Title: Raging Fire
Author: Miss Barrowmaniac
Characters: Harry/Severus, a little Draco/Remus later on and mentions to several other pairings.
Rating: PG-13, for slash. Perhaps there will be some higher-rated chapters later on, but I'll be sure to make that clear in the beginning of the chapter.
Summary: Harry goes back to Hogwarts for his seventh year to get ready to face the Dark Lord. He didn't expect to fall in love in the process.
Disclaimer: All the characters belong to JK Rowling. I only took them out for a little ride; with that terrible war going on they also deserve to have a little fun.
Warnings: This is a slash fiction. That means a relationship of a romantic/sexual nature between two male characters, a gay relationship. If it bothers you, don't read it. Nobody is forcing you. I won't take any homophobic comments.
Notes: It's a bit of an AU. Harry goes back to his seventh year at Hogwarts, so most of what happened in Book7 doesn't happen here, which doesn't mean there won't be some spoilers from Deathly Hallows! And definitely spoilers from the previous books, so if you haven't read them, go do it first! This hasn't been beta'd, so forgive me for any mistakes, spelling or otherwise. And please, please leave me a review if you can spare a few minutes! It would make me very happy!
Harry lay on his bed on Private Drive 4, looking out the window into the cloudy sky. All days were like that now, wet, cold and sad, even though it was the middle of the summer. With Dementors flying loose all over the country, even muggles could tell there was something very wrong going on. Some of his school books were opened on his desk, and scattered amongst them were the few letters he gotten from his friends. The wand was put away safely on his front pocket - since that incident before starting his fourth year, he never made the stupid mistake of carrying on his back pocket again. He was frustrated and angry; there was a war going on around them, he was the only one in the world capable of stopping it and he was stuck in that bedroom.
When he was about to leave Hogwarts after his sixth year at school, he was decided to take on the world with his best friends, find the Horcruxes then go after Voldemort. Nothing seemed more logic; he didn't want anyone else to die unnecessarily for him. He'd even discussed a rough game plan with Ron and Hermione on their last day at the castle, while the boys were supposedly putting away their things. But once again Dumbledore had foreseen his moves and managed to get members of the Order to escorthim and make sure he made the most of his last month of the protection his mother had provided him.
He'd been completely outraged. He felt that yet again he was being treated like a kid, incapable of caring for himself, and few things made him so angry. But he really stood no choice; being an underage wizard, he had to comply. He thought of escaping a million times every day, but wherever he looked, he could see he was being very closely watched, at any time of day and night. Really, any time. He once tried to stay up all night, checking from the window of the dark room every fifteen minutes, as discreetly as he could, but one or the other, there was always someone watching him from the nearest street corner.
Wherever he went - not that he went out too often, he feared running into a Dementor and getting in trouble for using unauthorized magic again, and then ending up subject to the Ministry -, they were there too. A few times he even managed to engage into mild conversations with some of the people he knew: Tonks was always fun to have around, no matter how angry he was; and the couple of times he'd seen Remus, they'd had long conversations on varied subjects.
But mostly, he stayed in his room, leaving only to eat and use the bathroom. Every time he ran into one of his relatives - especially his uncle - they'd complain about the visits he got from the Daily Prophet 's owls or how "his people" were destroying the world and turning "innocent people's lives" - and they included themselves in that category, which always made Harry smile sarcastically - into a living hell.
The truth was, so many weird things were going on that muggles couldn't explain that more owls in the neighborhood passed by unnoticed. And it calmed the boy down a little, to have news from what he was missing in, even if most of the pages were covered in reports of Death Eaters' attacks and death notifications.
