Snape remained silent as Harry conjured a splint. The fact that he wasn’t saying something nasty gave Harry an inkling of just how badly he was injured. In fact, since the quickly muttered spell that had stopped the spurts of blood from his thigh Snape hadn’t said a word.
“This is the best I can do until we get you to Madam Pomfrey.”
With a sigh Harry lowered himself to the ground, his back against a tree and tried to staunch the flow of blood from the gash over his eye. Again he heard Snape mutter and the wound tingled, sealing shut.
“You need your eyesight.”
As he rubbed his forehead to ease the throbbing pain a wry smile twisted his lips. Snape raised an eyebrow.
“You find something amusing?”
“Just thinking…by the time this war is over my forehead may be a companion piece to Professor Dumbledore’s knee.”
To Harry’s astonishment Snape chuckled. “It really does look like a map of the London Underground. Yours will be more like a jigsaw puzzle…or Frankenstein’s monster.” He noted Harry’s look of amazement. “I’m not as ignorant of the Muggle world as you assume.”
Harry snorted as he rose to his feet. “The only thing I assume about you is that I’ll always be treated fairly.”
“Oh, sarcasm,” Snape drawled, “A refreshing change from the usual after-dinner whine. You simply can’t bear that someone doesn’t worship the great god Potter!”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Here I thought your silence meant you were seriously hurt…what was it? Figuring the latest tallies in the Snape vs. Potter life-saving contest?” He leaned back against the tree, arms folded across his chest. “Professor Dumbledore’s convinced that’s why you hate me… because my father saved your life. I just don’t believe that. What is it, really? Unrequited love for my Mother?” A muscle twitched in Snape’s jaw. “No, couldn’t be” his voice was cold steel, “she wasn’t a pureblood…” He cocked an eyebrow. “Unrequited love for my Father?”
Snape grasped his wand but in one fluid movement Harry was crouched on the ground beside him, the tip of his wand pressed under Snape’s chin.
“Even after the penseive, I don’t get it. So my father was your Draco Malfoy.” Snape’s eyes widened in surprise. “He made your life miserable and usually got away with it. That’s been, what, 25 years? Aren’t you over it yet?” He rocked back on his heels, letting his wand drop. “After what you saw in the Occlumency “lessons” you know we have a lot in common….”
A look of understanding began to dawn. “That’s it, isn’t it Snape?”
“Neither of us had a happy childhood, Snape… both unloved, tormented, misfits… and still I ended up in Gryffindor and I am the famous Harry Potter, destined to save the world. That galls you, doesn’t it? Professor Dumbledore once said it’s our choices that define us more than our abilities. My existence is an indictment of your choices.”
Snape’s voice, as snide as ever, shook slightly.
“You were born Harry Potter, the Dark Lord marked you as the one from the prophecy and you were sorted into Gryffindor. I don’t see any great choices on your part.”
Harry rose and stood looking down a moment before he answered. “The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin.”
Snape’s eyes opened wide, but he seemed incapable of words.
Harry turned on his heel. Suddenly years of anger and bitterness began to drain away. With everything happening now, what difference did it make? His own words rang in his ears. Did he still want to hate in 25 years?
He turned back toward Snape.
“So, what now?” Snape seemed to come back to the present with a jolt, but didn’t answer. “I send up red sparks and hope the good guys get here first, or I conjure a stretcher and levitate you back to the school. My conjuring’s better than it used to be, but still not my strength.”
“I’ll help with the spells. Can you find the way back?”
Harry gave a self-deprecating smile. “That would be rich! The Boy Who Lived becomes The Man Who Got Lost in the Forbidden Forest and Eaten by a Giant Spider!” His eyes actually held some of their old twinkle. “The Forest is off-limits, so I have only been here once, in a detention with Hagrid, six years ago….but I have an excellent memory….the castle is that way.” He almost managed a straight face, but Snape’s snort of laughter caused Harry to break into a wide grin. The smile faded instantly, however, as the bushes exploded behind them and Harry spun quickly, wand raised.
He lowered it in relief at the sight of a handsome blond centaur.
“Professor Firenze, Professor Snape is injured. Could you help me get him back to the school?”
“I’ll take him,” a husky, female voice spoke as another centaur stepped out of the trees.
“This is Danalli, she feels as I do.” Firenze said no more.
Danalli stepped forward. “Please help the Professor onto my back.”
“You, Harry Potter, must come with me.” Harry had never heard such urgency from Firenze.
“The forces have gathered where my herd fought the giant. The battle for Hogwarts has begun.”
Harry accepted Firenze’s out-stretched hand and leapt onto the centaurs back.
“Thank you, Danalli. Would you wait while the Professor’s leg is healed and bring him back to the battle? We need him there.”
Danalli nodded, but Professor Snape spoke first. “That won’t be necessary… there are Thestrals in the courtyard. They’ll know the way.” With a curt nod they disappeared into the trees.
Harry found himself remembering the words of a Muggle television psychiatrist he’d heard at the Dursley’s…..’it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.’ He was surprised to find within himself the honest hope that somewhere on the other side of what lay ahead, Professor Snape would have the chance to test that theory.