's been a great help not telling me I've got a psychopath's soul in my brain! You don't think that's the sort of thing I needed to know?" he yelled back, as Ron prudently slid down and sideways in his chair to keep well out of the way.

"Not until we worked out how to fix it, no! All it would have done is made you miserable, just like I have been, and Severus!"

"Sure," Harry laughed hollowly. "I bet he's been up all night fretting about me. Because we're great mates, him and me. Except for the part where he can't stand me! My mum –"

"Finish that sentence and I will remove your tongue by the roots," Severus said quietly, his first contribution to the conversation. His voice was very cold, but Hermione didn't turn to look at him; with the reference, her temper had snapped completely, and the surge of wandless magic knocked Harry clean out of his chair as she felt the static crackle through her hair.

"Shut up, Harry! Just shut up!"

Whirling around, she nearly ran smack into Severus, who was standing right in front of the door with his arms folded across his chest. "Let me past, please," she gritted.


Hermione looked up at him; he returned her gaze steadily and calmly. "Let me past, please," she repeated stiffly, trying to cling to what remained of her temper before she really did start crying.

He shook his head. "No, Hermione. You two are going to sort this out now. It will only get worse if you don't. And Potter, if your hand moves one inch closer to your wand, you are going to regret it," he added without looking away from her. "You're both going to fix this before it gets out of hand, if I have to lock you both in here for the rest of the day and personally Disarm you both."

"It's got nothing to do with you," Harry muttered, more sullen than infuriated now; he seemed slightly shocked as he picked himself up. Ron had retreated right across the room by this point and was leaning against the door leading to the cellar, trying to look unobtrusive.

"You live in my house, and I've seen the damage you lot can cause when you fall out," Severus told him crisply. "Sit down and hold your tongue before you do something you'll regret. Do I have to remind you that you refused to speak to Hermione for half a year just because she wanted to make sure your mysterious new broom wasn't going to kill you? Even I thought that was too harsh, and as you might imagine I couldn't have cared less about your squabbles in those days."

The reminder was possibly one of the only things that could have calmed Harry down; Hermione knew he was genuinely ashamed of that. He slunk back to his chair without further comment, and Severus turned his attention back to her. "Sit down, please, Hermione." The words were a request, and she knew that if she really tried to push past him he wouldn't try to stop her, but his tone indicated that he wasn't going to let this drop. "Something like this needs to be fixed immediately, or it won't be fixed at all."

Harry lifted his head and stared at him, looking thoughtful as a bit more anger faded. "You're speaking from experience," he guessed.


"That's what you did to my mum? Wouldn't fix it?" he asked tentatively, as Hermione reluctantly resumed her own seat across the table from him.

After a short pause Severus shook his head. "No. It's what she did to me," he replied quietly.

She had wondered for a long time what had happened after his fight with Lily, whether he'd been young enough not to let his pride get in the way, whether he'd tried to make things right. Apparently he had, but it obviously hadn't been enough. Pushing back her anger, Hermione exchanged a glance with Harry; she couldn't really blame him for being upset.

"Maybe I should have told you before, but what would it have achieved?" she asked him. "I know you hate being kept in the dark. So do I, and I didn't want to do it to you. But you've been so much happier recently, Harry. I didn't want to take that away from you, and if I'd told you about this before, you'd have given up. You'd have decided that you were doomed and you'd have been miserable. I wanted to wait until we knew if there was a way of fixing it or not."

"And is there?" Ron asked swiftly.

"We're not sure, but there could be. I hope so." Hermione shrugged helplessly and looked at Severus.

He nodded. "Understand, Potter, this is a unique situation. I believe I may be able to at least partially separate the Horcrux from you, magically and metaphysically, and then take certain steps to amplify whatever it is in you that prevents the Dark Lord from possessing you. With luck, that will then destroy the Horcrux from within, or if not I will have worked with it enough to have an idea of whether it is possible to remove it or not."

He paused to give Harry a moment to take this in, then added more sharply, "Now, isn't this more pleasant than being informed that you are doomed? You are right that I dislike you, but that doesn't mean I want you dead. This has not been an easy time for anyone."

Harry nodded slowly; he obviously wasn't happy still, but he looked calmer. "No, I know. I'm sorry." He glanced across the table. "I'm sorry, Hermione."

"Me, too. Okay?"

