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The Syntax of Things

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"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?" asked James.

The small crowd cheered again, and with a swish of James' wand Snape's pants flew up to his knobby knees, leaving him exposed and swearing as he tried to cover himself with his hands.

Lupin looked up at that, his face flushed, and he quickly shoved his book into his bag and headed to the castle.

"Where are you going, Moony?" asked Sirius, still laughing.

Lupin muttered an excuse Harry failed to hear, and as Snape fell to the ground again, struggling to wrap his robes around him and get his pants up, the memory swirled.

Harry seemed to fly through shifting shapes and colours until his surroundings solidified and he stood on a hilltop, the wind whistling through the branches of a few leafless trees. The adult Snape was panting, dropped to his knees in front of Dumbledore.

"I—I come with a warning—no, a request—please—"

"What request could a Death Eater make of me?"

"The—the prophecy . . . the prediction . . . Trelawney . . . "

"Ah, yes," said Dumbledore. "How much did you relay to Lord Voldemort?"

"Everything—everything I heard!" said Snape. "That is why—it is for that reason—he thinks it means Lily Evans!"

"The prophecy did not refer to a woman," said Dumbledore. "It spoke of a boy born at the end of July—"

"You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down—kill them all—"

"If she means so much to you," said Dumbledore, "surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?"

"I have—I have asked him—"

"You disgust me," said Dumbledore, and Harry had never heard so much contempt in his voice. "You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?" Snape said nothing, but merely looked up at Dumbledore.

"Hide them all, then," he croaked. "Keep her—them—safe. Please."

The hilltop faded;Harry stood in Dumbledore's office, and something was making a terrible sound, resembling a wounded animal.

Snape was slumped forward in a chair and Dumbledore was standing over him, looking grim.

"Her son lives. He has her eyes, precisely her eyes. You remember the shape and color of Lily Evans's eyes, I am sure?"

"DON'T!" bellowed Snape. "Gone… dead…"

"Is this remorse, Severus?"

"I wish... I wish I were dead..."

"And what use would that be to anyone?" said Dumbledore coldly. "If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear."

Snape seemed to peer through a haze of pain, and Dumbledore's words appeared to take a long time to reach him.

"What—what do you mean?"

"You know how and why she died. Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily's son."

"He does not need protection. The Dark Lord has gone—"

"The Dark Lord will return, and Harry Potter will be in terrible danger when he does."

There was a long pause, and slowly Snape regained control of himself, mastered his own breathing. At last he said, "Very well. Very well. But never—never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear . . . especially Potter's son . . . I want your word!"

"My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?" Dumbledore sighed, looking down into Snape's ferocious, anguished face. "If you insist . . . "

Harry swirled and felt himself rising into the air; the office walls evaporated around him; he quickly floated upwards through icy blackness and then, with a swooping feeling as though he had turned head-over-heels in midair, his feet hit the stone floor of Snape's dungeon besides Snape's desk.

Almost unconsciously, he took several steps back until his back crashed to the wall across the desk. He kept looking at the pensieve as though everything he had just witnessed was going to jump out of it and project itself in the middle of the room, alive and vivid.

The door opened and Snape stormed in, scoffing at Harry's presence. "I thought I told you your lessons reached their end for this evening, Mister Potter. Now kindly get out."

When Harry didn't answer, Snape opened his mouth as though to taunt him, but he didn't. Harry continued to glare over at the pensieve, shock stricken and absolutely still, and Snape followed his stare to his desk.

His voice was a dangerous whisper when he talked, barely audible. "How much?" He looked aghast; his lips were shaking, his face was white; his teeth bared. "How much did you see?"

Harry swallowed, feeling his own legs shaking slightly. "What was the prophecy about?"

Snape launched himself on Harry and grasped his arm, shaking him savagely. "HOW MUCH DID YOU SEE, POTTER?"

"ANSWER ME!" screamed Harry back, trying to free his arm. "IT WAS YOUR FAULT VOLDEMORT KILLED MY PARENTS, WASN'T IT?" His heart was beating fast and something dark filled his chest, making it difficult for him to breath.

Snape shook Harry harder, so wild that his glasses slipped down his nose. His other hand grabbed on his neck and squeezed, throwing him away with such force that Harry fell hard on the dungeon floor and yelped.

"HOW MUCH DID YOU SEE?" Snape asked for the third time, his eyes glistening with a madness Harry had never seen before.

"Everything," spat Harry. "You led Voldemort to my parents, he found them because of you. You — and my mum and — and you betrayed her, and now you think you have the right to get into my life and protect me, as if I asked you to! I DON'T NEED YOUR PROTECTION, SNAPE! YOU KILLED THEM!"

Snape ran up to him again and Harry got to his feet and as far from Snape as he could. Snape was faster, and he grabbed Harry by the shirt, pushing him to the wall. His lips were trembling and his expression was beyond sense, tensed in an inhuman, terrifying way.

"Not. A word."

But Harry needed answers. "What did you tell Voldemort? There's a prophecy about me, isn't it?"

Was this what Voldemort was planning to use against him this time? Was his fate already written, waiting for him to fulfil it?

Eventually Snape threw him to the door and Harry crashed to it, too numb from the previous shock to feel the pain.

"Voice your questions to the Headmaster, Potter, if you must, but you will not speak of what you saw to anyone else. Do you understand?" Snape was still panting, achingly frowning.

Another tremendous question rose up to Harry's mind and he couldn't keep it back. Was Snape in love with his Mum? Did they have an affair before she married his dad?

"What about you and – "

"SHUT IT!" Snape pointed his wand at him and pressed his lips together as if holding back a nasty curse. "NOW GET OUT – and don't you dare step foot in this office ever again!"

And as Harry wrenched the door open, a jar of dead cockroaches exploded over his head. He flew along the corridor, stopping only when he had put three floors between himself and Snape. There he leaned against the wall, trembling, and rubbing his throat.

He had no desire at all to return to Gryffindor Tower so early, nor to tell Ron and Hermione what he had just seen. What was making Harry feel so horrified wasn't being shouted at or having jars thrown at him; it was that he knew that Dumbledore was keeping a very important secret from Harry, and that he was working with Snape behind Harry's back all these years, instead of trusting directly him.

Furthermore, Dumbledore wouldn't even talk to Harry anymore, and was hiding from him since the school year started. Was Harry going to be killed by Voldemort? Was that the reason Dumbledore was avoiding him? Images of Snape begging Dumbledore to save his Mum filled his head, and he hoped with all his might that his Mum didn't have a relationship with him, ever. Snape would have happily offered Harry to Voldemort to save her, as if the lives of people were tradable, and could be exchangeable.

The man had been a Death Eater after all, and wouldn't mind killing as many people as he should in order for him to take what he wanted. His stomach billowing and with a really bad headache on the way, Harry run towards the Gargoyle.

He let his bag drop off his shoulders and shouted, "Sherbet lemon!"

Nothing happened.

He tried again. "Acid pops. Toffee Éclair. Cockroach clusters." His throat ached and he forced a neutral expression on his face, convincing himself that he wasn't close to tears.

"Fizzing Whizbee. Gryffindor. Chocolate cookies!" He banged his fist on the stone and shouted, beyond control. "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?"

When he was met with nothing but the silence of the empty corridor, he grabbed his bag and left, a black hole nesting inside his soul where his trust for Dumbledore had previously been.

"Fuck you," he muttered.


"The connection Potter has with the Dark Lord's mind, how strong is it?" demanded Severus as soon as he wrenched open the door to Dumbledore's office.

Dumbledore stroked his beard, thinking. "Its source and strength is not fully known, I'm afraid. As long as Voldemort remains unaware of it the boy remains safe; I cannot imagine the dreadful ways of manipulation he might think of once he knows."

Severus still panted heavily, his hand twitching around his wand. As soon as Dumbledore noticed it, he furrowed his eyebrows. "A very particular breakdown occurred outside my office half an hour ago, so I wonder, if it happens to have anything to do with it."

Severus collapsed on a chair and rested his forehead on his hand. "I left your brilliant Golden Boy alone in my office for ten minutes, Headmaster, and with a fascinating lack of civility or rudimental qualms he stuck his nose into my memories. He – knows. Everything."

Dumbledore sat back on his chair, breathing silently. Severus let out a hoarse laughter, and shook his head dismissively at Dumbledore's questioning face. "I'm dead, aren't I?"

"It is not certain that Voldemort will desire to dig a way to Harry's mind - this is only a concern of mine, Severus. Even if he becomes aware the nature of their connection, it'll take time for him to explore the full extension of it. I assure you that the Order will do its best to protect you, should your cover be revealed." Dumbledore said.

"Nonsense."

"Severus."

"Severus what?" he sneered. "Potter's arrogant shallowness will lead me to my torturous death, and next thing you'll witness will be him dancing around my grave. Do you think the Dark Lord is going to be interested in, I don't know, perhaps a casual conversation once he sees me kneeling before you and swearing loyalty? Do tell me, please."

Dumbledore nodded in agreement. "Are you sure he saw everything?"

"Yes," Severus hissed, deranged at the fact. "I threw him out my office and told him to never come near me again. And I do assure you, if it weren't for your foolish fondness of the boy, he would have been expelled from my class too."

At that Dumbledore's lips parted and he rose a finger as if to make a point, but then seemed to focus on something entirely different. "I am afraid the Occlumency lessons cannot stop, Severus, especially now, for your own good more than anything. We cannot leave Harry's mind vulnerable to possible future attacks. If we don't teach him, he'll endanger your life. You must."

"I must not," spat Severus, "and will not. Forgive me, Headmaster, but this is beyond my dignity. Potter has shown a defiant disrespect to my privacy, and is constantly starving for information concerning his parents' lives. I will not sit there and have him ask questions I do not wish to answer, let alone give him the opportunity to mock me behind my back with his friends while I risk my life every day for him!" With that, he stood up and turned around, his cloak billowing behind him as he walked towards the door.

"Do it for Lily, Severus," Dumbledore said, and Severus hated him for it, knowing perfectly well how the man always manipulated him into his plans, using his pain and regret to force him follow with a bowed head.

Ignoring the Headmaster's order which was politely dressed up as a plea, he strode down to the cold dark dungeons, and at long last he locked himself into the safety of his rooms.


Harry looked over at Dumbledore, whose cheeks bloated around a large spoonful of milk and cheerios. As soon as he swallowed, he turned to Professor McGonagall and prattled humorously, a smile spreading underneath his white beard.

"He must have a reason, Harry, I'm sure of it," said Hermione.

"Blimey, Hermione, what kind of reason would make Dumbledore treat Harry like that? That's a very cruel thing to do, if you ask me," argued Ron.

"Maybe," Hermione lowered her voice, "Maybe these memories were fake, and that's why Professor Snape kept them in the pesnieve during his practice with Harry - so in case of an unexpected accident they wouldn't blend in with his own. They could be part of some plan to mislead You-Know-Who. Don't you think at all, Ron?"

"Why mislead him into thinking he's a traitor, 'Mione?"

And that was the first time Ron had said something so surprisingly obvious that even Hermione didn't have an answer. Harry poked at his breakfast again, his stomach feeling full although he had barely eaten a bite. The sight of food seemed of no interest to him, and he wished for the tenth time this week he had never told his friends about the incident with Snape's memories.

Although he appreciated their efforts to help, their concern was just another burden. Plus, it was obvious that with zero evidence they weren't getting anywhere. He carefully avoided sharing with them the fact that Snape was friends with his mum, as well as his confession that he loved her. It wasn't really important to tell them that Snape had sworn to Dumbledore to protect him either, and somehow he felt like this information shouldn't have been shared.

So, after he banged on Dumbledore's door for about an hour and no one ever replied, exactly as he had guessed it would happen, he found himself sitting cross – legged in the Gryffindor common room repeating everything he had heard about that prophecy to Ron and Hermione.

Both of them had looked surprised, but it was Hermione who made the best assumption.

"Maybe the prophecy doesn't foresee that you die, but that you kill him," she told him. "And that's why he searched for you when you were an infant – he decided to kill you so he would be freed from the constant fear of a deadly enemy once and for all."

Only that this didn't make things better, and it would only mean that Harry should have to kill him first if he wanted to survive. His fate was connected with Voldemort's, and recalling the many objections he was met with when he had requested to join the Order, he came to the conclusion that he was one of the few who didn't know anything about this prophecy. And as it seemed, Harry would have to fight Voldemort at some point of his life – a fact which no one thought of as important enough to discuss with him. Exhaling into his plate for a last time, he swung his backpack up onto his shoulders as at the same time the other students began standing up to head to their classes.

This time Dumbledore wouldn't get away. He'd been avoiding him for too much time for it to be justified. Dumbledore was the only adult Harry could trust with his life while he was at Hogwarts. He walked past his friends in a hurry and run to the high table the moment Dumbledore was leaving through the stuff door just behind it. Snape gave him a filthy look as Harry followed towards the door, and with a push he found himself to a long dark hallway which the students didn't use often– and which was absolutely empty.

Harry stopped. He felt his eyes burning and once again his temper seemed to dominate the best of him; something was going wrong and no one was feeling like telling him what that was. Was he dying already, and they didn't want him to know? Dread pulsated up to his face and he felt his cheeks heating up, unable to control his anger any longer.

He had the right to know what happened to his parents, and even more what was going to happen to himself. Dumbledore had lied to Harry about everything – he kept Snape in Hogwarts and let him teach the students even though he was responsible for his parents' deaths, and even though he would sacrifice Harry's and his Dad's life for the sake of his Mum's. That was how twisted the man was, and yet here he was, leering into Harry's mind once a week with the Headmaster's absolute consent. It wasn't likely that Harry was ever going to speak to Snape again, even if the man hadn't thrown him out of his office.

He didn't want people to protect him like he was a child. He didn't need Snape – of all people – to look after him and help him behind his back as though he was incapable of protecting himself on his own. He survived far too much on his own to be considered immature or reckless, and this treatment was the last thing he deserved. What he needed was someone to tell him the truth and let him face it like a grown up instead of plotting and organising his life without even asking him his opinion about it. Disappointed, he took the path for his class.

Maybe the visions would show him more about it.

Chapter Text

June 1996

"You didn't come yesterday," commented Dumbledore when Severus placed the pile of marked O.W.L.S. on the Headmaster's desk. Severus scrunched his face and reached into his pocket to take out a folded piece of paper. The last thing he needed was to attend a stuff meeting in Black's honour, and witness pitiful people wallow all over a dog's death.

"I was busy. This is a list with the names of the students who failed to pass their examinations in Potions this year. Miss Johnson has been defiantly ignoring my warnings about her poor progress in my class since the beginning of the term, and I have yet to receive a decent excuse for her consecutive absences. I've sent a letter to her parents an hour ago."

Dumbledore opened a drawer and revealed a closed envelope with the name Severus Snape on it. At last, thought Severus.

Dumbledore wrote the date on the envelope and signed it. "Sirius was a kind man and a loyal friend, Severus. Don't let an old hatred poison your heart over his death."

"Yes, yes. Now, if you please." He extended his hand waiting for the envelope.

He knew he looked impatient, but he was waiting for this particular end of term with obsessive longing; dealing with uninterested students, suspicious colleagues, and a Potter who was picking into his past while refusing to learn the basics in order to protect his own flesh, hadn't been exactly a pleasure. The Dark Lord was back and the summer would withhold not–so–delightful meetings. He had to mentally prepare himself for that task and relax for the few days of peace his summer vacation was offering him.

Still, on the other hand, this school year had brought along some enjoyable surprises as well. Black got what he deserved, the Minister eventually showed some dim traces of intelligence, and Dumbledore seemed to be on the right path searching for what he believed to be an essential weapon against the Dark Lord. 

Severus had asked him multiple times follow and help him, but Dumbledore had insisted that this was a job he had to do alone. Severus wasn't fooled; Dumbledore trusted him to spy on Voldemort and risk his own life for the greater good, but wouldn't share with him any crucial information when it came to it.

Dumbledore handed him over the envelope. "Here you are, Severus, two salaries and a bonus for your private lessons with Harry. In Muggle money, as you required."

Severus's lip quirked in annoyance and pierced him with his eyes. Some of us will have to actually spend our livelihood to the last penny in order to make do, he almost responded. Instead, he nodded politely and thanked the Headmaster.

Who smiled back happily and raised his hand. "Ah, not so fast, Severus. There is something else I wanted to discuss with you. You'd better sit."

And when Dumbledore began a conversation with these words, Severus knew he was going to go berserk, and probably be forced into something he wouldn't like in the slightest. He sat on a chair and grit his teeth with a tension which he felt that would soon be very much justified.

Dumbledore toyed with his wand for a few seconds, as if seeing it for the first time in his life.

"Harry should be moved somewhere safer, after what happened. Sirius was planning to take custody of him once the misunderstanding with the Ministry was resolved, but fate played a mean card on the boy, as you know."

Severus blinked.

"The wards on his house are strong and I have my reasons to believe Voldemort will not attempt to attack him in Surrey, but it is not his physical safety I am worried about. Voldemort knows about their mental connection, and since he has already used it once we have no reason to believe he won't do it again. The boy has been having visions, Severus. You are aware of it. In his dreams, he can see through Voldemort's eyes."Severus felt a chill running down his spine. "I am aware of it. It's... phenomenal."

"And this is why he needs to learn to build solid walls around his mind. You do understand that, should a small leak of where your true devotion lies made its way to the other end of this thread, Voldemort would want you out of the way, right?"

Of course he knew. The idea of death wasn't strange to him; there was a limit in how much pain and despair one can witness and cause, and how much fear then can experience upon it. These limits had been broken long ago for him, and the constant awareness of the dangers around him was as familiar as waking up in the morning.

He only wished that when the time came, he would leave the world having offered his best to this war, and having done his best to protect Lily's child. Her son was the only - small and yet real, alive — trace of her soul left behind, and nothing mattered more, nothing was more crucial or essential than Potter's survival.

As though reading his mind, Dumbledore continued. "This is why it is important for Harry to take Occlumency lessons over the summer. I do need you alive, as you understand."

"What?" Severus stood up.

"I know this is too much of me to ask, Severus, but – "

"You're damn well right, Headmaster, it's too much! Spend my summer teaching him? Wasn't the first fiasco more than enough?" He had sinned. Many times. But he didn't deserve this.

"It's the only way, I am afraid," Dumbledore said calmly.

"What is your plan this time, then? Do you want me to travel daily to Surrey to enjoy Potter's and Petunia's insufferable company, for how long, exactly? How many hours per day do you want me to sacrifice for this farce, pray tell?"

"Ah. And here's the good news."

And Severus was ready to give a leg and a kidney if the news were actually good.

"No magic can be done in his home, since the Ministry would happily report it either as underage magic or as secret war training motivated by me, and then we would all be in an unnecessary fuss. That's why Harry's going to stay with you."

Severus felt the blood drain from his body and go straight up to a vein above his eye. A spasm followed, causing red spots pass through his vision, and his heart jumped before giving him the impression that it was being split in two. The eye below the vein was threatening to swell, perhaps in an attempt to pop out. His lungs compressed in a way he had only seen described in health magazines. His mind whispered: heart attack. 

"You - Albus, no. I can't."

"Now, now, Severus. You've worked with children half your life; I'm sure both of you will manage to get along for a couple of months."

"Sixty days," Severus pointed out sharply. Dumbledore opened his mouth but was stopped.

"Has it crossed your brilliant mind, that I do not wish his pity – or even worse, his curiosity – burdening me during the precious moments of peace I am given? My privacy has already been disrespected and completely ignored. Potter has a wonderful home of his own to stay, and I am sure he will manage to survive until September as he always did. I am not his guardian, nor his friend, and I will NOT have him in my house!"

