"I see." Harry fought back the tears that threatened to spill. He had been laying in his usual bed in the Infirmary when Severus entered the ward. At first, he smiled at the man, glad to finally see him again. He had spent a lot of time working with Severus, having the man teach him everything he knew. He counted Severus as a good friend. He wasn't sure about his feeling regarding the man in some ways, but he trusted Severus.
"Don't contact me again. Do you understand? Never." Severus stood up from the chair he had summoned. He wanted to go and kill someone. He didn't want to do this to Harry, but Dumbledore gave him no choice. Harry nodded his head. "Verbal answer, Potter."
Harry didn't even look up, he thought about what he was just told. "Yes, don't worry, I won't." Harry left off that he won't be anyone's problem anymore. He heard Severus, no Snape, leave, the door was slammed against the wall as he exited the Infirmary.
Harry sat there for a few minutes, burying his pain, burying his anger, his rage at Dumbledore. He wasn't sure how long he sat there just staring at his hand, adding layer upon layer of protection over his emotions, his mind, and his magic. When he became aware, he realized it was dark in the ward. He quietly got out of bed, dressed, found his cloak, and made his way to Gryffindor Tower. He quietly worked his way around the milling students in the common room.
"Hermione, I am telling you Dumbledore has it already taken care of. We are to make sure that Potter keeps isolate from everyone again. Ginny is going to use the potions."
"I already made them for her, Ron. I know the plan. At least this is the last year. Potter won't be with me. I do feel bad for you, going to Auror Training with him."
"I don't want to be one, but Dumbledore wants to have someone he can trust with the prat. Besides, it's a good stepping stone for a better Ministry job."
"True. I have a few apprenticeships I have to weed through, I still haven't decided on just going with an apprenticeship or university, maybe I can combine them?"
Hary spent the next hour listening to his two former best friends discuss their future. He never fully trusted them, but he had thought they were at least friends. When Hermione, no, not Hermione, Granger, she is now Granger, finally left, and Weasel was snoring, Harry started to gather his possessions. His map came flying at him from under Weasel's mattress. Harry wasn't very happy, he arranged some fake spiders to greet Weasel when he woke. Using his map, he made his way down to the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry wasn't exactly sure what he was going to do now, but he figured he would have plenty of time to figure that out in the Chamber. He knew Dumbledore and the Order would be out in force looking for him, and he figured between the Chamber and ROR, he would be safe. They couldn't get into the Chamber and the ROR, once he was in the ROR he could get all the training, books, and even help he needed. He grinned, Dobby would be a great help.
Harry began to work on reviewing all the years of study he had been in Hogwarts, he reviewed everything in his first year, asking Hogwarts to provide more books. He spent the rest of the summer going back and forth between the two rooms. He worked in the ROR at night, slept in the Chamber in the morning. Dobby woke him in time to start his exercise regime he created with the help of the books Hogwarts provided and made sure Harry ate.
"Master Harry Potter, the student be returning later." Dobby popped into the Chamber as Harry was changing his clothes.
"Good, we can go to Gringotts. Weaslette should be here. Granger and Weasel?" Harry asked.
"Nasty Bushy Hair is here, for apprenticeship with Professor Tabby. Nasty Red is also now here. He doing flying."
"So he did talk them into coming here. Did you find out why?"
"Yes, they plan on making you return to join Weaslette in classes. No NEWTs they believe." Dobby answered.
Harry smirked. He had a plan for when to take his NEWTs but he needed to visit the goblins first to find out if his plan would work. "The elves are ready?"
"Yes, no one will say you were here. All agree, they even left Nasty Bushy presents in her rooms."
Harry grinned, all summer the elves had been gathering all the clothes that Granger had made over the years at Hogwarts, and they were going to use them as her welcome back to Hogwarts present. They couldn't when she was a student, but there wasn't a rule against it now that she wasn't truly staff, apprentices didn't get paid, so, therefore, weren't staff. Harry liked that loophole.
"Good, when Dumbledore and the others are busy, come and get me, we will go to Gringotts." Harry wasn't exactly sure what his next move was. He learned everything he could and knew he needed to learn more, but he didn't want Dumbledore to be able to get him. He needed to get free and taking his NEWTS and seeing the goblins was the only logical choice he knew he had to make.