One piece of news, however, left Harry intrigued. It was just over three weeks after he'd returned when, on the fifth page, there was a small note saying Snape had become the new Headmaster of Hogwarts - which, on the one hand, was a surprise, since everybody would expect the natural succession of Dumbledore to be McGonagall, but on the other, was rather expected, with the rise of Voldemort, he'd want someone he trusted to command the school. And most unexpected of all was that Snape would be returning to his post as Potions Master, rather than keeping the so-longed-for seat of Defense Against the Dark Arts, or even renouncing both seats not to be overloaded with the new responsibilities the newly-acquired title. Other than that, it read only that a member of the ministry would be filling in the empty slot and the rest of the faculty would be kept intact.
After spending a day or two on the subject, Harry dropped it, because, after all, even though he'd been forced to return to his uncle and aunt's, he still had no intention to go back to Hogwarts. He did however feel a little sorry for those who would.
With too much time in his hands and nothing to do with it, Harry decided to follow Hermione's advices for once and take a look on the school books he had with him. He'd ordered a few new ones that arrived a week and a half earlier, and there were some really interesting things in there. A couple of spells seemed promising, and he couldn't wait to practice them; one of the books was on ancient magic and he found details on what had happened on the night his parents had died.
When he thought he couldn't stand that environment anymore, the end of the month came and the day he would become independent approached. On the night before his birthday, he made sure all his things were packed and waiting for him to have permission to shrink them into pocket size. Hedwig had been let loose with a note to his best friends, which didn't contain really any information in case they were intercepted, just a small, previously combined sign to say he intended to carry on with their plan.
He was up before the sun on July, 31st, and when his uncle looked for him with a huge smile on his face - on that day, he'd get to kick out the nephew he hated so much for good, and really, that had been the only thing that made him take Harry back -, he had already finished his first meal of the day, packed some food for the journey and had left his bags - still in natural size - by the door. He was planning a little bit of a show.
"Have you got your things, brat? I no longer have to stand you under my roof." Vernon said as he met Harry at the bottom of the stairs. He was still in his pyjamas, and the boy could see his cousin, also in his night clothes, peeking from the top floor.
"I'm ready to go." Making sure his uncle could see it, he reduced his belongings and put them away. "Of course," he said as he performed the spells, "being an adult wizard now, it also means I get to use magic whenever I want." He had to try really hard not to laugh at his uncle's dropped jaw. The color had ran from the man's face, and his lips trembled in a mix of fear and anger. "Have a good life." He said as he opened the door, and then paused for a moment before adding over his shoulder, "On a second thought, don't." And he closed the door behind himself before the other man had a chance to reply.
With one last look to the house he was leaving, and holding his Firebolt firmly in his hand, he got ready to take off. But before his feet could even leave the ground, he heard the characteristic apparition cracks and Remus and Arthur were each on one of his sides.
"Hi, Harry." The werewolf said with a smile, and added before the boy had the chance to react, "I'm sorry, but you're coming with us." He grabbed Harry's arm and side-apparated with him.
He still took a few moments after his feet touched the ground and his head stopped spinning to realize he'd been taken to the Order Headquarters. Before he could open his mouth in scurrilities, Ron and Hermione threw themselves on him, holding him tightly for long minutes before letting him go and telling him how much they missed their friend. Harry even managed to attempt a smile, but as soon as his friends let him go, he turned angrily to Remus.
"Explain." He knew he was being rude and he didn't care.
"Why don't you take a sit, Harry?" Remus pointed at the study door, with a smile that made Harry want to punch the older man.
"I think you better listen, mate." Ron said as softly as he could.
"Come on, boy. Let's all sit down and clear this up calmly, shall we?" Arthur gently pushed the boy towards the indicated room.
"Why don't you have some tea and cookies?" Remus offered conjuring the elements. It reminded Harry too much of Dumbledore, that whole scene, which made him hurt the loss of his mentor and feel the anger growing on his chest, remembering all the times he'd been in the same situation with the former Headmaster to learn things he should've known all along.
"Just go straight to the point."
"Harry, try to calm down." Hermione smiled at him. "I really think a cup of tea would help-"
"Why is it that I'm always the last to know everything?" He was practically shouting now.
