Not in the Hands of Boys

Fourth Rose

Story Summary:
Once the final battle is won, life must go on, although it can be even harder to master than death. Back at Hogwarts for his final year of school, Harry tries to cope with everything he's been through. As the world around him struggles for a way back to normality, he is forced to realise that in the long run, living takes a lot more courage than dying.

Chapter 03 - Part 3


It took Harry a few seconds until he remembered that he was still standing in the classroom door with his mouth hanging open and his eyes glued to the front wall of the room, where the blackboard had been pushed aside to make room for the life-sized portrait of a dark-haired, sallow-skinned man in long black robes.

He quickly closed both his mouth and the door and slipped into the nearest free seat, his eyes never leaving Snape's portrait. "You are the new Defence teacher?"

Snape raised an eyebrow. "Your grasp of the obvious is astounding as ever, Mr Potter. I explained the rather... unusual situation to the class five minutes ago, but since you chose to be late, you will just have to accept it." Snape's portrait obviously had the same hawk-like observation skills which the man himself had possessed, because he added, "And don't you dare disrupt my class again by trying to question Mr Longbottom, or it will be detention for both of you."

Harry had been leaning towards Neville who was sitting next to him, but now he quickly straightened up again and held the portrait's gaze, surprised by how calm he felt. "You can't seriously believe that I still give a damn about points or detentions."

He knew he'd never have got away with a remark like that while Snape had lived, but it seemed that he wasn't the only one whose perspective had changed, because the man in the portrait merely shrugged. "Be that as it may, you are here to finish your education, so I expect you to behave as it befits a student, not a war veteran. If you can't or won't do that, get the hell out of my class. Do we understand each other?"

Harry gave him a brisk nod. "Perfectly, Sir." He doubted that he'd ever really feel like a schoolboy again, but if he wanted to make it into Auror training, he'd have to grit his teeth and at least pretend convincingly.

* * *

Harry was just about to follow Ron and Hermione out of the Defence classroom after the end of the lesson when Snape's voice held him back. "Mr Potter, stay behind for a moment. You too, Mr Malfoy."

Harry's head whipped around to where Draco Malfoy, who'd still been gathering his books and notes, seemed to have frozen in mid-move. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Ron giving him a quizzical look as he shuffled out the door. With a shrug, Harry shouldered his book bag and approached the portrait, from which Snape was watching him and Draco with an impatient expression. Draco only followed Harry when the other students had left.

"There was no one who dared to take the Defence post, was there." It wasn't really a question, and Harry half expected Snape not to answer at all, but the man in the portrait nodded.

"Apparently, the Dark Lord's curse is still feared even after his death. It's completely irrational, of course, but that is of no matter. This is no ideal solution, but the Headmistress asked me to keep teaching until she finds a proper replacement."

"I didn't know there even was a portrait of you."

Snape's face twisted as if he'd bitten into something sour. "You may not like it, Potter, but I was Headmaster of this school. The portrait magic works for every Head of Hogwarts, whether the Chosen One approves of him or not."

"It's good to know you're still here, Professor." These were the first words Harry had heard Draco speak since the day of the final battle, and he had to admit that they sounded sincere. He fleetingly wondered whether Draco was aware of Snape's true allegiances by now.

The corner of Snape's mouth moved up for a second. "You know perfectly well that I'm not, Mr Malfoy - this is merely a magical portrait. Still, I appreciate the sentiment." His face took on his customary scowl when he continued, "There's something I need to discuss with the two of you. I have spoken to the Headmistress about my concerns - like I said, I'm merely a portrait, and even though I possess the knowledge and experience Severus Snape gathered during his lifetime, I do not have any magical abilities of my own, which is a serious handicap for a Defence teacher. I will be able to teach my students magical theory, but it is beyond my ability to give practical demonstrations. I will require assistance for that, and the Headmistress suggested I pick a student or two from each class for this task."

He fixed Harry with a piercing gaze. "You, Mr Potter, were the logical choice for this class, given that you were teaching defensive magic to your fellow students in your little guerrilla group."

"You are asking me to be your assistant?" Harry wasn't quite sure what to think. "I know you helped me last year and everything, but I thought you still hated my guts!"

Snape's expression turned stony. "My personal feelings, or yours, for that matter, are completely irrelevant here, and I'd prefer it if they remained that way. All I ask of you is your help with the task of providing the students of your year with an adequate education. Will you give it?"

"Yes, of course." Harry didn't even need to think about it - Snape was right, his conflicted feelings towards the man were of no consequence if he could make himself useful. Besides, he had enjoyed the DA training sessions during fifth year.

"Wait a moment." Harry had almost forgotten about Draco's presence. "You helped Potter last year? Is that why McGonagall didn't burn your portrait?" Harry looked over to where Draco was standing, an expression of dawning comprehension on his face. "You really were a spy for the Order, weren't you? Aunt Bella always swore you were double-crossing the Dark Lord, but he wouldn't listen to her."