Severus was glaring at Granger and Weasley as they sat down in the Headmaster's office. They had about twenty hours before the students returned and Dumbledore called a last-minute Order meeting. He had no desire to even look at the people in the room, they made him sick. If he had been aware of what was truly going on behind his back, he would have never agreed to break off his training with Harry. He would never have agreed to break Harry's trust or his friendship.
"Any news?" Dumbledore asked.
No one responded. They had spent the last four months looking for Harry. When Harry disappeared from the Infirmary in May, Severus thought Harry had just needed some time. It wasn't until the next day when he met "team Harry" that he learned how much betrayal the boy must have realized.
"We have tried everything. The owls won't even leave here." Granger yapped. How he longed to sew her mouth shut.
"Ya, even tried to visit his relatives." Weasley spoke with a mouthful of food. Another one he wanted to permanently shut up.
"His relatives haven't seen him since last summer." Remus stated. "They never wanted him."
Severus was still furious to realize that "team Harry" knew the boy was abused and didn't even care. When he had found out, he spent the next week brewing potions that he had them test for him. The testing ended about two weeks ago, however, he was thinking of restarting them again.
"Nothing from Gringotts either." Molly Weasley stated. "No one's been in his vaults, according to Bill, when I asked him.
"I didn't think they could provide that information?" Remus asked. "I asked and I got told they couldn't tell me."
"I used a mild compulsion charm on Bill and then a slight memory charm. He doesn't even know he told me." Molly answered. "Bill got assigned back to Egypt, so we have no one who can check any longer."
"When are we going to get paid?" Weasley asked.
"Paid?" Severus was suddenly very interested. He didn't know the betrayers were being paid.
"Ron, really." Granger admonished.
"Sadly, since Harry is over seventeen, I don't have control any longer. So until I get him to authorized my use of the vaults, you will have to wait. It won't be long." Dumbledore gave a slight smile.
"True, once Ginny and Harry are married-"
Severus almost spit out his tea, as he started coughing. He couldn't believe this. "We have to find him first."
Severus couldn't believe these people. This was the light? At least on the dark side, you knew what people were about, the ones who would backstab you versus those were your allies. He was thankful he wrote a letter to Harry after he learned the partial truth. He knew Harry would go to the goblins eventually. He decided to send another one tonight.
Harry arranged to meet with his account manager, he honestly didn't know he had one. He had time to go down to his vault and get some funds. When he opened his vault, he found two letters. He instantly recognized the writing, but below his name was written. "Harry, you must read. Regarding Order."
Harry opened the first letter:
I am not sure where to start. I regretted leaving you as soon as I said the words. Albus made it clear to me that if I didn't, he would send me to Azkaban. He also mentioned having the Dark Lord find out about our relationship. I tried to fight it. I didn't care about the Dark Lord or Azkaban, but he threatened to arrange you to meet the Dark Lord sooner. I knew then he had to have arranged your yearly trials. I doubted it before, but his words were clear. He means you to die, Harry.
I am not sure what Vows or even Oaths he has made you take, but he clearly forgot that I am not under a Vow or Oath for the Order. They wouldn't have worked in my capacity as a spy. So I'm able to share this information with you.
After I delivered the news to you that night, he called an Order meeting the next night, or so I thought. It turned out he called a meeting of the Harry Team. In the meeting were Molly Weasley, Remus Lupin, Hermoine Granger, Ron Weasley, Ginny Weasley, Arabella Figg, Mad-Eye Moody, and Tonks. Though I should mention Tonks looked like she was being forced to attend. She barely spoke, and Harry, the hatred in her eyes was clear. She didn't want to be there and didn't want to be involved.
I learned the awful truth that night. A truth I didn't think Albus would sink so low to have done. I learned about your abuse, I learned about how he has been paying the muggles to abuse you. I and I know Tonks was, sickened to hear what they planned for you to endure at your relatives. They wanted your uncle to beat you daily, it was even suggested rape, as a way to teach you your place. Figg, Molly, Tonks, and I objected to that, but we were overruled. I was making plans to get you away, I could see Tonks and Figg were too, Molly seemed to cave under the pressure. I should mention that Figg, Tonks, and I were the only ones who objected to the abuse. Figg mentioned how she was against it all along but I think Dumbledore has something on her, too.
