Chapter Thirteen: Severance and Scrutiny
Severus stirred from his curled up position, trying to press himself up to a sitting position with only marginal success. Harry came over to pull Severus up the rest of the way and give him something to lean on, still running on his protective instinct. Scowling, Severus looked thoughtful, perhaps sifting through the procession of recent events as though searching through a pile of pyrite ore for true gold. As Severus' eyes fluttered shut Harry felt him shiver in reaction before very promptly opening his eyes again. Harry bravely ventured with his newfound perception, "Professor... Are you all right?"
"Tell me," Severus snarled, "From your observations, what would you imagine would be the case?" Distancing himself both physically and emotionally, Severus pulled himself to his feet with the aid of the walking stick and drew himself up to his formidable height, looming over the still seated Harry.
Rather than recoiling from the tone as he felt he would so recently, Harry quirked a small grin, "Actually, it sounds like you're doing rather better. You sound much more like yourself."
Severus' lip maintained its sneer as he bit off the words, "Let's cease the inane chatter and see about removing ourselves from the area. Unless you've an urge to make your customary meeting with Voldemort early this year." Harry could just feel the wall being thrown up between them as Severus held out one long hand expectantly. "My wand. And fetch the broom from where you dropped it."
Concerned though the remembered hurt that Severus' statement about Voldemort created, Harry hesitated, "Are you sure you won't..." Brave he may be, but he wasn't stupid to overly antagonize Severus in this mood.
"Won't what? Harm myself? No more than I've done in past." The sneer was still present, but it didn't seem entirely focused upon Harry for a few blessed moments. "Fetch the broom and give me my wand - now. Apparition doesn't take long, even if they have to trace the location first." With that, Severus started off in a near parallel to the stream, altering their previous course. Harry ran to get the broom and catch up with Severus' long strides.
"Move, Potter," Severus somehow managed to urge in a low tone while keeping up his rapid pace, "We've got to make enough distance so as to not be seen by whomever is being sent to pick us up." With another more fierce scowl he added, "I imagine you heard some of what passed." As Harry opened his mouth to speak, Severus interrupted, "Don't waste your breath now - just move."
The pace was maintained for a good two miles before Severus let up and leaned heavily against a nearby tree and his walking stick. Harry plopped himself down at Severus' side, sitting against the tree and holding his pocket open for Severus' reach as he panted, "Your wand doesn't seem to like me much." It was a show of how distracted Severus still was that he hadn't taken his wand back earlier.
With a dark smirk, Severus murmured, "I wonder at that." Brief display of humor ended, he turned his attention to his leg and with a practiced swish commanded, "Ossis reparo." From his expression, Harry thought Severus felt a twinge of something, but it could have been the effect of the spell itself as Severus remained standing and conscious, silently bending to remove Harry's makeshift splint from his leg.
With a sigh of relief, Severus next pointed his wand towards Harry who stiffened before realizing it was directed at the broomstick he held. "Baculus reparo," and the cracked wood was completely mended. With each of his actions, Severus' expression became increasingly closed off, his narrowed eyes implying anger but hiding further emotions from view at the same time.
"Carry this," Severus instructed, holding out the splint materials before taking the broomstick from Harry, "And get up now, unless you want to be left behind."
Harry got up swiftly, hoping to at least be able to experiment further with what seemed to be his newfound abilities once they were out of danger. "We're going to Hogwarts now?"
"Not yet." And again there was that unspoken anger as Severus activated and got on the broom, leaving Harry plenty of room behind him, "I trust you'll be able to keep a hold?" he questioned brusquely. Cutting off another question of Harry's before it was voiced, Severus added, "We don't want to leave anything that will help them track us, so at least until we can dispose of the materials at the nearest town you'll need to keep from dropping them.
"Not going to Hogwarts? But why? Headmaster Dumbledore will be there, won't he?"
Severus only gave a reply of a grim stare before kicking off and starting them on their trip.
Snape's muscles felt tense under Potter's careful grip; the whole thing irritated him greatly without even going into the memories piecing themselves together with the passing of every second. The boy was linked to him somehow; that became quickly apparent but no less annoying. He had been mostly cooperative thus far, but Snape didn't expect that to last for much longer. It wasn't his intention to return to Hogwarts for a while- not until he sorted out just what Dumbledore had done to him and what his intentions were.
Instead, Snape turned them southwards towards the nearest civilization he'd noted on the way to collect Har- Potter. They would have to walk a fair distance to the town as he wouldn't chance being spotted flying, but he still wasn't in condition to Apparate two people across the ocean and back to England. Not without splinching.
Potter tapped Snape's arm and pointed downwards at an angle when he got his attention. Following Potter's indication, Snape was able to make out the shape of a distant cabin and put a greater distance between it and them with a smooth change of direction. Potter leaned gracefully into the turn, seemingly happy to spend the time in the air in silence. Apparently he had learned the valuable lesson of 'a closed mouth will gather no flies' in his experience with Quiddich.
Just a few more miles and it would be time to continue at a walk. That is, unless Voldemort activated his Dark Mark again to do another trace on his location. Thankfully the great distance made doing that more difficult as well.
Snape didn't recognize the man in Death Eater robes who shot him down with the Cruciatus curse, nor could he figure out what the reasoning was for Voldemort to cause the Dursleys to bring Potter to such a distant location. Yes, making certain that the boy's protectors weren't easily brought to hand to protect him- but Dumbledore had managed to find out about the plot from one of his other spies, and had sent him to retrieve Potter. A portkey would have been rather helpful in taking care of the trip back, but to risk having such a key fall into the wrong hands was too great this time. Or so Dumbledore said.
Slowly Snape brought the broom to a landing, Potter's feet landing nimbly upon the ground behind him at touchdown. Of course the boy promptly opened his mouth, "So then, when will we be returning? Are we meeting the Headmaster somewhere else?"
"No, we will not be meeting the Headmaster somewhere else," Snape snapped. "He sent me to get to you before someone else did." A pause, and Snape added, "We will be laying low for a while. The longer we remain unseen, the larger the area that must be searched to find us. There aren't too many towns around these mountains, so we will only be stopping for supplies and departing again. The towns will be under scrutiny as well; it will necessitate a glamour charm during our time there."
"Can't you Apparate us back now instead?"
"Despite your-," and Snape bit off his words again, "-miraculous powers of healing, I am not yet in the condition to be able to transport us both across the ocean." Turning away from Potter, Snape strode through the forest, his rejuvenated strides a graceful prowl even as his shredded robes whispered across the leaf strewn floor.
Potter jogged to catch up with him and asked the one question he wasn't quite ready to answer yet. "What caused this new reaction between us?"
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