"I would teach him myself, Severus, but you know the priorities."

The weapon. So Dumbledore was going on an adventure and in the meantime Severus would have to babysit James Potter's spitting image of a son.

Severus sat back down and rubbed away from his temples an upcoming migraine. It was one of those times he did not really have a choice, and yet he was being expected to agree before his doom came. He wanted to say no, to decline and run away with his money as fast as he could, pointing his middle finger to Dumbledore, to Potter, and to Voldemort too.

The problem was that all of them would follow him around like puppies until he did as commanded. And if he didn't, the puppies would transform to three – headed dogs. With venomous fangs. And a dragon tail.

"Are you aware of what kind of people visit my home usually? Death Eaters. Madmen. Ministry workers, all of whom happen to be both Death Eaters and madmen."

"I'm sure you will find a way, Severus. He won't be a problem to you, I can guarantee that."

"He will be asking questions, Dumbledore. Questions I do not wish to answer. What have I ever done that gave you the impression that I enjoy the company of children?"

Dumbledore's eyes sparkled. "Only he's not a child anymore, Severus. This little cooperation of yours could turn out for the best. Do try and see him for who he really is, my boy. You might be surprised."

Fuck you.

Severus nodded in defeat as he strode towards the door. "I'm not doing this for you, Dumbledore."

Dumbledore chuckled. "Thank Merlin you're not, my boy."

Chapter Text

Harry packed his belongings into his trunk, careful not to unfold any of his clothes while doing so. Hermione had just finished folding them for him, and she was pretty annoyed by having done so, commenting that both Harry and Ron's lack of knowledge on how to carefully tuck clothes was absolutely unacceptable.

She decided to help them do it, although Harry suspected she was only doing it to keep a close eye to Harry.

"You will write to me over the summer, okay?" she asked, wariness not quite absent from her face. "You can even call me if you want to; I believe I have given you my telephone number ages ago."

"Thanks Hermione, I'm going to be fine," Harry said, shoving a pile of socks into his trunk.

"Harry, no!" she shouted. "Put the unwashed clothes in another bag and then into your trunk, otherwise the rest of your clothes will get dirty too."

Hermione made a move as to grab the shocks off his hand, but then frowned as if changing her mind and used her wand instead.

"Woah, Hermione, that's brilliant. Did you think of it on your own?" asked Ron, throwing out of his trunk the wrinkled unwashed clothes so they could be put in another bag. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Harry, I could take the train someday if you'd like. We could meet up in Surrey, I don't know, for a walk. My parents might let me." Ron eyed her furrowing his eyebrows, a disturbed look on his face. "And of course Ron could come too, you know," she added and Ron relaxed.

Yes, I'd like that, thought Harry. Only I can't, and you're only saying it because you think Sirius' death made me mentally unstable.

He couldn't stand people talking about Sirius anymore, or treating him like that. He didn't want to discuss it. He didn't want to even think about it, and he was tired of playing over and over again inside his head the hopes and dreams he had let himself have before Sirius' death.

It was foolish of him to believe that he could eventually have a family. Everyone he met and loved was immediately put in danger. He should have known better than to hope for the family he never had.

Until Dumbledore had called him into his office, finally telling Harry the truth, explaining about the Prophecy in Snape's memories and the reason Voldemort wanted Harry dead, he had been convinced that Sirius' death was his fault. 

"It is time," Dumbledore said, "for me to tell you what I should have told you years ago, Harry." And Harry's heart pounded in his chest as he listened through it all. When Dumbledore was finished, and Harry had shattered to pieces every object around him he could reach and break, Dumbledore had said:

"This summer, Harry, I cannot let you return to your family. It is important for you to be trained to defeat whoever might try to use your mind again. You will stay with Professor Snape, and this time you will both take your Occlumency lessons seriously."

After another emotional explosion, when Harry had nothing else in his reach to break or shatter, and his voice was hoarse from shouting, he accepted this new horrible fate and left.

He didn't manage to tell his friends, however, and Dumbledore agreed that keeping it a secret would be the wisest thing to do. And although he would have ignored Dumbledore's wishes and would have informed Ron and Hermione right away, somehow it was beyond embarrassing to announce that he would spend his summer with Snape.

Their worries would only triple – the man was an Ex-Death Eater – and certainly not a nice person, or someone trustworthy. No, Ron and Hermione would only be unbearably concerned about the Headmaster's decision.

They were worrying about him too much already, Harry decided. They deserved a summer away from Harry's troubles, and thinking about how Harry would be mistreated or abused by snarky Severus Snape would be the worst thing he could burden them with. If everything went well, he would tell them on September. If it didn't…

"So, why are you not taking the train again, mate?" asked Ron, holding up into the air a pair of orange underpants.

"Christ!" Hermione turned her back to Ron and fiercely begun collecting Harry's textbooks.

"I'll leave a couple of hours later. Dumbledore wants me to stay some more, talk to me in private, you know, and stuff." He tossed Hermione a sweater and she gave him a lethal look.

"That's nice, you can visit Hogsmeade alone then! Remember that girl who stands alone sometimes near the Three Broomsticks? The one with blond hair? I've heard you can ask her the craziest things."

Excitement lit up in Harry's eyes and he grinned. "Such as?"

Hermione wiped the sweat off her forehead and stood up. "Unfortunately Ron, Harry does not care at all about what kind of crazy things that girl does," Harry mouthed behind her back I do, "and he knows perfectly well how stupid it would be to go alone to Hogsmeade. Am I right, Harry?"

"Absolutely," he assured her.

With that problem solved, Hermione left to prepare for the feast. The moment the sound of her steps faded, Harry made Ron tell him everything about that girl.


They met again outside the Fat Lady's portrait, and ran down the stairs to the Great Hall. The food was delicious, and Harry tried to eat as much as possible, until his stomach felt ready to explode. If the Dursley's denied him food for two or three days in a row, he didn't dare to imagine what Snape would do to him. He'd better eat a good last meal in Hogwarts before he was thrown into starvation for good.

Anxiously, he wondered what kind of place Snape lived in, and images of dark castles with spiders, ghosts and bats filled his mind. Another image popped up, sadly more realistic, which had Harry locked up in just another cupboard, while in exchange to be let out he would have to memorise and repeat an entire volume of Advanced Potions. He grimaced at his food.

"It's not poisoned, not this time at least." Luna pointed at his plate. "Sometimes though, the Headmaster puts funny things into the meals to test our behaviour. Did you know?"

Harry shook his head. "It's okay Luna, thanks. I already ate too much, I think."

She shrugged her shoulders and kept eating. Harry snorted to himself.

What if Snape had plans to torture him for real this time? The man always hated him and that was his only chance to act under Dumbledore's nose. Yet, there were still questions to be answered, and if Snape and his Mum were dating in the past he wasn't really sure that he wanted to know about it.

"Mister Potter, a word."

Startled, Harry jumped up from his seat to see Snape standing just behind him, glaring down his large nose. Snape strode off the Hall, and after Ron gave Harry a sympathetic look, Harry followed.

Snape stopped at the stairs outside and spoke coldly. "We are leaving tomorrow at two o'clock. You will have packed everything, and don't even think of being late, for I will not accept any of your poor excuses." His eyes promised death. "You are expected to wait for me outside the Headmaster's office alone. If anyone asks – "

"I know, I'm not stupid," interrupted Harry.

"Ten points from Gryffindor for your insolence. I trust that the final total of House points hasn't been announced yet."

Snape looked like he hated his life at the moment. His brows were furrowed in a gloomy expression, and he was staring right through Harry's eyes.

"Now, do you have any belongings at your relatives' home that you wish to have with you over the summer, Potter?"

Harry shook his head, but Snape didn't seem to believe him.

"Then think again, because I do not plan to Apparate around with an imbecile boy clutched on my back every time you're reminded of something that you need. You are being given the chance to visit Surrey tomorrow before we continue on to my house, and that's it. Do not expect me to bother again until September, even if what you forgot over is your own head."

Harry swallowed the bile that had stuck in his throat and grit his teeth. "No need to worry, sir. All my belongings are already into my trunk and can't wait to be moved to your place."

Harry knew that Snape was repulsed by that fact as much as he was. Snape quirked his lips in disgust and, after removing another ten points from Gryffindor, he left.

When the dinner was over, Harry and Ron played the last chess game of the year. Harry lost and let his forehead fall on the chessboard, the queen piercing his ear with a tiny sword as she tried to shove him away. Hermione had fallen asleep on the sofa while reading a muggle book.

He was expecting Ron to say something, probably bringing up the matter of Sirius again, or ask Harry how he was planning to spend the summer. Ron loved to hear funny stories about Dudley, and although Harry kept the worst situations well hidden from his wizarding life, some of them he could share. Next year there would be none of them, though, and Harry was positively sure that Snape wasn't going to be an enjoyable housemate either.

He sighed at the memory of Sirius promising him that they could live together someday. If Harry was a little bit smarter, if he knew how to separate the real visions from the fake hallucinations Voldemort sent to him, if only he had killed Bellatrix at the Ministry and had studied better over the year, now Sirius would be alive.

Among everything, Harry couldn't help but blame Sirius equally. His mind wandered from Kreacher to Sirius' mother and how Sirius should have stayed in the safety of the wards but instead just sneaked out while everybody had warned him not to.

When Ron collected the chess pieces in a silent understanding, Harry sat up and nodded good night before going to bed.


The next morning everybody was in a hurry. The youngest kids were shouting and running around, searching for clothes and books that they had just realised were missing, while there were only a few hours left before the arrival of the Hogwarts Express. The Prefects were trying to help them, while some other kids had formed a small crowd and were plotting with with fascination their last pranks of the year.

Ron couldn't find a particular pair of shoes, so he threw everything out of his trunk and put them back in scattered and in round piles. Hermione caught him in the act, and she banged him with a notebook on his back, telling him that he was a swine and that she wasn't going to help him with anything, ever again.

Dean was trying to organise where everybody was going to sit on the train in order to prevent the fuss upon boarding. Luna had already collected a stack of the Quibbler's new issues in her arms, apparently hoping to sell some copies on the road, and somehow meandered her way into the boys' dormitory.

As for Harry, he watched the panicked people around him dully, fascinated with their stampede, and hadn't bothered getting up from the bed yet. He was so lost into his observation, that he was startled when Luna sat beside him and placed a Quibbler issue on his belly, patting it. "Here, it's free for you."

Harry opened it curiously and read: Ancient Runes came from the space! What Muggle scientists support and how the conspiracy was revealed. He pretended to be flattered by her gift and gave her a forced smile. "Oh. Thanks, Luna. I'm going to read it tonight, okay?"

"You don't need to make yourself like it just now. It will find a way to amaze you in time, I'm sure of it. Have a nice summer, Harry." She left the room hopping, leaving Harry rolling his eyes.

Ron punched him on the side of his head lightly. "Are you going to wake up already or what?"

Harry rubbed his temple and got up lazily. He seriously thought he would give a leg to have just another day in Hogwarts, but denying his upcoming future wasn't going to make it any better.

So he helped his friends, and punched Ron back on the ribs as soon as he caught him off guard, until they fell back to the bed wrestling. Eventually Ron forced Harry's head into a pillow case and they stopped.

"How immature can you two be?" gasped Hermione from the door.

Ron chuckled. "You've no idea."

She rolled her eyes and Harry escorted them to the Great Hall before they left. Hermione hugged him tightly, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek, which made Ron scrunch his face up and look away. He promised them that he'll be writing to them once a week, because that was that they wanted to hear, and he smiled reassuring them that everything was going to be alright.

As he watched them leaving, the thestrals taking their carriages away, he suddenly felt alone, so terribly alone and empty, as if no happiness would ever find its way to his soul again, and no good memory or thought would be enough to make things okay as they did until only some time ago.

To make proof against that, he drew out his wand and cast the Patronus charm, thinking of his Dad and Mum. A silver stag spurted out of the tip of his wand and bounced around the bushes, running away to the forest and its freedom.

Relieved, Harry licked his lips. If he was still able to conjure some tiny bits of happiness from within, he wasn't entirely lost. The stag returned soon, and shoved his head to Harry's hand demanding to be petted. The sensation wasn't exactly real, and reminded him more of water and ice than actual flesh, his fingers slipping into the strange substance.

With a heavy heart, he returned to the castle and dragged his trunk down the stairs until he reached the Headmaster's office. He sat upon his trunk and waited for Snape, drumming his wand to his knee rhythmically.

Maybe Snape was indeed a vampire after all, thought Harry as he remembered Snape's pale skin. Or he had a dungeon full of dead bodies, stored so he could drink their blood slowly at nights. And now he'd lock Harry in a cell as well, and make him watch as he'd fly around in his bat form, randomly picking his victims before attacking them.

Harry shuddered. He wasn't sure he could survive a whole summer drinking nothing but human blood.

"Potter."

Harry looked up. "Um."

His utterance was met with an arched eyebrow. "I beg your pardon?"

"Um. Yes. Morning."

"Not anymore, unless you have completely lost your touch with reality. It's two in the afternoon."

"Oh. Alright."

Snape looked already annoyed, and his own denial about the situation was written all over his face.

"We are going to use the Floo network from the Headmaster's office which will transport us near my home. You are not permitted to talk to anybody but me, and if you disobey that you will face the consequences. Am I clear, Potter?"

He pointed his wand at Harry and Harry had no time to protect himself when a spell hit him and he fell to the ground. Confused, he looked around until he realised that the charm wasn't directed at him. He put the now shrunk trunk into the pocket of his jeans.

Snape smirked down at Harry, who quickly stood up. Dumbledore greeted them cheerfully, but both of them responded with a grim face.

"My boys, are you ready for your summer? I'm sure you'll do wonderfully!" He clapped his hands twice and Harry noticed Snape's wand hand twitching around thin air.

"Thank you, Headmaster. Please do keep your own vacations less adventurous than intended." And with that quizzical comment Snape activated the Floo.

"Do I seem like I have all day, Potter?" he spat.

Harry glanced at Dumbledore sadly but walked over to Snape, his feet heavily brushing the carpet. Even facing Voldemort would be a less ghastly task to do, Harry thought as Snape wrapped his hand around his and squeezed.

"Ready?"

Harry nodded, and suddenly the office was gone.

They landed on a small pub, and they stepped out of the fireplace. Snape released his hand as soon as the swirling was gone, and Harry brushed his own on his shirt, as though to wipe off the touch. Then he took a look around, curiously. The place was a traditional alehouse, with six hand pumps serving beers across the counter.

It seemed rustic, with scrubbed floorboards and small tables all around. There were no TV's or Gaming machines either, which indicated that the place was only for wizards. A man greeted Snape, upholding his beer. "Severus – at last, man! Who's that boy – home teaching now, are you?"

Harry kept his head down, hoping that no one would notice his scar, and the man was met with a deadly glare from Snape as they walked past him. Next thing Harry knew, he was standing in a dark neighborhood with two endless rows of houses. He wondered if they were far from central London, plans to sneak his way away from Snape already forming inside his mind.

"Follow me."

He followed. The thin fog and the muddy street were making him uneasy. Snape's robes were being dipped into the mud too, wetting their edges, as their feet made a plopping sound against the ground with every step they took.

It must had been raining only a few hours ago, as the scent of the rain and the moisture was still in the air. Harry read a sign nailed on a brick wall on his left: Spinner's End.

"Where are we?" he asked.

"Are you incapable or reading?"

"No, I mean – where exactly?"

Snape glared at him wryly for a moment. "Northern England."

"Oh. So you're spending your summers here?"

"Usually," Snape looked ahead as they walked.

"I didn't know you had a house of your own," Harry admitted. He shoved his hands into his sweatshirt to warm them up.

Snape scoffed. "So, using your endless wittiness, you cleverly reached the conclusion that I'm a clochard."

"A what?" Harry's eyebrows rose to his hairline.

"Homeless."

"Oh. No, I just thought you stayed in Hogwarts, you know." Since you don't really seem to have a life, he almost added.

Snape didn't answer.

A horrid thought crossed Harry's mind.

"Do you live alone?" If Snape had a wife and Harry was forced to live with both of them, he'd become a kosherd of his own, he decided.

"Not anymore, Potter. Obviously."

Oh. Right. As accustomed as he was to being unwanted, Harry couldn't help the awkwardness that overwhelmed him. It was obvious that Snape hated him, and the feeling was rather mutual.

Aunt Petunia wouldn't fumble through his brain, at least, and back in Surrey he knew that if he stayed silent and invisible for the best part of the day he would be granted with a peace of mind. Snape wasn't like that, though. Harry had no idea how Snape was.

They stopped before an old grey brick house, and Snape crossed the small yard, taking out a bunch of keys. As soon as the door was opened, a smell of musty air hit Harry's nostrils and he realised the place hadn't been inhabited in a long time.

The door led to a tiny sitting room. Snape opened all the shutters immediately, letting the daylight stream in and bringing into sight clouds of dust that filled the room. The walls were completely covered in books shelves, most of the books bound in old black or brown leather; a threadbare sofa, an old armchair, and a rickety table stood grouped together in front of an ashy fireplace.

Snape disappeared behind a door, barking, "Stay there!"

Harry did, glancing around inquisitively. There was no central hallway to the house, and the living room had only three doors to connect with the rest of it. The first one was hiding a staircase, from which Snape had gone upstairs, the second one was locked, and the third one led to a kitchen.

Harry noticed the sink over the half-opened door, and pushed it further open. It was a small room too, with a wooden table in the corner and two chairs under it, linked together by a silver thread of cobweb. With a sigh of relief Harry saw the fridge and opened it, finding it completely empty.

Then searched the cabinets, one by one, finding plates, glasses, and some pots and pans, along with an empty box of biscuits. He took it out and threw it in the trash bin under the sink; checked the faucet's function, looked for sharp knives he could use just in case, and found a box with a basic sewing set and a small pouch of black buttons.

"Are you through sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, Potter?" Snape stood at the door, holding his dirtied cloak in a pile, while unbuttoning the first buttons of his coat. With a motion of his hand the drawer banged close and Harry barely had time to draw his fingers away.

"I'll do laundry in half an hour and that will be exclusively for my own clothes. You can wash yours when I'm done and I assure you, if you leave anything behind I will burn it."

"Then I'll just have to walk around naked, I guess."

Before Harry knew it, Snape had stridden over and grasped him by the shirt front, pushing him against the counter violently. His breath was only inches from his face.

"I will say this once, you insolent brat, and you'd better listen carefully. This isn't Hogwarts nor your cozy Gryffindor House in which no one ever bothered to teach you how to show respect. Unluckily for you, Dumbledore doesn't have time to wipe your arse and protect you from all the evil of the world anymore, so do yourself a favour and behave. You will not talk back to me, you will not show cheek, and for the time being, Potter, you will— "

"Pretend I don't exist. I know."

Snape blinked.

"Anything else, sir?"

Snape unclutched Harry's shirt and stepped back.

"Yes, Potter. If you somehow deemed that you will spend your days here idly lazing and heavenly sleeping until noon, you have been sorely mistaken. Lunch is always served at one o'clock and dinner at eight; be late and you will not eat at all. We will practice Occlumency from six to seven. You are expected to do your focus exercises every day before our lessons, otherwise I will not hesitate to kick you out and let you sleep on the streets. You are not permitted to leave the house without my accompaniment and you will not touch any of my belongings without permission. If you do so, I'll know." He arched an eyebrow, waiting.

Harry shrugged.

"Now, follow me."