While this debate was occurring, Kingsley arrived. No, he didn't know about the meeting, he had arrived to inform Albus that you never appeared at your relatives house and that they had been arrested for creating a disturbance at the train station. Kingsley explained that he had arrived at Privat Drive to start his guard duty shift on time, but Fletcher was missing again. Kingsley was covering for Tonks when he noticed no magic, no wards, no one in the house. He waited as after a few hours your relatives arrived home. When he questioned them about not seeing you, your Uncle got violent and tried to hit Kingsley. Once Kingsley had him in cuffs, your aunt explained what happened, and why they were now arriving home after spending the night in jail. All three of them were charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace. Apparently, his sister didn't arrive until the next afternoon to provide them with bail money.
Dumbledore dragged Moody, Lupin, and I to Privat Drive. He didn't want to take a chance of anyone else learning the truth. When we got there, I was a bit surprised to learn it was Petunia he had left you with. I peeked into her mind, Harry, I'm so sorry. I had no idea. He created new wards and set up triggers for if you returned that would have prevented you from leaving before he permitted. He knew where they kept you. He knew about the boot cupboard, he knew about the locks on the door, the cat flap, the bars on the window. He knew it all. So did the others.
Harry, you were declared an adult. Once from the tournament. You had three Headmasters, one Ministry official, and a magical artifact declaring you one. The second time would have been if you arrived at Gringotts, the trials during the tournament would have allowed you to be viewed as a warrior, you earned your adulthood. The third time was when the Ministry declared a trial for you for using underage magic. While technically you were already an adult, Fudge assembled a full court in front of the Wizengamot. That has never happened before. Get control, Harry. Protect yourself against Dumbledore.
Harry was furious. Dumbledore and his plans. Always Dumbledore. The man needed to find out what it was like to have someone pull his strings for a while. He knew Harry had hoped for years that he was wrong, but the man knew. He most likely arranged it. It did explain why Dumbledore was always so insistent he return to his relatives each year. Why he had to spend so much time there. He never understood why it was only him until he found out about the prophecy. The prophecy was something he had been uncertain of, granted, Dumbledore forced it to become true, but why? More questions he most likely would never get the answers to.
He took the second letter. He wasn't sure what else Severus could have found out, but he needed to have as much information as he could if he planned on defeating Dumbledore.
I'm so proud of you. Hiding all summer, I know you're working on improving your skills and knowledge. Truly worthy of being a Slytherin. I know you haven't let them beat you down. You have been driving them all crazy, not that I don't think they are exactly sane, to begin with.
Dumbledore has dragged the rest of the Order into looking for you. None of them are even aware of a fraction of the truth. They're all sheep grazing in his pasture, waiting for him to set his herding dogs loose to guide them where he wants them to be. I always thought Minerva so much smarter, but she buys what that man is selling. I'm not sure if he what he is doing to her, but he has to be using memory charms and other spells on her. I have known for years that the two of them favor Gryffindor and that she supports him fully, but I can't see her ignoring the abuse, ignoring the way your so-called friends act.
The twins, with Bill and Charlie, have thrown their support behind you, so much so that Dumbledore has banned them from meetings until they see the light. Pompous fool. The twins have been spying on the Order meetings and giving me some curious stares, I believe they know I don't support Dumbledore, but you. The Order members have been pranked a lot, but not those who have supported you.
Now, the bad news. Harry, it's the night before Hogwarts starts. I was dragged into another Harry Team meeting. Harry, check your accounts. Your so-called friends, plus a few others, I'm sure you are aware of whom I am speaking about, are being paid to be your friends. I'm not sure for how long, how much, but I do know they haven't been getting any money since your birthday and they are unhappy about it. Dumbledore plans on having you sign over control to him when or if you return.
Dumbledore wants you married to Miss Weasley. Miss Granger has been brewing the love potions, and the three of them are to make sure you take it. Your Lordship rings will protect you from it and other potions, some minor curses, hexes, and jinxes. Be careful, just because they protect you, doesn't mean let yourselves get hit by them.
They are also returning here since they falsely believe you won't have your NEWTs. Enclosed is an apprenticeship contract for Defense. If you wish it, I would love to have you as my apprentice. If not, I will provide you with the recommendations you need. The idiot duo is returning under apprenticeships. I refused to take Granger.
