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Author's Notes: I'm terribly sorry for the incredible delay with this chapter. It took me more than I've expected to (a) find a new beta-reader, (b) send her everything, (c) get back everything, (d) send back again with questions and stuff, (e) get it back once again, (f) send it again to her for the last time, (g) receive it for the last time, (h) go through it again and (i) post it, finally! Well, I hope you'll like it, there are still another 3 chapters to go before the story is over and I hope that my faithful readers are still somewhere out there, ready to read this and see where it's going. Naturally you have to let me know what you think about it. A very big thank you goes to Verity_Evans, my lovely new beta-reader, the closest to a professional proof-reader I've ever had. Many thanks, sweetie!

Harry felt his heart pounding in his chest, his mouth suddenly dry. His arm darted towards Hermione’s wrist, he grabbed her and shoved her protectively behind him. He pointed his wand at Snape. For the first time, he regretted that his Sectumsempra Curse hadn’t killed Draco that day in the bathroom.

“Glad that we are still alive so that you can kill us?” barked Harry. “Not this time, Snape.”

Snape glanced at him coldly. His eyebrows raised in an annoyed and bored expression. If Snape didn’t feel threatened by his tone of voice or his wand, perhaps an Unforgivable Curse would change his mind.

Snape raised his chin and took a step forward.

“Don’t move!” cried Harry, his green eyes fixed in Snape’s black ones.

“Or what?” asked Snape coldly, standing still.

Harry backed up, causing Hermione to back up with him. “Or I’ll kill you,” he muttered, his breath stiff. He felt Hermione gasp softly behind him, he surprised her as much as he surprised himself.

“Kill me, Potter?” asked Snape. “You are not a murderer.”

Harry’s jaw set, he narrowed his eyes and raised his chin in the air. He had to kill him. Snape had killed Dumbledore, and now Harry had to kill him. I don’t have to kill him, Harry corrected himself. But I do want to… Harry contemplated the fact that he would become a murderer, but seriously did that matter at that moment? Yes, it matters. I’m not a murderer… He hated Snape even more now. He hated him because he was agreeing with him.

“Why are you here?” asked Harry, his voice uneasy. “To finish your job? To kill me.”

“If you’re going to answer to your own questions, why ask me?” Snape asked, smirking.

“What did you come here for?” Harry asked again, his voice was now steadier than before.

Snape didn’t move. He looked like a statue, even his sallow complexion recalled the colour of the wax. His greasy hair framed his face like the curtains of a theatre, but Harry didn’t like the show that it was playing. Snape seemed terribly calm. He seemed to know something that Harry didn’t.

“It’s a long story, Potter,” answered Snape seriously. “We better sit down and talk.”

Harry glared at him. It was exactly what Draco had told him and Harry still had to hear to his explanation, not that they did have time for that, but Draco had ignored his warning and opened the door for Snape instead of giving him details about what was going on.

“You killed Dumbledore,” hissed Harry. “If you think that I’m going to sit down at the same table with you, then think again.”

Snape narrowed his eyes. “I’ve something for you, Potter.” He moved his hands under his cloak and struggled to free them.

“Do you think I’m stupid?” yelled Harry nervously. “Don’t take out your hands out of your cloak.”

Snape stopped moving. “I’m not taking out my wand, Potter, if that’s what is troubling you.”

“I’m not troubled,” answered Harry. “I’m not stupid either,” he snapped, glaring at Draco as if to remind him of that.

Draco glared back at him.

“I understand that asking you to trust me is a bit excessive, after what happened that night,” said Snape evenly.

Harry snorted. “Very.”

“Well,” replied Snape. “I think we have a problem then.”

“You are the problem, Snape,” growled Harry. “The fact that you are here in front of me is my problem.”

Snape’s lips curled into the shadow of a smile. “Professor Dumbledore would want you to hear me out, Potter.”

Harry opened his mouth in surprise, he couldn’t believe his ears. “He didn’t even want you to kill him, Snape,” hissed Harry as soon as he recovered.