"Okay," he agreed with a small smile, before turning to look back at Severus with a hopeful expression. "When can we do this? I – now I know what's going on, I want it out of me as soon as possible."

"Quite understandable," Severus replied dryly. He glanced at his watch. "This afternoon we'll need to make a trip to pick something up. I don't intend trying this until tomorrow, though – I want a little time to prepare and make sure I have planned as much as possible. Hermione only thought of this a few hours ago."

"Where are we going, and what do we need to get?"

He smirked. "It's a surprise. And it's likely to be very surprising for everyone, actually."

Harry looked back at Hermione. "He really gets a kick out of being cryptic, doesn't he?"

"It's like a drug to Slytherins," she agreed. "I don't know what he's on about either, before you ask."

Severus leaned back in his chair and looked at his watch again. "How would the pair of you like to bugger off to annoy the Order for a few hours?"

"Any particular reason?" Ron asked.

"Because it's irritating having you in my house all the time. Go on, sod off, both of you. Be back after lunch."


Hermione grinned. "Has anyone actually asked you why I never visit?"

"A couple of people, yeah," Harry replied, grinning back at her. "We just shrugged and told them Professor Snape has a lot of books you've never read before and that we expect to see you surface sometime next year. Nobody's questioned it any further."

After they had gone, Severus stood and stretched before turning and raising an eyebrow. "Don't pout at me, Hermione. You were in the wrong this time, although I'm certainly never going to say that to him."

"Severus," she protested tiredly.

"No, you were. It's not that long since you last tore a strip off me for doing the exact same thing, now is it?" he asked.

"You agreed with me at the time."

He nodded. "There was no right choice in this instance, as there wasn't a right choice when I've done it to you before. It's one of the worst dilemmas in existence. For once, he was entitled to be a little angry. That doesn't mean I was going to let him throw a tantrum that could turn into a grudge. I know how much it hurt you when you fell out with them before."

"And you didn't want to see history repeat itself?" she guessed softly, standing and moving closer.

"Oh, it would never have been that bad. The two of you care for one another too much for that," Severus replied quietly.

That raised all sorts of interesting implications, but she could see from the look in his eyes that he didn't want to talk about it. "I suppose I ought to thank you for making us sort things out, anyway," she muttered rather ungraciously, still feeling a little irritated – mostly because she knew he was right.

His quick smile set his black eyes glittering. "I was very tempted not to. Not only is it always vastly entertaining to see you dump Potter on his arse, which is something I haven't seen in a long time... that's the first time I've seen you use magic in anger," he noted; his voice had deepened half an octave and taken on a soft and very familiar growl. "You were... magnificent."

She raised her eyebrows, trying to hold back a smile. "Oh?"

"Definitely." He reached out to touch her face, sliding his fingers into her hair, which she could feel was still crackling with static, and moved closer.

No longer able to keep the smile off her face, she grinned at him, reaching down to lightly brush the back of her hand along the swell of his erection straining at his jeans. "So you just kicked Harry and Ron out because you like me when I'm angry and wanted some privacy? That's a little perverse, you know."

"Yes," he agreed nonchalantly as his fingertips trailed across the nape of her neck, proving that he knew exactly how to make her shiver.

"Fair enough, then. Shall we?"

"We shall."

"I still say you're slightly perverse," she murmured lazily, idly tracing random patterns over his sweaty chest. "Most men are scared of angry women, you know."

"I am not most men," he pointed out, sounding rather justifiably smug. As well he should, she supposed, thinking back over the past couple of hours.

"Have you been planning to have me on the kitchen table for a while?" she asked archly, and he chuckled softly.

"Not specifically, no, but I wasn't in the mood to wait."

"I noticed. You weren't in the mood to waste time removing clothing, either, apparently," she replied, privately heartily approving. Much as she loved their usual extended lovemaking, there was a lot to recommend a quickie every now and then. It seemed that he really did like her angry. "I think you ripped my shirt," she added. "Bastard."


"At least we remembered to clean the table before relocating up here, I suppose."

"It's my house. If I want to enjoy good sex somewhere other than my bed, I shall do so."

Hermione grinned at his lofty tone and snuggled closer. "You've been making a point of asserting that this is your house recently..."

"Because it is. I certainly wouldn't dream of asking you to lay claim to as much as a brick of this shithole." His fingers wound gently into her hair, teasing out a few of the many tangles. "Once all this is done, we shall find somewhere that will be our house."

