Severus blinked as light flooded his eyes. He pushed himself up on an elbow and before his eyes could adjust, he got an armful of crying boy.
"Severus!" Harry said gleefully. "You're okay!"
"It seems I am," he responded, confused as to how he had gotten in the hospital wing.
Harry still hadn't let go. "I thought you hated me, I'm so sorry. I should have known better."
Harry released his guardian and sat back, wiping the tears of worry and joy from his eyes. Severus studied Harry's face.
"Care to catch me up? How did I get here?" Severus asked.
"It's a long story," Harry said, rubbing his neck sheepishly.
Severus sat up properly and folded his hands on his lap. "I have nothing but time."
"Well, first of all, it's February."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. And why is it that you hate me? Or you thought I hated you?"
"Uh, well..." Harry started from the very beginning, from the first attack. He told Severus everything; how angry he was at him, the long period during which they did not speak, the fake Severus saying that he regretted adopting Harry, the bracelet, and at last he ended with the fight and the revelation that it was Lucius.
Severus was silent for a few moments.
"Well, I cannot say that I did not expect retaliation from him. He had said as much after we stole Draco," Severus said. "In reality, it is rather impressive that he managed to get into the castle on the same night that I was petrified."
Harry smiled fondly. "You would consider the logistics of it before the fact that someone just lived your life for you for the past six months."
Severus smirked. "You did not like the mean version of me?"
"No," Harry said, "you- or him- or whoever- is going to make us lose the house cup!"
"Not if Dumbledore has anything to say about it," Severus grumbled. "I am glad that your birthday present came in handy. Now I will have to get you a late Christmas present."
"Don't worry about it," Harry said.
Severus raised an eyebrow.
Harry shrugged, "I didn't get you one either. You were being pretty mean."
Severus almost chuckled. Then he caught himself. "I am proud of you, Harry. I used to be dismayed that I adopted a Gryffindor rather than a Slytherin but no Slytherin could have done what you did in the Chamber. You saved Draco, banished the Dark Lord yet again, killed a Basilisk and managed to stop Malfoy from screwing it up," he said. In a quiet voice he added, "You saved me as well. I could not ask for a better son."
"I love you, Severus," Harry said, voice equally quiet. "I was afraid that I would never get the real you back."
"I...love you too, Harry," Severus said with some difficulty at laying his emotions out in such a blatant fashion. "And do not worry, I will always be here."
Harry smiled and hugged his guardian once more. Severus wished for the millionth time that what he had seen in the Mirror of Erised could come true. But since that was impossible, he decided that this was everything he could hope for. He returned Harry's hug and allowed himself to smile.
Harry did not have an exceptionally long time to catch up with his guardian for they were soon interrupted.
"Hello, Harry," Dumbledore said as he entered the hospital wing. "Severus." He smiled.
"Headmaster," Severus said.
Dumbledore turned to Harry. "Harry, dear boy, I am very proud and grateful for what you have done, but for the present will you allow Severus and I to speak privately?"
Harry nodded agreeably and hopped up. "Bye, Severus."
With a fleeting smile, Harry left the room. With the intention of finding Draco, he headed to the common room. On his way, he met Ron on the stairs.
"Hey, Harry, have you seen Draco?" he asked.
"No, I was just going to look for him. Have you?"
"Not since we dropped Snape off in the hospital wing," Ron said.
"That was over a day ago," Harry pointed out.
"Where should we check?" Harry asked. "Maybe the Owlery?"
Ron shrugged. "Okay."
They headed up to the Owlery and were unrewarded for their long walk. Harry let out a sigh of disappointment.
"Why so sad, three-time hero of the wizarding world?" a slightly mocking voice called from behind them.
Harry groaned. "Not really the time, Fred. We lost Draco."
"Lost him you say?" George said as he strapped a letter to a nearby owl.
Ron nodded. "He's been gone for a whole day."
Fred and George looked at each other. "Give us a moment," they said in unison and stepped outside onto the spiral staircase and out of view.
Harry looked at Ron questioningly. He merely shrugged. They returned grinning.
"We get the feeling you're going to want to check the dungeons," Fred said with a wry grin.
Ron rolled his eyes. "The dungeons are huge. Where?"
They gave a set of abbreviated directions. "Then there will be a little cupboard at the end of the hall. It's called the 'dungeon cupboard'. Not very creative, is it?" George said.
"How do you know all this?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Fred winked. "We're the Weasley twins. We know everything."
Harry shrugged at Ron and they began the climb back down from the Owlery. They followed the twins' instructions which were surprisingly accurate. Before long, they came to a corridor that looked vaguely familiar to Harry. A door stood alone at its end and they approached. Harry knocked.
A sniffle came from inside. He turned the knob. The door swung open and the pair stepped hesitantly inside.
"Draco, are you okay?"
The thin boy was huddled in the corner of the bare room, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the stone floor was hard and cold. He looked up with tired eyes.
"What do you want?" he asked hoarsely.
"We're worried about you, mate," Ron said. "You've been gone a whole day."
Harry laid a hand on his friend's arm. Draco looked down at it and it seemed to cause him fresh pain. He turned his face away.
"Ron? Would you give us a few moments alone?" Harry asked.
"Sure," he said, closing the door behind him as he left.
Harry waved a brief silencing charm.
"Draco, talk to me."
