Surprisingly, in the days to come, things eased up between Harry and Snape. Spending so much time in the laboratory eventually yielded a sort of understanding between the two. While far from friendly, the biting remarks had diminished and Harry and Snape even managed a few normal, albeit rather awkward, conversations.
“There,” Snape said finally, pushing his long hair back from his face. “One more step and the potion is finished.”
“Adding the thyme, right?”
“Yes. Go on,” Snape replied, gesturing for Harry to drop the leaves he was holding into the cauldron.
Harry moved over in front of it and let them fall, turning the potion clear as soon as they touched the surface of the liquid. Harry let his hand fall, turning to Snape with a grin. “I think it work-”
“Harry!” Snape cut him off, jerking Harry’s arm away from the cauldron.
Startled, Harry looked down at the sleeve, still smoking lightly from its near brush with the fire beneath the cauldron. “Oh. Thanks.”
Snape gave a sharp nod of the head. “Turn the flame off and put that in a bottle.”
Harry nodded, moving to grab a single clear vial, for there was only enough potion for one dose after the rest had boiled off. Using a spell, he carefully ladled the hot potion into the bottle.
Only then did Harry realize that Snape had called him by his first name.
“So we’re all set for tomorrow then?” Harry asked over dinner.
“I believe so,” Snape replied. “Do you remember the plan?”
“Er... Go in the servant’s tunnel thing and...” Harry trailed off, racking his brain. “Can I see that map again?”
Snape stood, crossing the room to a wooden writing desk that sat against the wall. Out of the bottom drawer, he pulled the long sheet of parchment on which the diagram of Bellatrix Lestrange’s house was sketched. Stretching it out on the table, Snape set an ink well on one end and his cup on the other to hold it open.
“Right,” Harry said, studying the map. “So we cut through this closed up door,” he said, pointing. “Follow the servant’s corridor around this way, then...”
“Then we enter the manor corridor and hope our luck holds.”
Harry looked down at the map. Bellatrix’s bedroom, where the cup was presumably being kept, was well past where the servant’s corridor ended. They would have to risk stepping out in the open, it seemed.
“Okay...” Harry said slowly. “I think I’ve got it.”
“Memorize this map,” Snape commanded.
“I will,” Harry promised. “So I’ll be invisible and you’ll be in plain sight?”
“There is only potion enough for one,” Snape replied, unperturbed.
“You could try to use my cloak,” Harry offered after a second’s hesitation.
Snape cocked his head. “I feel that it would get in my way.”
“But after we leave the servant’s corridor, you won’t have to fight if they can’t see you,” Harry pointed out.
Snape gave a half shrug. “If you are offering, I suppose it might be manageable.”
Was he offering? Harry bit his lip as a sudden struggle raged inside of him. This was his father’s cloak. What would he think of Snape using it? Of Harry protecting Snape with it? Harry wasn’t sure what he himself thought but he was certain he could guess what his father would say. He would be horrified. On the other hand, if something happened to Snape, Harry would be without the information that he dearly needed to defeat Voldemort. Not to mention he would be without help in doing so.
Harry had sent a few messages to his friends but Snape had told him, commanded him, to keep what they were doing secret. He said it was imperative that nobody knew. Not knowing what else to do, Harry trusted him. But would he trust him with what was undeniably his most prized possession?
While all of this was spinning around in Harry’s mind, Snape was scrutinizing him. Finally, Harry replied, “I’m offering.”
“Very well, then,” Snape said simply, an understated response to what was a difficult decision for Harry. “It is late. We best get a very early start.”
“Goodnight then,” Harry said, standing.
Snape merely tilted his head and rolled up the map, handing it to him. Harry accepted it and went off to his room. His stomach was in knots for what was to come despite the fact that he had surely faced much worse. Though their plan was far from haphazard, Harry could simply could not believe that it would go smoothly. Tomorrow, it seemed, he would find out.
“Potter,” a voice snapped irritably in the darkness. “Wake up.”
Harry sat up groggily, wondering how long Snape had been there trying to wake him. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“We leave in fifteen minutes. Get what you need,” Snape said before striding from the room.
Harry tossed off his covers, rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes. He ran a hand through his hair in attempt to straighten it, then pushed himself up. Donning his robes, Harry took a deep breath. He could do this.
Harry went downstairs to the kitchen, the common meeting place, it seemed. Nimby had set out a tray of biscuits but Harry had no appetite.
“I’m ready,” he told Snape. He offered the cloak. “Here.”