"Mm. I thought that's what you were getting at, but it's nice to be sure. We still need to work on your communication skills," she told him, running a fingertip along one of the scars on his chest.

"Hmph. If you insist." Severus shifted a little further onto his side and slid his arm around her, nuzzling his face into her hair. "I may not have said anything, but I have in fact been thinking about the future, you know."

She settled contentedly into his embrace and closed her eyes. "Go on..."

"Well, you're aware of what will happen once word begins to spread, even just within the Order."

"Yes, I know. You're a paedophile, I'm a slut desperate for better grades, or maybe I've just been Imperiused and you're a rapist. Maybe you'll get lucky and someone will have read Lolita and decide that you're just a rather ill old man seduced by my obvious skills at manipulation. And obviously it's probably going to be because you hate Harry."

He laughed softly. "Yes, that sounds about right. Do you still have a hold over Rita Skeeter? I know you were blackmailing her, although I never did find out how."

"She's an unregistered beetle Animagus. As far as I know, she's still unregistered, which means yes, I can stop her writing anything about us."

"Is she really? That makes a great deal of sense, actually. Good; she irritates me. It's not going to stop other reporters, but she actively dislikes you, so it's best to head off that particular poison. I don't think I'm going to face any legal action, since a simple examination will show you aren't being magically coerced and I will pay a lot of money to see anyone try to convince you to press charges, but a lot of people are going to be asking a lot of unpleasant questions."

Hermione nodded against his chest. "They're going to look a bit stupid when they do, though. Poppy's already told me she can confirm I was still a virgin at the beginning of the summer term. Maybe someone can make something of the fact that I can't prove anything after May, but I didn't take any exams during that time or anything, and I was over seventeen." She paused. "What do the school rules say about relationships between staff and students?"

Severus started playing with her hair again. "It's forbidden, naturally, but so what? I've already terminated my employment. I have no intention of ever returning to teaching under any circumstances and I don't anticipate being in need of a reference from Hogwarts at any point. If they want to think we were together for what, a month before the end of term – although when we were supposed to have found the time, I have no idea – then I'm not going to bother trying too hard to convince them otherwise. It's not going to affect your education, if that's what you're worried about."

"Are you sure?"

"It's never the student's fault in such cases – and it has happened before."

She interrupted him with a grin. "You looked it up? When?"

He pointedly ignored the question. "In any case, you're Hermione Granger. They wouldn't dare so much as hint that you couldn't take your NEWTs, no matter what you had supposedly done. There would be rumours and gossip if it came out while you were still at Hogwarts, but that's hardly a new experience for you, and it wouldn't be for long. Poppy would still be on your side, and Minerva would support you publicly even if she disapproved, and most of your other teachers would be more than happy to blame me."

Reassured by this, she relaxed against his side, before frowning and twisting to look up at him again. "'If' it comes out while I'm still at Hogwarts? You want to keep it a secret?"

Severus paused for a moment, then shifted slightly more onto his side to face her, his dark eyes intent. "For now, yes – for your sake, not mine. As I said, I have been thinking about the future, for possibly the first time in my life; let me explain what I think should happen, and see whether you agree or not. Let's assume that we kill the Dark Lord and that the war ends. There will be a period of chaos and cleaning up, and everyone will try to get things back to normal as quickly as possible so we can all go back to pretending that it didn't really happen. You'll be returning to Hogwarts to take your NEWTs; as I've said before, I don't think you'll need more than a term to prepare, but it doesn't matter if you want to take longer or if other staff think you should. Now, I will not be returning to Hogwarts. I don't care if they beg me. I've always hated teaching and I have too many bad memories, and under the circumstances I don't think it's a good idea."

"So what does that mean for... us?" she asked, feeling sick as she searched his expression anxiously. He looked serious and intent but he didn't seem to be steeling himself or to be upset, and she tried to relax.

"I think that it would be best if we had a long engagement," he said slowly, "until you've graduated. That doesn't mean we won't see one another; I don't think either of us are patient enough for that," he added, smirking slightly. "I know I'm not. You'll have weekends free, at least, and even you won't need all your free time for study. Besides, it would probably be for the best for us to have a little time apart occasionally; I imagine we will both have a few post-war problems to work through, and whilst I cannot speak for you, I will do better at that or at least cause less damage to others if I am by myself. During that time, I will sell this house – I never want to live here again – and start long term planning. I don't know what career path you want to take, but it doesn't matter, because I'm more than happy to work around it."


