Emancipated Minor

The Long Stretch To Independence - Part I

Chapter 20 - Emancipated Minor - The Long Stretch To Independence - Part I

Harry stood in the semi-circle of the five wizards who were now tensely assembled in the Chamber of Secrets to destroy the locket, and - Merlin willing - the last piece of Voldemort. He rubbed at his prickling scar. Merlin willing. He looked up to find each of the other wizard's eyes upon him. Dumbledore had levitated the locket over to the clearing where Harry had stabbed the diary in second year, and Harry had felt an angry flush of hostility that was not his own course through his veins as they'd all gathered. Severus had snidely appointed Remus as the best choice to be the one to physically impale the locket, saying that the rest of them had done their part with repeated face to face encounters with the Dark Lord, so it was now "the wolf's" turn. Remus had smirked, but Harry had felt nervous for his sake.

"Alright, Harry, Remus," Dumbledore said, "I would expect that as soon as Harry opens the locket, there will be an aggressive burst of dark magic that must be circumvented as quickly as possible. Defend yourself, Remus, if necessary, but do not abandon your task in the process."

Remus and Harry nodded simultaneously. Harry took a deep breath, and slowly let it go before finally saying in parseltongue, "Open."

The seemingly sealed locket halves flopped apart as a powerful rush of dark, gloomy energy soared upward and formed into apparitions of Sirius and James, causing a thrust of icy air to blast through the chamber, blowing with the power of an arctic blizzard. Remus gaped upward at them, the fang grasped in his hand, clearly shocked at the sight of his departed best friends glaring down at him. As if to add unnecessary drama, a loud CLAP of thunder sounded, causing them all to wince in unison.

"What in the bloody hell are you thinking, Mooney?" Sirius' enraged voice boomed over them. "Aligning yourself with bloody Snivellus?"

Harry gulped and shot a look at Severus, whose expression was stony and hostile, and then over to Remus, who had paled and stood frozen in place for a few moments.

"I would never want that bastard around my son!" James yelled. "You've completely betrayed me!"

"Remus," Dumbledore said in a tone of command.

Remus visibly shook himself and raised the fang, dropping to one knee, ready to strike. Another rush of magic blew into the space, followed by a dirty mushroom cloud of harsh energy that destroyed the visuals of the two deceased Marauders and replaced them with one of an angry Lily Evans Potter.

"How dare you align with Severus Snape!" Lily shouted. "We thought we could trust you with our son! We thought you knew us better than that!"

This time, Remus smiled smugly at the outburst and stabbed the fang into the left side of the locket. A roar of rage in Voldemort's voice swept around them all, followed by that wretched sandy black smoke which, of course, billowed it's angry way through Harry, knocking him off his feet and attempting to possess him.

Harry was on his back on the ground again, feeling winded and more than a little nauseated. Lucius appeared above him, having dropped to one knee to check on him, but his eyes were currently on the scene unfolding around them. Harry could hear Severus verbally attacking Remus.

"-you haven't seemed to have had an issue with any of this until now!"

"I don't have an issue at all, Severus," Remus was replying with a touch of exasperation.

"I find that hard to believe, given what we all just witnessed!" Severus sounded fit to be tied.

"Since when do you give Voldemort so much credibility? That was his creation, not mine. He doesn't know me." There was a pause. "And if you bought that malarchy from the Lily spirit, you are the one with issues-"

Severus was growling some sort of retort in a hostile tone, but Harry couldn't make it out. Harry made to sit up, but Lucius put a cool hand on his forehead.

"Stay where you are for a moment, child," Lucius coaxed. "You just got assaulted by a dark, evil, filty soul fragment, for Merlin's sake."

That made Harry smile in spite of his concerns that the other two contemporaries of his parents were at each other's throats. He closed his eyes and willed his stomach to settle.

"Clearly this is not the most appropriate time to hash out your differences, gentlemen," Dumbledore was saying. He moved over to look down at Harry. "Are you alright, my boy?"

Harry opened his eyes a few moments later, realizing he still felt woozy. Now all four of the adult wizards were circled around him. "Please tell me there won't be any more bloody lockets," he begged.

