Continuing Tales

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 55 of 60

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Lacking any better ideas, they had gathered upstairs in the bedroom the boys had been using, that had once belonged to Severus' parents. Potter sat rather self-consciously on the bed, staring around at them. "I'm really not comfortable with being unconscious," he said slowly. "I know you said it'll help, but... I'd rather know what's going on."

Because you still don't fully trust me, Severus filled in silently, without rancour. That was fair enough, really; had their positions been reversed, he would have reacted in the same way. He shrugged. "You can stay awake through the first part, if you really must. But once the – the link is untangled, I'm knocking you out, one way or another. Staying calm is almost impossible for you in the best of circumstances; I don't see you managing it through this."

The boy scowled and shrugged, trying desperately to pretend he wasn't worried. Severus kindly pretended not to notice he had a death grip on his girlfriend's hand. "All right, all right. What about my aunt's blood?"

"We don't need it until the second part. I'll be marking certain places on your skin with it. Oh, don't look like that. It's only blood. All right, then, if you insist on staying awake for this, keep still and quiet. I'm going to be doing something very similar to when I removed my Dark Mark..."

"What?" Ginevra exclaimed, and he gave her a warning glare.

"I told you that you would receive an explanation afterwards. Be silent, Miss Weasley." He was privately somewhat surprised that neither her brother nor her boyfriend had told her about it already, but it didn't really matter. He turned his attention back to Potter. "As I was saying," he said pointedly, "I will be doing something similar here. It's going to be centred on your scar, and it is going to feel decidedly odd. You know what it feels like when you have pins and needles? Imagine that, but all over. It will start tingling and it will gradually grow more and more painful."

"Are you going to cut a chunk out of Harry's head like you did your arm?" Weasley asked, sounding somewhere between nervous and amused.

"No. A frontal lobotomy would probably help him in many ways, but I'm not qualified for brain surgery," he responded dryly. "This isn't going to be as physical. I don't actually know much about your scar, Potter; it might bleed or something, but I'm not going to be causing any physical injury."

"Gee. Thanks."

Suppressing a snort, he glanced quickly at Hermione, not at all surprised to note she had her lower lip caught between her teeth. She stopped biting it long enough to give him a quick smile that warmed him even as he hoped like hell that he wouldn't fail her obvious faith in him. Looking away, he drew his wand – his own wand, not the Elder Wand, not yet – and regarded Potter steadily. "Lie down and try to keep still. Arcanum hominis revelio."

Ignoring his audience now, he watched the flickering magic playing across Potter's skin, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully. It was hard to tell precise colours when doing this but there were definitely two distinct shades there, once he knew what to look for. Reaching out, he rested the tip of his wand on the boy's forehead directly over the lightning shaped scar and seized his wrist with the other hand, closing his eyes briefly and concentrating.

The main obstacle was that he simply wasn't all that familiar with Potter's magic, but the months of mock-duelling had helped him get a vague idea and he certainly knew what the Dark Lord's magic felt like. Unfortunately both of them were fire orientated, so would feel fairly similar, but... yes, there was something slightly different. All right, then, here we go... Opening his eyes, he began slowly moving the tip of his wand back and forth across the scar, starting the soft Latin chant he had used before. It wasn't even a spell, as such, but an old meditative cantrip he'd found decades ago in an old book that had turned out to be useful for focusing his mind. Change a few words here and there, and it could be adapted to near enough anything.

He could feel the magic flowing under his hand now, stirring and eddying in response to his own power moving it. It was a slow process, and it would be easier if he encouraged Potter's magic to do the work instead of trying it himself, but he couldn't really risk draining the boy yet; he'd need every scrap of power later for the most difficult part. Severus closed his eyes and lost himself in concentration.

Slowly returning to the real world, he opened his eyes, blinking away sweat. He had no idea how long he had been working, but he was starting to feel tired. Severus looked down at Potter and suppressed a sigh of relief; before he had started this, the boy's aura had been a network of braided cords, his magic and the Dark Lord's tangled around each other. Now there were two separate networks overlaying one another.