They climbed up the small staircase, and it cricked with every step; finally leading them to a small hallway with another three doors.

Snape opened the first one and Harry walked in. The room was small, and except from a single bed in the far end of it and a small nightstand, it was rather empty too.

Some shelves were nailed to the walls but no books or other items were placed upon them; a closet with several drawers was near the bed, and the curtains on the window were shredded. Harry wondered if this was Snape's room when he was a child, sure that many years must have had passed since the last time someone had slept in here.

He took out his trunk and restored it to its normal size. Snape considered the room for a moment.

Then, "The bathroom is at the far end of the hallway. The other door leads to my own bedroom, which you will never enter despite your childish curiosity. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Yes sir."

"Yes, sir."

"Excellent."

Harry heard the bang of the door closing behind him and took off his glasses, falling to the bed face down and breathing his tension off. Excellent.

Chapter Text

Harry rubbed his eyes lazily. The morning light penetrated the thin fabric of the curtains and filled the room, dim but enough to wake him up. He stretched and yawned, rolling onto his belly and scratching his nape.

The clock on the nightstand read eight o’clock. It was rather early, but familiar as he was to his Hogwarts schedule, he didn’t feel like sleeping again. Putting his glasses on, he blinked and stared at the grey wall; the shadow–like shapes shifted and danced.

Considering that this was the first night sleeping under the same roof with Snape, it wasn’t as bad as he had imagined it. After settling in, Snape had left him alone and had locked himself into his bedroom until dinner time.

They met again in the kitchen, when Harry had already tidied his new room.

“We will begin your lessons tomorrow,” Snape informed him as they ate. “I suggest you clear your mind before bedtime, and make a habit out of it for the rest of the summer.”

Harry had tried to, but random thoughts kept popping into his mind just as they had at Hogwarts. Just when he’d start relaxing, he’d imagine Dudley’s disappointment when they’d tell him Harry wasn’t going back to Surrey this year. His gang would have already begun organising new ways of bullying him around, and with Harry’s absence Dudley would feel rather exposed.

He knew Uncle Vernon would at least be the happiest of them all. He’d have no reason to shout and yell anymore, or to endure the sight of owls and wands where Dudley’s second room should have been.

Without him in the house, the Dursleys would happily state that they were perfectly normal again, and Aunt Petunia wouldn’t need to cook  for an extra person.

Speaking of which, Harry’s stomach growled. After going through his morning routine, he noiselessly went down to the kitchen, realising that Snape hadn’t woken up yet. The fridge was still empty, so he poured some water into a glass and went upstairs again.

Delving into his trunk, he found some biscuits Hermione had given him a week ago and began chewing on one as he wandered around the house.

He pushed the third door of the living room – and found it still locked.

Alohomora,” he tried.

Nothing.

Dissendium.”

Nothing.

He peeped into the key hole but it was too dark to make out anything. Moving to the books, Harry pulled out the largest one and read: Hunting Werewolves.

He opened a random page. Two sentences had been underlined with red ink, with a note saying show Dumbledore on top of it.

Although humane-like when away from the moonlight and between the lunar cycles, the species of werewolves are considered creatures far from the humane kind. It is known that common wizard and Muggle emotions cannot be experienced in their full dimension by beasts and other dangerous creatures; it remains feasible though for those emotions to be exceptionally well feigned.

Harry closed the book annoyed. The next books he opened concerned mostly potions, and some of them were about history analyses and psychological facts. The ones with titles resembling Dark Magic were blank inside, or couldn’t be opened at all.

Tiptoeing his way to Snape’s room, he slowly pushed on the door handle and peered in. Snape was sleeping on his stomach, his face hidden under a big pillow. He was half covered with a duvet, his grey nightshirt pulled up to reveal one hairy leg.

Opening the door a little more, Harry saw Snape’s desk, and wondered if the key to the locked door was there. He lifted his wand.

Accio keys,” he whispered.

Many sounds occurred instantly. Drawers opened, while pens and other objects fell to the floor and rolled. Bunches of keys slid and flew to his hands. Harry recognized the heavier bunch as the one Snape had used to unlock the outdoor yesterday, and along with them he now had in his hands a handful of some suitcase keys, a big golden key that looked rather fake, a link with the Hogwarts crest on it, and a smaller bunch with keys for drawers or cabinets.

“Wicked,” he whispered.

“Wicked,” repeated Snape.

He was now sitting on the bed, and the only thing that betrayed that he had just woken up was his really messed up hair. 

“Um. Good morning?” Harry tried.

“It’s a bad morning, Potter.” Kicking the duvet over, he strode towards Harry and yanked the keys from his hand. “I do not take defrauding from anyone, and I will certainly not take it from you. However intelligent you might believe it is what you're doing, it is not, and I assure you that pushing my buttons is not a game you can win. For the last time. Behave.”

Harry could almost sense a please in Snape’s voice.

His stomach growled again. “The fridge is empty and actually isn’t working at all; do you hide your food elsewhere? I have cookies, but I'm running out. Want one?”

He offered him the small box and Snape looked at him with narrowed eyes, as though he was inspecting a venomous bleeding cockroach. “You are unbelievable.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders in an “it depends” way. Snape threw the keys to his bed and went to the wardrobe.

“Close the damned door and go dress up. The market is ten minutes away and I wish to get done with it now that it’s early and hasn’t gathered neighbours yet.”

Harry felt his fingers clutch harder around the biscuit box in nervousness. “What if someone recognises me?”

“You are under spells that forbid passengers from noticing you.”

Was he? Harry nodded, closed the door, and went to change his clothes.


The market wasn’t far from the house indeed, and it resembled a lot the suburban market back in Little Whinging. Harry and Snape both grabbed the same basket, and silently fought over it for a few seconds. Snape won with a sneer, and Harry took another.

When they separated though, Harry didn’t know what to put inside. He didn’t have any money with him, and didn’t know if Snape was going to buy him something that wasn’t necessary. He walked to the sweets’ corridor, and picked up a cheerios box and a new box of biscuits. Then he chose a cheap orange juice and a mixed one.  

Dawdling around the gum packs and the large fridges, he noticed the newspapers’ bench and approached it, noticing that it had some Muggle cooking books, financial newspapers, and right behind them, porn magazines. Harry stared for a moment and went back to the sweets. 

He met Snape at the cash desk, and realised that the man had made a rather wiser choice of products than Harry had. His basket had meat, pastas, bottles of water, milk, eggs, vegetables and some other stuff too.

Hesitantly, Harry put his own basket on the cash desk, but surprisingly Snape didn’t argue. When they returned to Snape’s home, Harry helped him store the food.

“Your living room is soaked in dust,” said Harry. “With all these books and stuff that you have in there it’s going to gather termites. Happened to my cousin’s room, once.”

Snape didn’t answer.

“Don’t you care that your house is filthy?” pressed Harry, his voice bitter on purpose. This place resembled an asylum. A small and dark one, precisely.

“No.”

“Do you have parents?” Why had he asked that?

A pause. “No.”

“Oh.” Harry’s mind drifted to the memory of the crying child he had once seen in Snape’s mind, while Snape’s parents were shouting to each other.

They made soup; it was awful, but they ate it in silence. Snape retired to his room shortly after it, warning Harry that he’d better do the same.

Harry washed the dishes and cleaned the table, trying to clear his mind as he did so. His scar hadn’t bothered him since the battle of the Ministry, but he knew that the throbbing pain would return once Voldemort grew angry with something or someone again.

Considering his upcoming Occlumency lessons, this was the worst time to think about Sirius. It didn’t matter; Snape was going to see all the memories that could make him vulnerable.

He could do nothing about it. His skills in blocking Snape out of his mind were poor, and Snape was a master of Legilimency.

Washing his hands and leaving the vetex aside, he locked himself into his bedroom. He couldn’t concentrate for the life of him, and to prevent himself from thinking, he slept.


 

A bang outside Harry's door make him jump up.

“Potter!” Snape barked.

“Yes! Just a minute!” Harry ran to the door, still a bit light headed from sleeping, and crashed right on Snape’s sternum.

He backed up embarrassed, and looked up with what he hoped to be a neutral face. Before he had time to say something clever, Snape had already gone downstairs. Right. Now Harry was making a fool of himself too.

Biting his lip he followed, wand at hand. Once he reached the living room, Snape turned to face him.

“Although I am sure that you completely ignored my instructions of how to clear your mind, it is the Headmaster’s wish that we continue this farce.”

Harry nodded.

“When sleeping, your mind gets relaxed and thus becomes vulnerable to external penetration. You should remember that in the future. Now, do you even remember what Occlumency is?”

It occurred to Harry that Snape looked tired too. It wasn’t the typical kind of physical exhaustion, or even mental, but a hazy vanity was surrounding his silhouette all the same. Yet, his face was as controlled as always.

“It’s going to help me block Voldemort out of my mind,” Harry said impatiently.

“Occlumency is an ancient art, which has existed since the medieval times. It can prevent a trained Legilimens from accessing one's thoughts and feelings. A person who practices this art is known as an Occlumens, and his abilities to master it must be at least highly outstanding.”

The fact that Harry’s abilities were nowhere to be seen was left unsaid.

“Well, I’ve no talent at it.” As Harry was expecting, these lessons were going to make Snape furious, although he never understood why it always had to happen so quickly.

Snape’s face lines deepened as he scoffed. “You’ve no talent? Is this your new excuse to spare yourself the remorse, Potter? Is your lack of, as you put it, talent, making you sleep easier at nights?”

Harry shook his head but Snape didn’t stop.

“Had you tried in the least to focus while I was training you this year, the Dark Lord wouldn’t have planted visions in that foolish head of yours. I warned you this would happen and yet you completely neglected to follow my orders.” Snape took out his wand, his fingers slowly sliding over it.

“That’s not true, you were the one who kicked me out in the middle of the year! I was trying!”

“The results indicate so.”

Harry bit back a curse and squeezed his fist. “Don’t you dare bring Sirius into this.” His heart was racing; he couldn’t remember getting this angry since Sirius’ death. His vision sparkled.

“Why not? Afraid to face the truth?”

Something inside his sternum exploded. “Well, maybe you suck as a teacher, and that’s why you blame me instead. If we had continued the lessons Sirius would—”

“We do continue them, Potter. Legilimens!”

Old memories came to the surface of Harry’s mind and he was unable to keep them back. Snape vanished from his vision, and he was now running away from Dudley, seeing his friends chasing him, shouting names… Sirius was falling behind the veil, slowly disappearing as Bellatrix’s shattering laughter echoed around… Ron was begging Hermione to let him copy her essay, in front of the fireplace in the common room…

Harry gasped and leaned forward. He had dropped to his knees, steadying himself with his hands on the carpet. He looked up, to see Snape sneering at him.

“Nonexistent progress. Why didn’t you fight me?” Snape asked coolly.

“I don’t – I wasn’t expecting it,” Harry spat, getting up from the floor.

“I thought so.” Snape was watching him closely. “Close your eyes for me.”

Sighing, Harry did.

“What do you feel?” Snape asked. His voice was coming closer, and Harry’s instinct warned him to step back.

“Nothing specific,” Harry responded.

“Don’t lie to me, Potter. Again. What do you feel?” Snape was walking around Harry, his steps heavy.

“Anger,” he said as he tried to determine Snape’s location in the room.

“Anger.”

Harry swallowed. “Yes.”

“Fear?”

He wasn’t going to admit that. “No. I just don’t want you inside my head.”

“Let go of all emotions. Clear your thoughts from the weaknesses that dominates you.” Snape stopped in front of him.

Harry shifted nervously. He wasn't being dominated by weaknesses. He was much stronger than Snape was, because he at least knew how to make the right decisions, and because he’d never fuck up his life that much – he’d never kneel before a murderer and kiss his hem, he’d never admire a monster for his power and his control over the defenceless, he’d never inflict harm on those he loved, no matter the motivations behind the actions.  

Only he had.

And those he loved were all dying, one after another. And this was no one’s fault but Harry’s.

Legilimens!”

A woman was screaming, and her cries echoed inside his ears, shuttering with pain and fear and confusion, and Harry felt the Dementor taking his breath away, taking his voice, his vision, his life… Dumbledore twinkled an eye at him and Harry smiled, running to catch up with Ron and Hermione… The snitch was right there, all he had to do was come closer – right there – just a little bit – too fast…

“You’re not trying, Potter.”

Harry was barely listening as he panted hard. “I’ve told you I’m trying! If you don’t tell me how to do it I’ll never make it! What do you expect from me? Figure it out by accident while you just stand there and watch?”

Snape yanked Harry’s shirt and got him to his feet. “You are weak. You cannot block me if you don’t—“

Harry tried to free his shoulder. “Stop calling me that! Why don’t you just explain to me how to do it?”

Losing his patience, Harry dug his short nails into Snape’s wrist to force him take off his hand. Snape did, and he scowled at the marks Harry had left for a moment.

“Again. Concentrate.” Snape raised his wand. “One— Two— Legilimens!”

Harry raised his own wand too now, and cast the only spell he knew would help him.

Protego!”

Harry’s mind teemed with a new series of memories he could not recognize as his own. Having done this before, he gathered himself and searched for the memories he wanted. Having less than a couple of seconds to make this work, he focused and thought of his mother.

A teenage Snape was running at Hogwarts corridors with a red haired girl… Snape was in Hogsmeade, drinking a hot cup of something with the same girl, whom was taking a sip from his cup…

He was slammed against the wall with such force his breath was plucked from his lungs. Sliding to the floor, a painful gasp escaped his lips and looked up at Snape, who glared back with menace. 

They looked at each other for some more, Harry not daring to move.

“You are not to use this charm again, you understand?” Snape seemed paler than usual, but his temper was all gone.

Harry considered it, a million questions to his lips. He feared that if he spoke even the simplest of them, Snape would start shouting again.

“We will continue tomorrow. In the meantime…” Snape pulled a book out of a shelf using his index finger, and gave it to Harry. “It will help you get rid of emotion.”

“But I don’t want to get rid of emotion,” argued Harry, struggling back to his feet.

“You must.”

Snape avoided eye contact, and Harry ran upstairs.

 

Chapter Text

“Is that blasted bird yours?” Severus turned to Potter, a cup of tea at hand. The morning had been quite peaceful until now, but then again, the boy had to wake up. Potter glanced at the owl sitting on the window ledge and grinned widely. His hair was a complete mess, Severus noticed as Potter ran to greet the bird; tangled and popping up to all directions.

“Hedwig!”

And impressive it was. The boy would experience agonizing nightmares on a daily basis, - loud enough to cause uneasiness to whomever was near enough to listen. Every morning though he would seem that he had no memory of his collapsing condition, nor was he aware of how little he slept and how horrible his bedtime was.

Everything seemed to be written off his consciousness when he’d open his eyes for the day to begin, as though his mind was seeking ways to protect itself from the horrors. This made no difference to Severus however, who was forced to listen to Potter’s muffled screams until dawn.

Potter would notice the black circles under his own eyes, eventually, and he’d come to the conclusion that his sleep was problematic and that he had to find a solution, but until then Severus was determined to keep him away from sleeping draughts and tension-relief potions. The boy had to experience his grief, painful though it was; running away from it would only make the afflictions haunt him and grow stronger.

Potter gave the stupid owl a biscuit and she spread her wings in appreciation while Severus took the letters from the window sill and threw them on the kitchen table. “It kept pecking at the pane all night, the insolent hen.” He took a sip of his morning tea and moved to the living room. “One must be suicidal to dare interrupt my sleep like that.”

Potter chuckled and followed, his letters at hand. Blasted child. Severus sat at his armchair while Potter opened his new box of biscuits and sat on the carpet, cross – legged. Thankfully, he kept a proper distance between the two of them. It occurred to him that, proper distance should only be described as two dimensions apart, but given the current circumstances he would have to endure a little closer than that. There were some people on this earth that avoiding them was probably the best thing one could do. Potter was on the top of Severus’ list.

Potter shifted a bit further away while still on the carpet. A rather ridiculous thing to do, after all, considering that Severus’ personal space had been invaded by Potter countless times already. The little hypocrite.

Severus took a sip and watched as Potter opened the first envelope impatiently. It was undoubtedly from those friends of his – letters inspired by unbearable sentimentalism to fill the boring, tiresome summertime. Since the day Potter had come here, a week and a half ago, he hadn’t stopped asking if there were any letters for him. And there weren’t, until now.

Watching Potter’s shy smile at the letter, Severus felt his bitterness take over and he scoffed. “Can’t Miss Granger endure your absence with the indispensable poise, instead of worshiping you even when she’s vacating? How romantic the folly of true love must be.”

Potter looked up, his confusion quickly altering to blushing embarrassment. “Wha – hey! She’s worhsiping me! We’re friends.”

Severus felt his own lips turn into a smirk. “Really? And here I thought that you’d somehow be less worthless in that aspect, at least. Once again it’s proved: fame isn’t everything.” Cliché, but it always worked with that kid. Severus hid his smirk behind his cup before Potter could catch more than a glimpse of it. The tea warmed his throat.

Potter was an easy one to read, and it was a matter of seconds for him to disappear to his room, gritting his teeth with furiousness. Severus waited.

Potter smirked back. “Says the man who spends his life in dungeons.”

The brat. “It’s my job, Potter. Do you think I live in Hogwarts because I find the decoration admirable?” Or the staff, for that matter?

Potter stared, and Severus continued. Not that he should. It was none of Potter’s business and he certainly had nothing to prove to a fifteen year old. Or was it sixteen now? “I prefer to keep my personal life outside the school grounds.” Pathetic. What are you telling him? “Unless you prefer me to be hosting dungeon debauches on weekends, of course.”

Potter shoved his letters into his pyjama pocket, probably deciding to read them when alone. “Well, Professor McGonagall does visit Dumbledore’s rooms all the time.”

And Severus spilled his hot tea all over his shirt. He stood up, casting a cleaning spell on himself and undoing the first buttons of his shirt to wipe the tea off his collarbone. A hoarse laughter was caught before it reached his throat and was successfully bitten down. “Do remember whom you’re talking to, Potter!”

Potter seemed curious, if not amused. Severus’ many years of self–control training had probably been leading up to this very moment to be proved useful and well worthy.

“What? The gossip has been going around since even you were a student,” Potter argued, and Severus wondered about the allusion behind the world even. 

The boy was a complete failure when it came to controlling emotions and, despite his cheerful glimmering, his plain statement about Dumbledore’s whereabouts was soaked into a vague bitterness which was difficult to identify. He wondered whether his trust for Dumbledore had been blunted to the extent of open disrespect for his person, or if Potter was just curious as always. Either way, he decided that the satisfaction of making him uncomfortable was too tempting for him to waste.

Having cleaned up the mess and sitting back to his chair, he placed his hands on the soft armrests and silently calmed himself down. Well, Potter was going to find out at some point of his life anyway. “Unless Minerva has a dick, a possibility which I highly doubt, your theory is invalid.”

Severus was granted with the exact reaction he was anticipating: Potter’s eyes widened, a pink blush spreading over his cheeks. The insolent grin disappeared, now replaced by his jaw hanging open. Perfection.  

And while Potter was trying to determine whether the information was true or it should be rejected, Severus decided to not clarify it. Better let Potter drown in his nosiness – the more, the best.

Against his better judgment, Severus decided that torturing the boy was rather amusing. He arched his eyebrows, satisfied with himself, and then opened the Prophet. The press was becoming less accurate as the years went by, and there were zero talented reporters to undertake the political predicament at the moment. With the Dark Lord back and the Ministry at the edge of the cliff, one would expect to see essential news at the front page, instead of all this nonsense concerning celebrities.