Harry knew that was the closest the man was ever going to come to admitting he was wrong and wanted Harry back in his life. He had no illusions about Severus. Just like he had no illusions about his friends. They were going to be in for a huge surprise. Harry was looking forward to letting the true Harry Potter out to play, no more Gryffindor Golden Boy, but the Slytherin Harry was about to come out and play.
He read the contract, it was very fair. He would have Ironclaw read it, but he believed he would be signing it, and returning it to Severus in person, next week. He needed this week to take his NEWTs, and get things arranged. He also planned on paying the extra fee to get the results by the end of the week.
He filled his pouch with gold and headed up to meet Ironclaw. "Good news, Mr. Potter?"
"Excellent news, Griphook." He laughed all the way back to the main level of the bank. He always did love the carts, and Griphook always made them go as fast as they could.
Harry was looking forward to this. Hogwarts had been in session for two weeks and now he was returning. He had his NEWT results in his pocket, along with his trunk. He had already had Ironclaw return the signed agreement with Severus. He actually hadn't spoken to the man, but through Ironclaw, Severus assured him they weren't aware of anything Harry had done.
Harry knew the Order members were most likely having a fit right now. He had Ironclaw close down all the Black properties and issue a return of all his funds. Harry hoped he could get a memory of when Dumbledore realized all the laws he passed using Harry's seats were going to be revoked. He had sent a letter to Draco Malfoy, the new Lord Malfoy, wish to meet and discuss the changes in the law. If Draco was in agreement with his views, he would be assigning his seats to that faction. He wasn't about to let Dumbledore remain in control.
Voldemort was another problem, but he wanted to meet with Draco and speak to Severus about the man. If Dumbledore was willing to do so much to him and had exposed how he knew Tom Riddle was treated, who knows what influences Dumbledore might have tried with Tom Riddle. He had been wondering about that since Dumbledore mentioned Slughorn gave the book on Horcruxes to Tom. Questions plagued him on that. Why? Slughorn wasn't that type of person to read that type of book. Why would Slughorn try to hide the memory? Why didn't Dumbledore just get him himself? The man knew how to use memory charms and was a master legilimens. Which lead to a lot more questions.
He wasn't sure how he was going to react seeing his ex-best friends, but he had been working on his own shields, with the help of the goblins, he had improved a lot. Harry had included a note to Severus asking him for assistance in improving and Severus agreed. Severus had sent him a list of books to read. Harry tapped into his inner Ravenclaw and made use of his summer, now it was time to let out his inner Slytherin.
He could see the main entrance to Hogwarts, some students were milling around, and he knew Dumbledore would know of his arrival soon. He expected the man was going to try and force him into classes with, shudder, Ginny. Harry knew Granger and Weasley would be involved in the meeting, as well as McGonagall and Severus. He was going to love seeing the shock on their faces. He knew Granger was going to go nuts.
Severus had heard about Harry's return before he received the note from Dumbledore summoning him to his office. Harry still hadn't made it to Hogwarts, but Dumbledore clearly wanted to make sure Harry followed Dumbledore's plans. He was going to enjoy watching the Order learn the truth.
For the past two weeks, he had been dealing with the annoying know-it-all and her disgusting boyfriend. The girl hadn't been happy with just taking an apprenticeship, she was also doing some university classes, she had been telling everyone about the benefits of yoga, while her insipid boyfriend wouldn't shut up about Quidditch. He had given the idiot a babbling potion for dinner one night, in order to drive Granger up the wall. It worked, as she had been furious the next morning and demanded to know who pranked the idiot.
He was walking out of the dungeons when he saw Harry enter Hogwarts. Harry looked yumm--delis--good, yeah, let's get that mind out of the gut--oh, look at those pants, the shoulders. Whatever Harry did over the last four months worked. While he would never be tall as he should have been, the boy filled out nicely. He knew he had another few years of growing still, but at eighteen, the most he would grow would be a centimeter or two. Severus looked closely, something was very different. He smirked. The glasses were gone.
This new Harry was going to scare Dumbledore and the Order and he was looking forward to it. Oh, he knew Dumbledore was going to try whatever to regain control over Harry, but clearly Harry was ready for whatever the man might try. Dumbledore, most likely, even summoned Molly and the Wolf. Oh, he was going to enjoy this.