"So far, so good," he said quietly, wiping his face on his sleeve. "Still with us, Potter?"

The boy nodded shakily. He was pale and sweating and the scar had turned bright red, but he seemed to be coping. "How the hell did you do this to yourself and then cut your arm like that?" he asked hoarsely.

"It's probably best not to ask," Hermione interjected, trying her hardest to sound brisk and matter-of-fact and – as far as Severus was concerned – utterly failing. He knew her well enough to spot how worried she was. "How are you both feeling?"

"Like he said, pins and needles, and it hurts a bit," Potter reported, lying through his teeth. It would actually be hurting him quite a lot, which was one reason why Severus had suggested he be unconscious throughout.

"Could you feel what was happening?" Weasley asked interestedly.

"I dunno," was the helpful response. "I could feel something, but I can't really describe it. Has it worked?"

"Yes," Severus lied smoothly. It wasn't much of a lie; it had mostly worked. The Horcrux was mostly unbound from him. It was certainly a huge improvement over the previous situation. He could see Hermione knew he was holding back and gave her a reassuring smile, since Miss Weasley only had eyes for her boyfriend at the moment. "As well as could be hoped," he elaborated. "Let me get my breath while we prepare the next step, and we'll move on."

"Are you all right?" Hermione asked him more directly.

He met her eyes and nodded firmly. "Yes. Stop fussing so much or this will take all night. Do you have the blood?"

Her glare indicated he was going to pay for this later, but she handed it over without comment and went back to biting her lip and fiddling with her sleeve.

"Can I ask what's going on yet?" Ginevra asked somewhat plaintively. "Whose blood is that?"

"I really wouldn't ask questions, Gin," her brother told her, grinning. "It gets dangerous. We'll tell you everything once we're done. Promise."

Severus opened the little vial of blood. "Shirt off, Potter. This needs to go on your back."

"Is there any point in my asking why?" he asked, reluctantly hiking his t-shirt up over his head. "Is that high enough?"

"A bit more, it needs to start at your neck. As for why, have you ever heard of a chakra?"


The blood had been treated with an anti-coagulant when it was taken; he dipped a finger in it and began to draw a line down Potter's back as he talked. "They're nodes, or energy points. There are seven major ones – isn't it ironic how the number seven keeps showing up? – and a lot of minor ones that we don't need to worry about. Hermione, you'll know most of the minor ones by other names, nerve points and reflex points and pressure points and so on. The major ones are all located along a line that runs along the length of the spine from the top of the head down to the groin. They play an important part in a lot of Eastern magic, but it's not something that is studied much in this part of the world."

"So what will the blood do?" That was Hermione, interested enough to stop worrying for a few moments; Severus suppressed a smile and kept working, smearing the cold and slightly sticky blood down from the nape of his patient's neck along the spine to his belt.

"It won't do anything specific... this isn't easy to explain but in effect I am trying to create an autoimmune response. By heightening Potter's awareness of himself – in this case, linking his magic via his chakras to his genetic background to remind him who he is magically, and by bolstering his magic with energy from us later – I'm hoping that his body will realise that the Dark Lord's presence is foreign and not part of him and will turn on it to destroy it from within."

"What would happen if we weren't here to give strength?" Weasley asked.

"I imagine his head would explode," Severus replied dryly. "We're talking about a lot of power." Finished with the line of blood, he leaned over Potter's shoulder. "Hold still, the last bit needs to go on your forehead." He carefully drew the rune for purification, large enough to cover the scar and the location of the Third Eye chakra, before straightening up and tossing the vial to one side, absently wiping his fingers on the hem of his shirt. "Sit like that for a minute until it dries."

He turned his attention to his helpers. "Have any of you consciously given magic to another wizard before?" Hermione had done it unknowingly, but that was a separate issue.