On the other hand, perhaps the Minister had foreboded the crucial information from slipping out. Negotiating would start any time soon again, and countless repentant Death Eaters of the past would appear to testify their faked innocence before they crawled back to their Lord’s feet. Unfolding the whole thread would need time – and surely more horrors would take place until then. Reading about parties and joyful events though wasn’t going to help the wizarding world be prepared, and if a war was on the way indeed, negligence of the press to publicise the ongoing situation would be at least sorely scandalous.

“Don't say a word about Dumbledore.” The voice was angry, and Severus was surprised. Was Potter still here? Why was he even talking to him? He’d been given a room for a reason.

Severus glared over the paper, annoyed to have his thoughts interrupted. “Go upstairs,” he quickly spat back.

Potter’s eyes narrowed a little more. “Why would you say that? You have no right. Why would you say that?"

Ah. Like father, like son. “Does it bother you, Potter?”

“You have no right to speak ill of him.” So, it was bothering him. "If he knew you said such thing-"

"Forget about it boy, for Merlin's sake."

"How can you say he's - are you saying it's true? Has he told you?"

“Has he told me?” Of course he had. The man wouldn’t fit in a closet even if he tried. “The Headmaster and I have been friends for many years, Potter.”

Potter gaped again, blinking, and Severus realised the misunderstanding just a moment before Potter spoke.

“You – ”

Friends. Do I look like a – ” He bit back the word faggot, failing to find a better one to fill in the blank. Let it be, he decided, and went back to his paper. His calmness didn’t last long.

“So, what do you do over the summer? Do you just stay inside and read?”

He had not agreed with Dumbledore to that. Severus sighed. “Don’t you have anything better to do, Potter?”

“Nope. Not really.”

“Find something.”

Potter chewed on another biscuit as he furrowed his eyebrows. “Can I go outside?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Then there’s nothing I can do.”

It was official. He was babysitting an infant. And more so, a very bothersome one, sealed to him with a bolt stamp on the head. They weren’t going to survive this while Potter’s attempts to get along with him kept popping out of nowhere. The boy had to understand that the best solution for both of them was to shut his mouth until September.

And he’d learn the hard way. “Very well, then. The bathtub has grown mould all around and needs cleaning. Get rid of it and don’t you dare come down again until it’s all removed and the porcelain is shining clean. No magic.”

He expected an objection he didn’t hear. Instead, Potter walked towards the kitchen to store his biscuits back to the cabinet, and when he appeared again he was holding the chlorine. Severus couldn’t help but wonder how the boy knew which product to use.


Dumbledore couldn’t be gay. Not that it changed anything – it didn’t, he hoped – but this news made him feel even more that he didn’t know Dumbledore at all. After a year of purposely avoiding him, Harry learnt to not expect his help and guidance as he once did. He had no reason to feel confused about it. Dumbledore was his professor, and had no business telling him about his sex life. Even if he did tell him, Harry wouldn’t know how to react or what to say, and there hadn’t been any conversation ever between them that could have brought up information like this.

The fact alone that Dumbledore could have had a personal life outside Hogwarts was unsettling enough, and Harry grimaced at the idea of the man still having affairs. No, it didn’t change anything – at least he thought so.

He showered and went to his room to change, his clothes damp from his previous task. After having spent so many years of his life cleaning Aunt Petunia’s home, cleaning a tub wasn’t such a big deal. Working always helped him distract his mind, and distraction was the only thing he needed at the moment.

When he was done, he read the letters Hermione and Ron had sent him, and made a mental note to write back to them tomorrow. When Harry descended to the living room, Snape was just coming out of the mysterious door.

He looked at Harry suspiciously. “What?”

Harry held up the bottle of chlorine. “I’ve finished.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve finished,” said Harry again. He went to the kitchen to leave the bottle and came back to the living room to lie face down on the sofa. Back at the Dursleys, he wasn’t less bored, but at least he was allowed to take a walk and stay in the yard if he wanted to. In here there was nothing to do. Snape hated talking at he hated Harry too, and Harry couldn’t confidently say that he hated the man any less. Living with him was pretty much like living with a bitter ghost.

And yet Harry didn’t like staying in his room alone. When he was alone, thinking was becoming too intense, too much, and images of Sirius sliding into the veil would invade his mind again to haunt him. This grief was something new to him to fight – he never before had to face a guilt as strong as this one. If Harry wasn’t that stupid, Sirius would be alive, and Harry would live with him instead of Snape. Every minute in this house was reminding him what he had done.

“Then move off to the rest of the rooms. The floor needs scrubbing too.” Snape locked the door as always, and Harry caught sight of the key: it was a small silver one.

He took off his glasses and let them slip on the floor. “Later.”

“Now, Potter. We have training later.”

“I’m not a house elf.”

Snape stood near him, and Harry heard an irritated exhale. “I will not have you idling on my couch. Get up.”

Harry buried his face into his arms. No matter how many hours he’d sleep, he never felt like getting enough rest these days. Once or twice he had woken up panting, and he was scared to bits at the realisation that he was screaming in his sleep. Snape hadn’t heard him, luckily.

“Ten minutes.”

“Potter.” The warning was clear in his voice. Away from Uncle Vernon’s hand though, Harry didn’t really care if he’d piss off Snape. He had put up with worse, and ignoring Snape’s orders was not likely going to bring him into bigger trouble than ignoring Vernon’s.

“Ten minutes.” He felt something hitting his head. “OUCH!”

Snape was holding a rolled-up Prophet. “Up, Potter.”

Harry did, but chose to spend his time in his bedroom instead of scrubbing Snape’s filthy floor. No matter how accustomed he was with those chores, it was one thing to let himself be humiliated in front of his Aunt, and completely another to do it in front of a professor. After the summer, he’d have to face Snape in class again, and until then he had to maintain as much dignity as he could.

He stayed in his room, read again Ron and Hermione’s letters, slept, woke up, slept again, read the letters once more. When the time came for his Occlumency training, he felt like a ton of thoughts were already battling inside his head, and he was unable to push them away. Of course, Snape could tell.

“You’re not even trying, Potter.”

“I don’t know how to do it, damn you!”

“Manners.”

“Fuck manners!” He was exhausted; Snape’s magic was too strong. He could invade his mind by barely pushing in, and day after day Harry felt his resistances shatter instead of growing stronger. With every attempt to fight it, more memories would pop up in the surface, stranger and more private than the previous ones. This was becoming a torture, his mind slowly breaking under violent pressure. He couldn’t do it.

“How do you do it? Explain to me the steps you follow.”

“Should the Dark Lord decide to invade your mind and soul, Potter, you’d have no time to follow steps. You need to learn to do it instantly.”

“It’s not working.” Harry sat at the armrest of a chair, rubbing his forehead. “There must be another way.”

“Pity we can’t develop a new kind of magic just for you, isn’t it?”

Harry let his bum slip on the armchair and he rested back. His head swirled and he felt his stomach throbbing dangerously. “Could I go mad from this?”

“Not any more than you already are, I believe.” Snape walked over to him. “Get up from there. This is my seat.”

Harry chuckled into his hand and stood up only to fall onto the sofa again. Snape took his seat and looked as pathetic as Harry was, his fingers rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“You’re not making any progress. Your mind is failing again and again to keep up the lightest fight. I don’t even have to cast Legilimens to see your thoughts anymore, when we practice.”

Harry didn’t really like that. He tried to recall if he had thought of anything embarrassing during their lessons.

“I’m not going to trust my dreams and visions again, you know. Even if I see something… crucial, I won’t fall into Voldemort’s trap this time. Maybe these lessons aren’t necessary.”

Snape flinched and gave him a warning look. “Don’t say his name. Nevertheless, he used your mind to merely project a couple of fake images, which he has done before to various victims. What makes you think it’ll be that easy next time? It's possible that he’ll desire to completely take control of you.”

Snape seemed tired, and something similar to guilt caught a beat of his heart. The man was trying to help him, even though he despised him. He was wasting all of his free time with Harry, and Harry was proving him an idiot to be doing so. Disappointing Snape never seemed like one of the things that would make him feel ashamed. Somehow though, it did, and Harry still hadn’t found the right moment to open the subject of his promise to Dumbledore to always protect him.

Harry stopped biting his lower lip, unable to recall when he started doing so. He looked up at Snape who was glaring back, his eyes in a state between narrowing and half closing due to sleepiness. Maybe Legilimency was tiring his own mind too. 

“Can we try again?”

Whatever thoughts were passing through his mind, Snape blinked them away. He sat further back to the chair regaining his vigor. “We will, tomorrow.”

“Now. Please.”

Snape studied his face, as though considering something Harry couldn’t quite identify. Then, he sighed deeply. “Stand up.”

He closed his eyes, thinking of everything, all at once: his parents, Sirius, Ron, Hermione, Voldemort, Nagini, the screams he could hear when a Dementor was near him. He thought of his fear, his anger, how he could have saved Sirius if he was stronger. He thought of his Patronum. Of how Uncle Vernon would shout at him when he'd even breathe in his presence, and how many secrets Dumbledore kept and maybe was still keeping from him. He let his mind fill with every thought that concerned him, no matter how intense or uneasy it was. Then, he opened his eyes again, blinking them all into erasure.

“I’m ready.”

Snape raised his wand. “Legilimens!”

Nothing. Snape’s attack pushed into his mind, but it was like there was nothing there for him to see. After a moment of resisting, Harry let him in, inviting him in a dark nothingness of nothing particular to see or recognise. After a moment it wasn’t so hard for him to focus on it; he almost forgot where he was or who was attempting to read his thoughts. A sudden relaxation overwhelmed him, and he controlled the invasion to direct it to certain thoughts, mostly about his everyday habits, like eating or walking around in the house.

The spell was drawn back and the room composed again around him. He was still on his feet though, instead of the floor. “Woha.”

The expression Snape wore was all new to Harry. If he didn’t know better, he’d assume that he had just seen a tiny quirk of pride at the corner of his lips.

“You… need work, Potter.”

Harry tried to convince himself he had not just heard a compliment.

Chapter Text

Snape was drinking. Regularly. He’d drink late at nights, when he’d probably assume that Harry wasn’t likely to show up and attempt a conversation with him. Reading a book, or scribbling down potion recipes and other stuff he’d hide away right after, he often had a glass of alcohol with him. It was relaxing him, Harry had decided, and he usually respected the man’s need to forget that they were now living together.

The single time Harry had gone downstairs late at night, to get a glass of water and eat some biscuits, he had come face to face with Snape. Snape had glared warningly at Harry and told him to get lost. Harry was more than happy to do so, and after wishing him a dull good night he got out of sight.

Once or twice he had attempted to spy on Snape; he never caught him do anything exciting though, and Harry had gone to bed skeptical about his professor’s life. What did the man do all his days apart from reading and writing? What did he do when he fancied to just have some fun? On the other hand, Harry doubted Snape was having fun, ever.

And when these thoughts occurred, it wasn’t strange for his mind to wander back to the memories he had seen in the pensieve. The crying, pale face, in Dumbledore’s office, stained with an ongoing pain which was unlike anything Harry had ever known. The affliction which was making his black eyes shine, the trembling hands, the pleas for forgiveness, were all crowding into his mind and he’d be left wondering for the billionth time about Snape and his knowing his mum. 

Snape was one of the many people that had known Harry’s parents. And since Harry had never had the chance to meet them, hearing about them always made his heart kick faster into his chest. He still didn’t know if it would do him any good to ask Snape about them though.

Learning more about how they were like was precious, and yet what he had seen about his father was not what he had imagined him to be at all – and now that Sirius was gone and couldn’t defend his best friend’s memory anymore, Harry was afraid of what else he might find out.

What he had seen in those memories, was an arrogant teenager, who’d bully and humiliate a classmate just to get the girls’ attention. As for his mother, Harry really had the impression that if he mentioned her to Snape he would be tortured for it until he’d black out.

So, he really tried not to annoy him. Harry would stay in his room after dinner, and let Snape have his way with sinking into his heavy books and loneliness. Harry would roll around on his bed for hours, trying to sleep, then looking out of the window, checking for street cats fighting with each other as he killed flies and mosquitos with his wand.

Tonight, though, it seemed that his insomnia had finally won over, and while walking around the old bed to brush off the tension, he grew incredibly bored.

Sensing already that he was making a mistake, but too proud to go back to his room, he descended and poured himself a glass of cold water from the fridge. Snape was sitting on his armchair in the living room, reading a heavy green book. Harry chose a random book from a shelf too and sat on the sofa.

The front cover said, The Encyclopedia of Bat Eyes. Harry sighed disappointedly. Well, it wasn’t the best of choices, but then again Snape wasn’t likely to have any comic books nearby.

“What do you think you’re doing now?” Snape had drawn his eyes from his book and was now prying on Harry.

Harry shrugged. “I couldn’t sleep. I… it just becomes impossible sometimes. I’ve been trying for the last three hours and I’m going a little crazy when I try so hard to sleep and can’t. It never happened so keenly before. So, I thought of sitting here for a while, read a book or something. I won’t bother you, I promise.”

Snape seemed to consider it silently. “Very well.”

They both returned to their books, but Harry didn’t find anything interesting to read in his own. It was a potions record, as it turned out, and a very boring one too. He tried to make himself grow sleepy over it but failed miserably. He counted the letters of the words and the paragraphs of each page. Then he browsed it from the beginning to the end, hoping to find more notes for Dumbledore. He didn’t. His fingers brushed his scar as he rubbed his forehead, and he wondered if Snape’s Dark Mark was making him feel as miserable as Harry’s scar did most of the times. 

Harry looked up at him, his face barely illuminated by the dim light of some candles and an old lamp behind him. His lips were pressed into a thin line, and his eyes were focused on his text. Whatever he was reading was surely far more interesting than bat eyes.

“I don’t understand Dumbledore,” Harry admitted bitterly, his voice barely above a whisper. It occurred to him that he should feel sorry for interrupting Snape’s concentration, but he didn’t. “I don’t even trust you – for all I know you’re still Death Eater and you deceive Dumbledore into trusting you – he didn’t even ask me if I want to be here.” He didn’t think, to be honest, that Dumbledore would abandon him alone with Snape if he suspected him to be a traitor, but then again Dumbledore could be wrong about that too.

Snape glared back at him, and his face was a blank mask, although his hands twitched slightly around the hard cover of his book.

“Only a big headed fool would question Dumbledore’s intentions.” he sneered lowly. “Of course, what could we expect from a Potter? You take pleasure from defying your superiors, there is no doubt.”

Harry scrunched his face. “He’s been wrong before. What if you are the one who questions his intentions? Have you told Voldemort I’m here?” He narrowed his eyes.

Snape turned a page and his lip quirked slightly upwards. “Don’t tempt me, Potter.”

Harry snorted. He turned a page of his own book too, to give the impression that he had comprehended his reading as well as Snape did. He couldn’t talk with Snape about his parents, but there was certainly another matter that was demanding to be discussed.

“Why did Dumbledore lie to me? I mean, about the Prophecy, and everything. All these years. I deserved to know. I was relying on him to tell me everything he knew.” He didn’t expect an honest answer from Snape, but he trusted the man’s hatred to let out what tiny bits of information Harry could get.

Snape arched his eyebrows to his book as though he was appreciating a personal joke. “A very unwise decision of yours. Although we’ve all been there.”

“I think he trusts you. A lot. He’s never going to trust me that much, I guess. If I had known Voldemort’s intentions all along…” Sirius would be alive. I’d live with him instead of you. I’d have a family. “I’m not a child. I know you think I am. But I’m not. I can fight him.” Harry waited for a reaction to that, too curious to look away. What he got was only a peering gaze.

“It is foolish of you to expect a more respectful approach when you behave arrogantly and admire your fame. The Headmaster shares a surprising amount of information with you – an unnecessary risk, as I see it. If I was Head of the Order, you wouldn’t even know its existence. Feel flattered.” Snape took his empty glass from the table and filled it again with firewhiskey. He turned another page. Harry didn’t think that Snape was actually reading either.

“Fame?” said Harry indignantly. “Do you even read the papers? They call me the next Dark Lord, propagating that I’m preparing an army along with Dumbledore to rule over England. Last year half the school thought I was paranoid and your precious Slytherins bullied me on a constant basis – and come to think of it they must have been doing it under your commands. It isn't fame when people demand to know everything about you and spread around the world their stupid opinions.”

Fame was nothing. Harry had been fed up with it. He told himself that for the greater good he’d have to suffer publicity and people talking about him. But it was nothing compared to people wanting to kill him or people wanting to harm his beloved ones. When you have to face a murderer, you don’t care what people think. You care what people are going to endure if you don’t succeed.

“Fame is a vapour,” Snape drawled. “It is not to be confused with success or honour – you see, the advantage of being known by people of whom you know nothing about, and for whom you care as little, is sadly useless to you.”

Every word only fuelled the fire that burned inside of him. Harry felt a chill of a boiling anger running down his spine at the thought of hearing that from someone who didn’t even know what success or honour were. Dumbledore is wrong about you, he was about to retort stubbornly, but his throat clenched around it as he realised how childish it would sound.

Dumbledore had been wrong in the past. Multiple times. About many people. “There’s no need for you to be worrying about fame, anyway.” Harry tried to bite back his malice but it slipped out along with his words. “I’ll have to face Voldemort, at some point. And I will. I won’t surrender. Or run away. I’m ready for it, either you think I'm stupid or not.” You tell him that, he added inwardly.

“I do hope you’ll be able to tell the difference between a foolish martyr and a hero by then, at least. And don’t say his name.” Snape’s frown wasn’t indicating anger; perhaps a mere irritation.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Harry responded defensively. “I won’t consider myself a hero even when I’ll have already killed him.” Besides, it was Snape himself who had dragged Harry into this fate even before he was born. It was Harry’s duty to do what was right – but if Snape hadn’t relayed to Voldemort what he had heard about the Prophecy, everything would have been different. Harry tried hard not to think about that right now.

“Being blindly assured of the future success of an extremely difficult case indicates nothing but naivety and immaturity. The Dark Lord has skills you have not, and thus you will need strenuous training to reach an at least satisfying level of wizarding power.” The words were slowly spitted out, with a drawl that indicated that Snape wasn’t exactly happy to conduce to that task. “The Headmaster overestimates your abilities. He tends to forget that human weaknesses are usually stronger than spells and magical defences. His faith to the undiluted good is far beyond me, and I insist on believing that he shouldn’t have used it on a teenage boy. Your sentiments surpassed your common sense this year – but it was to be expected.”

Harry felt his heart beat sharply under his skin. He certainly wasn’t hurt by being called a teenager. Especially from Snape, who had called him much worse things. His eyes darted through the many answers that paraded in front of his eyes. All of them would lead back to Sirius, and Harry had already decided that if he were to live with Snape he’d have to avoid this. He didn’t think he’d be able to restrain himself from killing Snape if he said anything – anything – against Sirius. Reminding himself of how sadistic Snape was wasn’t going to do any good.

“I don’t think I’m Dumbledore’s final plan, anyway. Maybe you are. You know much more than I do, and you’re closer to him than I am. Have you thought about it? Maybe I’m a cover, or something.” His babbling had come out much more confused than it seemed when in his mind, and he suddenly felt guilty of all the charges Snape was accusing him with. It was too late to take back his words so he sat still, expecting to be called immature again.

“The more one knows about Albus Dumbledore, the more in danger one is. Let alone in despair. The responsibility is too heavy for your weak, young shoulders. Don’t ask for more than he already gives you. You might regret it.”