Snape seemed mildly surprised. "I was aware of that, but I never knew that you suspected me too."

"I didn't," Draco replied with a shrug. "After everything that had happened -"

"Mr Malfoy," Snape interrupted him brusquely, "this is neither the time nor the place for a discussion of my loyalties. I'm asking you, too, whether you are willing to help me with teaching this class."

If Harry was taken aback by this, it was nothing compared to Draco's obvious astonishment. "You've got Potter, what do you need me for?"

"While Mr Potter has extensive knowledge on defensive magic, I'm fairly sure that he is entirely unfamiliar with the very nature of Dark Magic itself. I do believe that one needs to understand the thing one is up against - and this is where I'm planning to rely on your experience with the subject."

Draco seemed less than pleased with the answer. "Oh, right, and if it turns out that I know magic I'm not supposed to -"

"Mr Malfoy, I asked you precisely because you know magic you're not supposed to." Snape was beginning to sound impatient. "Do you really think anyone is going to care, now that we've seen Unforgivables thrown around like Tickling Charms by Ministry employees and Order members alike? I'm not trying to get you into trouble, I merely intend to put the knowledge you possess to good use. Well?"

After a moment of stubborn silence, Draco shrugged. "Fine."

Snape rolled his eyes. "Your enthusiasm is appreciated, Mr Malfoy. If I need either of you to prepare something for a specific lesson, I will let you know in time." With a disdainful look that Snape himself couldn't have managed better in his lifetime, the portrait added, "I daresay it's going to be an interesting year."

* * *


When Harry turned around, Draco was still standing in front of the Defence classroom they'd just left, his book bag clutched to his chest as if he needed something to hold on to. "Yes?"

Draco took a deep breath; it looked like he were steeling himself for what he was going to say. "I wanted to thank you."

"For what?" Harry asked blankly; he had no recollection of doing or saying anything during their talk with Snape that Draco owed him any gratitude for.

"For saving my life." Draco hesitated for a moment, but then continued. "I'd be as dead as Crabbe if it hadn't been for you."

Harry wouldn't have thought that Draco was ever going to mention the events in the Room of Requirement, but now that the impossible had happened and Draco had actually thanked him, he felt oddly embarrassed. "Yeah, well, you're welcome."

"Why did you do it?"

The question sounded strangely detached, as if they weren't discussing events that had almost cost Draco his life. Harry had no idea where this was supposed to go, and he was starting to get annoyed. "Would you rather if I hadn't?"

"No, of course not." Draco took a step closer, and Harry had to fight the momentary urge to reach for his wand. "But I've been wondering ever since - we were trying to kill you, why did you save me?"

"You weren't trying to kill me," Harry reminded him, "you even tried to stop Crabbe and Goyle."

"I only reminded them that the Dark Lord wanted you alive."

Now it was Harry's turn to take a step forward, and it filled him with satisfaction to see how Draco visibly kept himself from shrinking back. "Don't give me that, Malfoy; you couldn't have cared less about Voldemort at this point. I saw you in his company, and I didn't get the impression that you wanted to be there."

Draco paled. "What do you mean, you saw me?"

Harry tapped the scar on his forehead. "This little souvenir I got from him? It used to let me look through his eyes every now and then. Remember that time when he made you torture Rowle? You didn't seem thrilled with your precious Dark Lord then."

Draco's eyes had gone wide; it gave Harry a vicious kind of pleasure to see him so shocked. Out of a sudden sense of spite, he added, "By the way, how is your mother?"

Draco's posture tensed even further at this. "Why would you care about my mother?"

"Well, she did save my life out there in Voldemort's camp." Harry wondered for a moment if Narcissa had ever mentioned to anyone that it had been her betrayal that eventually brought about Voldemort's downfall. "You should be glad, you'd owe me a life debt if she hadn't settled the score for you."

It was obvious from Draco's expression that he had no idea what Harry was talking about. "Mother - she saved your life? How? When?"

Harry gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Voldemort told her to check whether I was really dead after he'd hit me with the Killing Curse. She told him that I was - after asking me if you were still alive. Since I answered her question, I'm pretty sure she noticed that he hadn't killed me."

"So you weren't really dead when they brought you back to the school?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Malfoy, if I'd really been dead, I wouldn't be standing here, would I?"

"That's what everyone is saying, though." Draco looked as if he still had trouble digesting what he'd just heard. "That you'd died and managed to come back from the dead somehow."

"No one comes back from the dead," Harry replied harshly; this was a topic he wasn't ready to go into. He had tried very hard to ignore the rumours that were rampant ever since the final battle - he'd told no one but Ron and Hermione what had really happened during that night, and although he hadn't specifically asked them to keep it to themselves, he was sure that they hadn't spread the story around. "I wasn't dead - ask your mother if you don't believe me. Oh, and tell her thanks from me while you're at it. I suppose she won't care very much, but if you can manage to be civil for the first time in your life, then so can I."