"I'm not sure how much you'll sense. Circle magic doesn't function in quite the same way as most magic we do. You'll feel energy moving through you and towards me, and it will feel tiring because this is likely to take a while. Don't resist it; just keep calm and let it happen. Don't try to break the link, for any reason. If any of you manage it, which is doubtful, the backlash could cause a lot of damage to anyone in this room. There is no reason to struggle; if you become too drained, the link will dissolve. You aren't in danger."

"Are you, Severus?" Hermione asked pointedly.

"My answer hasn't changed since the last time you asked. Or the time before that. Or the time before that," he told her, amused at her slightly sheepish expression as she looked away. "I told you, stop fussing. All right, Potter, time to go to sleep."

The boy grinned around at his audience with as much bravado as he could muster, pulling his shirt back down. "Is You-Know-Who going to get hurt from this?"

"Oh, I do hope so."

"Good. Okay, well... see you all in a few hours, I suppose. Good luck."

"I don't need luck. Dormio."

Severus cracked his knuckles before reaching to tug the unconscious figure into the required position on his back at the end of the bed, so he could stand by the boy's head. "Hermione on my right, you two on my left. Make sure your wands are touching bare skin somewhere, but you can't hold them. Join hands – yes, with Potter as well. Stop flinching, Weasley, I don't particularly want to hold your hand either. God knows where it's been."

"Is this where we need the other wand?" Hermione asked uncertainly, and he nodded.

"You and I will need to hold it, I think. Don't worry too much about dropping it, I can do this without it if necessary." He took her hand, linking his fingers through hers and making sure the Elder Wand was held as securely as possible between their palms, using his other hand to thumb back Potter's eyelids before linking with Weasley.

"If this takes too long, Harry's eyes are going to dry out."

"His physical reflexes still work – he can still blink, even unconscious. All right, is everyone ready? Here we go..."

This was going to have to be done in stages; Severus had been planning it for days. The first step was, naturally, Hermione; she was simply the easiest for him to link with, in part because several links already existed between them. Just being lovers created a bond on a basic level, one reaffirmed every time they had sex, but there were stronger ties than that between them. He reached simultaneously through his beaten-up copper bracelet, the scar he'd got from it, and through the Elder Wand, and felt the soft warmth of her magic sliding across his senses.

The surge of power through the Hallow seemed less extreme with both of them in control, calmer and easier to manage, which he was grateful for. He'd been doing some thinking – in his spare time – and he had a theory that perhaps part of the reason for the strange shared ownership of it was due to the life debt that he owed her from when she had saved his life following his torture, the debt he suspected she was resolutely refusing to think about. It might also have something to do with their respective magics – both air and water were as far from the more usual fire magic as you could get, after all, and this wand felt very much aligned to fire.

It didn't particularly matter, but it was something interesting to think about when he needed a bit of a break from earth-shattering life-altering decisions.

He felt Hermione squeeze his hand and almost smiled, squeezing back as the link stabilised. So far, so good. Now through her to Potter; not easy, at all, but the past few hours had given him enough familiarity with the boy's magic to be able to do it. He could feel the growing magical instability as the Horcrux reacted to in effect being cut off from its host; he'd been thinking of it as a parasite since learning about it. Once he was sure he had control of the half-circle, he reached cautiously for the Weasleys, the girl first.

There were quite a few reasons why he had decided to bring Ginevra into this. The first reason that would matter was the fact that she and Potter were sleeping together whenever they could escape the watchful eye of Molly Weasley; that sexual bond was enough to give him a starting point. There was still no way this would have worked without some awareness of elemental alignment – earth magic was perfect for circles and was far more common in the cultures that still used it. Without that, he couldn't have done this, because he really didn't know her at all.

Briefly, apropos of nothing, Severus recalled the previous year and listening – reluctantly – to Slughorn rambling on about his current crop of favourites. For some reason the old walrus had taken a real shine to Miss Weasley and had been constantly comparing her to Lily, which Severus didn't understand; he couldn't see any real similarities beyond red hair and occasional cheekiness, which were both solid Weasley traits anyway. From what he'd seen of the girl their personalities weren't very similar, and as for the red hair, it wasn't even close to the same shade. Then again, Slughorn was pretty good at seeing what he wanted to see.