"Harry, sit down." Remus still smiled, but there was nothing gentle in his voice anymore. If Harry had bothered to look at him for a moment, he would've realized how tired and old his former professor looked. Harry sat down and picked up a cup, vexed. "First of all, Harry, I owe you an apology." The werewolf's voice was softer now. "I know you didn't want to come here. If we didn't force you, you'd never come on your own."
"Damn right I wouldn't." Harry looked around and Arthur checking his watch.
"I'm really sorry, Harry." Arthur smiled apologetically. "I really must go, or I'll be late for work. And things have been worse than ever in the Ministry." With that, he threw some Floo Powder on the fireplace and was gone.
"Very well. Where do you want me to start?"
"Why am I here?"
"I know you'll hate to hear it, Harry, but it's for your own protection. Dumbledore-"
"I'm capable of taking care of myself, okay?" He had raised his voice again.
"I know you are, Harry. But you don't really know what's out there, and none of us felt you were quite ready to go up against You-Know-Who yet."
"You didn't or Dumbledore didn't?" He said sarcastically.
"Harry, please, try to understand..." Hermione pleaded.
"Why should I? Nobody ever tries to understand my side, do they?"
"Mate, we get you. We want to get out there and end this war as well, but we can't afford to take unnecessary risks."
"Unnecessary are all those deaths that show in the papers every day." He mumbled.
"Harry, I know you're anxious to get your hands dirty, that you carry a much bigger responsibility than most of us will ever truly understand, and trust me, we all want this war to be over. But if we don't take the necessary precautions, it'll only cause more death and destruction." Remus spoke patiently, giving Harry time to process what he was hearing. "What would happen if you tried to defeat You-Know-Who and failed? If you died on your way there? You're probably the only person who can do it, you've got to take stock of that responsibility as well. All our lives depend on yours, so you don't get to gamble with it at your will."
"It's my life." He hadn't thought of that side of the story, and had to concede Remus was right, but there was still a bit of a stubborn left in him.
"Yes, it is. But when you risk it, it's not only yours you're putting on the line, and I know you know you can't do that. That not even you have that right."
"I know." He felt defeated. All his desire to fight was gone, and he wished he could just be an ordinary boy. But hadn't he always? And wishing wouldn't change the fact he was still the one who had to put an end to the atrocities going on.
"I know you don't like it Harry," Hermione tried to be sympathetic, but the boy didn't raise his eyes from the quickly chilling tea lying still untouched in his cup, "but it's really for the best. We're almost at the end of the war. We can't risk it all now."
"Yeah, mate. And it's not like we'll just be waiting here. Hermione and I have been doing loads of research, we're getting some really good leads about the other Horcruxes."
"Harry, please don't think we're keeping you here because we don't think you can defend yourself. But you're still too young and definitely too involved to be able to see all sides of this situation. It is our responsibility to make sure you see them. And that you do what's best for all of us, instead of acting impulsively like we all know you tend to do." The boy blushed slightly, thinking about all the times he'd acted recklessly.
"I guess you're right, you're all right. I... I'm just tired of sitting around doing nothing while so many people out there are dying because of me."
"Not because of you, Harry. Some of them for you, certainly, but all because too much power has been concentrated in a madman's hands. Don't think about what you could be doing, what you wish you were doing, but what you can do right now."
"And there's a lot we can do, Harry. As Ron said, we've been researching, and as soon as we find something out, the Order will act to neutralize the Horcruxes. And then, when you destroy Voldemort, it'll be for good."
"But how long will that take? How many more lives is that going to cost?"
"It'll take as long as it takes, Harry. And that's the best you can do right now. And you'll learn a lot when you go back to Hog-"
"I'm not going back!" He couldn't help standing up, dropping his cup on the way and breaking it.
Remus readily cleaned his mess with a silent flick of his wand. "You are, Harry. You have to. You'll be safer there, I promise."