Snape raised his chin. “Are you sure?” he asked coldly.

“How dare you?” roared Harry. “I was there, on the Astronomy Tower, I saw everything.”

“And that’s why you trust Draco? Because he didn’t have the nerve to kill Professor Dumbledore?” asked Snape.

Harry blinked. “I don’t trust Malfoy,” he replied coldly.

“And you usually let someone that you don’t trust into your house?” asked Snape. “Last time your parents did it, they regretted it.”

Harry’s vision blurred for the rage. How could he have the courage to talk about his parents in front of him? He could almost feel the words of Snape’s own curse jumping to his lips. He bit down on his tongue to keep from hexing him into oblivion, though he didn’t entirely understand why.

“Malfoy was wounded,” hissed Harry, but as he glanced at Draco, he knew how foolish this was.

Snape turned his head to look at Draco as well, and Draco must have felt suddenly observed, because he flushed. He glanced over at Hermione and saw that she was looking at him as well, her brown eyes wide with curiosity and confusion.

“He doesn’t look like he’s wounded to me,” concluded Snape, turning back to Harry.

Harry narrowed his eyes. “Don’t even try to fool me, I know that you know,” he hissed.

“That I know what?”

“He was poisoned,” cried Harry.

“He looks fine.”

“He lied,” Hermione’s voice broke in. She spoke nervously at the same time and everybody, except for Harry turned to look at her. Draco had his mouth slightly open, as if he hadn’t expected her to say anything, as if he hadn’t wanted her to say anything. He didn’t quite know why, but he felt uneasy with her eyes on him, and only when she looked up at Snape did he let out the breath that he didn’t know he was holding.

“He lied,” repeated Hermione. “And you know it,” she added to Snape. “What was that? A test to see if we would have taken care of him?”

Snape cocked an eyebrow and curled his lips in a small satisfied smile, the way he had never done for her while she was in class and answered to his questions. “No, Miss Granger,” answered Snape, calmly. “I was sure that you would have taken care of him. Actually, I wouldn’t have bet on Weasley, but Potter wouldn’t have permitted a poor wounded boy to die in front of your door, not even if that boy was Draco,” answered Snape. “And speaking of Weasley,” he continued, glancing over Harry and Hermione’s shoulders. “What is he doing tied up on the floor, Potter?”

Hermione and Draco glanced briefly at Ron, before turning their attention to what was going on in the middle of the living room. Harry swallowed. What could he have said? He still didn’t know what happened. He seemed to know very little of what was going on.

“Miss Granger?” asked Snape, after waiting in vain for an answer from Harry.

“I tied him up,” answered Draco. “He found it,” he added knowingly.

Snape’s lips parted slightly, he looked past Harry to the unconscious figure of Ron, and for a moment Harry thought that he saw a shadow of concern on his face.

“He found what?” asked Harry, his rage giving way to curiosity, though he didn’t lower his wand. He was curious, not stupid. And he had spent the last six years of his life trying to understand what was going on around him, he was used to discovering things all by himself.

“Potter, please. If I wanted to harm you, I’ve had plenty of opportunity over the last six years. Put your wand away, and I’ll explain everything.” He raised his chin and looked intently at Harry. “You want to know what I’m doing here, and I want to know what happened in the last few days.”

Snape’s words sunk in Harry’s brain that for a moment they left him breathless.

Harry gulped and narrowed his eyes. He sounded very convincing. Then Harry wondered if he sounded so convincing when he talked to Dumbledore too. He must have, he thought bitterly, for being able to lure professor Dumbledore into that trap that cost him his life.
Harry was so focused on Snape that he almost didn’t notice Hermione’s hand appearing at the corner of his eye and alighting on the forearm of his wand arm.

“Harry, let’s just listen to what--”

“No,” snapped Harry, and he shook Hermione away from his arm. “Don’t you understand, Hermione?” he continued, keeping his eyes on Snape. “It’s just his way to do everything. He convinced Dumbledore to believe him, and where is he now?”

Hermione bit her bottom lip, and Harry noticed that her eyes shone with restrained tears.