Stop getting sidetracked, he chided himself lightly, concentrating once more. The girl wasn't happy with this; she was trying not to resist, but with limited success. Hardly surprising; as far as she was concerned, he was still just that bastard Snape, or that bastard Professor Snape if he was lucky. She'd been kept well out of everything to do with the Order, and in school he'd been his usual unpleasant self in her lessons and never seen her out of them. She was actually the only Weasley apart from Percy who had never had a detention from him, since she had stumbled on the only strategy that worked with him – being half-decent at Potions and keeping her head down.

Almost... yes... there we go. There was a similar background feel to magic between family members, he'd noticed it years ago with Draco and Lucius, and all the Weasleys had a certain common feeling to their magic, something quiet and solid. Now he had the feel of it, it wasn't too difficult to drag the other Weasley into the circle to finish it; those mock duels last year had helped. The last link formed and the circle closed with a sudden rush of power that made every hair on his body stand on end and sent a shiver through all of them.

Breathing slowly and carefully, he turned his attention to the focus of the circle, the unconscious Potter. Looking down, he stared thoughtfully into the slightly glazed green eyes and took a deep breath. "Legilimens."

Since Potter was unconscious and Severus wasn't actively looking for anything yet, the boy's mind was still and quiet. Severus was projecting his own visualisation, using his personal imagery of the ocean to give himself some context; it wouldn't have worked had Potter done any real work with Occlumency before, but since there were no pre-existing structures in place he was able to override and give himself something he could work with easily. There were some decidedly odd currents here, both from Potter's instinctive unease at his presence and the distant influence of the Horcrux – now he knew what he was looking for, it was so obvious that he couldn't believe he'd missed it before.

If only Dumbledore had said something years ago! The solution hadn't been all that difficult to concoct once Hermione had put him onto the right idea. Severus was good at creating new spells, he'd always had a knack for it, and he knew more about the Dark Arts than anyone else on the 'Light' side. If the old man had trusted him just a little more, this could have been resolved years ago. He could have done it properly, spent more time developing a complete ritual and expanding the circle to include as many as possible, instead of this rushed and improvised job.

Still, no point in dwelling on it now. Severus concentrated, trying to get used to the general atmosphere of the boy's mind and the strange duality he could sense, sorting out the impressions and attempting to expand his senses throughout Potter's body as though this was a Healing process – as it was, in a sense. Once he thought he more or less had the hang of it, he drew carefully on the linked magic of the circle, concentrating for the moment on Ginevra Weasley's magic. This was the main reason why he had wanted to include her – she was the only other living person that he knew personally who had ever been possessed by one of Tom Riddle's Horcruxes, however briefly and imperfectly. Her magic remembered that, and he could use that familiarity now to create an echo of her previous response when she had attempted to rebel against the Dark Lord's command and from there encourage Potter to fight in the same manner.

Hopefully, anyway.

As he worked, Severus considered rather sardonically the final reason he had wanted the girl here. There was a very, very small chance that the 'power of love' theory actually was right; he shared Hermione's cynical opinion that it was almost certainly a load of rubbish, and in fact doubted it more than she did, but she had made a good point that there was a small amount of evidence to support it. He hadn't lived this long by dismissing anything out of hand, even if he frequently appeared to do so. Just in case, it certainly couldn't hurt to have Potter's girlfriend here. Severus had no idea whether or not the pair actually were in love, but they were certainly young enough and daft enough to believe they were, and that was probably good enough.

He wasn't sure why Dumbledore had come up with that theory in the first place. As far as he knew, the old bastard had been possibly even less familiar with love than he was. It was a nice lie to tell a child, but peculiarly most of the Order seemed to accept it quite happily. Severus wasn't convinced – love was powerful, of course it was, but he didn't think it could automatically defeat evil, only motivate people to do so. There had to be some actual concrete force somewhere.

