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Freedom woke in the middle of the night, trembling from yet another nightmarish vision of Cedric screaming. He lay still on the afghan for a moment, trying to calm down. He hated that he kept having these same nightmares over and over, he wanted them to stop, it had been months since Cedric's death, shouldn't he have gotten over it by now? But no, the dreams kept reoccurring, and he kept waking up drenched in sweat-well he would have been as a human-and shaking.

His hawk eyes picked out the familiar shapes of the fireplace and his perch beside it, dim shades in the faint light from the Lumos spelled nightlamp Severus kept in the small alcove between his bedroom and the small bathroom. Freedom suspected Snape had engaged the globe because he knew of the hawk's tendency to fly to his room at night and didn't want him crashing into the wall. Or perhaps he just wanted a light on to see his way to the toilet during the night. Whatever the reason, that night Freedom was grateful for the scant illumination, as it eased his panic somewhat following the dream.

He was a creature of the sunlight, he did not like the night like his owl cousins, and as a human he also had a very real phobia of the dark, legacy of being locked for hours and days in a small dark cupboard. No one ever knew of this, he had gone through great pains to hide it, when he slept in Gryffindor Tower, he always drew the bedcurtains tight for privacy and also to disguise the small hovering Lumos globe he positioned at the head of his bed, so that if he chanced to wake at night, he would not wake to smothering darkness. When they had faced the boggart during third year, he had actually been secretly glad Lupin had halted him before getting to it. The teacher had assumed his greatest fear would be Voldemort, but Harry had known better. It would have been suffocating all-encompassing darkness. He was ashamed of this weakness-still afraid of the dark at fifteen! How everyone would laugh if they knew! And if the Dark Lord ever got wind of it . . .he'd have a surefire method of breaking him. No Cruciatus would be necessary, just a dark room, he thought mockingly. So he made sure no one ever knew.

Now he shifted, the dream still sending residual tremors through him. Cedric's dying wish still echoed in his head, and he glanced towards the direction of the bedroom. No. You aren't going to go running to Snape like a coward crybaby, he told himself firmly. For Godsake, Potter, you're not five! But another part of him hissed, There's nothing wrong with wanting to be in the same room with another person after a nightmare. It's not like I'm crawling into his lap and hugging him. His mind giggled just imagining the expression on Snape's face if he ever did that as a human. He'd have me committed in two blinks of a hawk's eyes. After he picked himself up off the floor, that is! He shook his head, banishing the wicked, if hilarious, thought. All I want is to be near him . . .err . . .something alive . . .

He spread his wings and flew through the hallway. I'm his familiar and it's time I started acting like it again, he defended himself. And before if I'd had that nightmare, I'd have gone to him.

He fluttered into the room, making out the sleeping form of the professor curled beneath the blankets. Freedom noted in relief that the man seemed to be sleeping peacefully for once, Snape seemed to be plagued with nightmares as often as he was some nights. But not tonight, for which the bird was profoundly grateful. Severus's breathing was deep and even, Freedom listened to its soft hush and felt some of the fear drain away.

He glided over to the bed and settled down on the pillow, tucking his head beneath a wing. His heart rate evened out as he relaxed, Snape's breathing filling the room and washing over him in a steady stream, banishing the old fear back to a corner of his mind with every breath. Freedom felt himself drift off into sleep and the last thought he had before he succumbed was Thank Merlin you don't snore, Severus!

* * * * * *

Severus was pleased to discover the hawk on the pillow the next morning. When he had come back from his lab after eleven last night, he had found Freedom sleeping soundly upon the afghan and had not wanted to disturb him, lest he become irritated again, and left him there. Apparently, the bird had gotten over whatever mood he'd been in, if he was sleeping here this morning.

Severus inched one long fingered hand and cautiously began scratching the hawk behind the head. The sleeping bird leaned into the hand, making an odd sort of noise in the back of his throat, similar to a cat's purr. Nice. Mmm. More.