Hermione took a deep breath and stepped forward, standing between Harry and Snape. She gulped and closed her lips in a thin and severe line.

Harry reacted exactly the way she expected he would; he seemed shocked. His lips parted slightly and his hand started to shake. His eyes burned with anger as he looked intently at her, like he was trying to pierce through her and keep his eyes on Snape.

“Hermione, stand aside.” Harry ordered. His wand was now pointed to her heart, but he knew that it was pointless to tear it away. He knew that if he did that, Hermione would have moved with it, standing always between him and his aim.

“Harry, let’s hear what he has to say. What do you want to do? Point your wand at him until your arm starts to hurt?” she questioned firmly.

“Why? Unforgivable Curses hurt your arm?” he snorted back.

“I think it will be okay, Harry,” she said sweetly.

Harry breathed sharply. “How can you trust him?” he asked, glaring at Snape.

Harry’s jaw set. He wasn’t ready to trust Snape, but after all Hermione was right.

He lowered his wand and heard a sigh coming from Hermione. He shook his head slightly. “Talk fast,” he said.

“It’s a long story,” said Snape. “I have something for you.”

Snape’s hands appeared from his cloak, quickly and silently like two white snakes. He looked at Harry and Hermione with a firm expression.

Both Harry and Hermione—and Draco—Snape knew, had their eyes fixed on what he was holding in his hands, a curious and concentrated expression on their faces.

He stretched his hands towards them. In each hand he held a little black velvet bag, closed with a crimson tie. One was bigger than the other and seemed also quite a bit heavier.

“What’s in there?” asked Harry coldly.

Snape’s lips curled in a soft and satisfied smile, he had managed to make him curious. He grabbed the smallest bag and threw it at Harry and Hermione’s feet, where it landed with a clatter. “Open it,” he said calmly, nodding towards it.

“Do you think we’re stupid?” asked Harry.

“Just open it, Potter,” said Snape coldly. “They are harmless, now.”

Harry looked at him and narrowed his eyes. What did he mean with now? He stretched a foot towards the sack and kicked it gently.

Harry glared at him, did he think he would pick up the first thing that he threw him? Didn’t he know that- “Hermione, what are you doing?” he half screamed. “It could be dangerous!”

Hermione was picking up the velvet bag. By the time Harry reached her she had already unfastened half of the knot that closed the bag.

Harry seized her wrist. “Do you have a death-wish?” he asked.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “We won’t know what’s in here, if we don’t have a look.”

Harry snorted and took the bag from her hands very unceremoniously. “Okay, but let Malfoy open it,” he snapped, throwing the bag at Draco.

Draco caught it reflexively. He raised his eyes to Harry, and he felt terribly ashamed to wear a surprised look over his face, but he really hadn’t seen that coming. He looked at Snape, who was looking at him as if he had expected that.

“I would have opened it by myself, Potter, if my hands weren’t busy holding your present,” said Snape, coldly. “Draco, open it,” said Snape.

Draco nodded curtly and unfastened the knot, then he threw the tie on the floor and, glancing at Harry, he seized the bottom of the bag and, turning it upside down, let the contents fall on the floor.

All eyes were pointed to the small objects on the floor. A feather, a locket and a key were lying in a pile.

There was a heavy gold locket, with an ornate “S” on the front, which had been broken almost in two at the hinge. Harry knew perfectly well what it was, that embroidery, that “S”, that serpent…

There was a black quill. It looked ancient, and worn out by the excessive use; ink encrusted the point and the upper part was half burnt. There was some kind of fine paint on it, a silvery design that vaguely resembled a crow.

There was a big silver key, with a small engraving of a lion. In some places the key had become the typical blackish colour of the neglected silver, and like the quill, looked partially burnt. But a part from this, it looked like it could still have opened the door it had been created for.

They all reached the floor with clatters and clinks, and once silence fell again it seemed so thick that when Snape spoke, his voice seemed to come from miles away.

“You know what these are?” he asked calmly.