"Must you constantly keep interrupting?" he asked mildly. "I haven't finished yet."

"You've spent your whole life doing what other people want. I won't be part of that."

"Then be quiet and listen, foolish girl," he told her dryly with a kind of exasperated affection in his voice. "I wasn't suggesting any such thing. I want to go into private Potions brewing and research and set up my own mail-order service to fund my personal experiments. I can do that from anywhere in the world, in any kind of home, at least to some extent. I don't give a toss where we live or what you do for a living, so I can work around whatever you eventually decide your future should be. At the moment I have no money whatsoever, it's true, but a private potioneer with my qualifications and a certain indifference to the law earns more than enough to keep us both very comfortably regardless of your own earnings."

He stretched lazily and gave her an amused look. "Now, assuming that you haven't got fed up with me and remembered what a bastard I am by the time you graduate, and assuming that we both survive the post-traumatic stress with our sanity intact, that would be a good time to consider marriage. I should state right now that I don't really care what form a wedding will take, but if you want a huge load of fuss then please organise it without me. I'm completely indifferent to all the trimmings. I like the Muggle ceremony more than the wizarding one but not enough to object to either; I would like some say in the guest list but there's nobody I particularly want there. That can all wait until nearer the time, in any case."

"And what makes that 'a good time' to consider it?" she asked, more amused at his attitude than anything else; he really had put a great deal of thought into things, and she couldn't help wondering when he'd found the time to think about it so carefully, given everything else he'd had to think about recently.

Severus arched an eyebrow. "Because whatever ceremony we undergo, our wedding will still have to be registered in the wizarding world for legal reasons, and the moment a marriage licence appears with both our names on it all Hell is going to break loose. Possibly literally. I plan to drag you off for a very long honeymoon somewhere where we can hide until everything dies down, so it would make sense to do so before either of us embark on a long-term career. That's the only reason."

Hermione thought about this. "Fair enough. Then what?"

He grinned and lay back. "Whatever we like. Isn't that how things are generally supposed to work?"

"You make it all sound so simple..."

"It is simple. That's not the same as easy, mind you, but it is simple enough."

"There's still so much to sort out."

"And we'll have plenty of time to do so."

She bit her lip and hesitated. "And what of the future, long-term?" she asked carefully. "I... I need to be honest here. I – I don't want children. I never have and despite what everyone keeps telling me, I don't think I ever will..."

He gave her an incredulous look. "And you really think I do?" he asked. "Leaving aside the fact that I am certain I would be a truly terrible father, it can't have escaped your notice that I don't like children. At all. People tell me it's different when they're your own, but the only difference I can see is that you can't get away from them."

That made her smile. "I'm inclined to agree, but accidents do happen. You told me you were safe, and we've been careful, but..."

"I wasn't really capable of a proper explanation at the time," he noted dryly, smirking at her as she smiled ruefully at him in response; in the middle of their first time probably hadn't been the best moment to raise the subject, in hindsight. "But I am completely safe. I'm infertile, and as far as I can tell I always have been."

Hermione blinked and stared at him, caught somewhere between surprise and relief. "Why didn't I know that already?"

"Why would you?" he asked. "It's not on record, because my sexual health was hardly anyone's priority – including mine. I doubt Poppy even remembers, to be honest. It is probably treatable, but I've never bothered to find out."

"Well, that solves that problem, at least." She settled against him once more and rested her head on his chest. "I think your plan sounds pretty damned wonderful, actually, if we can pull it off."

"So glad you approve." He stretched lazily and exhaled heavily. "Pleasant though this is, we do have work to do this afternoon." Shifting, he slapped her arse playfully. "Get off me, woman."

"You bastard," she protested, laughing as she sat up.

He chuckled softly and sat up in turn, pushing his hair back from his face and starting to Summon his scattered clothing. "I think it's just as well I'm not going back to Hogwarts," he noted dryly. "Imagine what I would have to do to any student who spoke to me like that."

Hermione grinned mischievously at him. "Put me in detention, perhaps?" she asked archly, and started to giggle at the look on his face. "You've thought about that before, then?" I know I have...

"...No comment," he said after a moment, avoiding her eyes with a slightly sheepish-looking smirk; he looked almost on the verge of blushing.