Severus had dropped down on one knee as well. "Are you hurt?" he asked. He was still tense and completely rattled from having seen the apparition of Lily. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Badly.

"Yeah, I just feel kind of off," Harry said shakily. He didn't like the vibe he was getting from Severus, which was of a form of tension in the older wizard he'd not yet encountered. Now he forced himself to sit up, and accepted the help of being partially hoisted to his feet by both Severus and Lucius. Harry raised his eyes and met Remus'. Remus also looked rattled, and the controversial subject matter brought out by the enchantment had clearly worked its intended magic on the group. No one wanted to dilly dally getting out of the chamber, nor was there any apparent desire to discuss what had happened.

Severus did at least put his hand on the back of Harry's neck, which reassured him tremendously.

Harry lay on his back, again, this time on his bed. Severus had left him to nap a while ago, after a long stretch of time where he'd sat in silence on Harry's desk chair, keeping watch until Harry's nausea had calmed. He'd then leaned down and kissed Harry's forehead and told him to have a good sleep. That had put Harry over his emotional edge. He'd held it together until Severus had left, but then he'd burst into confused tears. He'd not known how to interpret the wall that had gone up between the two of them, and of course had decided that Severus was going to push him away now. He was absolute rubbish at understanding what he could count on from his professor, and was so bloody sick of being caught in the middle of old conflicts that had nothing to do with him. And yet his entire life had been defined by the impact of other peoples' conflicts. At some point, things needed to just be bloody normal.

That's what Harry wanted now, more than anything. Normal.

Normal conversations with Severus, like talking about when it would be time for Harry to start shaving, and learning the charms to shrink his new clothes down a size so that they fit perfectly. Normal guidance, like going over his completed holiday assignments and having the older wizard explain the corrections and suggestions he'd made on each. That little bit of help had made Harry want to redo them so that they'd be perfect, so he could now expect high marks. And he'd done exactly that in the free window of time he'd had both Tuesday afternoon and today before they'd gone down to the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry wanted more of that normal time with Severus, where they were just being themselves around each other. There'd been no crisis, nothing that Harry was on the brink of getting in trouble over, no evil undertones from some bloody piece of ancient jewelry. Just normal time together. It was something Harry rarely ever got to have with adults. He'd cherished the times when Remus had let him hang around in third year during Hogsmeade weekends, and had always hoped to get to spend the same kind of time with Sirius. Getting to have it with Severus had mattered a lot to Harry. He hoped that stupid locket hadn't spoiled any chance of future normal times with Severus.

But now that I'm to be emancipated, Severus won't really have to keep an eye on me. I'm supposed to do that for myself, right?

Yeah, Harry dreaded the way each passing day created more of a sense of impending loneliness. He was supposed to feel free, now that he didn't have to stay with the Dursleys anymore. But he wasn't so sure that he was going to feel any better about how he was living, come the next school holiday. He really did need to figure out where he would go.

It was New Year's Day, and the students would return to the school in four more days. Harry had already made up his mind to expect that Severus would revert to his professor persona sometime between now and Sunday morning, but he had been hopeful that they would have some additional normal time together before that inevitability kicked in.

He must have dozed off because the next thing Harry knew, it was about half three when a sleek wolf patronus bounded through the wall and settled on its haunches in front of him, saying in Remus' voice,

"I'm having tea and listening to Paul McCartney, if you'd like to join me?"

Harry grinned, sitting up and watching as the etherial form began to dissipate. He pulled out his wand.

"Expecto patronum!" he chanted, letting his happiness at getting this kind of quality time again with Remus power the spell. His stag leapt out of the tip of his wand, turned and faced him, waiting for instructions. Harry lowered his head, making eye contact with his patronus and thinking firmly, Thanks, that sounds great. Be there in a few!, before sweeping his wand arm toward the door and flicking his wrist to send the stag along as he thought, Go tell Remus. It rushed out of his dorm, leaving a trail of calm, glowing light that slowly dissipated as Harry stood up to go splash water on his face and have a look at himself in the mirror.