As for 'power the Dark Lord knows not'... well, what the Dark Lord didn't know could fill the fabled Great Library of Alexandria. The prophecy could mean anything. It might just mean that the Dark Lord hadn't expected Potter to have an ally with Severus' exact skills – there couldn't be many wizards experienced with mental magic, the Dark Arts, Healing and magical improvisation. Or, even more simply than that, it could just refer to the fact that the Dark Lord didn't know Potter had an additional Horcrux inside him. Divination was hardly an exact science and he wasn't going to take any of it as gospel, especially since Trelawney had been the Seer in question this time. He didn't believe the bit about Potter and the Dark Lord needing to kill one another either; once this last Horcrux was destroyed, anyone could wipe Riddle out, and he personally rather wanted to do it himself.

Stop getting distracted, he chided himself, concentrating for a moment on his own mental defences to chase his irrelevant thoughts away and clear his mind. Satisfied, he turned his attention back to the circle, drawing everyone's magic very carefully into Potter's body and mind in search of the Horcrux's central anchor point, which he was sure had to be in the scar. He could faintly sense the additional little boost that came from the blood smeared down the Sushumna nadi that ran along the spine; regardless of how she felt about it personally, Petunia had the same genetic makeup as Lily, and there was magic in her blood. Not much, but enough.

Severus carefully and systematically worked his way upwards, almost sweeping the boy's body for any traces of dark magic. It was similar to the way he had driven back the magic from his Dark Mark to concentrate it in the brand itself, but this was more metaphysical than physical and he couldn't really verbalise it – which was going to make trying to explain it to a curious Hermione later virtually impossible; he was working by instinct, not thought, simply doing whatever seemed to feel right.

Finally he managed to create the mental image he wanted, holding to the picture of a wavering and indistinct piece of the Dark Lord's magic fenced in by strands of power from Potter and from himself and the others in the circle. Pausing for a moment to mentally catch his breath, he reviewed his progress; so far, so good. One more effort should, if he'd calculated right, wipe out the Horcrux, but he'd have to be careful because it was likely to be quite reactive. He was tired, and this was going to take a lot of power from all of them, but it was too late to stop now unless he wanted Potter to wake up possessed and try to kill them all; he'd seen too many dodgy horror films to want to participate in one and he probably didn't have enough strength left for a killing curse against someone he didn't actively hate.

All right, then. Severus concentrated; this was probably the most difficult part. Not many people could mentally multi-task enough to draw on so many sources simultaneously and hold them in balance. He reached: for Potter's magic and the distant sense of his unconscious mind and emotions; through the blood over his chakras to his maternal line; through his sexual bond to his girlfriend and from there to the solid presence of both the Weasleys here, representing the only real family he had; through his own ties to Hermione and everything she was and represented; through the Elder Wand and the sudden increase in the amount of sheer power flowing through them all; finally to his own magic and force of will.

Gathering it all up, he brought it to bear, and at the same time reached for his long-established and unshakeable Occlumency defences to protect against whatever might result from this. It wasn't just magic, he could feel everyone's emotions now in a jumbled snarl that jarred his senses but it was all lightness, fear and courage and stubbornness and love in a thousand different forms, and he threw it all into the mess and tightened his mental shields as something gave way with an almost audible detonation.

The psychic backlash slammed into him with enough force to completely shatter the circle and the impact sent him reeling, breaking his grip and dissolving all the careful links as everything went black.

That, Hermione thought rather dizzily, was the strangest thing I've ever done. She hadn't expected to know what was going on and had been resigned to just standing around wondering until it was finished and Severus could explain, but actually she had been able to sense at least some of what he had been doing. Not everything, not by any means – it had been far too complicated for that – but far more than she had expected to be able to feel. She had been able to sense some of his emotions too, but mostly all he had been feeling was a ferociously intense concentration that had left her a little awed, particularly as time passed and everything he was doing became more and more complex.