Harry turned his head and saw Severus coming out of the dungeons. That man was sex on a stick. He couldn't wait to show Severus just how interested he was in the man. Many people really didn't see the true beauty of Severus, but he did. The man's cutting tongue, his dry wit, and his sharp mind, not to mention that body that was under those robes. He still wanted to learn how to make his robes billow behind him like Severus did.
"Professor Snape." Harry could see students were wonder what was going on. "Care to join me on my journey to the Headmaster's office." Harry knew Dumbledore was going to blow a gasket when he discovered that Harry already had his NEWTs and an apprenticeship.
"I am headed in that direction."
Neither spoke as they walked, too many spying portraits that would report to the Headmaster what they spoke about. They weren't worried about the ghosts or even the house elves. Harry had secured their loyalty before he even finished his third year as a student. Dobby had been key in that aspect. Dobby may be crazy but he was handy to have on your side.
Harry wasn't surprised to find almost all of the Order in the Headmaster's office waiting for him. He slammed down his anger and focused on the task at hand. He wasn't going to allow them to control him any longer. He wondered a bit about Remus, he was his father and Sirius' friend, yet he was being paid by Dumbledore. Granted the money came out of his accounts but did the man see Remus as his Alpha or something? The man denied his wolf in so many ways, yet caved in this one area. That didn't make sense. Perhaps it was pure gratefulness for his education and not allowing him to be destroyed because of Sirius' prank in their fifth year.
"Harry James Potter, where have you been? You have had us all worried." He was tackled by Granger.
"Let go of me." Harry forcible removed Granger from his body.
"Harry!" Molly was shocked.
Harry could see the shock on everyone's face. He wasn't going to be weak-willed Harry Potter any longer. He wasn't going to have their view of him affect how he acted now. No, it was time for the real Harry Potter to shine. "I'm going to make it simple. I'm done with Hogwarts. I have my NEWTs, I'm sure you will get the results soon if you haven't already. I know about the money, the illegal use of my seats and my properties. I'm sure you are already aware of that since you are all here. You won't be getting anything from me. I have placed extra security on my vaults, with me being testing for potions or outside influences before entering my vaults. You are all on notice, anything else happens to me, my vaults, or my property, everything will be submitted to Madam Bones. My relatives have already been evicted out of my house, the wards have been removed, and will not be replaced. I am here to do my apprenticeship, however, if you make it difficult for me to work with Professor Snape, try to influence me using him, or even try to control him in any way, I will leave. In other words, leave me alone." Harry didn't bother to take the empty seat. He stood next to Severus.
"What is going on?" Professor McGonagall was now very confused.
"I'm sure the dear Headmaster will say it's a slight misunderstanding. It's not. The people in this room with the exception of you and Professor Snape have been stealing from me. Granger, Weasley and his sister, have been paid to be my friends. Ginny plans on drugging me to get me to marry her, and every single one of them was aware of the abuse I endured. Tonks and Mrs. Figg were also aware of it but tried to stop it. Just so there isn't a slight misunderstanding, the only reason the lot of you aren't rotting in Azkaban right now is that I don't want a crazy Dark Lord to take over."
"My dear boy, I'm sure we can work this all out. We love you." Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling as he hands played with his beard. He had his grandfatherly act working over time. Harry was a bit surprised he didn't get the lemon drop question, but he really didn't give the man a chance to ask.
"Headmaster, if this is your idea of love, you need to look up the definition. Love does not accept abuse of a person they love. Love does not get paid to love. Love does not use potions or other methods to try and force a marriage. Love does not lie, steal, control, or manipulate a person. Love doesn't stand by and watch a child get abused. Love does not put wards up that give a child no way to escape being abused." Harry could tell Severus was a bit impressed by the control he had over his emotions.
"Albus? Molly? Remus?" McGonagall looked at them and saw the guilt on their faces. "You didn't?"
"Oh, they did and more. Now, I'm here as Professor Snape's new defense apprenticeship. Do not think I want to continue our friendship. It's over."
"How do we know you even have your NEWTs, you didn't sit for them, and since the Headmaster doesn't know about them, you might be lying." Granger haughty tone was in full force, her superiority complex was rearing its ugly head.
"Yeah, you weren't. You didn't show up at the Ministry either to take them."