"So many wasted opportunities," she teased impishly, finding and wriggling into her knickers and standing up to get her jeans back on.

"Not that many. Even I couldn't get away with giving the Princess of Gryffindor many detentions," he pointed out, doing up his belt and picking up his shirt. "Still, I have to admit the thought had crossed my mind once or twice. Not that I would have done anything even if you had ended up in detention... but it was a nice thought nonetheless. Especially around three in the morning, I recall..."

"I still can't believe I didn't know anything about it. I mean, I probably saw you more often than almost anyone else did, and we were alone together quite often."

He gave her a faintly disgusted look, his eyes gleaming mockingly as he raked his fingers through his hair. "You do remember what the word Occlumens means, don't you? Despite what everyone thinks, I do have a professional code of ethics, and attempting to initiate anything inappropriate with a student most definitely violates that code. In any case, since I did not know you felt anything for me beyond initial dislike that faded into pity and then into a very peculiar sort of friendship, I would hardly have risked humiliating myself."

"And I thought you were good at reading people," she replied mockingly, twisting to do up her bra before pulling her shirt on over her head. "When did it start, though? You said fifth year was when your Patronus stopped being the doe..."

Severus rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes drifting out of focus. "I noticed my Patronus had stopped working towards the end of the summer term, but I didn't often use the charm so it was certainly some time before that. I really don't know for certain, but I know I became aware that something had changed during those Occlumency lessons. I imagine it started before that, though." Apparently not happy with this conversation, he arched an eyebrow at her and changed the subject. "And when did it start with you?"

"Um. I'm not really sure. It happened so gradually and I had so many other things on my mind that I didn't really notice. Definitely by the start of sixth year, because Professor Slughorn showed us Amortentia in our first Potions lesson and it smelled a bit like you, although I didn't recognise it at the time. I didn't actually work out what was going on until sometime after Christmas, but I remember being very confused about you long before that. Hence the party dress, although I admit Cormac was to annoy Ron. I was pretty confused about him, too, because I'd spent some time liking him." And it hadn't been until Harry had brought the subject up that she'd realised she didn't know why, although she didn't intend to tell Severus that Harry had been partly responsible for her working out her feelings for him. He wouldn't be impressed.

He smiled slightly. "I cleared away the potions after that particular lesson; I noticed the smell of the Amortentia too, although I already knew something of how I felt so the scent wasn't too much of a surprise. In any event, I think it's for the best that we didn't realise or act on it earlier – I was playing too many different roles already; I don't think I could have coped with trying to hide a relationship with you at the same time. And the risk if anyone had found out..."

"True," Hermione agreed as she finished getting dressed, deciding to more or less ignore her hair until she got a chance to wash it later. She stretched. "By the way, I've wondered about something for ages – why did you let me keep your textbook, once you realised I had it?"

He snorted. "I'd have thought that was obvious. I was trying to impress you."


"Hermione, this is you we're talking about. Any man who hoped to have a chance with you would have to show that he was intelligent before anything else," he told her dryly, "and it isn't as though I have many other impressive qualities, so I needed to play to my strengths."

She tried to scowl at him, but to be honest he was right; she was highly unlikely to look at anyone who wasn't smart, and admittedly his Potions knowledge had impressed her. Pointedly changing the subject, she asked, "So where are we going this afternoon?"

"You said yourself, I enjoy being cryptic," he replied, smirking.

"Git. At least tell me what we're going to fetch?"

"Something that will help destroy the Horcrux, if I manage to untangle it. I hope. I told you there were a few things I can do to try and increase the chances of it working, and this is one of them."

"I'm surprised you think this is going to work, to be honest, Severus."

He shrugged. "You said it yourself; we have proof that the Dark Lord is unable to possess Potter for more than a few moments."

"I thought about what happened to Quirrell, too, but that was because of Harry's mother dying for him, wasn't it?" she asked, trying to keep her voice gentle, although the reference seemed to leave Severus more or less unmoved.

"Partly, perhaps, but I think the emotion was more important than the source. I'm not convinced that Lily was the only one to ever choose to sacrifice herself for her child; I don't think it had much to do with her specifically." He shrugged again and moved past her to lead the way back downstairs and to the real world once more. "Something about the process of possession leaves the Dark Lord vulnerable to strong, pure emotions; when he's in his own body it wouldn't affect him. It's why he couldn't possess the boy for long; using Potter's blood when he returned to the flesh didn't protect him from that."