He'd been right about the power needed, too. The only time she recalled feeling more drained than this was when she and Poppy had fought so hard to save Severus' life, and that had gone on for days instead of merely hours. And when the Horcrux had been destroyed – at least, she hoped that was what had just happened – the shock of the link dissolving so violently... Shaking it off as best she could, she looked around dizzily. Harry was still unconscious; his eyes had closed and a thin trickle of blood was seeping from his scar but he looked pretty peaceful, actually. Ron and Ginny were steadying one another, both looking tired and shaken. That just left... "Severus!"

She thought for a moment he was unconscious, but he stirred when she said his name and opened his eyes to give her a rather glassy stare as she knelt next to him. His eyes were webbed with broken blood vessels and his nose was bleeding, but aside from being a little paler than usual he seemed all right – at least until he squeezed his eyes shut and lifted his hands to cradle his head, digging his fingers into his temples. "Severus?" she repeated anxiously, and he flinched.

"Please don't talk," he whispered hoarsely, swallowing thickly.

By the look of things he was in the grip of a nasty migraine. That was hardly surprising under the circumstances, she had a headache herself and she hadn't been in the line of fire at the end, but Hermione couldn't really come up with a way to ask if he was all right or if it had worked and if Harry would be all right without actually asking.

She really was very tired, but she could just about manage a non-verbal Summoning charm; if he was in as much pain as he seemed to be, his usual headache relief potion wasn't going to help much, but hopefully it would at least take the edge off so he could give them the minimum information that they needed before she helped him back to their room to sleep off the rest.

Ron and Ginny had apparently heard the brief exchange, since neither of them said anything until Severus had very carefully swallowed a dose of the potion and managed to avoid vomiting it straight back up. Moving very slowly and gingerly, he pushed himself into a sitting position against the wall, still cradling his head carefully in his hands, and Hermione risked a whisper, trying to keep her voice as low as possible.

"Are you hurt?" He obviously wasn't all right, so there was no point asking that. Frankly even if he was injured she wasn't sure she could do anything about it.


"Did it work?"


Resisting the urge to ask if he was sure about either answer – he wouldn't have said so unless he was sure, after all, and speaking was obviously an effort right now – Hermione sighed in relief, giving him a smile that he was in no condition to appreciate. "Thank God." And thank you, love. Nobody else could have done what you just did.

"All right," Ginny said conversationally from by the bed, "now we're finished with whatever we just did, I have a few questions. What did we actually just do to Harry, and why? Is he all right? When's he going to wake up? What have you all been doing here since the summer, and why doesn't anyone else in the Order seem to know? Since when have Hermione and Snape been on first name terms? What the hell is going on?"

Hermione heard Severus' breath hitch for a moment in stifled laughter before he swallowed a groan of pain; that reaction was enough to tell her his response. Touching his hand gently, she looked around at her friends with a rueful smile before standing and moving away from the migraine sufferer in order to answer.

"Ron will answer everything, Gin. Sorry you had to wait, but you'll understand why this was so important when he's done. I'd let Harry rest for now; I don't know what state he'll be in when he wakes up."

"Everything?" Ron asked, staring at her. "Are you sure?"

Hermione nodded. It was all going to come out eventually, and Ginny was a friend, and Harry had hated keeping anything from her. At least if she found out here, surrounded by allies and away from anyone who might act stupidly, things could be controlled. "Yes, go on. I'll see you downstairs when you're done, if we leave Harry to sleep it off; I just want to make sure Severus is all right first. We can talk about everything once you've filled Ginny in on the main parts."

"Okay. Is he all right?"

"I think so. Are the two of you all right?"

"Yeah, I think we are. That was pretty tiring, and it felt really weird, but I think I'm okay. Gin?"

"Yes, I'm fine. But if someone doesn't tell me what's going on soon, I'm going to get angry."

Hermione smiled ruefully, well aware that this might not end very well and more than happy to let Ron deal with the first fallout. "Fair enough. See you soon."