"You know you belong in the same year as me now." Ginny had in the last few minutes unbuttoned the top of her blouse, her breasts were barely concealed.
Harry pulled out his results. He handed them to McGonagall. "Read them out loud, it will be quicker."
"Transfiguration O+, Defence Against the Dark Arts O++, Charms O+, Potions O, Astronomy O, History of Magic O, Herbology E, Arithmancy E, Study of Ancient Runes E, Care of Magical Creatures O+, Muggle Studies O++, French O, Latin O, Muggle History E, Chemistry E. I do believe that clears up the matter of his NEWTs. Congratulations, Mr. Potter."
"What those aren't real! Chemistry, Muggle History, French, and Latin, there isn't a NEWT for them." Granger snatched the results out of McGonagall's hands.
"I take great pleasure in informing you, Miss Granger, but you are wrong." Severus saw McGonagall was a bit shocked by the girl's rudeness. "They are a lot more NEWT options available outside of Hogwarts."
"What? He got an apprenticeship with Snape. Hermione is a better student, she should have gotten it instead of with-" Weasley shut up as Granger hit him on the back of his head since she was doing her apprenticeship with Professor Babbling, but only because Dumbledore put pressure on her.
"How long have you known where Harry was, Severus?" Dumbledore was trying to remain calm, but he was going to make his potion master pay for this betrayal.
"He never did. I had the goblins arrange for the apprentice last week. Professor Snape and I haven't even spoken since last May." Harry's tone held a warning tone, and he hoped that Dumbledore understood it.
"As Mr. Potter has said, we haven't spoken since last May, and I was sent the contract via Gringotts last week with the clear instructions that if I informed you, the contract would be withdrawn." Severus had to admit that was a good move on Harry's part.
"I do believe that covers everything?" Harry smirked. He knew what was coming next.
"Harry, you must realize you can't have an apprenticeship with Severus, it endangers you and him."
"Which is why only those in this room know of it. I will be wearing glamours outside of my quarters." Harry already had a ring set with a few different ones, but he wasn't going to be telling Dumbledore that bit of information. "I will use the name, Orion Sirius Black." Sirius, he knew, wasn't part of their plans. The man had tried to protect him. "I am Lord Black, and it wouldn't surprise anyone that Sirius had an illegitimate child."
"I see. If I don't agree, you will leave. I had hoped you trusted me more, but I see it's not true. However, that being said, I will not allow this contract, if you wish to be an apprentice, you will do one with either me, Minerva, or Remus."
"No, thanks. Good-bye." Harry turned and started towards the door. The door slammed shut. "Headmaster, open the door, if I don't appear to a certain person on time, they will notify the DMLE I have been kidnapped by you, and since I made sure to leave a nice long trace of evidence of my arrival, I will be discovered."
"Harry, I'm sure we can work something out."
"You have my terms, I'm not changing my mind." Harry turned a bit to see Dumbledore. "You aren't going to keep controlling my life. That era is over. This is the Harry Potter without potions, without your compulsions, and without your interference."
No one spoke, not that they were speaking much anyway. The adults in the room realized Harry would carry out his threats, and the children were clearly expecting them to fix Harry.
"I want a copy of this contract to review. I will arrange an additional room in Severus' quarters." Dumbledore couldn't let Harry leave.
Severus waited until they got to his quarters. "I am impressed, Harry."
"Thanks. You know they are going to try their tricks."
"Yes, Albus won't give up that easily. I spoke to Draco, he will meet you this Saturday."
Harry sat down in one of the two matching recliners. "Fill me in on what I missed."
Severus and Harry settled in Severus' quarters. Severus added privacy ward. Severus was a bit nervous. He wasn't sure how angry Harry was with him, or if he was even angry. He felt so guilty for breaking it off with Harry.
"Draco? Lucius?" Harry watched Severus' closely. He knew they had issues they needed to work out. Issues that Dumbledore did create. He wasn't angry with Severus. He had been incredibly hurt, but after reading the letters, meditating on his own feelings, he knew he still wanted Severus. However, things were going to be very different.