Something was telling Harry that a slight irritation was beginning to build up under Snape’s phenomenal calmness, and he dropped the matter for something lighter. He grinned.

“So, if you really know that much. What is Dumbledore doing over the summer?” But he regretted asking that almost immediately. Mental images of the old wizard wearing a swimsuit paraded in a row inside his mind, and he blinked them away in dread.  

Snape closed his book defeated. He tossed it on the table and rested his head back on the cushion, sliding a bit lower on his seat. He stretched his legs before relaxing. Harry would think that Snape was just tired, if his face hadn’t hardened a little.

Snape raised a hand to cover his closed eyes. “He’s on an adventure, as he idiotically choses to call it. What he really does, if you ask me, is risking too much based on theories rather than evidential facts.” He let his hand fall down on the armrest. Leaning forward, he took another sip of his forgotten drink and savoured it before swallowing. “Wasting energy and being exposed like that during the Ministry’s worst period of provocation is at least foolish of him, and yet he tries with all his might to be removed from Hogwarts once and for good. Just wait and see.”

Harry realised his own jaw has hanging open, and wondered if Snape had let too much slip out accidentally. Judging by the way Snape was eyeing his glass reprovingly, he supposed he had.

“If Dumbledore is searching for something that might help us defeat Voldemort, then I want to join him,” Harry said.

Snape rolled his eyes. “Of course you do. By all means, Potter, do go and do it. How gallant you two must be, solving riddles together in the wild. And for the last time, don’t say the Dark Lord’s name.” Snape snorted. “Superhuman Dumbledore. Superhuman Potter.”

Harry bit back a chuckle. “Um. Snape. I think you’re a bit drunk.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Snape snapped. 

“What do you mean by riddles?”

“Nothing of your concern. The Headmaster is simply searching for something that could… weaken the Dark Lord, should he be preparing to begin a war.” Harry could tell by the tone of his voice that Snape didn’t approve much of Dumbledore’s actions.

“You mean, like a weapon. Like the Prophecy.” Dumbledore was still hiding things from him. 

Snape was sullen. “Fortunately, this has nothing to do with you. I’m sure he’ll tell you everything once he regards it necessary. Besides, your mind has been recently attacked to a point where you had completely lost the ability to tell the difference between visions and reality. What makes you think it wouldn’t be a fatal mistake for us to entrust you with crucial information?”

Harry couldn’t help but feel underprivileged, and his temper overwhelmed him. “You still kneel on Voldemort’s feet and yet you know more than I do.”

“When you reach the point of closing down your mind and keeping it sane at the same time, and when you manage to do it even under the Cruciatus curse with equal successfulness and strength, we might have this conversation again. And don’t say his name.”

Harry was tired of hearing that. No matter how many people he was shocking with it, he wasn’t going to be a part of their hypocrisy. “What’s scaring you about his name? I see no reason hiding behind words. I’m not afraid of him.”

“There are worse things than fear, Potter, which I doubt you could ever stand witnessing.” At that Snape reached for the bottle and refilled his glass again, glancing at Harry with a silent motion of cheers before emptying it. “Every name bears a past, and I would prefer to spare myself the memories the particular name brings along, especially when used irresponsibly by someone who does not know what he’s talking about.”

The last part was spat with a little more venom, Harry noticed. I’m sorry, he thought of saying, but it was a surrender he didn’t feel like offering. Maybe he indeed didn’t know what he was talking about. Perhaps Snape had seen some really awful things in his life, and he had connected Voldemort’s name with experiences he’d rather forget. It occurred to him that as a Death Eater, he might have done more than just witness.

“Fearing his name is like giving him power,” Harry pointed out.

“You have to grow up, Potter. This is bigger than you.” Snape sounded grim. Harry didn’t feel like a child – he didn’t know what growing up meant to Snape, but Harry had already lost too much to be considered a child. He had to prove this somehow – but words didn’t seem to work in such matters. And then again, he shouldn’t care about Snape’s opinion.

He stretched out his own legs and felt goose bumps running down his toes. He put his feet up on the sofa and sat cross – legged, ready to respond to Snape, when he looked up to find Snape staring back dangerously. “Feeling cozy, Potter?” he sneered.

“Yes, quite. Thanks,” answered Harry.

“You insolent brat, get your feet off my sofa this instant!”

Oh. Harry curled his toes as though to make a point of his shocks. “What? I’m not wearing shoes.”

Snape glared hard before closing his eyes again.

“And anyway,” Harry remembered to say, “the Ministry has no real power against Dumbledore at the moment. The people who work there are all retarded, and are seeking the same thing: a higher position. Take Umbridge, for example.”

Snape scoffed. “Umbridge was nothing but an irritating cow. A missive usher from the Ministry to shake down the school’s rules from the inside and display it back to Fudge as she had imagined he’d see fit. Her prospects were moronic, but she succeeded in every aspect of her plans. Calling your enemies retarded is what will offer them more power against you.”

Well, if he was to start fearing all his enemies, he’d better off be dead. Voldemort was more than enough to haunt his nightmares.

People like Umbridge weren’t fearful; they were only managing to make him mad.

“You called her a cow,” he realized with a wide grin on his face. Snape didn’t seem to notice it.

“The woman was not only incapable of teaching, but of communicating in general. She was shrieking and squawking in the corridors like a hen during all times of the day – I had a constant headache, and for once that wasn’t merely your fault. The woman was demanding the most unbelievable things from the staff. She was incredibly lucky I didn’t hex her.” Snape emptied his glass in a gulp and blinked into vigilance. 

Harry bent his knees and hugged his legs, like he used to do when he talked with Ron and Hermione. Snape kept disapproving, but didn’t object.

“Well, maybe she was hoping for you to do something like that – if only to give her a reason to sack you.”

“Perhaps.”

Harry had left his wand upstairs and his hands were feeling empty, as though they didn’t know what to do with themselves. Sighing, he took the abandoned book from the table. A Midsummer Night's Dream, was the title. He opened it and read a few lines.

“What’s that? A poetry collection?”

“Tch.” Snape’s eyes rolled.

Harry chuckled. “You can’t scowl when you’re sleepy, Professor. Sorry.” He found a random excerpt and read it aloud: “Thus I die. Thus, thus, thus. Now I am dead, Now I am fled, My soul is in the sky. Tongue, lose thy light. Moon take thy flight. Now die, die, die, die. Gods, Snape. You’re a creep.”

“Manners, Potter.”

“What’s this story about?”

“Mm?”

“The book. What’s it about?”

“Illusions.”

Harry looked up from his text, only to see that Snape had slid even lower to the chair.

Harry coughed. “Snape. I think you’re sleeping.”

“Am not.”

Harry didn’t know what to do with a sleepy Snape. He’d seen him angry, deranged, mocking, shouting. He’d seen him throwing him out of his class, insulting him, grabbing his arms and pushing him away with wrath. He had also seen him holding on his temper, eyes dangerously shining before a hurtful and offensive comment was spitted out, or before he’d simply walk away in indifference. He had never seen him sleepy, though.

It seemed like crossing a very thin line – like knowing things he wasn’t supposed to know. He couldn’t bring himself to explain how Snape being human was one of them. Still, the uneasiness was making him stare awkwardly at his professor, not knowing what to make of the image before him.

It hadn’t been so difficult to come to terms with Lupin outside school, on the other hand. Even though he was a werewolf and could have proven himself much more dangerous than Snape, Harry would spend massive amounts of time with him in Grimmauld Place without being perplexed. No, seeing Lupin sleep was a picture his mind could comprehend. Sleepy Snape wasn’t.

It’s his authority, Harry decided. His attitude was making it impossible for other people to think of him as a normal person. And the sneer. Definitely the sneer. 

“What are you gawking at?” murmured Snape.

Harry blinked. “Um. Nothing. You were… I think I should go to bed now. Goodnight. Sir.”

When he didn’t get a response, he ran.   

 

Chapter Text

Harry’s eyes were covered by the big Sorting Hat… Not Slytherin, please, he whispered… “Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?” asked Professor McGonagall… “Yes,” Harry replied… Harry’s hair had overgrown during a single night again, and Uncle Vernon slapped him, deranged… Harry crouched into his cupboard as he saw him unbuckling his belt…

“Fuck,” spat Harry furiously. “Just give me a moment. I know I can do it.” He rubbed his temples hard.

“That was your uncle.” Snape frowned and looked at him with concern.

“Yes. I did it the first time, I don’t know why it’s so difficult again now. I’ll… concentrate more. Do it, I’m ready.”

“He’s abusing you.”

What was wrong with Snape now? As though he weren’t coming from a difficult family as well. “Well, yeah, that memory was quite old. He'd caught me stealing food from the fridge and he was furious. It’s not a big deal.”

“Potter, explain to me what I saw this instant! Why has he taking off his belt?”

Harry burst into laughter, his cheeks turning red. “You thought – gods, no! He belted me. That was all. Nothing gross.” He rolled his eyes, still chuckling.

“How often did that happen?”

Harry felt an itch of annoyance at Snape’s tactlessness but he decided to keep his nerve down. “Once or twice,” he lied. “I told you, it’s no big deal.”

After a moment, Snape nodded. "Focus."

They both raised their wands and glared at each other. Snape lifted his chin. “Legilimens!”

He was getting better at it.

He did get better at it at some point, at least.

He even thought he had mastered it for a while, and that he could get rid of Snape – but then he was back to failing again and he couldn’t seem to find a way to repeat what he had done when he had pushed Snape out. Insomnia was making it worse; sleepiness was becoming impossible to approach, and when he’d eventually fall asleep his dreams would be so complicated and dark that he’d jump up from his bed and he’d prefer to stay awake until dawn.

He was proud he had blocked Snape out – but no matter how much he was now craving to see the acceptance in Snape’s eyes again, he couldn’t. An acceptance which meant Snape’s defeat. Which was indicating that Harry had proven himself better than what Snape thought of him.

Now, it was as though he had never done it at all. He mentally shielded his mind as Snape’s spell pushed in violently, and Harry imagined it crushing on his skull and bouncing back. With his mind’s eyes he watched the spell become a lightning ball and roll out of the room until it was completely gone. Harry thought of the carpet, the sofa, the Common Room's sofa, Snape’s house, Uncle Vernon's house, Snape himself, Dumbledore, Hogwarts, Voldemort. It was an insane train of thought, but it was what occupied his daytime thoughts anyway.

“Pathetic.”

Harry collapsed on his hands and knees, gasping. After a moment, he sat back on his knees and wiped the sweat off his face with the hem of his t-shirt.

“I begin to believe that my whole life wouldn’t be enough to teach you how to do it.”

“But I did it!” Harry shouted. “I know I did it. You remem-”

“It was coincidence. You’ve yet to willingly control it.”

“You remember that I did it! It wasn’t just coincidence. I just…” What were the right words? Trying to impress you? Wanted to show you that I’m not an idiot so you would eventually shut the fuck up? “I concentrated. I don’t know how I did it, though. I don’t remember.”

“Thank gods you have a reasoning excuse, then. You don’t know. You don’t remember. When the Dark Lord attempts to peer into that fragile mind of yours I suggest you beg him to give you a little more time to prepare yourself.” He raised his wand again just about time for Harry to cover his head with a hand.

“No, wait! I need a break.”

“There is no time for dawdling, Potter. Legilimens!”

If the man was trying to shatter Harry’s mind to pieces, he was certainly almost there. The headache that was already painfully pulsating into Harry’s skull spread over his eye muscles and jaw joints; with every attack it was less and less possible for him to fight back. Too tired to even try, he let an imaginary silver stag gambol around into his mind as though to hide his thoughts away. He imagined that he conjured his Patronus to protect him from Snape’s attack. He mentally saw it hopping out of his head and standing between him and Snape. He briefly thought of a scenario where an imaginary Patronus was enough to keep enemies out of one’s mind and how Harry would be praised for discovering such rare magic.

It didn’t work.

As he was still on the floor, what he had managed to do was to merely lean forward and gag. He shook his head to get off the whirling, but it only became worse. Slowly, he got up. “That’s enough. I can’t take any more - we have to stop. I’m feeling dizzy. Fuck.” He pressed his palm against the wall, bending down and closing his eyes. It occurred to him that Snape hadn't spoken.

Harry turned to look at him. Snape was peering at him dumbstruck, his wand still half – raised. Harry blinked into focus. “All right?”

Snape dropped his jaw open, trying to make out something. “How…” Harry waited. Snape didn’t go on for a long moment. “You can conjure a Patronus.”

“Yes, of course. Remus taught me.” He expected a sneering comment about his Patronus being a stag, and prepared himself to defend his father from yet another unfair verbal attack.

Instead, “We will continue tomorrow. Go rest. If your headache insists you may find painkiller vials in the bathroom cabinet.”

Harry nodded. He felt a bit unsure of Snape’s behavior, but he didn’t want to provoke it. He left.


He belted me. Not a big deal. The little dark world Harry Potter was living in was beyond Severus’ logic. How could a sixteen year old boy be so used to this tolerance… and how couldn’t he? a part of himself interfered. Severus had been in his shoes. A pair of shoes, of which Severus had grown out of powerful instead of broken, if only for a single night in his life. If only to find the time to kneel before a Master who’d kill the woman he loved and promise him the world for his soul.

It made sense, because Muggles were insane, dangerous – they were animals that slapped and cursed and beat and belted. The Dark Lord had elegance; his belief was that wizards should not behave like Muggles. Severus couldn’t have helped himself. He had agreed. He had followed.

Potter was different in all aspects, and yet he passed for normal to those who didn’t look deep enough. Potter didn’t do well with power. Power seemed to consume him. Destroy him. Take him down and rip him apart. He was a strong wizard. More damaged that the eye could meet. And that was Dumbledore’s fault. And the Dark Lord’s. And Severus’.

Concentrate. The word had gotten numb at the tip of his tongue, throwing it at Potter with every chance. Concentrate. As though Potter didn’t want it. As though he didn’t try. His mind was fulfilled with rubbish, rubbish that all of them had succeeded in throwing in and implanting, watering it daily with guilt and an outraging sense of duty towards a war that had started before the little brat was even born. Potter was trying to block him, but it was impossible. His mind was a mess of misery and of other emotions Severus couldn’t exactly name. The grief was never expressed. The pain had never been let out. The boy was drowning into his own soul.

“We will continue tomorrow. Go rest. If your headache insists you will find painkiller vials at the bathroom cabinet.”

Potter ran. Severus could hear his shoes thumping loudly on the stairs, bolting upstairs and slamming the bathroom’s door close. The ritual was known; Potter would throw water to his face, cold and plenty of it, and then he’d shower for an hour. Washing off the tension. Probably washing Severus out of his mind. Perhaps the violation was too much for him in a daily basis.

Nevertheless, it had to be done.

Severus couldn’t remember when this task became obligation to him. He remembered quite clearly cursing the boy all the way to this place, and then all the way up to his old bedroom. Only it was inwardly. Potter knew none of it.

Dumbledore did. There was no need insulting the man inwardly. He had let his rage take control and shouted as Dumbledore deserved to be shouted at. And the old bastard had kindly smiled back. Of course. He knew Severus would take Potter in eventually. He knew that Severus had no control of the situation and that he’d sooner kill himself than ignore Dumbledore’s orders.

Severus turned the kitchen faucet on cruelly, and prayed for the hot water to come to him. Forcing the freezing water to go to Potter. He hoped Potter was still showering. Revenge. A childish one. He felt ridiculous and after a heartbeat he turned it off. Legilimency was an art, used to penetrate and control the mind. It was, in cases, stronger than the Imperius Curse, less detectable, and more delicate. Nevertheless, a dark art. Not created to be used in minds that had nothing in them but school memories and unfair deaths of loved ones. 

He didn’t actually pity Potter. And he certainly wasn’t worried about him. Perhaps it was just curiosity. He was Lily’s son, after all.

And then, there was Potter’s Patronus. Severus bit back a mirthless laugh, knowing that he would most likely let it snap free were he alone in the house. A stag. Of course, it was to be expected. It was his father’s Patronus too. Which caused his mother’s to be a doe. Which caused Severus’ to be a doe. Or maybe it was the other way around. It didn’t really matter. He imagined the look of Potter’s stupid face should he conjured his own Patronus in front of him.

Idiotic things, patronuses. Absolutely idiotic. On the other hand, Potter had already seen as much as one could when it came to Severus’ life. His Patronus wasn’t likely to reveal more. And Potter had yet to begin asking indiscreet questions. Severus assumed that Potter was just waiting for the proper moment to get his questions answered.

They weren't going to. 

Steps again. Potter was now heading to his bedroom, where he would “take a nap” until dinnertime. Which meant that he would talk to his bird and do nothing at all. Routines. One could easily get used to them. Severus had. He had a perfectly calming routine in his life and his home. A routine where sleeping at nights was an exquisite private pleasure, and not an ongoing dread that he might wake up to screams and cries.

A routine where he was merely concerned about his own sleep deprivation, and thoughts about Potter staying awake and torturing himself with memories of the past would never cross his mind. A routine where, most importantly of all, he would have no one to burden him with nonsensical babbling over the day, and Severus could happily sink into his own meditations and plans. Alone. Happy to be alone.

Sighing, he climbed up the stairs and knocked on Potter’s door. Twice.

“Just a sec!”

He waited. Potter opened the door, wearing his worn out tracksuit bottoms and holding a shirt. Severus had suddenly the suspiciousness that either Potter had been terrifyingly obese at some point of his life, or all his clothes belonged to someone else.

“The Headmaster requested to see me so I’ll be away for the afternoon. Do not expect me back until midnight, which is a far too late for you to be awake.” He made a pause to let the point sink in. “Now, I assume you are not careless enough to go through my belongings again. If you touch anything, I’ll know it. If you break or destroy any of my belongings, you will pay for it. You are not to leave the house unless it’s burning itself down.”

Potter nodded, making a face. “Why can’t I come too?” He grabbed the towel from his bed and dried his hair, then passing it through his upper torso. At sixteen, James Potter was already a man. Harry Potter seemed most likely underdeveloped; his chest hair was probably the only thing on him indicating that he was experiencing puberty.

“You have no business coming, Potter. Do as I said. And please, do try and not burn the house down on purpose.”

Severus turned around just in time to hear the furious bang of the door slamming closed. Now, off to Dumbledore. Uninvited.

The wonders of life; to be between Scylla and Charybdis.


The old fool had done it. He had found the damn thing he was looking for. It was hovering over the table as Dumbledore was inspecting it. He looked up aghast, like being caught in the act of committing a crime, when Severus stormed into his mausoleum of an office and creased a brow. Dumbledore didn’t twinkle. Didn’t smile. Something was wrong.

“Am I interrupting anything strangely private?” Severus snarled. Even if he did, he couldn’t care less. He bit back the urge to hex Dumbledore’s head off, then take a deep breath and repeat to the foolish boy who was now probably scanning every corner of his house for hidden treasures. For the life of his, Severus wouldn’t step out now even if Dumbledore was about to take a piss in the middle of the room.

“Severus. Where is Harry?”

“Safely locked into my property, in which he had no business being in the first place.” He glared. “You returned to the Hogwarts grounds and didn’t summon me. I thought it might have slipped your mind, so I decided to pay you a visit anyway.” Which pretty much meant, if you believe I’ll keep changing Potter’s diapers while you insist on keeping me in the dark and out of your plans you’re being sorely mistaken.

Dumbledore sighed, as though he had the right to feel pushed. “Do you recognise this?”