Severus made no attempt, verbal or otherwise, to protest when she ordered him to bed; the potion had eased his headache enough to let him move and whisper monosyllables without being sick or passing out, but it didn't seem to have done much more and he was obviously in pain and exhausted. She sat on the bed beside him as he settled down, absently twining her fingers through his. "I know you hate me fussing, but are you really all right?" she asked as softly as possible.

"Apart from a headache that feels like a combination of every hangover I have ever had and every fight I have ever been in, and probably not enough power left to light a candle, I'm fine," he mumbled thickly. "Just need to rest." His lips twitched. "You'll have to wait for an explanation..."

"Oh, shut up. I'm not that bad." She squeezed his hand gently. "I could feel some of it, anyway. You were... incredible, Severus. That was amazing." He smiled briefly and squeezed back, settling deeper into the pillow with a sigh and relaxing. "Will Harry be all right?" she asked.

"Don't know. Probably."

"Fair enough. And you don't mind Ginny finding out about us?"


"Okay." She lifted his hand and kissed his bony knuckles gently. "No more questions, I promise. I'll let you get some rest. God knows you've earned it."

It was quite a while before she finally heard footsteps on the stairs and looked up from her tea as Ginny appeared in the kitchen doorway. Her friend didn't have much expression on her face, which was either a very good sign or a very bad one; Hermione really wasn't sure how this was going to play out. She liked Ginny, but she wasn't as close to the other girl as she was to Harry or Ron and couldn't predict her reactions so easily. "Where's Ron?" she asked carefully.

"I ordered him to stay upstairs. Girl talk has nothing to do with him." Ginny looked at her steadily for a moment, then grinned suddenly and came to make herself some tea. "Don't panic. I promise, no hexes. I don't think I could manage anything big anyway, and if I hex you I'll never find out what's going on, will I?"

Relieved, she grinned back. "Didn't Ron tell you?"

"Only the basics. You know my brother, Hermione – what did you think he'd be able to say? The basic summary was, 'they're together and it's weird and they're really quite scary sometimes'. After he told me all the stuff about the Horcruxes, anyway. That's just strange... there were all these bits of You-Know-Who's soul around, and nobody knew?"

"Dumbledore did." Hermione paused. "What did he say to you about the diary, after it was over?"

"Not much, to be honest. That I was safe now and it wouldn't happen again, and that now I'd know to be more careful, and that I'd done well under the circumstances. I was too freaked out to ask for details anyway."

"Fair enough. I don't know if he knew what was happening then or not, anyway, but I think he worked it out not too long afterwards. He must have known for years, I think."

"Does Harry know that?"

"I'm not sure. We haven't said specifically that we think he knew for a very long time. I didn't want to hurt him when it doesn't really matter now Dumbledore's dead. He's probably worked it out for himself, but I think as long as nobody says anything, he can pretend."

"That sounds like him. I'll see if he wants to talk later. Once I've endured all his apologies over not telling me earlier, anyway," Ginny added, smiling in a way that told Hermione she knew her boyfriend very well indeed. "It's not as if I'm not used to it by now. I can't wait until my birthday. And he was nowhere near as annoying about it as Mum is." She sat back and put her mug down. "So. You and Snape?"



Hermione couldn't help but smile; it was a fair question, really, since Severus was so hard to figure out and so good at hiding his real self from everyone. "Because actually he's pretty amazing, once you get to know him," she replied simply. "He's nothing like the man he pretends to be. Well, not much, anyway. Did Ron tell you how I started spending more time with him?"

"Sort of. He's rubbish at explaining anything, you know that, but he told me you've been training to be a Healer and saw a lot of Snape when he got hurt being a Death Eater, and that you went jogging together once you'd stopped hating each other. And that he was trying to help you teach Harry Occlumency."

"Yes. It did take a while, but gradually I started to see bits of what he was really like underneath. He's not what you think, Gin."

"Well, I should hope not," her friend replied matter-of-factly, "because I think he's a vicious, spiteful bastard."

Despite herself, Hermione started laughing. "He can be, yes. It wasn't all an act. But under the vicious spiteful bastard is a rather wonderful man, actually. He's clever and funny and protective and brave, and he can be really sweet and gentle sometimes – as long as nobody else is looking, anyway," she added ruefully, smiling fondly.