"How? In case you don't remember, Dumbledore was killed! In that school! Which is now run by Snape! What will stop Voldemort from popping around and killing me in my sleep?"
"You have to trust Dumbledore, Harry. I don't trust Severus either, but before he passed, Albus had everything orchestrated. He would never put you in any danger. Besides, Minerva will be there for anything you need, and other professors as well."
"I don't know if you heard me, but DUMBLEDORE IS DEAD!" He felt out of control. Why couldn't they understand? Going back to that school would be asking to be attacked; besides, what would he be able to do from in there?
"Harry, please calm down..." Hermione pleaded, standing up and putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Calm down? I-" He shoved her away, walking around in circles. How could he make it any clearer?
"Harry, I understand your concerns. Maybe you'd like to talk to Dumbledore himself? They brought one of his portraits to the house, I could bring it to you. And I'm pretty sure Minerva will come around later today, so you can also talk to her, if you can promise me to be polite and control yourself."
"What's the point in talking to a portrait? It's not Dumbledore."
"Of course it is, mate! Come on, give him the benefit of the doubt. Just talk to Dumbledore for a bit."
"Hermione, if you could please go get the portrait?" Remus asked and she readily left the study. A few moments later, she came back with it floating in front of her and left it on an armchair. "Professor Dumbledore?" The werewolf called and the man appeared. His silver hair and beard were still the same, and so were his shiny blue eyes behind his half-moon glasses. Harry felt a knot on his throat form as the memories of that night returned.
"Ah, Remus, my boy! How are you?"
"I'm fine, Professor. Harry here, however, isn't doing too well. He's not entirely sure about the plans for this year."
"Ah, Harry! It's been quite the while, hasn't it? How have you been doing?"
"That's not important. Why should I return to Hogwarts?"
"Impatient as always, aren't you?"
"Just tell me already!"
"Harry!" Hermione hissed.
"It's okay, Miss Granger. If the rest of you could please leave me alone with Harry?" He looked kindly but persuasively at them, and remained in silence until they did as he requested. "Now, Harry. Why don't you bring a chair over here? This might take a while, and I'm sure you'd me more comfortable sitting."
He quickly grabbed an armchair."Okay, I'm sitting. Now tell me."
"I understand you're frustrated, boy. We're all very tense with the war. But you have to understand there's still a lot that's important for you to learn this year. It is imperative that you finish your education, Harry. It could very well determine the difference between you surviving the war or perishing."
"All I need to know is where are the Horcruxes, how to destroy them, and how to kill Voldemort."
"Ah, if only things were so simple. Haven't you understood yet that they never are?" The former Headmaster shook his head slowly, but still carried a half-smile on his lips. "Why do you oppose it so much?"
"First, I think I should be seaching for the Horcruxes instead of sitting in a classroom worrying about homework and exams."
"But you will be researching them, Harry. Remember, Hogwarts was the first place Tom ever called home. I've suspected for a while now that most of his Horcruxes would be somehow related to that school. So what better place to begin your search?"
"How will I do that if I'll constantly be watched, even more than before?"
"Oh, Harry, you're a smart boy. And so are your friends. I'm sure you'll have no problem working something out."
Harry raised an eyebrow, a little amused. "Are you actively encouraging me to break the rules?"
"All I'm saying is that war requires us to do certain things. I would never tell one of my students to disregard any rules, even if I disagreed completely with them." His tone was severe, but he had a playful look in his eyes and lips curled up in a smile.
"But it's too dangerous for me to be there! Snape is Headmaster, so the school will be under Voldemort's will. What is to keep him from showing up and killing me in my sleep? Or even having Snape do that? He made it clear who's side he's in when he killed you - and I didn't doubt it for a moment - so how can I be safe around that traitor?"