Severus seated himself on the chair across Dumbledore and watched as the ring slowly descended to the desk. Severus dragged it across the desk with his wand. He hadn’t seen it again, but the artefact was known to him. Thank gods Dumbledore had felt a twitch of morality over the past year and had forced himself to relay some random details to him about it. Marvolo Gaunt’s ring. Was made in the middle ages and belonged to one of the most powerful pureblood families.

“Where did you find it?” Severus croaked. This should belong to Slytherin now.

Dumbledore smiled. “Little Hangleton. Quite a journey, my boy! And it seems to be carrying a rather rare gift on it.”

He dared Severus with his eyes to take a look. Severus took it carefully at hand, and brushed a finger over it. He didn’t have the knowledge to tell if it was a Horcrux, and Dumbledore wouldn’t tell him anyway. The only reason Severus had figured out that Dumbledore was possibly searching for a Horcrux was that he never asked. “If it’s cursed it must be destroyed,” he said carefully.

“No, no, it can’t be destroyed. That would be tremendous. Come on Severus, you’re smart. Look again. It’s not cursed.”

The bastard was somehow enjoying this. He had discovered something quite fascinating, as it seemed, but Severus was impatient to get on to the point. He looked again. He saw it. He let it fall on the table and his mouth dropped open. His hand remained on air, as though to grasp the realisation and beat it into explaining itself. It occurred to him that Dumbledore was still smiling, his game heading as planned. “It isn’t supposed to exist,” Severus muttered to himself. “It’s a mythical object. It never – existed.”

“But it does,” Dumbledore said, his eyes glittering. Now, Severus, imagine the possibilities.” He took it from the table and stroked it lovingly with a finger. Severus had the feeling that the Resurrection Stone was almost purring at them.

“The possibilities? Just give me a moment to fully imagine them, Headmaster. Do you wish me to begin from paranoia and depression or from the erratic suicide attempts? You should have known better than want – Merlin knows what, let alone saying this to me, of all people! What did you think you’d hear? Congratulations, perhaps? Have you lost your mind? It is your old age that makes your mind playing oafish games or haven’t you thought that the Dark Lord must have somehow cursed the thing anyway to keep it for himself?”

It occurred to Severus that what had begun as forcing reason into Dumbledore was now a shouting outburst of vexation. He had gotten up from his chair at some point, although he couldn’t remember when.

Dumbledore kept holding the ring protectively. And if Severus wasn’t looking after his own best interests he would have him shove it up his arse and summon the dead in a new – age ritual.

“I checked for curses and it is clear-”

“Of course it is, because whatever curse the Dark Lord might have put in it will immediately show up with the first detecting spell you’ll use!” Why did people around him kept putting themselves in danger? Why weren’t they leaving him be calm for once? “Get rid of it. Destroy it and bury it somewhere. It’s not safe to have it in your possession. You know better than that.” 

Dumbledore nodded. “Perhaps… I’ll do an extended research first. ”

Good enough. For now. “If you kill yourself over a temptation made for the weak, I’ll have to permanently occupy myself with James Potter’s son's wellbeing alone. Which I doubt I deserve, despite my faults.”

At that, Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed in curiosity. He buried the ring in a drawer and locked it. “How are you getting along with Harry? Is everything all right?”

“Yes, our days together are fascinating. We actually can’t wait to get more,” he snarled.

From then on, the conversation wasn't led anywhere importantly. Severus explained Potter’s weaknesses in Occlumency and emphasised that he could not keep this up forever without breaking the boy’s mind. Dumbledore seemed just curious to hear more. The Patronus didn’t seem to excite the fool either – he probably already knew that Potter could conjure one, but had no answer to why a wizard who could produce so complicated magic could not manage to seal his mind.

Severus insisted that perhaps they should postpone the lessons until September, and focused hard on making Dumbledore understand the importance of the situation as it was. His attempts to change Dumbledore’s mind passed in vain, and he had the suspicion that he was as unwanted here as Potter was in his home. The feeling that Dumbledore was waiting for him to leave so he could inspect the ring more couldn't be brushed off. He promised Dumbledore to examine the ring further and see for himself if it was cursed. Dumbledore accepted to wait, but refused to give him the ring.

And while Dumbledore listened carefully to his horrid experience of roofing Harry bloody Potter, all the while Severus was becoming sure that Dumbledore wasn’t going to offer an alternative to the situation, nor help Severus out of it. He had to “get along” with Potter, as the Headmaster plainly chose to name it.

It simply wouldn’t happen.

Chapter Text

Harry was expecting to find the most bizarre things in Snape’s house. He was expecting bats and rats – haunted items, ghosts, rotten food, broken windows and stinking blankets. He was expecting all of those, and he was wrong.

So, when he fumbled through Snape’s closet, he expected to find Death Eater cloaks, hidden spare wands or bottles of strong poisons, or even knives and daggers. What he didn’t expect though, was a stack of porn magazines.

And a big stack it was. He found them in a carton box – and he took them out dumbstruck. Shocking wasn’t exactly the right word.

It was unbelievable. None of them seemed to belong to him; the publication dates indicated they were at least two decades old. In the same box, numerous empty cigarette packs were rotting, and a single piece of wide broken glass was placed on top. Harry didn't know what to make of it; he assumed it all belonged to his father, risking a wild guess. 

He spread the magazines in front of him on the floor, carefully avoiding to directly touch them. With his wand, he opened the first one, and came face to face with a picture of a naked blond woman with long hair and large breasts. She was riding a broom, the wind pushing her hair back and revealing her firm body.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Harry muttered to himself. If only he could tell Ron about this. He was never going to believe Snape had porn in his house. Harry had trouble coping with it at the moment too.

The girl waved a hand at him before fondling her breasts with both hands. Harry closed the magazine somewhat embarrassed. He checked the clock. Snape was going to be back any time soon. He had to hurry up.

He quickly stored the magazines back in place and was ready to leave, his hand clutching around the doorknob in the way out of Snape’s bedroom. Then, changing his mind, he ran back and took one of the issues with him. He rolled it up and shoved it under his shirt before disappearing to his room. They were too many magazines there for Snape to notice anyway. At least he hoped so.

Snape was back earlier than expected, and Harry silently thanked his luck for not proving a fool out of him. They ate soup in silence, and Harry tried to ignore the filthy glares Snape was granting him with. He forced himself to pretend he hadn’t noticed.

When Snape poured himself a glass of water and slammed the glass loudly on the table, Harry let go from biting his lip. “You’re angry.”

“Mind your business, Potter.”

“I’ve no business to mind here, have I? I thought you’d tell me how it went. With Dumbledore.”

Snape scowled. “We were discussing work. Keep your nose out of it.”

“You weren’t discussing work. You were discussing me,” he said confidently. “I bet you were telling him how I drive you mad with my poor progress and that you don’t want me here. And that I’m stupid. We both know that you hate my staying with you, so there’s no need to pretend.” He quickly added in a more restrained tone, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to, you know.”

“You don’t have to. You can always run away when I won’t be looking. I’ll tell it was an accident.” The exhortation was delivered with Snape’s familiar sneering, but it somehow managed to creep deeper than that.

“It’s better here,” Harry conceded. It occurred to him that this shouldn’t have come out.

Why had it?

He filled his mouth with a spoonful, and only when he gulped down did he realise that he was furrowing his brow. “I mean, you know. At least here I do learn something when I’m not locked in my room.”

“I’m not locking you,” Snape spat, although he glared at Harry with some concern.

Stupid. Stupid. “I know.”

“And you’re not learning.”

“Well, I suck at Potions and Occlumency, which are the only two subjects I’m being taught exclusively by you. That has to mean something.”

“It means,” Snape snarled, “that you have no desire to learn whatsoever. The capacity of shielding the mind presupposes to have one at the first place.”

“I succeeded in all of my other classes, so the problem here must be you. Terrorising the young students and threatening the older ones isn’t exactly a teaching method. I’ve heard they’ve been looking for a new mascot at Zonko's. Perhaps you should consider a change of profession.” He considered the idea of Snape dressed in red pants and matching suspenders trying to sell love potions and jelly beans.

“I might as well pursue the job. Poisoning children while they ignore my authority is going to be so much easier than trying to teach them. It’d spare me the despair of watching my hard work be wasted in the hands of little wrecks who grow up to abandon their education and serve the ministry and its minions.” 

He felt a spark of triumph pinching into his lungs. Dragging a troubled Snape back to his mocking attitude wasn’t an easy thing to do. And Snape didn’t seem to have noticed that he had fallen into the trap whatsoever. “Speaking of jobs, I wonder. Where should I emphasise in your recommendation letter once you graduate, if ever? Should I mention that Potter’s astonishing illustriousness is his only known quality, along with his thirst for fame? Of course, it may lead you up into becoming a fashion model, if anything.” A pause. “Ah. I forgot. You’re short.”

Damn Snape for being unable to joke without actually insulting someone. “Well, I’ll just have to go up a stool and wait for people to come and dress me up, so it won’t matter. Besides, women prefer short men.” He grinned.

“And how many women have preferred you so far, pray tell?” Snape arched a brow and Harry felt a heat rushing up to his face. His stare dropped to his bowl.

Snape’s victory was almost tangible, dancing proudly above their heads. And Snape was aware of it too. “I thought so.”

Harry bit his tongue and let a bilious comment travel back down his throat. He could ask Snape how many girls he had his age. He betted the answer was none. Then again, it was a risk he might be sorry to take, considering the possibilities of Snape dating him mum. But he couldn’t let his mind go through that again. It was pure torment.

What could his mum possibly see in Snape that'd make her find him any attractive at all? Harry watched him as he brought a napkin to his face and carefully wiped his thin lips. He wasn’t handsome.

His nose was large. His skin was pale. His hands – well. He didn’t have ugly hands, actually. Quite the opposite. His fingers were long, with short and clean nails, and when he didn’t wear his coat it was obvious that he had firm forearms too. Harry wondered if the Dark Mark was still there. It had to be, he thought.

He was taller than Harry would ever be. And he had that way of making people notice him without even acknowledging their presence before him. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was snobbish and evil as everyone thought, or if he was just not a happy person. And Harry knew that being unhappy could make someone seem malicious and aggressive to others, even if the only thing they want would be to be left alone. He knew that.

He’d learned it when Ron and Hermione were pushing matters too much. Or when Dumbledore did. Or Remus. Or everybody.

He remembered how Dumbledore had told him that his mother could always see the beauty in others. That she was kind, as Sirius and Remus would agree. What had she seen in Snape that Harry couldn’t? Harry had never come to terms with him. He never liked him or trusted him or even saw any reason to show respect to him. But then again, he had never really tried to. And their hatred had always been mutual. Not that Snape deserved any respect. He had led Harry’s parents to their death.

Puzzled, he shook the thoughts away. It was impossible. His mum couldn’t have wanted Snape, no matter how kind she might have been with him. No one could want Snape. Ever.

At least he thought so. Maybe… maybe he just needed to wash his hair more regularly. Maybe that was it. 

Despite himself, he suddenly hoped that Snape did have a girlfriend somewhere, and he was only hiding her from Harry. It would be horrible for someone to never feel beautiful or wanted. But his train of thought had gone a bit too far, he realised.

He looked up at Snape, who appeared to be lost into his own thoughts as well.

“What are you thinking about?” Harry asked. He regretted it as soon as he realised that this was the kind of question he’d ask Ron. Not a professor. And that he did most likely not want to know what Snape was thinking. At all.

Snape blinked. And blinked again. “The Potions schedule for the next year. It needs to be prepared.”

In June? “You weren’t thinking that.”

Snape’s chest heaved for a second, as though he coughed back an inner laughter. An ironic one. He let a few seconds pass before he responded. “Indeed.”

“And you’re not going to tell me what you were thinking about.”

“No.”

His eyes weren’t just dark. There was something inhuman in them, a depth in which one could easily drown. They glimmered with an obscure curiosity as they narrowed, and a shiver ran down Harry’s spine. 

“What are you thinking about, Mister Potter?”

At the word Mister Harry’s self – control shattered and scattered to small pieces before his feet. Harry had been glaring back at Snape. Directly. Legilimency. Fuck.

He managed a shameless grin, as his last way out. “Your schedule, of course. I was wondering whether it’s going to include any lesson I might get around to actually master.”

Snape didn’t laugh. He was still peering at Harry, a long finger slowly stroking his glass of water. “I think you are tired. Perhaps you should retire.”

Harry nodded. “Right.”  He swallowed around the strange lump in his throat with difficulty.

He stood up a bit quick, left quicker, and when he slumped on his bed, still clothed, shocks on, glasses thrown aside, he forced himself into a dreamless, sadly grueling sleep.


“Cut like this,” Snape said. He took the knife from Harry’s hand and chopped the vegetables with rocking motions. “You need to work with sharper movements, otherwise you’ll ruin them.”

Harry nodded, but when Snape swept over to the oven, he changed his motions and continued chopping like he did at first. “Back at Aunt Petunia’s I used to cook all the time,” he said. “I know how to do it.”

Snape selected a couple of dishes and placed the potatoes on the cutting board. “I’m going to be away on Saturday morning. Is it much of me to ask, that you will stay in your room this time?”

Harry stilled his hand. Surely Snape couldn’t have figured out that Harry had stolen from him. “What do you mean?”

Snape glared. “Biscuit crumbs. Everywhere.”

“Oh.” So he hadn’t. “Are you going to see Dumbledore again?”

“No.” He took the vegetables from Harry and gave him the potatoes. “Chop them. Not like this, Potter. You’re not listening.”

“It’s better this way. Cubes instead of slices, I mean. It’s less likely to burn them that way and at the same time they remain tasty.”

Snape gave him a peering look. “If you were as imaginative in Potions as you are with your stomach’s wishes you might have had a chance in that Auror career after all.”

Harry chuckled. “You can always let me enroll in next year’s Potions, you know.”

“I haven't lost my mind yet. Besides, things might not be as you know them next year.” Harry noticed Snape’s back straightening at that; he was being proud about something.

“Which means?” Harry furrowed his brow.

“You’ll see,” Snape smirked. He put the vegetables on the pan and closed the oven door.

“You still hope you’re going to get the Defence position, don’t you?” Harry smashed a potato accidentally and put it aside, grimacing.

“Let’s just say that it is more likely for me to be teaching Dark Arts instead of Potions, from now on.” Snape leaned back to the table and crossed his hands over his chest.

“Aha,” muttered Harry. There was no chance for Dumbledore to let Snape teach Dark Arts. Harry just knew it. “So, whom are you going to meet on Saturday?”

He finished chopping and opened the oven to place the potatoes in.  Snape was staring back at Harry with no proof of discomfort. And suddenly Harry realised that he was now living with a murderer. A Death Eater. Who was regularly participating in Death Eater meetings. With Voldemort.

Harry opened his mouth to say something, but couldn’t find the right words. A nonsensical anger sparkled before his eyes for a moment and then it was gone. He didn’t really think he wanted Snape dead. Or anyone else. Not because of Harry, at least.

“Are you going to be alright?” he asked.

Snape continued staring for a long moment. Then he pushed Harry aside and turned on the oven. Snape swept over to the sink to wash his hands. “I doubt it. Your cooking is dreadful. But I do hope that I’ll manage to survive it.”

He wasn’t going to talk about it. Harry decided not to push it. “And you’ll survive just as well teaching Potions again.”

“Potions,” spat Snape, “is a delicate art, which I have seen suffering under a kind of abuse only Hogwarts students can possibly inflict. It is painful for a Master of such an art to witness it being transformed into a ludicrous game for ignorant children. I’ve only endured it because I could do nothing to change it. I cannot force intelligence upon anyone, as it seems.”

“Wow,” breathed Harry. “You really hate your job.”

Harry washed his hands too and sat on a chair. “So, why do you stay? At Hogwarts, that is. You could start your own business, or something.”

Snape sat across Harry and placed his wand on the table. He was always carrying it with him around the house, which was a bit stressful for Harry. “Besides the protection and the earnings the school provides me, I do not wish to prove myself useless.”

Harry tried to see the meaning behind that. Snape was a spy – at least, according to Dumbledore, thought Harry with some distrust – but Voldemort was thinking that he was spying on Dumbledore instead of the other way around. Which meant that if he stopped being near Dumbledore, Voldemort would have no reason to keep him alive. But that wasn’t the whole truth.

“You’re also staying to protect me.” Harry wondered if he was actually expecting Snape to admit this or to refuse it. Not that it’d make any difference. He should be used to people lying to him by now. The fact that Snape and Dumbledore were hiding this from him did not annoy him as much as hurt him. He never thought of Dumbledore as disingenuous. But it seemed that he didn’t regard Harry mature enough to share with him all that concerned him. Snape’s wishes were probably more important than Harry’s rights.

“Yes.”

“Even though you hate me,” Harry pressed.

Snape didn’t consider it but for the space of a heartbeat. “It is my duty to protect you, as I would do for all my students.”

Bollocks. “But you don’t hate me. You hate my father. And you want me safe for my mother’s sake. So for you I don’t even exist as a real person. You’re just using me to project them before you and act accordingly.” There. He had said it. He took a deep breath, waiting for Snape’s rage to kick in. He made a mental note to be proud of himself later and fought the impulse to grin at Snape’s “you-were-supposed-to-be-dumb” questioning look. Harry had the urge to respond to it, and say, yes, I can think too, like other people and such, isn’t it exciting? but instead he reasoned himself and he mentally grimaced in disappointment for all these little victories he wouldn’t be able to recount to his friends.

“I assure you that you have won every last bit of my despising you on your own.”

“That’s because you’re only seeing what you want to see.” Harry eyed Snape’s wand, and he dragged it closer with a finger. He rolled it to his hand to take a better look. It was a nice wand, black and plain. Snape followed Harry’s motions with his eyes warningly.

“You are lowering the quality level of my class. This affects downright negatively the progress of the rest of the students, even though a few of them do make an effort to succeed.”

“That’s not it. Try something else,” Harry said.

“What do you think it is, Potter? That perhaps I keep holding on an unreasonable hatred directed especially to you? Who do you think you are? Your insolence is more than enough to make people be sick of you.”

Harry nodded, his eyes round. It was the expression he was giving Ron when he wanted cmmunicate that he didn’t take seriously a word Ron was saying. 

Snape pursed his lips, leaning closer. “You’re an arrogant child, seeking the attention and the admiration of others. You insist on wallowing about it, pretending to be the innocent little antihero, and yet deep down you enjoy every minute of it.” His voice resembled a snake’s hiss.

“Like my father.”

“Your father didn’t have the burdened background you have. People fall for your supposed mythical powers, which I doubt are anything but coincidental, and you welcome their false impressions by purposely getting into trouble at every single opportunity.”

“Like my father.”

“Yes,” Snape hissed again. “You’ve been ignoring the school’s rules since you first stepped foot inside, holding on to the belief that somehow they do not apply to you, or that you are too good to follow them.”

“Like my father.” Harry couldn’t hide his grin anymore. Snape pressed his lips together until they turned white. He pretty much looked like a chided child.

“For Merlin’s sake, wipe that hideous smile off your face. You haven’t proved anything.” Snape held up a hand. “I’m not to blame if your father’s unfortunate genetics were strong.”

Harry rested his forehead on his hand. “You’re impossible. I quit.”

Talking with Snape was giving him a headache. The man couldn’t actually have a conversation like other people, could he? It was rare to even catch him in a good mood. And by good mood, he meant not slamming the door on Harry’s face. Or threatening to hex him. Or both. He really hoped that Snape was only doing it to annoy him. A human being couldn’t possibly be like that all the time.

With the corner of his eye, Harry thought he saw Snape slightly quirking his lip. He could have imagined it. “Your father wouldn’t.”