"Lucius is in hiding at the Manor in France. The Ministry has him listed as being deceased. Lucius apparently died by a rogue dementor. In regards to the Dark Lord, he has stopped looking for you. None of the Death Eaters will be looking for you either. He has started to handle the extreme Death Eaters. Bella was returned to Azkaban." Severus wasn't sure what else Harry would want to know. "He would like to have you discuss terms with Draco. He would like you to join him, but he will honor your withdrawal if you wish to remain neutral. I spent a lot of time showing him what your years at Hogwarts were like. Draco and a few others also wrote out their view of your experiences. The Dark Lord realized you were never given a choice." Severus had gathered a lot of information on what happened during Harry's time at Hogwarts. People that Dumbledore never realized they were Harry's friends and on Harry's side. If Harry went neutral, they would go neutral.
"How sane is the man?" Harry hadn't decided which way he was going. He only knew he wasn't going to be supporting Dumbledore. He was actually planning on getting rid of Dumbledore as soon as the Dark Lord was dealt with one way or another.
Severus swallowed. "I wouldn't say he was completely sane, but he's not crazy. He has been going back to his original goal. No raids on muggles. No killing for the sake of killing. He put a stop to all the random cursing. Dumbledore is a bit more stable but he's crazy. He uses guilt, the grandfather act, and his greater good line to get his way. He keeps everything to himself, which is why a lot of missions have failed because his Order has no idea what they're looking for. The Dark Lord doesn't hide his agenda, but he isn't punishing everyone so quickly. It's turning into more of an ego war between the two of them with Dumbledore wanting to block more and more magic, while the Dark Lord wants to get things returned."
"It explains the lack of pain." Harry had mastered the dread skill but it wasn't full proof. He needed more experiences in protecting his mind from others. "I won't be supporting Dumbledore, and I do agree with getting our magic and rituals returned."
"You had to have improved in order for Dumbledore not to see into your mind." Severus inhaled deeply. "I also agree with you about magic and our rituals." It was the reason Severus joined the Dark Lord in the first place. He didn't join to kill people.
"I felt him, but only showed him a boring library." Harry had shown Dumbledore just a basic library that he had used while at Gringotts. "He only ever does surface scans but I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to corner me and get a really good look into my mind. He is mighty handy with memory charms."
It was quiet for a few minutes. Severus sighed. He wasn't sure how to start this. He wasn't even remotely good at dealing with emotions. Nevermind dealing with emotions regarding someone he hurt because of being manipulated by a senile old coot. He never wanted to break Harry's heart, but Dumbledore had used him and his emotions for Lily and Harry against Harry. "Harry, I know I said I was sorry in my letters. I know-"
"Stop, Severus. I know and I understand. While I was hurt, the letters helped a lot. It showed me more than you know concerning how you felt." Harry read the letters a few times. He read between the lines based on knowing Severus. He knew that even Severus admitting this was hard for a man who controlled his emotions all the time. Severus prided himself on the control of his emotions. Harry recognized that aspect. He had learned how to control his emotions but he didn't have the years of experience that Severus had. "Your letters meant a lot to me."
"I-" Severus stopped speaking. He wasn't used to handling emotions. He had only hurt two people in his life. One out of anger and the other on purpose because of Dumbledore. Lily and Harry, the only other person who meant as much to him was his mother.
"Severus, let's start fresh. You are going to have to get to know the true Harry, not Harry Potter, not Dumbledore's golden boy, not the Savior." Harry warned. He wasn't going to adapt to fit a person or friends. He had learned to that at the Dursleys, at Hogwarts, with his friends, even when he spent time with Sirius.
"I know. When you managed to stay hidden, I knew you weren't your father. Nor Dumbledore's golden boy, Savior, or whatever titles they have tacked on. While I do agree, I have to get to know you, I have also changed. I want us to relearn each other." Severus had spent the summer learning how much he had burned off of the true Severus Snape. Not Dumbledore's spy, not Dumbledore's Potion Master, nor Dumbledore watchdog for his snakes. He wasn't what the Dark Lord expected either and found that Lucius and the Dark Lord responded in a positive way with the changes.
Harry nodded his understanding. He knew the summer would be one he wouldn't forget in a long time. It was a summer of change for him and Severus. One that he felt would allow them to be the very best of themselves. "We are going to have to battle Dumbledore and his pets together. I'm very happy that you're on my side in this coming battle against Dumbledore."
"Harry, I will always be there you." Severus was sincere. It wasn't about a Vow, it wasn't because of Dumbledore or the Dark Lord. Severus wanted to be there for Harry.