Snape smiled, then resumed the caress.

The bird roused a bit, opening his amber eyes and blinking owlishly.

"Good morning, Freedom."

The hawk shook himself and stood up, ruffling his feathers, though not drawing away from Severus's hand as he had done before. Morning, Sev. What time is it?

Snape raised an eyebrow. "A little after eight. It's Wednesday, and I don't have class till the afternoon, so I allow myself to lie in a bit. What makes you ask? You never did before."

The hawk opened his beak, yawning, or so it seemed. I don't know. Just wondering, he said swiftly, cursing himself for not remembering that fact. Really, how stupid could he be, asking about time, when animals never cared about clocks, since they had theirs in their head.

"No matter. Would you like a bath before breakfast?"

Freedom nearly jumped off the pillow at that suggestion, before he recalled that Severus would merely run water into the bathtub and leave the shower on a trickle, not get into the shower with him. Get a grip, Potter! He made haste to answer the professor. Yes, a bath would be fine.

"Good. I shall run it after I have done showering." The Potions Master told him, then disappeared into the bathroom.

Freedom busied himself with preening and cleaning his feathers meticulously while waiting for Snape to be done.

Ten minutes later, the professor returned to the bedroom, hair pulled back, dressed in a conservative pair of gray slacks and a white longsleeved shirt. "It's all yours, bird."

Freedom spread his wings and glided out of the room, calling a thank you over his shoulder.

The bath was just right, not too cold or too warm, and he splashed and played in the shower until he was tired and clean. Then he carefully shut off the tap with a talon and pulled out the drain plug before shaking himself dry and flying over to the counter to peer at himself in the mirror.

Wow! I look neat as a hawk. Much better than I ever did as a kid. I'm not scrawny and my feathers lie flat and of course my eyesight is wicked sharp. He examined himself from all angles. He was a dark reddish brown all over his back and wings, his tail was not quite the deep red of a mature red-tail's, being a lighter red with brown and barred with black. The color would deepen when he reached maturity. His front and stomach was a light cream color with brown speckles and the underside of his wings was the same, but they also had black barring at the edges. His talons were a deep golden color, as was his bill and his face was dominated by deep amber eyes.

He took several more glances at himself before starting to preen himself dry. When he was done, he took wing and flew out into the living area, expecting to see Twixie with a breakfast tray.

Instead he saw Severus kneeling in front of the fireplace, speaking with Dumbledore through the Floo Network.

"I apologize for disturbing you, Severus, but I need to speak with you on a certain matter and this is the only time I have to do so," Dumbledore was saying quickly.

"She is gone from the office?"

"Yes. Gone down to inspect something with Pomona's greenhouse and Hagrid's animals." Dumbledore told him. "So we have time for a spot of breakfast and all before she returns."

"Very well. I shall be there in a minute or two, Albus."

"Good. " The Headmaster's eyes twinkled in relief. Then he drew away and the green flames died.

What does the old coot want now? Freedom inquired saucily, landing lightly upon Severus's shoulder. No way was he going to miss this opportunity to listen and learn more about the Headmaster's secret agenda or whatever.

"If I knew, I'd not have to go and speak with him, now would I?" Snape asked. "I don't need to remind you to behave, do I?"

No . . .Sev, Freedom said, just catching himself before he called Snape "sir", which only his students did. Merlin, this playacting or whatever is bloody hard. I've almost screwed up so many times now. How the blazes did Snape ever manage to pull off something like this every time he went before Old Snake Face? I could never have lasted. A reluctant admiration for the spy flooded him, he had never realized before just how hard it was to pretend to be something you weren't and do it convincingly enough to save your life.

Severus tossed down a handful of Floo powder and called, "Headmaster's office!"

The flames flared green and he stepped through them, Freedom riding upon his shoulder.