He looked up at Harry. "This is all my fault.""How is this your fault?" Harry asked. "You were bested by Voldemort, so what? Many greater wizards, like my parents, fell to him too. At least you survived."
Draco shook his head. "I was suspicious, Harry! I should have gone to Dumbledore. I should have told you that I knew."
"Knew what?" Harry said, brow furrowed.
Draco drew in a shuddering breath. "I knew about my dad and Snape. He said if I told you he would...he would..." Draco stopped.
Harry slid onto the floor beside Draco. "So that's what Myrtle meant on the day I found the diary."
Draco nodded. "He took it from me. Wanted to talk to him. I was scared of what it would make me do. Then he sent me a message and said he would leave it in the bathroom. I never meant for you to get sucked into this."
"Draco, I get sucked into everything. It's who I am," Harry said. He smiled wanly. "Harry Potter. The boy who can't catch a break."
"I'd understand if you never wanted to see me again."
Harry looked his friend in the eye. "Don't say that. I don't blame you for any of this. And even if I did, I would forgive you."
"Why in Merlin's name would you do that?" he muttered darkly.
"Because it's who I am. This just goes on my list of things to hold against Voldemort," Harry said easily.
"But you could've been killed trying to save me," Draco protested, driven by guilt. "I'm not worth that. I'm not worth anything."
Harry sighed. "Draco, shut up and listen to yourself-"
"How do you propose I do both at the same time?" he interjected, a hint of his of self coming back.
Harry grinned. "That's better. Now if you keep moping around like this, you will be worthless. Get yourself together. No one was hurt. I'm fine, Severus is fine, Hermione will be fine as soon as Severus brews some more potion and Voldemort is gone. What are you upset about?"
"The mess I caused," he said. "But thanks, Harry."Harry smiled. Suddenly, he realized where he had seen this room before. "This was the room that Hagrid kept his spider in."
Draco nodded. "The diary showed me too. I wish it hadn't."
Harry shook his head at Draco's regretful tone. He got up and told Ron to come back in. By the end of a nice little chat during which Draco was repeatedly assured that they would still be his friends, color had returned to his pale cheeks.
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm starved," Ron said. "Want to go catch some dinner?"
"Sure," Harry agreed.
Draco nodded eagerly. Harry suspected that he hadn't eaten in days. They headed off towards the Great Hall and did not look back.
"Thank you for coming, Severus. I am sure you are anxious to figure out all that you have missed," Dumbledore said kindly.
Severus nodded curtly. They sat in the hospital wing and since Severus felt fine, he was allowed to go as soon as this conversation was finished. He was anxious to see both Harry and Draco and hoped that this would not take too long.
"First of all, I would ask you, when you feel up to it, to brew a cure for the rest of the petrified."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "How did you cure me if you could not brew one yourself?""Madam Pomfrey made it but it took many attempts. It was widely agreed that the first successful potion should go to you so that you could make the rest," Dumbledore explained.
Severus inclined his head. "I will brew it as soon as we are finished here."
Dumbledore nodded. "I just wanted to fill you in on what I learned from interrogating Lucius." The old professor waited for a reaction from Severus.
"Do go on," he said impatiently.
"Well, it seems that he had planned your petrification beforehand. Voldemort entrusted the diary into Lucius's hands before his demise. Lucius decided that it was time to unleash the horror upon Hogwarts and when he became dissatisfied with his son, gave the diary to him. He had worked out the fact that you would be one of the first victims. They had even decided upon the day. In truth, it was merely a lucky happenstance that you saw its reflection. They had planned on killing you. Lucius had a large stock of Polyjuice brewed by the time you were attacked and he assumed your identity. He reviewed the memories in your pensieve for clues on how to act and figured out how to teach. He purposefully angered Harry so that, with distance between them, he would not slip and make Harry suspicious. I suspect that it was not difficult to be mean to Harry. At some point, he got the diary back from Draco to check in with his master and plan more attacks, all of which were designed to kill. All in all, everyone has been absurdly lucky."
"I don't believe in luck," Severus said. "How come a great wizard like yourself did not catch onto this?"
Dumbledore pursed his lips. "I was suspicious, however I thought that the discord between you and Harry was the cause of your peculiarity. Lucius also kept his distance from me. I am not sure whether it was so that I did not catch on, or simply because he did not like me." The professor chuckled.
"Did you learn anything else?"
"Nothing except that he had followed Harry into the chamber in the hope that by delivering him, broken and subdued, to his master, he would earn his favor," Dumbledore said in that annoyingly calm voice of his.
Severus did not take the news quite so calmly. He growled, "Broken and subdued? He was going to hurt Harry, wasn't he?"
"That was the plan."
"That boy has endured enough in his lifetime! Where is Lucius?" Severus asked. "I'd like to have a chat with him."
"He is already in Azkaban," Dumbledore said. "He will not be going anywhere."
Severus gave a huff. "And what of Draco?"
Dumbledore responded, "He will remain here for the school term, it is not looked upon as a fault on his part. In the summer, he will return home to his anxious mother."
Severus could think of nothing else to add to the conversation.
"Go, Severus," Dumbledore told him. "we would like to have our students back as soon as possible."
Severus nodded, pushed the sheet back and stood.
"Oh, Severus? Do tell Harry that I wish to speak with him."
"I will," he promised.
Severus left. He had brewing to do.
AN: I'm sure everyone is glad to have Severus back! Actually I am too. I've been dying to write from his point of view but that can be a little difficult when he is petrified...