"Then why wasn't the Horcrux destroyed inside Harry ages ago? Why was it able to anchor to him in the first place?" Hermione was aware that it was daft to be playing Doubting Thomas to her own theory, but she wanted to be sure they'd covered everything.

"Because as a very young child his emotions weren't powerful enough, and because as he grew older he developed enough darkness to anchor the Horcrux and prevent it from being harmed by the light in him. I think. This is all rather speculative, after all."

She bit her lip absently and thought about it. "Okay, then. That makes sense. And you can use that now?"

"I think so. I won't know for sure until I try it."

She nodded. "Severus?"


Meeting his dark eyes, she asked quietly, "How dangerous is this?"

"To him? It isn't. The worst case scenario is that it simply won't work, in which case we are no worse off than we were before. I won't keep trying if it's going to kill him, because it would be a lot easier to just curse him or poison him and be done with it if he'll die anyway. This is an all or nothing – it'll work or it won't. There won't be any partial results and he shouldn't be harmed."

"And how dangerous is it to you?"

Severus returned her gaze steadily. "I'm honestly not sure. It's going to take a lot of power, even with you and Weasley helping me, and a great deal of concentration. It's not going to hurt me directly, I can promise you that. I am as sure as I can be without trying it that the worst that will happen is that I will be exhausted. Obviously something unexpected may happen to either of us, but as far as I am aware, it is relatively risk free."

"You could be a little more reassuring, you know."

"No, I couldn't. I'm not capable of it."


"So Hermione, what exactly is going on?" Ron asked cheerfully as they recovered from the Side-Along Apparition. They looked around. Severus had brought them to an alleyway on the edge of a smart suburban estate on the outskirts of a small town; it was as blankly anonymous as the face of the moon.

"That's what I want to know," Harry said in an odd voice, staring around him before glaring at Severus. "What are we doing here?"

"You know where we are?" Hermione asked him.

"We're in Little Whinging," he said tightly.

"And seldom has a place been so appropriately named," Severus said irritably. "We're here because we need to be, Potter, because I need to speak to your aunt. Come on, we've got a way to walk – this was the closest safe Apparition spot I knew. The longer we're out here, the more chance there is of someone finding us."

Harry didn't move. "Why do you need to speak to her?"

Severus gave him an annoyed look; Hermione cleared her throat pointedly. "Explain it to us, please, Severus."

He transferred the annoyed look to her before sighing. "Your aunt and your cousin are your closest blood relatives, Potter, and your only maternal relatives. I need blood from one of them, and your aunt is closer genetically."

"She won't give it to you."

"I beg to differ. Come on." He started walking, and the three of them hurried to catch up.

"Why blood?" Hermione asked him.

"It's always blood," he replied dryly, looking down at her. "Blood is important. Life force, and magic in some cases, and all sorts of things. It amplifies a lot of things, and it will reaffirm Potter's identity and tie him back to his mother's sacrifice. I hope."

"Isn't this house Secret-Kept or something?" Ron asked. "I mean, the Order didn't just leave it unprotected, did they?"

"Of course not," Severus replied distantly. "It is protected, although not by the Fidelius Charm. But I already knew where it was."


He snorted. "Potter, don't be stupid. You know the Order have been watching you your entire life. Arabella Figg isn't the only agent we've had guarding you."

"Then why?" Harry asked, with a shadow of what looked like pain in his eyes. "I mean, I get the whole blood relative thing, but... how could you all just leave me there?"

Severus turned and gave him a contemptuous look. "It didn't do you any permanent damage."

"You don't know what it was like!"

"Yes, I do," he said flatly. "I know every last detail, Potter. Quite a lot of it from your own head, although I knew most of it before then."

"Then how can you say that?"

"Because it's true." Severus turned away and kept walking, moving a little stiffly now. "Do you really want to swap stories of child abuse, Potter? Because I assure you, I can very easily beat anything you could tell me. I don't care how ill-used you feel; you may have been neglected, but you were not physically abused."

"Yes I was," Harry hissed furiously, and Severus spun around, storming back to him with his eyes blazing as some inner barrier broke inside him.