The office was much as Freedom recalled it, a large circular room with several windows that faced the grounds and the Quidditch pitch, allowing the morning sun to come flooding in. Portraits of former Headmasters and Headmistress's were all over the walls, some were awake and some were snoozing. Fawkes' perch was behind the door, as usual, next to a black cabinet that contained a strange stone bowl.

The fireplace stood directly across from the Headmaster's desk, which was crammed full of papers and a silver ink pot upon which rested a gleaming scarlet phoenix quill. Behind the desk was a long low shelf with several books and the Sorting Hat atop it, plus a glass case containing the Sword of Godric Gryffindor. A small low table had been set up in front of the fireplace, with two chairs, and an array of tea and hot chocolate and breakfast foods had been set upon it. Two place settings were also on the table, as promised, the Headmaster had breakfast for Severus and himself.

"Welcome, Severus." Dumbledore greeted cheerily as the Potions Master and his familiar stepped through the fireplace. Then he rose and muttered several charms, waving his wand at the windows and the door of the office. Fawkes squawked upon his perch as the magic tingled across his feathers. "Sorry, dear one, but we must make certain we are not overheard."

"Silencing Charms, Albus?"

"As I said, the nature of our discussion must remain . . .private." Dumbledore said quietly, sitting down again. "But first, do eat something, Severus. Are you well? You sound like you have a sore throat."

"No. Side effect from my Hawk Speak Elixir." Severus answered, coughing softly. He looked at Freedom, who was examining the office with interest. "Would Fawkes mind sharing his perch with my hawk?"

"Not all. Fawkes would enjoy meeting Freedom."

Severus approached the phoenix, who trilled happily upon seeing the Potions Master. *Hello, Severus! It's a pleasure to see you again. And greetings to you, my brother-in-feathers!*

Freedom was startled, for he had never been able to understand the phoenix before. Uh . . .hello, Fawkes. Severus, I can understand him! And he says it's a pleasure to see you again.

"And you also," Severus said politely, looking astonished. He wouldn't have thought the phoenix paid much attention to those the Headmaster had in his office. "And why wouldn't you be able to understand him? You are both birds, after all. Come, sit here next to Fawkes while I speak with the Headmaster and eat."

Freedom walked down the professor's arm and onto the perch, which was quite large and Fawkes moved over to give Freedom some space. What about MY breakfast, Sev? I'm hungry too.

"All right. Here. Have some chicken livers, your favorite." Severus waved his wand, and a bowl with chicken livers appeared and hovered in front of the hawk.

Thank you! Freedom paused before looking at the phoenix. What about you, Fawkes? Don't you want some breakfast?

*Indeed. Albus is a bit late today.* the phoenix sang. He looked over at his wizard. *Albus, where is my fruit?*

The old wizard looked up and flushed, saying softly," Forgive me, I quite forgot you hadn't eaten." He pointed his wand, and a bowl of apples, pears, pieces of pineapple, and cherries appeared in front of the phoenix.

Fawkes shook his glittering tail and then delicately plucked a cherry from the bowl and ate it. *Perfect. Thank you.*

Once the familiars were eating their respective breakfasts, the two wizards were free to eat theirs and to discuss in low tones certain matters known only to the Headmaster and his master spy.

Dumbledore poured Severus a cup of Black Bohea and added two spoonfuls of honey and a lemon slice to it. "Here you go. I find that honey and lemon soothe my throat the best after a day of speaking to the Ministry."

Severus took it, sipped it, and said, "Thank you. I also find sometimes the oldest remedies work the best." He carefully cut a small piece of ham and ate it along with an orange and toast with a poached egg.

In contrast, the Headmaster ate everything served, eggs, toast, ham, bacon, and pancakes drizzled with syrup. He also had a large cup of hot chocolate.

For several moments they were silent, as they ate.

Then Dumbledore set down his fork and wiped his mouth, his blue eyes narrowing in concern over his half-moon spectacles. "Has he summoned you again since last time?"