"Are you and Severus still at odds?" Harry asked Remus when they'd settled into the sitting area with their tea, with Paul McCartney's RAM album playing in the background.

"Well, I'm not at odds with him, but he probably is with me," Remus told Harry. He sipped at his tea. "Harry, you are better off not trying to understand what is behind Severus' disgruntled behavior in this instance. It's tied to very old wounds that I know for a fact he's let fester all these years. It has nothing to do with you, you see?"

"Well, yeah, but I still get caught in the fallout, don't I?" Harry griped.

Remus smiled wanly. "He's not going to turn on you, Harry," Remus said with conviction. "I would never claim to understand Severus, but I can tell you that after having known him for roughly twenty-five years, that when he comes to care about someone, and in spite of whatever temperament he's engaging, the bond is unbreakable, at least by him."

"So, my mum was the one who broke their friendship off?" Harry asked.

"She never spoke of it, but that was always my assumption," Remus told Harry.

Harry nodded, leaning back in his chair and listening to the music as he sipped his tea:

I hope you never know, dear boy, how much you missed,

and even when you fall in love, dear boy, it won't be half as good as this

I hope you never know, dear boy, how much you missed…

A knock interrupted Harry's reverie and he opened his eyes to catch the smirk that Remus sent his way as he stood up to answer the door. "Severus, come in. Tea? Harry and I are just having our second cups," Remus said in his usual warm way, completely ignoring the sour expression on Severus face as he led the other wizard back toward the seating area. He transfigured a footstool into a comfy chair, acting as if he had every expectation for Severus to join them.

Harry couldn't help but find this amusing, but he bit the insides of his cheeks to keep from grinning until Severus had reluctantly joined them, accepting a cup of tea from Remus with an annoyed look. That's when Harry snorted involuntarily and had to duck his head to avoid the glare he was sure his professor was directing at him.

"I take it you will not want dinner this evening?" Severus asked Harry in a not-quite-congenial tone.

Harry snapped his head up. "Yes, I will," he said in alarm. "I've only had tea." He watched his professor digest this, feeling like he needed to tiptoe around the man's emotions and make sure it was clear that he didn't want anything about their newfound bond, or its routine, to change.

But Severus had already moved on to the next subject, which he demonstrated in the form of a glare at Remus. "And of all the music you have to share with the boy, you had to choose this album?" he said with an edge of bitterness.

"I love this album, Severus. Other than Wings Over America, and all things Beatles, I think it's Paul's best work," Remus said, sounding to Harry like a true music connoisseur.

Severus narrowed his eyes at Lupin. He returned his attention to Harry. "I gave this album to your mother the summer after our third year," he told the boy. Harry nodded, clearly having seen this record in his aunt's stash as well. Long Haired Lady was beginning, and Severus throat threatened to tighten up on him, so he cleared it and added. "This was our favorite song on the album." He watched Harry digest this partial confession as the lyrics played out.

Who's your favorite person, dear phenomenal lady?

I belong to the girl with the flashing eyes…

Ahhhh, love is long, love is long

Ahhhh, sing your song, love is long, love is long

…..Well, well, well, well, well? Do you love me like you know you ought to do?

Severus watched Harry register what he'd left unsaid and their eyes locked. Harry's mouth quivered and his eyes reddened around the edges, but he held Severus' look. "What you saw in my pensieve was the first of a series of unfathomably horrible choices that I made, each of which changed the course of my life irreparably. I lost the only thing that had ever mattered to me as a result. And it's been a long, bitter journey forward. Understand, Harry?"

Harry nodded.

"It's these experiences that are behind my harsh reprimands about anything I think you are doing on impulse," Severus added. "I would hate for you to suffer consequences such as I have done."

Harry nodded again, still holding eye contact with Severus. The last song, The Back Seat Of My Car, ended subtly in the background.

After a long beat of silence, Remus said quietly, "She never stopped caring about you, Severus. Of that, I am positive. What we saw in the chamber today was not true sentiments from any of them, but least of all Lily."

Severus sighed. "Stop trying to placate, wolf."

Harry smiled sadly, feeling suddenly closer to both men than he had just moments before.

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