With that, he turned around and walked away. There was no sound indicating that Draco had moved at all; he was probably still standing in the corridor, staring after Harry, but Harry didn't look back to check.

* * *

Since it was lunch time, Harry headed for the Great Hall out of habit, but when he was at the door and heard the clatter of cutlery and the chatting of hundreds of voices inside, he realised that he wasn't hungry at all. It was a bright, breezy day outside, and the idea of a bit of sunshine suddenly seemed much more inviting than lunch.

Harry stepped outside the main gate and ambled along the footpath that led to the lake shore without really paying attention to where he was going. He still wasn't fully over the reappearance of Snape, even though it was only in the form of a portrait. His thoughts kept returning to the snippets of Snape's life he'd seen in the Pensieve, snippets that still didn't fit together with Harry's own memories of the man he'd known and hated for seven years.

His musings were cut short by the sound of a cheerful voice calling out to him. "Hello, Harry!"

Looking around, Harry spotted Luna Lovegood sitting cross-legged under a tree. She'd waved at him from her seat at the Ravenclaw table during the Welcoming Feast, but he had had no opportunity to talk to her yet. Harry was honestly glad to see her; Luna, with all her strangeness and her belief in the oddest things, had a way of making him feel at ease around her.

He walked over to the tree and sat down on the grass beside her. Today she had what seemed to be a bunch of owl feathers dangling from a green cord around her neck; the earrings she wore looked as if they'd been Muggle paper clips in a former life.

"Hi, Luna, how are you?"

She gave him one of the intense stares she was so good at and smiled dreamily. "Better than I've been for some time, I think. You?"

"Same." Right now, Harry even felt like it was true; compared to what they'd all been through, the things that currently troubled him were small inconveniences at best. "Did you have a good summer?"

It felt strange to ask such a question - a question that sounded as if the months separating them from a year of war had just been another school holiday. Luna, however, merely nodded. "I helped Dad repair the house and get the Quibbler going again. He wants me to tell you that he's very sorry for what he did to you."

"Tell him it's okay." The answer came out before Harry had thought about it, but he realised that he meant it. "Don't get me wrong, I wasn't thrilled at the time, but I know why he did it. Is he all right after the time in prison?"

"It's very nice of you to ask. He's fine." Luna smiled again. "He says he wanted to lose a bit of weight anyway, and Azkaban saved him the trouble of going on a diet. Speaking of diet, I've brought sandwiches. Would you like one?"

Now that she held out a sandwich to him, Harry suddenly felt hungry. "Yes, thank you. So they're giving you picnic food, now that you're Head Girl?"

"Oh no!" Luna replied seriously, her eyes widening even more. "There are no extra privileges, except that I've got my own room because Neville has one too, and Professor McGonagall said it would be unfair otherwise. I went to the kitchens for the sandwiches; the elves are always happy when a student asks for food."

Given how Ravenclaws got into their common room, Harry wasn't surprised to hear that Luna had figured out the way to get into the kitchens. "Do you like your room? Neville keeps saying he would have preferred the dormitory."

"Oh, I don't know about that." Luna pondered the question for a moment. "Dormitories are fun sometimes, but it's nice to have a place of my own. I can work there if it's too loud in the common room, and I still have a lot of catching up to do from last year. Besides, it makes it harder for people to nick my stuff. And," she turned to give Harry a brilliant smile, "my friends are in Gryffindor anyway, remember?"

Harry had his mouth full and couldn't reply, so he simply grinned in return.

Somehow, Luna had just managed to make him feel all right about being back at Hogwarts for the first time.

* * *

Ron watched him like a hawk when they went to bed that evening, as if he wanted to make absolutely certain that Harry wouldn't get the chance to put up a Silencing Charm. Harry was torn between feeling mortified and a little bit touched by Ron's concern for him, but he still was determined not to let Ron notice his nightmares any more. When the sound of Ron's even breathing told him that his roommate had finally fallen asleep, Harry quietly felt around for his wand on the bedside table and cast the charm. Then he lay back again and closed his eyes, concentrating hard to keep his thoughts from wandering into unwelcome directions.

He had almost drifted off when he suddenly recalled the strange conversation with Draco Malfoy outside the Defence classroom. Draco really hadn't known about his mother saving Harry's life... Harry remembered the cautious, surprisingly gentle touch of Narcissa Malfoy's hands on his face and chest, the frantic urgency in her voice when she'd asked him if her son was still alive.

An image flashed through his mind, like a snapshot of a scene he'd only witnessed in passing in the commotion that had followed Voldemort's death: Lucius and Narcissa with their arms around their son, clutching Draco as if they were afraid someone might tear him away from them again, the three blond heads bent together so closely that their faces weren't visible. None of them had seemed to notice anything that was going on around them; they had held on to each other as if there was nothing else in the world that mattered to them.

It was the last thing Harry remembered before sleep overtook him at last.