Severus shook his head. "No. I would guess that he is too busy regaining his strength to bother. He knows that I need time to fulfill his request." The Potion Master's mouth twisted. "He wants Potter found. He takes it as a personal affront that he is missing and I do not know where he is."

On Fawkes' perch, Freedom flinched. Merlin, Severus! I'm so sorry!

Dumbledore too, looked pained. "Severus, if there were any way I could find Harry, I would have done so. Then perhaps you could placate him . . ."

"Placate a madman? That is like soothing a dragon, Albus. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn't, and you end up burned and bleeding."

"Severus . . .I am sorry . . ."

"Don't." The Potion Master's voice was hoarse yet sharp. "I knew the price required. I knew it long ago. It is a price I pay willingly. I will not be foresworn." His eyes gleamed with a terrible fierce determination.

Albus looked away, shaking his head. "Perhaps I was wrong, to ask it of you."

Yeah, you were! Freedom hissed, guilt combining with anger.

*Hush, little brother.* Fawkes rebuked softly, nuzzling the agitated raptor. *Both of our wizards travel a dark road. Nothing comes without sacrifice, whether your own or others.*

That doesn't mean I have to like it! The hawk trilled back. He let the bastard torture him, so he could get information about . . .Harry Potter. It's not fair! No one should ever have to go through that.

*Peace, young one. He is the best spy we have ever had, and Albus and I value him greatly. His sacrifice does not go unnoticed. And one day it will be worth it, when the demon reborn is destroyed for good.*

Freedom subsided, thinking, Yeah, that's my task, and I've never felt less able to fulfill it. How can they expect me to destroy someone as powerful as Voldemort? I barely know half the spells he does.

Severus raised a cynical eyebrow. "You say that now, Albus? After all this time? It is too late for regrets. What's done is done. I shall play the game for as long as I am able." He paused and drank the rest of his tea.

The Headmaster wordlessly refilled it.

"But you did not bring me here merely to ask about that, now did you?" Severus continued. "Umbridge's dictates grow more and more unreasonable, Albus. She runs the school with an iron fist, much the way the Dark Lord might. Why are you allowing her to do so? What purpose does it serve?"

Albus paused before he answered, and Freedom leaned forward eagerly. Now maybe he would get an answer to his question.

"Ah, Severus. I fear that I have made yet another grave error in judgment. I am not as good at you at soothing a dragon."

"What do you mean? What have you done, Albus?"

"You know what happened at the beginning of the summer, when dementors invaded Little Whinging, where Harry lives, and attacked his cousin and him?"

"Yes, and Potter cast a Patronus Charm to drive them away, breaking the Decree of Underage Wizardry, and since this was the second time he had done so, the Ministry decided to expel him." Severus recited. "What about it? You managed to sway the jury at his trial."

Albus shook his head, looking oddly like a small child caught in some mischief. "But I didn't. Not exactly. Cornelius was furious, he not only wanted to break Harry's wand, he wanted to strip him of his magic as well. Like they did to criminals in the old days."

Severus stared at the Headmaster. "But that . . .that hasn't been done in centuries. It was ruled as barbaric and unnecessary cruelty, because the wizard under the curse suffered hideous agony and usually died from it. And Fudge would do that to a mere fifteen year old? Is he insane?"

"No. He is . . .dissatisfied with his tenure as Minister, apparently he feels that he is not getting the recognition he feels is due him, and he resents Harry for getting more publicity-good or otherwise-and when he caught the boy doing something forbidden, he jumped at the chance to reprimand the boy as harshly as possible. And as publically as possible. Damaging Harry's reputation would only enhance his own. I tried my best to persuade him to be merciful . . .he is frightened of Voldemort's return, and does not want to admit he is back . . ."

"Blind ignoramus!"