"Hmm," Ginny said sceptically. "I'll take your word for it. Was Ron winding me up when he said you were engaged?"

"No." She held out her hand so the ring could be duly admired. "He asked on my birthday."

"That sounds weirdly romantic, for Snape."

"It wasn't quite as romantic as it sounds," Hermione said dryly, smiling at the memory. "Neither of us are very good at romance, really."

"I guess that's true. You never really seemed the hearts and flowers type." Ginny shook her head. "This is weird, though, Hermione."

"I know, believe me. It took me quite a while to get used to the idea. It took quite a bit longer before anything actually happened, too. He wasn't any more certain about things than I was."


She drew out the word, and Hermione started laughing again. "That's not what I meant! I don't mean... that. It was the emotional side we had a few problems with at first. He's got some real self-esteem problems, and you know I'm not exactly confident when it comes to – well, anything that involves people instead of books."

"I suppose so," Ginny agreed. "Are you sure about this?"

"Absolutely," she replied without hesitation.

After a long moment her friend grinned. "Okay, then. I have to admit I'll be interested to see what happens with the two of you. Who else knows?"

"A few people, actually. Madam Pomfrey saw it coming before either of us did, I think. We've told Professor McGonagall, who told your mum. She might have told your dad, I'm not sure – I've not seen him, really. And Harry and Ron kind of had to find out, really, with us all living in the same house."

"This is a pretty horrible place. Snape really lives here?"

"It's a long story. To be honest I don't really notice how grim it is here any more."

"If you say so." Abruptly Ginny's grin turned absolutely wicked. "I've got to ask, Hermione. I'll never forgive myself if I don't. What's he like?"

They both collapsed, laughing helplessly. Hermione could feel herself blushing as she replied breathlessly, "None of your business! But I will say I have absolutely no complaints. And for Christ's sake don't tell me anything about Harry. I really do not need to know."

"You're no fun. But while we're on the subject... do you think I can get away with making Ron come to sleep down here tonight?"

"I feel I should point out that we're all exhausted, and Harry's still unconscious." She shook her head, smiling. "If you're careful, you'll be fine. Severus won't say or do anything unless one of you provokes him. Don't make a production out of it – and don't forget silencing spells – and you should be fine. I don't think he'll be in any fit state to take any notice anyway; he's completely drained and has a vicious migraine."

"So, what, you're going to go and tuck him in and give him a goodnight kiss?"

"Something like that. Be careful, though, Gin, okay? I don't mind you teasing me, you're not mean enough to go too far, but if he overhears you he's going to lose his temper. Severus really doesn't like being talked about, no matter how harmless. He tolerates the boys, but if they overstep the line he goes back to the scary Professor we all hated."

"And you actually like it, don't you? You perverted minx."

"Shut up, Ginny."

It had been a very, very long day. Once she had finally paid attention to the clock, Hermione had been surprised to find that the isolation and destruction of the final Horcrux had taken over four hours; no wonder they had all been so tired. They had left Harry asleep; the spell would wear off sometime before morning, and it wouldn't harm him to sleep until then. Severus had slept for a while out of sheer exhaustion; he had woken up with a headache still, but nothing like the vicious pain that had rendered him immobile earlier, and he had managed to limp downstairs for some food before retreating back to bed.

Hermione had sat downstairs and chatted to Ron and Ginny for a while before turning a blind eye to the latter sneaking off upstairs; helping Ron Transfigure the sofa into a makeshift bed, she wished him goodnight at last and went upstairs herself. Severus woke up briefly when she slid into bed beside him, sleepily moving over to give her space before cuddling against her back in his usual place, wrapping his arm around her waist and going straight back to sleep again. Nestling into the familiar contours of his body, she closed her eyes and relaxed, falling asleep almost completely free of any worry or stress for the first time in months.

Chasing the Sun

A Harry Potter Story
by Loten

Part 55 of 60

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