Seeming to understand the weight of the moment, Snape took the cloak slowly, almost tentatively. “May I ask where you got this cloak?” he said, giving Harry the sense that he already knew the answer.
Drawing in a breath, Harry replied, “It was my father’s.”
Snape paused for a beat. “Oh the sweet irony.”
“Yeah,” Harry said simply, dismissively. “Can we go now?”
“You have the potion?”
Harry tapped his pocket where he felt the small vial against his wand. “Yes.”
“Then yes, let’s go,” Snape replied, draping the cloak over his arm. “Can you apparate?”
“Yes, but I don’t know where I’m going.”
“Fine. Grab on, then,” Snape said with obvious distaste, offering his arm.
Harry grabbed it awkwardly, sheepishly. In a split second, they spun away from the kitchen and landed in the dark, just outside of a low stone wall. A large manor was not far away, standing tall, almost reminiscent of a medieval castle.
“Why didn’t we just apparate where we need to be?” Harry grumbled.
“We are outside of her protective charms. We must get in without setting off an alarm.”
“Oh, right. How do we get past the spells then?” Harry asked.
“Give me a moment.”
Snape stepped up to the wall, tapping it with his wand, then raising his wand to the air above, muttering words the entire time. There was a light blue flash which disappeared quickly. Incanting a different spell now, Snape began to spin his wand in concentric circles, growing larger with each new revolution. By the time he was at the edge of his reach, Snape said, carefully, without breaking his concentration, “Step through. Now.”
Harry didn’t hesitate. He hoisted himself into the spot that Snape had just cleared of spells and over the stone wall. Turning, he saw Snape cut off the spell and hurry through the slowly closing hole with more agility than Harry would have expected from him.
“Drink the potion now, as we walk,” he hissed to Harry, striding quickly toward the house.
“How long will it last?” Harry whispered.
“I do not know. At least three hours. As it begins to wear off, you will become visible to those who know you are there,” Snape warned. “In any case, be careful not to cause suspicion.”
They reached the side of the house and Harry and Snape began feeling the walls, looking for a crack or any other indication of a closed up door. Harry ran his hand over the rough stone, pausing as it switched from rough to smooth. “Here,” he whispered., searching the dark for Snape.
“Where?” Snape replied.
Harry remembered he was invisible. “Ten yards to your left.”
Snape moved to where Harry was directed and raised his wand to the wall. The dim light shining from the tip was enough to discern the difference between the two types of stone. “Use a cutting spell to cut the mortar on the edge of the doorway. Keep to the right so that we do not have any mishaps. I will do the left.”
Harry nodded, forgetting that Snape couldn’t see him. “Ok.”
Harry pulled out his wand and began cutting the mortar that glued the stones together. It was slow work. After ten minutes, Harry was only a third of the way up the door. Snape worked a little faster and by the time that Harry had finished his side, Snape had completed both his side and the top.
“With any luck, this will all come down in one piece, being that nothing is behind it,” Snape stated, surveying the wall. He cast a silencing charm then said, “Step back.”
Harry did so. With a tethering charm, Snape managed to grab hold of the chunk of wall and pull it back onto the ground. He narrowly escaped its path and when the huge hunk of stone crashed to the ground, Harry couldn’t help but cringe. Luckily, it made no sound. As the dust cleared, Harry could see the dark tunnel that led into the manor.
“Follow me,” Snape said, leading the way. Harry moved to follow when Snape stopped, turning. “Are you there?” he asked.
“I’m following,” Harry replied.
Snape nodded sharply and continued.
The passageway was dark, damp and smelled of mold. The only light they had was from their wands and it was scarcely enough to see by. Harry knew he could have cast a brighter Lumos, but judging by the smell, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
It seemed like an eternity before the tunnel came to an end. There was a door, closed and boarded shut, that blocked their path.
“Is it there on the other side or did they wall over it?” Harry whispered.
“As far as I know, it is there.”
“So we just have to take down these boards? That seems easy,” Harry replied.
“This is the easiest part. Beyond that...” Snape trailed off ominously.
“Great,” Harry muttered sarcastically.
They made short work of removing the boards. The wood was so rotten that they barely needed a spell. The boards probably would have come off in their hands if they had put any effort behind it. Stacking the splintered wood against the wall, Snape hefted his wand and tossed the invisibility cloak over himself. Now, Harry felt suddenly alone.
“Ready?” a voice said in the darkness.
“Yes,” Harry replied before he could change his mind.
The doorknob turned, seemingly of its own volition, and Harry and Snape stepped through, into the heart of Bellatrix Lestrange’s manor.