Harry snorted at the table. Well, that was a start. He guessed so. Maybe someday he’d be able to talk to Snape without being driven mad. As his mind wandered through various similarities he had heard over the years that he shared with his Dad, a random question came up.

“Do you like quidditch?”

Snape took his wand and buried it back into his sleeve. Without his coat on it was a wonder how the wand stayed in place, so Harry guessed it was spelled to stick on his skin.

“As a student, I hated it. I now hope Slytherin is going to win the Quidditch Cup next year, as the House Cup is undoubtedly going to Gryffindor for your exciting existing techniques.”

Harry lifted his head up. “It’s only fair for Dumbledore to give us extra points! You take so many from us during the year for no reason at all that we’d never win without him.”

“Pity.”

“And our quidditch team is better than yours.”

“Your quidditch team is captained by a girl who looks like a man, your Head of House permits you daily training although it is against the school rules to waste so much time on a sport, and your team’s seeker has approximately ten degrees of myopia.”

“That’s only six!” protested Harry. “And I’m the best seeker my team has had in ages. At least I didn’t get in it because someone paid for it!”

“My team is skillful either way, and its players are capable of getting by even while they regard their more essential studies as their priority.”

“Your team sucks!” said Harry. “Your beaters must be the fattest boys in Hogwarts. It’s a miracle their brooms keep them up.”

“Potter! You will show respect to my –”

“You know it’s true!”

“– students, you little spoiled, audacious –”

“But it’s true! If you think I’m going to respect your little Death –”

“– kid, even if I have to force you –”

“– Eaters in training –”

“– to hold your tongue when you must!”

They were both standing up now, their faces inches apart from each other. A heavy scent of something like burning flesh reached Harry’s nostrils and he wrinkled his nose, his eyes still locked with Snape’s. Snape wrinkled his own nose too.

“The food,” Harry said.

They both ran to the oven and kneeled down. They opened the door, the thick black smoke attacking them at once. Harry’s eyes stung and he coughed hard. Snape brought the bottom edge of his shirt up to cover his own mouth and nose, and Harry noticed a line of dark hair starting from his navel and continuing down his trousers. He stared for a moment and then he covered his nose with a hand as well. The smoke seemed to suck up his head like a fog. 

“Fuck!” said Harry.

Snape spelled the pan cold and he dragged it out.

Well. It could have been worse. The vegetables had become cinder, but the potatoes were still somewhat visible. Harry turned to Snape.

“See? Cubes instead of slices. They survived.”

And Snape laughed. He really laughed. He threw his head back as he shoved the pan at Harry’s lap.

“Try it out, then.”

Harry did. And after a moment, he spitted his mouthful back to the pan. He looked at Snape miserably, but Snape laughed again. Harry looked at the melted black potatoes that had spread themselves all over the pan and silently came to the conclusion that the utensil was ruined.

Snape balanced himself by abstractedly placing a hand on Harry’s head and got up, giving him a pat on the hair before striding over to the living room.

“Come on. We’ll order fast food.”

Chapter Text

There was no enjoyment like reading. Books were the quietest and most constant of friends; they were the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. Books provided self-possession. Control. Knowledge. One could live several lives while reading. Good books and a wary conscience: this was what a good life was made of.

For books were the plane, and the train, and the road. They were the destination, and the journey. A journey which demanded silence and concentration. Submission; devotion to the pages and their meanings. Meanings one could only interpret with inner meditation and seclusion.

Meanings one could not interpret when shoeless feet were clattering down the staircase. Hopping. Hurrying. Meanings impossible to even get a glimpse of when another person was coming into view in the same room with the reader. Intending to stay. Without asking permission. Without feeling the need to. 

Severus sighed. “Why must you bother me, Potter?”

Potter picked a random book from the bookcase, sat on the floor before the dormant hearth and shrugged. “Why must you bother me? I didn’t even talk to you.”

Wretched little monster. He ended up in the same room with Severus far too often lately. And it wasn’t coincidence. Potter’s owl hadn’t brought any letters to him since his first week here, so it seemed that his friends had at last begun their vacation fun and forgotten him for the time being. On the other hand, Potter’s nightmares hadn’t ceased, but they didn’t occur every night anymore. Although when they did they were loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. Severus couldn’t define what exactly had changed, and he couldn’t bring himself to ask either, doubting that Potter had any idea about his own night horrors anyway.

During the day, it didn’t seem to ever affect him. Even when they were practicing Occlumency, there were no nightmares or tiresome nights for Severus to see. Whatever was happening inside that blasted head of Potter’s, it stayed in, and was well covered up too.

Still. The boy’s sadness was being easily disturbed by books and his foolish attempts at exploration around the house. His anger would explode during their lessons, and he’d get rid of it as soon as it would exhaust him. It was his inner loneliness though that he didn’t seem to be able to get away from. Nor hide. Of course, this wasn’t Severus’ problem to be burdened with.

But he was. Burdened with it.

“How touching.” He turned a page loud enough to pass over the point of his reading. Of his wishing silence. Of his nonverbal begging to be respected as he would be reading in silence.

“What’s Mirus Magus?”

Dreams never lasted long. Severus glared. “A book.”

Potter held up the book in question. “I know that! I mean, what does it mean? The title.”

“It means Wonderful Magic in Latin. And I suggest you leave that book aside instantly, as your comprehending level will probably miserably fail you in the understanding that this particular book demands.”

Severus watched until, after grimacing, Potter placed the book back to its place and searched through the titles to choose another one.  

“Don’t you have anything interesting in here to do? Besides, you know. Books.” His tone was betraying that books didn’t appeal at all interesting to him. It wasn’t surprising. Some people did have their brains hovering above their skulls, after all.

“The invitation to floor scrubbing is still open. Those damn biscuits of yours have filled my carpets with chocolate crumbs.”

His disgust was met with a daring sparkle in Potter’s eyes. “That’s not true, I’m always careful. Besides, you are the one who ate the last box.”

“Please, Potter, do find the courage to forgive me. When in my house, from now on, I will always ask for permission first.”

Potter snorted. “What’s behind that door?”

Severus turned a page.

“Do you hide any dead bodies in there?”

“I might begin to.”

“Right.”

Potter sat cross – legged again, a bit closer to him this time. Much closer. “Yes, do come closer, Potter. Don’t be shy, you can even sit on my lap if you want to,” he snarled. A wild blush attacked Potter’s cheeks and he quickly shifted a foot away. As much as he disliked intimacy, embarrassing Potter was a pleasurable way to payback for it.

“You’d wish,” Potter said, annoyed.

What! He would most certainly not. And not for the first time, Potter’s cheek was unbelievable. Outraging. And considering that Severus could not take points from him anymore only made it worse. The boy had no sense of modesty or manners. Talking back was not only attacking these days. Potter was enjoying it. Which was a deadly mistake.

For Severus didn’t. Enjoy it.

Not that Severus was fond of surrendering either. As long as Potter continued this farce, he was determine to provoke him all the same. Curious to find his limits. Wondering what kind of pieces would remain to be collected after Potter’s final snapping against him. He couldn’t bring himself to feel remorseful about it. It was only right for him to have the last word. Especially with James Potter’s son.

This was his home. His student. His gibing. And he had never expected Potter to be able to carry it that far. Every day, with every chance possible. Dumbledore should have foreseen that they’d insult each other until one of them broke. Potter would, but not yet. The boy’s mind was absolutely twisted. Especially for someone supposedly being innocent. Severus doubted there was a single boy his age in Slytherin at the moment that was still innocent. And even James Potter had a disturbing number of girlfriends before he married Lily. Not that there was any evidence of his loyalty to her after their wedding, but he preferred not to think about that now.

At least, Potter’s interaction with him had taught him some basic things about casual offending, which was enabling him to play the game right. Thank Merlin for a lesson being successfully taught, for Occlumency was a complete flunk.

“Perhaps.” Here they were. Something nice for Potter to chew over, get scared about, and shut up.

But Potter grinned to his book, his hand methodically keeping notes to a piece of paper. “Now or later, then? You look impatient.”

And he had been taught well. “I might vomit.”

He was supposed to make Potter feel uncomfortable. Not the other way around. It occurred to him that he had just lost.

“What’s Cornus Florida?” Potter asked, his pen stilled.

“A plant species that resembles you a lot, although it mostly grows to America. Commonly known as Nature’s Mistake.”

Potter wrote it down, and underlined it. “That wasn’t even clever,” he muttered without losing his concentration.

Concentration to what?

“Suddenly interested in Herbology, Potter, are we? What are you playing at? ” He let his book aside, kneeling down and yanking the book from Potter’s hands.

“Hey!” Potter made a motion of taking it back, but Severus pushed him away. “Well, well… Wonders will never cease after all. Preparation instructions for mind clearing potions. And you have the cheek to read this under my nose, even in front of my eyes. Is this how you plan on shielding your mind? With tricks?”

He snapped the book close, waiting for an answer. And not so surprisingly, Potter had one. And this time he wasn’t even embarrassed.

“Well I wasn’t going to hide it from you, obviously! Who do you think I was going to ask from to make me the potion? Or did you think I’d make it myself? I was just about to tell you.” He wasn’t lying. Which meant that he was an absolute imbecile.

“And you thought that I’d let you ensconce yourself into an easy solution which would be transient and would help you become addicted to a random potion. You thought that I’d simply give you another way out of your responsibilities, so you could completely avoid exercising and at last work over something until you make some progress at it.”

He was losing his time. He should have accepted years ago that Potter had no interest in obeying the simplest of rules and let him torture himself over his inabilities until he voluntarily gave up. Only those who dared to fail greatly could ever achieve greatly. This blasted boy had no desire to try whatsoever. A clever man could see his own actions as experiments; as attempts to find out something. A Potter could merely derive happiness by either being good at something or effectively pretending to. 

Potter’s eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about? I don’t want it for our lessons. I want it so I can sleep better at nights.”

Severus stared. Potter stared back. Severus’ chest clenched around something uncomfortable. He shifted, blinking twice at the book at his hand. “You’ve been having visions again.”

“Of course not. I’d tell you if I had. I just want to… avoid dreaming for a while.” His eyes averted, and Severus had to restrain himself from just digging into his mind and fish out whatever was hiding there.

“Potter.”

“It’s nothing, really. I just sleep better when I don’t dream. Sometimes I wake up with a headache and stuff, you know. And I just found that book, anyway. I wasn’t preparing anything. I guess I was just lucky.” He made an attempt at smiling, but quickly dropped it and went back to staring at the floor.

What was that he wanted so intensely to get away from? “What are your nightmares about?”

Potter looked up and Severus was surprised at the hardness shadowing his features. “That doesn’t concern you.”

“And you’re absolutely sure they’re not visions.”

Potter nodded. “Yes. So, are you going to you brew it? Or is it difficult?”

There was no difficult potion for him. This one though was unnecessary. “You may take a Dreamless Sleep potion from the bathroom cabinet, but that’s only for tonight. Take a second vial and I’ll know.”

Severus pulled himself up and threw the book to the sofa. Potter crinkled the paper on his hand, tossed it aside, and disappeared to the kitchen. If the Dark Lord had begun creeping into Potter’s mind again, it was possible that he already knew about their lessons. But why would he be keeping Severus alive, then?

His own death had never concerned him. Not directly. A person who had already met his deepest fears, had nothing to be afraid of. And Severus’ fears had clawed his skin eons ego. The memory of their savage torture had never really cooled down. Lily’s death never allowed him to regain his lost inner composure, and deep down, he wondered if he had ever experienced a carefree time anyway. Her death had been more purifying than painful. It changed him as a person and it opened his eyes to the truth. Not that it mattered. He’d voluntarily give away all the truth of the world to bring her back to life.

The Dark Lord couldn’t know. Dumbledore had foreseen all the possible slip ups. And took care of them. Hopefully. If Merlin didn’t hate him that much. Severus wasn’t afraid of death. He was ready to die for duty, for love, for freedom. He would willingly stand before Potter and the Dark Lord and take any curse, no matter the consequences, if that was what it’d take to save him. Not for the boy, of course. Never for him.

He felt offended by the possibility of having to die cowardly. Dishonestly. He was not ready to beg for his life. And Potter had to control his mind if they were to survive the war. He had to learn. He wasn’t.

And yet, the boy had proved himself smarter than Severus regarded him. It was that clever glimpse that would instantly sparkle into his eyes – something that neither Lily nor James had. Something exclusively his own.

The way he’d smile when insulted, making a complete fool out of Severus. The way he’d always find his way close to him in, with a fake curiosity-driven kindness that Severus had never come across before. The way he’d dirty his carpets and furniture with horrid children’s biscuits, bringing this home to life for the first time in twenty years. Making it breathe. Make it inhale youngness again.

As disgusting as that was.

Severus treaded to the blurry window and watched. He needed to get groceries, but it was a bad afternoon to be out with such a feeling in one's heart. The rain appeared cold, pitiless and increasing. The fog seemed to expand with the rain. The roadway was muddy; the pavement greasy; the street lamps burned dimly; and that dreary district of Spinner’ End looked its very gloomiest and worst. But it wasn’t.

Chapter Text

Something was wrong. At first, Harry thought he was tired; so he left it aside for another day. Then he tried again, and it kept happening. Or rather, it kept not happening.

So today it was his third attempt. And he didn’t react. At all. It was terrifying.  

He threw the magazine aside and rubbed his forehead, staring at the ceiling and struggling to figure out what was happening. It wasn’t but a few days ago that he could hardly wait to find some time to study closely these moving images. He had no second thoughts or guilt about his theft. And he did watch them, late at night, once Snape was asleep and couldn’t annoy him anymore. Which was normal. And he felt excited. Normal.

But not entirely excited. Not normal.

His first assumption was that the issue was somehow spelled to destroy the reader’s hormones. But when he masturbated again, the way he always did all these years, which was without porn, he responded just fine. So he hadn’t been cursed.

He shot the magazine a dirty look and was suddenly reminded of all the alarming biological facts and scientific shite he had ever heard about this in his life. He snorted. Scientific. Maybe he was scientifically cursed.

Or perhaps he just wasn’t used to porn, he thought with relief. Perhaps he needed to spend more time watching it to begin to like it. 

He kicked on his bedclothes annoyed.


When Harry woke up in the morning, he felt something ugly tightening his chest. With his eyes still closed, he mentally searched for the identity of the sentiment, going over the day before, and the possible obligations he might have had forgotten. Then, he opened his eyes and jumped out of the bed panicked.

The Death Eater meeting. An invisible spider crawled up his neck and squeezed, the uneasiness forming a stinging bile in the back of his throat. He willed it away, deciding that choking on it was not going to be any helpful. It felt suspiciously like the pulsating soreness one had under his tongue before breaking down, and it hadn’t occurred to him again since Sirius’ death. The memory that came along with the familiar stress was something he’d prefer to never recall again.  

He did certainly not worry about Snape; it was the strength of the house wards that unnerved him. If Snape was gone, Harry would be locked in here until someone discovered him. If ever. Waiting. Starving to death. Relieved by the logical explanation, he let himself panic again.

He dressed up quickly and opened the door to Snape’s bedroom. It was empty. Making a mental note to go through it again later, he checked the clock. And slammed his hand on the wall angrily. Almost noon. How many hours had he slept? His mind couldn’t have found a more inappropriate day to sleep off its troubles. 

“Snape!”

He ran down the stairs, but the kitchen and the living room were empty too. Could he have left the house that early? He always thought that this kind of meetings occured under the cold moonlight. Perhaps at a dark hill or an alley somewhere. Or a graveyard. Harry clenched his fists at the image. It seemed that murderers could stand the daylight just as well, after all. The invisible spider that was determined to torture him hadn’t disappeared from his body yet; it was now nesting somewhere near his heart. Certainly not into it. He was living with a murderer. Who was responsible for his parents’ death.

Kicking the armchair stubbornly, he went back upstairs to take a shower and brush his teeth. After what seemed like hours, he ended up in the living room with a glass of water and some biscuits. Waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Could Voldemort have killed Snape? He didn’t have any reason to do so. He hoped. Not that Harry would be aware of any reason even if there was one. No one seemed to consider the possibility of actually sharing information with him. Memories of Voldemort raising his wand flashed and stretched in his mind. With his mood being so shaky, he doubted he could bring up Cedric’s death again now and chew over it. Thinking about what had already happened wasn’t going to help. He knew that. Reason wasn’t enough to keep Sirius or Cedric out of his mind though and he had always been weak when it came to his emotions.

Dumbledore trusted Snape for a reason. If he wasn’t capable of lying and pretending he wouldn’t be a double agent. Unless he was being a double agent the other way around. Which would require the same abilities in lying and pretending. Harry fixed his jaw at his confusing worries. If Dumbledore trusted Snape, Harry didn’t have any other option either.

And if Snape was killed, Harry would have to go back to the Dursleys. Back to being hungry and locked up. To being lonely and bored. And to being in a kind of danger Muggles couldn’t comprehend. Restricted from using his magic even if it was to protect himself or his own relatives. Not good. Definitely not good.

Almost as bad as having to cope with Dudley again. A Dudley heavier and stupider than last year. And probably more violent too. Aunt Petunia wouldn’t look with worry at Harry while eating breakfast after restless nights; wouldn’t toss a book on his lap to distract him from being drowned into dreadful meditations. Wouldn’t push and drag him around until he learned to protect himself properly. He shrugged stubbornly at his anger for being Snape who did all these instead of Sirius.

Sirius never had the chance.

Stop.

Harry didn’t need any of these anyway. Going back to the Dursleys was going to be just as good. And he was worrying for no reason at all. “At all,” he repeated through his teeth like a mantra.

Snape was a skillful wizard. He could take care of himself. If he had survived all these years he could survive during another simple meeting too. There. No problem. No worries. And even if Snape died, the Order would come for Harry anyway.

Perhaps he should contact Dumbledore. But if Snape was alright he’d be furious to know that Harry had made a fuss about it. Maybe he was having a crucial conversation with other Death Eaters or something. Maybe they were arguing and that was why he was late. Maybe they were plotting the new way to kill the Chosen One. Harry thought of going upstairs to take his wand just in case, when someone knocked at the door. Hard.

Snape had keys.

Harry approached the door carefully. “Who’s there?” he asked, his voice croaky.

Whoever he was, he banged at the door again, harder. It was stupid to open the door to a stranger, and even more stupid to do so without his wand at hand. But Snape was late, and this couldn’t be good, and maybe he was just lying at the other side of the door injured, unable to talk, and in need of immediate help. 

It’d take less than thirty seconds to fetch his wand. And his fingers twitched in agreement.

His impulse decided against it.

Swallowing the foul bile on his throat, Harry opened.

It wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t anyone he knew, in fact. The man at the door looked down at him with a dangerous and yet quite unfocused look, and Harry thought that he looked rather drunk. There was a kind of people that passed by unnoticed, and Harry knew that well; people who walked in the streets, head bowed, hands in pockets, and no one bothered to throw a second look at them or remember them by the end of the day. Like wizards under the strongest glamour, that slipped and ran between unwitting muggles to reach their distant destination.

This man was the exact opposite. Harry thought he would have stopped to stare at him anywhere. Under any circumstances. And as much as Harry wanted to be the kind of person that inspired respect to strangers, as he looked up at the unreasonably disgusted glare peering at him, he felt like slowly cringing and shortening, as though an urge to apologize for being and therefore annoying this man had suddenly struck him.

It was a contradictory, because he didn’t look wealthy or powerful. Quite the opposite, Harry had the suspiciousness that he was a muggle. A quite homeless muggle.