"Yes. But in his blindness he causes more harm than good. He felt that he was being ignored, especially in matters of educational policy, and so I . . .made a deal with him. I agreed to let him and his officials oversee the school policy and amend it for this year if he would let Harry off the expulsion charges."

Severus groaned. "Ah, Albus, what terms did you set? Any at all? Or did you just agree and sign on the dotted line?"

"I . . .was so relived that he agreed not to harm Harry that I . . . well . . .I forgot to read the fine print, I'm afraid. I had no idea he would go this far, nor put someone so . . .rigid and unbending in charge of the school . . ."

"Bloody flaming hell, Albus!" Snape growled. "Why didn't you let someone else see the damn contract at least? Me or Minerva, you know we studied Ministry law after we graduated."

"I had no time. Fudge was pushing for an immediate trial, it was all I could do to hold him back. He was like a rabid dog, frothing at the chance to destroy the reputation of the Boy Who Lived. At the time, I made what I thought was the best deal I could. I never thought he would place such a person like Dolores in charge, nor give her total authority over the staff and myself. I thought she would just oversee things, and make suggestions, and that sort of thing . . ."

Severus longed to go and bang his head into the wall. Sometimes for such a venerable wizard, Albus could be as naive as a five-year-old. He had a habit of assuming that everyone had altruistic motives, when the truth was that most everyone was out to grab as much as they could for themselves and to hell with everyone else. Especially politicians like Fudge.

Freedom hunched upon the perch, shocked and miserable. My fault! All of this is my fault!

Fawkes nuzzled him, draping his head over the hawk and snuggling against him, trilling softly. *Not so, youngling. Do not blame yourself for the choices others make. My master is not as wise as he would like others to think, and like everyone, he too makes mistakes. And this was not even the worst one . . .*

Freedom buried his head in the phoenix's soft scarlet feathers and muttered, What do you mean, this isn't the worst one? What could be worse than letting a psycho bitch be in charge of Hogwarts?

Fawkes did not answer, simply began preening the young hawk gently, humming.

Freedom stiffened, only then realizing he had given himself away. Merlin! You know . . .you know who I am, don't you?

The phoenix met his eyes and made a soft note of affirmation. *But of course. I am a phoenix and can see hearts and souls. I know you, little Harry, my feathered brother.*

Are you . . .going to tell, then?

*What for? You have your reasons for remaining a hawk, I am sure. I shall not pry. I keep many secrets. What is one more? Besides, you are good for Severus. He needs you. And you need him.*

Freedom did not answer, he was too relieved that the phoenix would not betray him, and too embarrassed at Fawkes's frank speech to disagree. For deep down, he knew the magical bird was right. Severus and he did need each other.

Severus heaved a sigh. "Well, that's torn it. What are we going to do now? We must find a way to protect ourselves and the students before she swallows us all up, the greedy hag."

"There isn't much we can do, I'm afraid. I've . . .clipped our wings, I'm afraid. But there is one bright thing. There isn't more than five months left of term, if we can manage to endure her until then, she will be gone and never return."

"That's all well and good, but that doesn't keep me from longing to hex her to pieces every time she steps foot in my dungeon, Albus," Severus snapped. "Do you know she had the temerity to tell me how to brew a Calming Draught last time she came by! Me, who was brewing them when I was nine, and have been a Potions Master since I'm twenty! It was all I could do not to shove her face first in the cauldron and hold her down!"

Albus's eyes twinkled in amusement. "Ah, Severus. Forgive me for unleashing her upon you. But you could look at it as a lesson in self-control, my boy."

"Humph! I get enough lessons that way dealing with the bloody Dark Lord."

"If you do decide to try and halt some of her, uh, decrees, Severus, might I suggest you be careful? She has already taken against you somewhat after the staff dinner when your hawk caused her to . . .ah . . .have an accident with strawberry trifle . . " Dumbledore chuckled. "So beware, for if she decides to attack you, I cannot help you, I am bound by my contract."