Harry raised his eyes on him. He knew what they were, or better he could have imagined what they were. He opened his mouth to answer but Hermione was quicker.
“Horcruxes,” murmured Hermione. Her eyes were wide with shock, and her hands trembled slightly.

Draco too seemed quite surprised.

“Former Horcruxes, Miss Granger,” Snape corrected her.

“You mean that they have all been defeated?” asked Harry, and he was flabbergasted to hear his voice back to his normal tone, with no trace at all of rage or hate. Just surprise, or better shock.

“If by defeated you mean that the pieces of souls that they were concealing have been definitely destroyed, then yes, they are all defeated,” said Snape.

“And you did it?” asked Harry stunned.

“You know that you are not saying this in a very flattering way, do you Potter? Anyway, yes, I did it,” replied Snape, “aided extensively by Dumbledore’s notes.”

Harry lowered his gaze to the three objects on the floor. He couldn’t believe it. Snape had destroyed the Horcruxes. That should mean something to him. Then why couldn’t he still trust him? What if it’s a trap? What if those are only transfigured objects?

“W-wait a minute.” Hermione’s voice shook, as if she wasn’t so sure of what she was going to say. Harry looked at her; she was staring at the objects, as if she was trying to understand something. Very well, Hermione, thought Harry excited, find what’s wrong in all this story.

“Yes, Miss Granger?” asked Snape absolutely flatly.

“One is missing,” she said, raising her eyes on Snape and biting her bottom lip. “One Horcrux is missing.”

“I know,” answered Snape. “And it was still missing until a couple of days ago, but someone found it.”

“You mean you found it,” Harry broke in.

“No,” answered Snape quietly.

“Death Eaters?” Harry felt nauseated at the thought.

Draco snorted. “The cup, Potter! How can you be so thick?” he snapped, crossing his arms on his bare chest.

Harry glared at him. “What are you talking about, Malfoy?” he snapped back.

Draco let out a frustrated cry and crossed the living room. He glared at Harry as he passed by him, but ignored Hermione. He bent on the couch and picked up the small cup that he had found in Ron’s pocket. He picked it up, touching it as little as he could, and brought it to Snape.

“This cup,” Draco snapped, while Snape took it.

Harry blinked, his eyes on the small goblet that Draco had handed to Snape. “Hufflepuff’s cup,” he murmured as if he was afraid to say it out loud, as if he couldn’t believe he was actually looking at the small artefact that held a piece of Voldemort’s soul. As if he couldn’t believe that that artefact was in his house.

Snape’s eyes narrowed, as he looked at Harry. “You’ve already seen this cup, haven’t you, Potter?” he asked calmly.

Harry raised his eyes on his former professor and nodded. “I have seen it, but not in this house,” he replied curtly. “I’ve seen it in Pokey’s memories. With Dumbledore.”

Snape arched an eyebrow quizzically. “And you didn’t know it was here?” he asked as if he found it difficult to believe Harry’s words.

“No,” answered Harry dryly. He looked at Draco with newfound hate. “And how did you know that cup was here?” he asked nervously.

Draco glared at him. “I’m here for that cup,” he answered curtly. “But Weasley found it before I did.”

Hermione gasped, her hand covering her mouth. “Ron… that’s why he… he tried to…”
Draco nodded. “I’m sure your little brilliant brain has already worked out what I’m talking about, Granger.” He nodded towards Ron. “We all know that he has a crush on you, but I don’t think that he would have ever tried anything on you without a little push from that cup.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Harry nervously. He turned towards Hermione. “What the hell is he talking about?”

Hermione looked at him, her mouth slightly open, her eyes wide. What was she supposed to say? There were so many things to tell him, that she surely couldn’t have answered him at that moment, they needed to sit and talk properly. They needed to take every single piece of information and put them together, like a jigsaw puzzle. They needed to understand.

“Now is not the time for this. We have things to discuss, Potter,” replied Snape calmly.

Harry snorted, his eyes darted towards Snape. “You think I trust you now?,” he hissed.

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “I thought I gave you enough reasons,” he answered, “but if you still need a convincing, here you are.” He stretched his arms towards Harry, offering him the other velvet bag.