"Your uncle used to slap you around the back of the head, did he? My father left permanent scars on my back and put my mother in hospital," he snarled. "Your aunt locked you in your room and fed you table scraps? I was locked in the cellar and fed nothing at all. Do not play this game with me, boy. I've known Petunia Dursley since we were children; she has many faults but she doesn't have it in her to truly abuse a child. Stop whining and think, the way I taught you."

"Think about what?" Harry asked in a much smaller voice, his anger apparently not strong enough to withstand the look on Severus' face.

"About why. Did you never stop to wonder why they treated you the way they did?"

"Because they hate me."


"How do you know? I don't believe for a second that you were watching over me."

"Of course I wasn't."

"Then how do you know how my aunt feels about me?"

"Because Petunia loved her sister," Severus said through gritted teeth as they started walking once more, "and you are all she has of her. She was trying to suppress your magic, boy, not to hurt you. It wouldn't work – she didn't know how brutal she would have had to be in order to achieve that – but that's what she was trying to do. I thought you would have worked that out by now."

"I did," he replied sullenly.

"And why did she want to suppress your magic?"

"She thinks it's wrong. Unnatural."

"God, you really are a self-absorbed idiot sometimes," Severus growled. "Oh, I'm sure that's what she says. She's always said it was freakish. It didn't stop her from begging Dumbledore to be allowed to attend Hogwarts with her sister; it didn't stop her being jealous of us. Being the sibling of a Muggleborn is always painful; you cannot even begin to imagine how it hurt the two of them to be separated by your mother's magic. I don't think even they fully realised. No, Potter, you're wrong. Your aunt was trying to protect you."

"What? How was that supposed to protect me?"

"Give me strength," he muttered. "She knew exactly how and why James and Lily died. She knew the full story. If you weren't a wizard, if you grew up a Squib, then the Dark Lord would have no reason to seek you when he returned. If you didn't have magic, you'd be safe."

Harry stopped dead, staring at his back with a stunned expression; clearly, this had never occurred to him. Severus kept walking, and after a moment Hermione nudged Ron over towards Harry and hurried to catch up with him.

"Did you have to be quite so harsh, Severus?" she asked softly. "He didn't know."

He shook his head fractionally. "He should have known. And damn her stubborn hide, Petunia should have told him by now." He sighed. "I lost my temper," he conceded quietly. "I'm not looking forward to this. I haven't seen her in a very long time."

"Were you friends with her, too?"

He snorted a laugh, somewhat to her surprise. "Oh, God, no. She absolutely hated me. She blamed me for stealing her sister away, even though Lily's magic showed long before she met me. Besides, I was a weird dirty boy from the rough estate in the wrong part of town, and the Evans' were middle class and rising. But... we parted on good terms, more or less. I came to her after everything was over and I told her the real story of how and why her sister died; I told her almost everything, far more than Dumbledore had. I haven't seen her since."

"And what you told Harry just now..." she said hesitantly. She had known that he'd been abused as a child, but she hadn't really stopped to think about it – she hadn't wanted to think about it.

"All true, and only a small part of the story," he said quietly.

"I'm sorry."

"It's hardly your fault. I survived."

"Is that what your nightmares are about?"

Severus nodded guardedly. "At Hogwarts, they were about other things, too, but in Spinner's End, it's always about... my father."

Those strangled, barely-audible sobs took on a darker meaning, and she shivered, staring at him helplessly. Licking her lips, she made herself ask, "How – how bad was it?"

He gave her a puzzled look before a kind of horrified understanding flickered through his eyes. "Oh, no, no, nothing like that. He wasn't a paedophile. Just a thug. He treated my mother far worse than he did me."

"When – how did he die?" She hoped he hadn't had anything to do with it, but she wasn't sure she could blame him if he had.

"My parents both died while I was still at school. A gas leak. I was sixteen."

His voice was largely dispassionate and his eyes were neutral, but unshielded; he clearly didn't feel much grief now, if he ever had, but she said, "I'm sorry," anyway.

He looked down at her, his eyes softening a little. "It's all right. It was a long time ago. The nightmares are getting easier, and the memories don't bother me much now. We'll talk more later, if you wish. Come on, let's get this over with."

They turned into a cul-de-sac, and Severus crossed the road briskly. "Welcome to Number Four, Privet Drive," he said calmly as they walked up the path to one of the houses. Reaching out, he rang the doorbell.

The woman who answered turned absolutely chalk-white, staring at Severus in stunned shock. "You!"

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 52 of 60

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