"Fear not, I know well how to hide in the shadows. And when to hold my tongue." Snape sighed. "Bloody Potter! I swear, Albus, when the brat is found, you had better impress upon him the folly of vanishing for a month and making us all crazy with worry, or I shall!"

Dumbledore lifted one white eyebrow. "Really, Severus? Then you do not hate the boy like you seem?"

"Hate? No, I don't hate the brat. He annoys me to no end with his disregard for rules and his own safety, you know I am sworn to protect him, Albus. But the boy makes it bloody impossible sometimes with the way he flings himself into danger every other minute, and you're no help either, old man, encouraging him! He has an impulsive streak as big as the Black Lake, just like his idiot father, and instead of teaching him to rein it in, you're patting him on the head for getting involved in tournaments and slaying basilisks!"

"I have no choice, Severus. He must fulfill the prophecy, or else perish." Dumbledore said softly.

Freedom sat up straight upon the perch. Huh? Prophecy? What prophecy? I don't understand, Fawkes.

*Hush. You will. Listen.* the phoenix ordered sadly.

Severus scowled fiercely at his former mentor. "Albus, you know how I feel about that bloody thing! How can you insist the boy fulfill a false prophecy, one that you concocted to stymie the Dark Lord fourteen and a half years ago that backfired on you in the worst way possible?"

"What else can I do? You and I know that it is too late now to abandon it, not after what Tom did to James and Lily . . ." The Headmaster confessed in a harsh whisper, all traces of merriment gone from his face. "I have regretted that decision for years, Severus, you know I have . . .I but sought a way to buy time, he was moving too fast and we could not protect all the Muggles and Muggleborns or blood traitors he was targeting. You remember, you were reporting back a raid almost every night back then . . .and sometimes multiple ones in the same day or week. The Order could not handle all the attacks, nor protect everyone and people were dying every time I turned around . . .You nearly died when he found out you had been involved with Lily in your fifth year, Severus . . ."

"Don't remind me," Severus growled, shuddering. He had come as close to death as he ever wished to be that night. "But I still say there should have been another way."

"What way? He had always been obsessed with prophecy, even as a student. It was his weakness. He wanted to believe it was destiny foretold for him to rule Britain, or eventually the world. I thought if I played upon that weakness, exploited it, he would be made vulnerable . . .I wanted him thrown off balance, made afraid, that's why Sybill and I concocted the prophecy in the first place." Softly, the old wizard began to recite, " The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches;born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies; and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will power the Dark Lord knows not; and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives."

Freedom sat frozen next to the phoenix, his heart gone still and cold within him.

"We made it deliberately ambiguous, so he would have difficulty interpreting it," Dumbledore continued, as if desperate to exonerate himself.

Severus said nothing, he had heard this confession many times, and this was nothing new to him.

"It was by chance that the Potters and the Longbottoms both had children born at the end of July, I did not even remember that when I came up with the dates, Sybill and I were looking at astrology charts for a reference and that date just coincided with what she described as a "great conjunction of planets, heralding the coming of a hero." I never thought he would actually accept it for truth . . .I thought he would figure out eventually that it was a waste of time . . .I never meant to harm anyone, especially Lily and James or their child . . ."

"But you did, and you made me the damn messenger!" Severus said implacably. "You made me a bloody accomplice in my best friend's death!"

"I know, but you were the perfect person to deliver it, you know. He trusted you . . .Severus, I never meant for them to die, the Fidelius Charm should have worked, they should have been safe . . .!"

"Instead they were betrayed by Pettigrew and the Dark Lord found them and killed them," Severus finished grimly. "All in the name of a false prophecy! A prophecy of lies that never should have been. And now you want Potter to continue fulfilling it, against all reason!"

Horror stole through the hawk then, and he could feel a scream welling up within him, a terrible howl of denial, that he choked back instinctively. I knew there was always something Dumbledore kept hidden from me . . .something . . .but this . . .how could he have hidden this? Lies, it was all lies! They died for nothing! NOTHING! You betrayed me, old man! I should kill you for it!