Harry looked at it suspiciously. Snape’s arms were shaking a little, that thing must have been heavy. “What is it?”

“Why don’t you take it and see for yourself?” asked Snape, taking a small step towards Harry.

Harry took a step back, dragging Hermione with him. “Why don’t you open it, so that we all see?”

Snape gave him a contemptuous look, but he untied the knot and freed the bag. He dove his hand in and let the velvet bag fall on the floor and held what he claimed as Harry’s present.

It was a small stone basin. It seemed dug in the rock, and it was filled with fluorescent strings of a ghostly silver colour that sent a dim light against Snape’s black clothes. It looked exactly like something that Harry knew very well. Something in which he had fallen quite often in the last three years, something that had been the very method of his lessons with Dumbledore last year.

“Take it,” said Snape, his voice a bit annoyed and a bit bored. “Or would you prefer a new broomstick?”

Harry looked at Snape. “Is that my present? A Pensieve?” he asked slowly.

Snape nodded.

“And I’m supposed to just go in there, and trust you out here, alone, with my friends.”

Snape placed his wand down on the table. “By all means, disarm us, if you feel it necessary.”

“Why are you giving me a Pensieve?” he asked rudely.

“This is not from me. It’s from Professor Dumbledore,” he answered. “He filled it several weeks before he died, and asked me to give it to you, should anything happen. You might find things that could interest you.”

“What things?” he asked. He didn’t know if there were spells that could have been placed on Pensieves, but what if he entered it and then was stuck in there forever? What if it was a trap? Was he really so stupid to fall in that trap?

“Things that you should know, Potter,” answered Snape bitterly. “Go ahead,” said Snape. “When you’ve returned, we’ll talk.”

“So,” murmured Hermione. “You suggest that we sit around the kitchen table, maybe in front of a cup of tea and tell you all the things that we know that happened here in the past few days, then you’ll tell us how you destroyed the Horcruxes, and eventually Harry and I will be able to see what’s in this Pensieve, right?”

“No,” answered Snape curtly. “I suggest that Potter enters the Pensieve alone, and then, when he’s out, we’ll talk.”

“Why only Harry?” asked Hermione concerned.

Snape looked at her. “Because, Miss Granger it’s Potter’s present, but if you want you can enter with him. It’s not strictly necessary, though.”

“No,” replied Harry.

“I’m sorry?” questioned Snape, cocking his head.

“I said no,” he repeated calmly. “Hermione is not going to enter the Pensieve with me.”
Hermione turned to look at Harry, but he didn’t look back at her. He was still staring at Snape and doing his very best to ignore her. She narrowed her eyes and seized his sleeve, pulling him slightly towards her, she cleared her throat. “What do you mean that I’m not coming into the Pensieve with you?” she asked sharply.

“Does this mean that you are going to enter this Pensieve, Potter?” broke in Snape.

Harry nodded, while Hermione pulled at his sleeve a bit more forcefully than before. Since he was still ignoring her, she wanted to be sure that he didn’t leave her out of the conversation.

“Harry. Harry, look at me,” she called him vehemently. And only when he turned to look at her, she kept on talking. “What do you mean that I can’t come into the Pensieve with you? I want to see.”

Harry seized her upper arms gently, just to capture her full attention and let her know that she had to listen to him carefully. “Stay here, keep an eye on them. If this is a trap or something, you can get me out.”
Hermione gulped. “How will I know if it’s a trap?”

“If I’m not back in half an hour.” He looked at Snape for confirmation, but he didn’t move. Harry continued, “You’ll have to take me out of the Pensieve, because it means that it’s a trap.”

Hermione nodded. She didn’t like the situation, she had to start thinking at what kind of spells to use, right at that moment, because if Harry didn’t come back she was sure that she would have panicked like that time when Ron was in the branches of the Devil’s Snare.

Harry put a hand on her cheek and smiled reassuringly. Hermione placed her own hand on his, smiling back concerned, and for a moment, everything else in the world disappeared.