"Harry, I know you have no reason other than my word to trust Severus, but I must urge you to. Severus had his reasons to do what he's done-"
"He killed you!" Harry got up and started pacing. "He could just have not done that. Like Malfoy didn't, that coward weasel. But he did! He just stood in front of you and killed you. And then ran away with his pack of Death Eaters!"
"Harry, I'm sure you know Severus is our inside man in Voldemort's inner circle."
"No, he pretended to be so he could spy on us for him."
"No, Harry. Severus is on our side. And I know he had his reasons to kill me, and I even know what those reasons were. And you have no idea how valuable it is for our cause to have someone so close to our enemy."
"And he had to kill you for that, did he?"
"If that's the price to pay, Harry, it's one I was willing to pay. But don't make my death have been in vain. You have to trust Severus, Harry. The victory and your life may well depend on it."
"You can't ask me that. It's not fair."
"Life's not fair, Harry. You of all people should've understood that by now."
"And what am I even going to tell people? That Snape killed you but I still think he's a good person?" He couldn't help the sarcasm.
"I said you had to trust him, not like him. But you will have to work with him. I want the two of you to meet at least once a week. He has a lot to teach you, and you'll need all the knowledge you can get if you plan to defeat Voldemort."
"Wait. You not only want me to be in that school but work with that traitor?" Harry stopped pacing, shocked.
"Stop using that word to refer to Severus, Harry. I know you've had your disagreements in the past, but I can't stress enough how crucial it is for the two of you to cooperate. I've already got Severus's word he will keep himself under control. I need you to do the same."
"You're insane." Harry shook his head and let himself fall back in the armchair. "You're a damn portrait." He whispered.
"Trust me, Harry. I wish I had the chance to talk to you personally. But you must trust me one last time. Give Severus a chance. None of you ever have."
"Even if I go back, even if I work with Snape, I'd still be making a sitting duck out of myself, being in that school. Voldemort would only have to say the word and I'd be dead, either by Snape's hands, his own or any other Death Eater."
"No, Harry. Severus and I discussed this issue exhaustively, and I'm confident the plan we elaborated will convince Tom it's for the best to leave you there. And, should Severus know anything about an attack, Minerva will let the Order know and they'll be there to protect you."
"I don't need protection!" His voice sounded in a higher pitch than usual, showing his frustration.
"I know that, Harry. But you need as much support as you can get. People to have your back. Maybe I phrased it wrong, and I'm sorry for that. But they'll be there to make sure you won't be hurt before the time is right for you to do what you have to do."
Harry became quiet. It was a lot to process, and a lot harder to deal with his own feelings. "Why would they trust Snape anyway? The Order, that is."
"Ah, I like the way you think, Harry. For all purposes, we needed everybody to think Severus was really not on our side. But quite some time ago, I've planted the information among our own that there is another informant, that deals directly with Minerva. She'll be the connection between Severus and the Order."
"And why would she trust him anyway?"
"She has her reasons. Which you'll find out in its due time, Harry. Maybe that information would help you with Severus, but it would do you no good right now. Just do what I'm asking you, Harry. The war is almost over, and it's more crucial than ever that we cover all our bases. And I need you in that castle."
"What difference would it make? If it's from Snape I have to learn, why can't I just be here instead?"
"Don't start it again, Harry. Don't you see? Having you in Hogwarts would make parents feel safe to send their children there as well. Right now our forces are scattered around the country, so it's for our own interest to join them. The older students can help you - and I know you'll be wise enough to know what information to share with them and what to withhold -, and you'll be better able to protect the younger ones. Your effort in the fifth year was fantastic, Harry. And that's what we need right now. I'll be here whenever you want to talk to me. And you can always talk to Minerva when you have doubts. But I think it's enough for now. I believe your friends will be anxious to share with you what they've been up to so far."
"I'm not saying I'll do what you ask. But I'll think about it." He stood up and took one last look at the portrait smiling at him before leaving the room. He had a lot to think about for the next month.