He longed to fly off the perch and attack the old wizard, to rend and tear him in repayment for the terrible thing he had done, the terrible mistake he had made that had cost Harry his family and turned him from an ordinary child into a savior that never should have been.

But he was trembling so violently he nearly fell off the perch, his mind a morass of denial and fury and bitterness. He barely felt it when Fawkes enfolded him in his wings and crooned a lullaby.

*Hush now, Harry-chick, hush. Yes, my wizard did a great wrong, but he has paid for it, and is still. Severus has never forgiven him for causing Lily's death, and you, child, you were to be his redemption.*

"You know why, Severus. It is too late now, Tom has already set events in motion, Harry has no choice but to fulfill it now. He has been marked, and survived a curse no wizard should have, Voldemort believes he is the one to be his doom, and you know a self-fulfilling prophecy is the easiest in the world to make come true. He must be told of the Horcruxes and how to destroy them."

"Yes, I know, old man!" spat an irate Snape. "So you've told me on more than one occasion. But you know also that if not for your meddling, they would still be alive. My Lily would be alive, not resting forever beneath the earth! And I would not have to live with guilt that I delivered the damn message that destroyed her."

"I know, my boy," Dumbledore said heavily, tears glinting in his eyes. "That was the worst mistake of my life and I may never be redeemed. Harry is our only hope now. You must find him, Severus. Find him and keep him safe."

"Another impossible charge, Headmaster?"

"No, not impossible. If you would only talk to the boy, Severus, come to an understanding . . .he is not his father, he will work with you if you but give him a chance . . ."

"But will he give me a chance as well?" Severus demanded darkly.

"He will, once you explain why you have done what you did. He has a great capacity to forgive, Severus, much like his mother . . ."

Maybe so, but I'll never forgive you for this, Dumbledore! Never! Freedom raged, though his cries were muffled by Fawkes's feathers.

"You had better pray, Albus, that he is found soon and that he never discovers the truth about that night."

"How could he? You, Sybill, and I are the only ones who know the prophecy was false. And Sybill would never tell, otherwise her reputation as a true Seer would be destroyed and you will not either, you gave me your word."

"Yes. And my word has always been good. He would loathe me if he knew the truth. Although not as much as I do myself."

The Headmaster flinched at the sharpness in the other's tone. He looked suddenly old and weary and every one of his hundred and fifty some odd years. "Find him, Severus. Please."

"I will do my best." The Potions Master rose. "I should be going. I have lesson plans to write out and papers to grade." He held out his wrist. "Freedom, come."

Freedom obeyed, flying straight to Severus, concentrating on controlling his temper. He felt horribly betrayed and could not look at the Headmaster at all, lest he lose all semblance of control and attack him. So he looked instead at Severus, whose eyes flashed midnight wrath.

As the professor moved towards the fireplace, Dumbledore placed a hand upon his arm. "Severus, thank you. For all you have done . . ."

Severus sneered angrily. "I didn't do it for you. I did it for her."

"I know. And I hope, that someday, you will forgive me."

Severus spun on his heel and grabbed a handful of Floo powder. "Someday. Perhaps."

Then he tossed down the Floo powder and said, "Snape's apartments. Semper occultus" he recited the secret password to his quarters before Flooing, since his fireplace was warded against any unauthorized entry.

He stepped into the green flames, taking a very distraught and disillusioned hawk with him, and leaving behind a regretful old man to deal with the consequences of a mistake made fourteen-and-a-half years ago that had altered the life of one young boy forever.


Chapter End Notes:

So . . .what did you think of THAT little bag of secrets?

And how did you like Fawkes? He insisted he be put in here!

Next: Freedom grapples with all he has learned and Sev reveals some more information about his schooldays with Lily.

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