“So you are going to enter the Pensieve,” said Snape, and it wasn’t a question. His lips curled into a satisfied smile.

Harry looked at him, without releasing Hermione. “Yes, I am,” he replied. “Whose memories are in there? Dumbledore’s?”

“And mine,” answered Snape.

“And they are about…”

“Do you want me to spoil it for you, Potter?”

Harry crossed his arms on his chest. “Give your wands to Hermione,” he said, “both of you.” He looked at Draco, causing the blond boy to glare at him.

“If you think that I’m giving up my wand again, you are very wrong, Potter,” snapped Draco, casting him and Hermione a disdainful look. “Like I’d even want to get anywhere near her.” He held out his thumb and index finger in front of him. “I would never get close to a Muggle-born,” he finished, without looking at Hermione.

Harry shot him a glare. “Sure, Malfoy,” he mocked. “As if you weren’t hugging her when I entered into the living room.”

Draco darkened. “In fact I wasn’t,” he snapped. “She was hugging me.” On his lips appeared a soft satisfied and arrogant smile; as if the first purpose of that smile was to get on Harry’s nerves. And he was succeeding. Oh, how much he was succeeding!

“How dare you--”

Snape interrupted the argument before it even started. “Draco, do as Potter asks, we are not here to harm Miss Granger at all.”

Hermione watched Snape while he collected Draco’s wand, and pulled his own out of his pocket. He offered them to her. She stretched out an arm to take them and met no resistance at all when the wands left Snape’s hand. He was not acting, he was really handing her their only defence.

“Thank you,” murmured Hermione, unsure if that word was really required at all.

“You are welcome,” answered Draco mockingly.

Hermione glanced at him, and Draco looked away, as if he couldn’t stand to bear her look. She smiled pretty satisfied, she was happy if he felt awkward under her glance. Malfoy that feels awkward because of me? Sure, come back on Earth, Hermione.

“Enough, Draco,” said Snape calmly. “Potter, is there a place where I can lay this?” He nodded towards the Pensieve, still in his hands.

Harry turned to look behind himself. The small coffee table was crushed under Ron’s body, and Ron was still there, unconscious. That was not an option; and the couch was too soft, what if the Pensieve overturned while he was in there. He didn’t want to think what could have happened.

“I believe that the kitchen’s table will work for that,” suggested Hermione, and Harry agreed with her.

“This way,” said Harry, walking towards the only door of the First Floor and pushing it open. “Put it on this table.”

Snape followed him and placed the Pensieve on the table, as he was told. He stepped back and looked as Harry neared the table like a cat would near a bird. “I suggest you do it quickly, Potter,” said Snape. “We have to act fast.”

Harry glared at him. “Okay,” he muttered darkly. “Just sit down at this table, both of you.” He gestured to Draco and Snape. “And place your hands where Hermione can see them.”

Hermione crossed the kitchen while at her back Snape and Draco pushed the chairs aside and sat down, placing their hands on the table. “Harry,” she murmured, seizing the front of his robes gently. “Are you sure about this?”

Harry cupped her cheeks and smiled. “Weren’t you the one that said that we should hear what Snape has to tell us?”

Hermione pouted. “Yes, but weren’t you the one that said that we shouldn’t trust him? I’m scared now, what if it’s trap?”

“I don’t trust him, but I do believe in you, Hermione. Everything will be all right as long as you are here,” he replied.

Hermione’s eyes glistened with tears. Tears of joy for Harry’s confidence in her skills, and tears of fear for the fact that probably his life was hanging on a wire and that she was holding it in her hands. “Be careful,” she finally murmured.

Harry nodded. He bent down and kissed her quickly and unexpectedly on her lips. A chaste and silent kiss, that ended almost immediately, but that had the power to take away her breath and make her long for more, once Harry let her go.

Harry stepped towards the Pensieve, he looked at Snape who nodded curtly. Harry nodded back, and seized the edges of the Pensieve. He bent forward and immersed his head in the ghostly liquid.

A moment later, he was falling into their recollections.

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