“Can I help?” asked Harry tentatively.  

The man didn’t respond. He looked at Harry from head to toe, as though trying to make out something. Harry shifted to his feet. Petunia would have had his head for mindlessly opening the door to beggars. It appeared that the man wasn’t planning on finishing any time soon staring at him, so Harry kindly repeated his question.

The man responded drawly, and his voice was hoarse as though it hadn’t been used for a while. “Yes. For a start, do not speak unless you are spoken to.” He pushed Harry aside hard and rushed in the house.

“Hey!” shouted Harry, rubbing his shoulder with a hand. The man strode into the living room and Harry followed behind him furiously, watching him pulling random books from the bookcases and throwing them on the floor.

“What are you doing? Who are you? Get out of here!”

The man muttered something through his teeth and tossed aside the sofa’s cushions. Harry stood still, not knowing what to do. He sometimes thought that this was why he was such a troublesome person; he didn’t think. If he was just a little cleverer, half his problems would have never occurred. Then again, he had always been confident in his immaturity, and come to think of it, it never led him wrong.

“Are you deaf? I told you to get out!” he yelled again. He should hex him. But he didn’t know if he was allowed to use magic while Snape wasn’t home. And the last thing he wanted was to have to be interrogated by the Ministry of Magic for staying with Severus Snape, and even worse, for using magic while doing so.

The man swept over and slapped Harry across the face. It didn’t hurt much, but Harry took a step back, startled.

“I will not take orders into my own house, boy! Who the hell are you?” the man said.

Harry’s jaw dropped open, even as he held his burning cheek. His house? “Excuse me?”

“Where’s Severus?”

Harry narrowed his eyes, studying closer the man’s features. There was a feeling of disbelief coming over him, as though he weren’t there at all. It was not the sort of shock with which he was used to come across lately, but something colder and much less intimate. Repulse, maybe. Or terror. Harry felt the blood draining from his face.

“You’re his father.”

“And who the hell are you?” the man repeated, walking past Harry to the armchair. Taking out of his pocket a penknife, he ripped apart the fabric and shoved his hand inside. He suddenly stopped his searching and looked up.

“You’re not his son, are you?”

Harry shook his head. “He doesn’t have children.” And he really hoped Snape didn’t. The thought alone would be tremendous. For a long time Harry watched, his palms flat on his sides, while his mind arrived and arrived at that place and time and that man pulling down Snape’s house without minding or caring.

It seemed absurd that Harry was annoyed; he could clearly remember Dudley destroying his room out of jealousness several times and even Petunia putting old utensils and brooms in his cupboard. It always bothered him. It was a bit sad to witness someone’s personal space being attacked without that person’s knowledge. Like knowing one’s disappointment before it even happened.

The man snorted. “When is he going to come back?”

It occurred to Harry that the man didn’t want to be found here. Most likely he had been preparing his intrusion and knew that Snape wouldn’t be here at that time. For some reason, it felt absurd that Snape had parents. He recalled again the memory of the man before him shouting at his wife, while Snape, much younger, was crouching away in the corner of a room. One of the first memories he had seen in Snape’s mind. That must have happened in the room Harry was sleeping now, he reckoned.

“Soon! And he’s going to be furious with you destroying his things! What do you want?” He’d be more furious with Harry, actually.

“Let him go fuck himself then, the ugly freak. This used to be my house, boy. My house! Bought it with my fucking money, to roof that whore of a mother that he had. And then one day, the fucking bastard threw me out, that’s what he did! When he turned seventeen. Right out of nowhere. Now where’s that damn thing, fuck…”

He was drunk. And he was destroying Snape’s house. And Snape was going to kill Harry for letting him in.  

At that precise moment, a hollow metallic sound was heard from the outdoor and Harry turned to see Snape unlocking. The door opened and Snape slowly stepped in, holding the black pile of his curled up cloak on his hand along with his wand.

He looked at Harry and was ready to say something, when the other Snape swore again and something like more books being thrown down was heard. Harry’s blood ran cold as Snape narrowed his eyes at him, and Harry who gave him what he hoped to be an apologetic look.

It was in the space of a heartbeat that Harry came down to the conclusion that it’d be wiser of him to not talk. Letting his cloak fall down, Snape quickly strode over to where the sound had come from, his shoes barely audible against the floor. Harry went closer too, the numbness finally wearing off his legs. Snape stopped a few feet away from where the man was, and after a long moment he raised his wand.

“You,” he breathed. “You dare… come here.”

His father snapped into laughter. “You… son-of-a-cunt… you have some humour after all.” He stood up from where he was kneeling and placed a hand upon his stomach.

Snape remained at his spot, his hand twitching dangerously around his wand. Harry could almost see a vein throbbing above his brow.

“You have been warned to never appear near this house again.” Only now Snape seemed to realize the chaos around him, and he slowly rounded the table. “What have you done?”

“You have something that belongs to me. I had bought it for her, years ago. It’s mine now, I want it back.”

“You will not. Speak her name! Not after everything she’s suffered because of you,” hissed Snape.

His father laughed again. “I’m not here to go over the same bullshit again, Severus. There’s a ring somewhere here. With a blue stone on the top. Do you remember it?”

Snape glared hard. “Yes. Although I highly doubt that it had ended up to your hands by legal means. You want it back.”

The man nodded.

Snape nodded too.

They stared.

And stared.

Harry shifted again, fighting the urge to clear his throat.

After a long moment, Snape stormed over and grabbed the man by the shoulders. He pushed him against the wall with such savagery that the man gasped as his head was slammed back. Snape’s fists clenched around his father’s shirt collar and he almost pulled him up.

His voice was barely above a whisper when he talked. “Get out of my sight. Or I’ll kill you.”

Snape’s grip relaxed, and the man huffed. Obviously realizing that he didn’t stand a chance to take what he had come for, he seemed to consider his options. He scanned the room with his eyes for a last time, and after brushing something invisible off his shirt, he spat on the floor, his eyes locked on Snape’s. He pushed once more past Harry, and slammed the door hard behind him. Harry didn’t miss the mocking smile he gave him before he left.

Snape continued looking at the wall, as though his father would pop up out of it again. His wand was still at his hand, which was now hanging limp at his side. His eyes weren’t blinking.

In the complete silence of the room, Harry’s mind seemed to eventually awake. The new information attacked him all at once. Snape had thrown his father out of his own home when he was seventeen? Was his mother dead because of this man?  Harry hadn’t lived with loving relatives either, but he had never been forced to witness abuse against his mother, let alone while unable to stop it. He couldn’t imagine how severely something like that would have affected him.

He suddenly decided that he should say something. Only, he didn’t know what. Somehow there weren’t words right enough to interrupt the moment, and even if they were, he doubted that Snape would want to hear them from him.

Harry was at last granted with a bizarre look, as though Snape realized for the first time that he had been in the room with them all along. He stared back, the usual defensive anger he had developed around Snape now absent from the pit of his stomach. Snape narrowed his eyes, as though trying to determine whether Harry pitied him or was just satisfying his curiosity.

He did neither. And only now he could breathe away the worry that had overwhelmed him earlier – the fear that something bad might have happened. Snape was alive. Harry almost grinned. 

Snape didn’t. Surprisingly uninterested in the ruined living room, he kicked the books on the floor dismissively and hurried upstairs. Harry folded his arms over his chest, sparing a moment to check if the opened books hid anything interesting inside. They didn’t, and the simplicity of Snape’s few belongings only made the situation more depressive. Snape’s life was indeed messed up too, after all. And it also looked like they weren’t going to practice Occlumency today either.

Thinking hard, Harry ran up and fetched his wand. While it would be unwise to annoy Snape at the moment, he decided to at least take care of the books. He spelled them back in place, and left on the table those who were ripped apart for later restoration.

He cast some spells at the sofa and the armchair too. Pushing the armchair back in place, he carefully took up the Death Eater cloak. It was a plain robe, much alike to every other robe Snape used to wear; black, made of thin silk fabric, and it had the characteristic scent of Snape on it. It slipped easily between his fingers, and its folds shone darker at some parts. His hands were sweating again. God knew what kind of things Snape had done while wearing this thing. He let it on the armchair folding it twice and he lied down on the sofa.

If that man was Snape’s primary example of muggle people, it wasn’t a wonder that he had turned out to befriend Death Eaters. Harry had never been abused badly, and had never let his own unhealthy environment get to him, but he had made uncle Vernon angry enough times to know exactly how scary a deranged grown up looked to a small child. And Snape’s horrors seemed to have frozen him in time, back to something he could not change or make better anymore.

It was one thing to lose a mother when you are too young to even remember her, and another to watch her being abused. Harry bit his lip. He abruptly felt a bit bad for everything he had accused Snape of all these years. Despite his past, he had remained strong, risking his life in a way only people who deserved to be in the Order did. And although he had followed Voldemort in the past, somehow his choices had brought him to the other side, and only that did matter.

Snape hadn’t surrendered. He was working in a ground where everyone distrusted him, where the students hated him and made jokes about him behind his back, and had to prove his loyalty to Dumbledore every day of his life. One's dignity could be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it could never be taken away unless it was surrendered.

Snape hadn’t surrendered.

Against his better judgment, Harry silently climbed up the stairs and stood outside Snape’s bedroom. Only, this wasn’t just right. Running back to his room, he left his wand, took his school notebook and a pen, and returned. Now, that was better.

He knocked.

Chapter Text

Right. As though Snape would respond. A part of him told Harry that he should wait outside; another part told him to just leave and forget the matter. He was entirely unconvinced by both options. Determined to not give a damn about Snape’s show of nonchalance, he stubbornly opened the door and walked in. Snape was there, sitting with his back against the headboard, his gaze peering at Harry as though contemplating with which way to kill him.

“What do you want, Potter?”

Harry took a look around and shrugged, pretending not to have been in the room again. “Had some questions,” he simply said. He didn’t think Snape was convinced. There was a small bookcase by the bed. Harry approached it curiously. It didn’t have more than five or six books on it, and they all looked old. He ran his finger across them, a layer of dust sticking on his fingerprint.

“What are those? Your favorites?”

A pause. “The most important ones.”

“Potions?”

“Literature.”

Harry pulled out a book and observed it; it had no title or patterns on the cover. Inside, it was entirely empty, like a brand new notebook. He pushed it back in place disappointed. “Why are you spelling them blank?”

“They’re private. Obviously.”

It occurred to Harry that Snape was trying to sound stricter than he did. The usual bitterness was not quite absent; it seemed to have taken a slight shift, however. Not that this was any indication that Harry had skipped facing the rage. It’d surely come. Later. And right now, his urge to repress his own awkwardness in order to blurt out all the questions he’d like died as soon as it was born. He shrugged and looked around once more. Not finding any comfortable place in the room to sit, he collapsed on the other side of the bed, careful to stay as far from Snape as possible.

Snape turned his head to him, his gaze as dangerous as ever.

Harry ignored him. He took a moment to scowl at how this bed was way softer than the one Snape was making him sleep in, and then he stared at the ceiling; it was quite interesting, honestly. Two twisted pipes ran up the wall to disappear through a hole at the corner of it; the plaster had cracked at various places, and green patches of mold seemed to be growing at the most damaged spots.   

“How old is this place?” Harry asked, and was surprised he got an answer.

“Quite.”

“We have mold in my home too, you know. Aunt Petunia made me rub it clean once. It took me two days up in a ladder, with a brush and a bucket and all, but it worth it. The place was shining clean afterwards.”

Snape didn’t answer. Harry toyed with the lace of his tracksuit awkwardly. Or rather Dudley’s, who used to wear them only because they were elastic enough to fit him. The heaviness of the silence was distracting, like a thick rope tightening around him, threating to crash his chest. Harry felt the urge to fill it with something useful before Snape kicked him out. Why hadn’t he already? He sucked on his lower lip for a moment, grateful that Snape wasn’t bothering to look at him.

“My uncle is one of those men who sit in a room and you can feel it,” he said stupidly, picking up a random thought. “It’s that… simmer, I think. He has that sense around him, like, some unpredictable force or something… that might break loose at any moment and do something terrible. He hates magic. I was raised up thinking my parents died in a car crash.”

Vulnerable. That was what he felt like for having spilled this out to Snape. And dumb. Definitely dumb.

Snape sneered and then narrowed his eyes. “Get out. Now.”

“Why?”

Snape bolted up and rounded the bed before Harry could register what happened. “Why? You dare ask me why in my own room, my own house, Potter? Because I say so. Because I demand so. Because you’re utterly unwelcome here and because the last think I would possibly stand is the sickening sympathy of a Potter. Your father enjoyed that too, with all his –”

“Oh leave my father out of it!”

“Did you enjoy what you saw, Potter? Did you help him?”

“What? No!” Harry sat up and stared as his reasoning calmness gave away to a fiery rage.

Snape bared his teeth. “Liar.”

“I’m not! You… Look. Listen. I didn’t know he was your father. He just stormed in, I didn’t know what to do.”

“What did he tell you?”

Snape loomed over him. Harry shrugged. “Nothing.”

“What did he tell you, Potter?”

“Nothing, really. That he used to live here. Just that.”

Snape didn’t seem to have something to respond to that. He peered at him intensely before sitting down next to him.

Harry’s gaze caught Snape’s wand hand twitching and once again regretted not having his own wand with him. Although it was obvious to him, Harry felt the need to state something that perhaps wasn’t all that obvious to Snape. “You know, not all muggles are like him.”

Snape jerked his head as though shaking off an irritating fly. “Don’t be stupid.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” He wasn’t sure if he should ask that. He muscles tensed in a peculiar uneasiness and was once again reminded that one should never feel relaxed around this man. His rage was so unpredictable. How could Dumbledore not have second thoughts about him?

“The summer after my seventh year. We had a fight and he tried to kick me out. He regretted it.”

“Oh,” Harry said a bit quickly. “I’m sorry.”

He shouldn’t have asked. The clock’s tick tocks reached Harry’s ears one by one, like distant but firm gunshots. Snape turned his head at him. His eyes darkened and for a moment Harry was disoriented by their intensity. He cupped Harry’s chin firmly and turned his face towards the dim light of the window.

“What is this?” he asked roughly.

“What?” Harry’s hands almost flew up to his own face in worry, when he remembered the slap. Damn. Damn.

“Oh, that. It’s – nothing. I sort of – you know, fell.” The lie was pathetic, and Snape didn’t look like buying it either. He let go of his face with what looked like disgust and looked away.

Snape released a long breath. “Is it too much of me to ask that Dumbledore does not hear about this?”

Harry chuckled softly. If he wanted to embarrass Snape, he had already too much information to use against him, and his father would be the less private one to use. The thing was, if he wanted to embarrass Snape, he would have already done it.

“I’m not telling anyone.”

Snape nodded.

Something sparkled between Snape’s fingers as Snape unclenched his fist. It was a thin line of white light at first, like a shadow lining around his palm, fade and shaky, and it ended to a small silver ring with a tiny stone on top. In spite of the feeling of anger that had swept through him, Harry could not help but feel curious at the sight of it. He shifted closer and reached out carefully, his hand hovering over Snape’s. 

“May I?” Harry slowly buried his hand between Snape’s and took the ring. Snape’s touch had warmed it, and the size indicated that it was made for rather small fingers. Small diamonds were lined around it.

He brushed his thumb against it, savoring the strange sensation. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s stolen,” Snape said coldly before snatching it back. He threw it into a drawer at the nightstand and released a breath. “We will not practice today. Do your concentrating exercises and when you’re finished occupy yourself with something that does not involve me.”

Harry snorted. He reached for his notebook and threw it on Snape’s lap. If Snape thought that he was going to stay here alone all day long and continue feeling miserable about everything, he was mistaken. Harry had done this too many times for Sirius. It ever worked.

He was still doing it.

“That’s impossible. You see, I began writing my essays for September. It’s my birthday in two weeks and I want them all finished by then. You have to check if I made any mistakes.”

Snape’s face scrunched as he opened the notebook. Harry directed him to the right page.

“Common Defensive Theories?” Snape asked, scowling. “You failed at that?”

“I didn’t fail! I just need to write an extra scroll about it, I guess.”

Snape rolled his eyes and then squinted, trying to make out Harry’s poor handwriting.

“Very well. Question number one.”


“What are those? Your favorites?”

Yes. “The most important ones.”

“Potions?”

“Literature.”

Severus was painfully aware of the annoying voice addressing him and he mentally pushed it off. Its pitch suggested male, but not of an age Severus would show respect to or make an effort to attempt respecting, even experimentally so. He damned himself for being unable to shut his ears against it.

It wasn’t nearly enough to pull him out of his infuriating train of thought. While the boy was enjoying his little exploration around the place, Severus silently cursed both Potter and Tobias to rot in hell. Together, if possible; to have a chance and talk freely about ole Severus at last. He supposed he should be glad he had restrained his urge towards violence. It wouldn’t do to punch the shit out of the bastard again. Wizards like Severus didn’t do that. Sick cunts like Tobias did that. And to think that he wanted the ring. And that he had the nerve to come and ask for it.

It was beyond any question, beyond any shadow of doubt, the only thing he ever offered to his wife without expecting a miracle from her. The distinct line between what could be done with magic and what could not never interested Tobias much. He regarded it as some kind of god given gift. And of course, he had wanted to take advantage of it.

It had taken him a few months to chew down the information. To accept that his wife was a witch. From then on, it was quite common to demand food or money out of nowhere. To get pissed and attack her because she wouldn’t give him what he wanted. It had to come down to a Ministry penalty, and interrogation, and a clear warning to confiscate her wand to eventually stop it. Apparently trying to transform muggle objects into money wasn’t as legal as Tobias would have liked.

There was Eileen’s theory too, of course, that contradicted every logical assumption. It hadn’t been always like that. He was kind once. Charming.

Bollocks.

Severus believed only what he saw. And Tobias was never neither kind, nor charming, nor even tolerable. But she had wanted it that way, and she was too weak to see his faults. Or develop any dignity around him.

“Why are you spelling them blank?”

And she had reached depression before Severus started school.

“They’re private. Obviously.”

Once her condition weakened her magic, it was up to Severus to do the job. But Severus didn’t, for he hated him, and at that point he hated his mother too, for her weakness, for her stubbornness to stay with Tobias although he was using her, for her egoism to deny the fact that she was a fucking victim at his hands. She was better than him. She was always better than him. But she had been stupid.

Severus was aware of the mattress sinking beside him and a body slumping against the pillows. A not so distant aspect of his conscience told him that he should yell at the boy. But he felt drained from all power, and fighting with Potter was a procedure which needed all his strength and height. He decided to let him be. 

There was that thing again. The boy had that fresh, fruity scent around him, which was making Severus dizzy whenever he smelled it; it was openly challenging him to fight down his most strong impulses to vomit. He had become quite used to it as the days passed by, and as he had never seen any perfume in the bathroom, he reckoned that this was just the way Potter smelled.

“How old is this place?” Potter asked.

The question took him by surprise. He blinked as he counted.

How old was this house? Judging by the ghosts of guilt that were floating across the rooms, probably as old as time. “Quite.”

And now Potter was saying something again. And it occurred to him that he was supposed to be listening. I will not.

“My uncle is one of those men who sit in a room and you can feel it,” he said stupidly, picking up a random thought. “It’s that… simmer, I think. He has that sense around him, like, some unpredictable force or something… that might break loose at any moment and do something terrible. He hates magic. I was raised up thinking my parents died in a car crash.”

Damn Petunia and her cretin of a husband. This was ridiculous. “Get out. Now.”

“Why?”

Enough. “Why? You dare ask me why in my own room, my own house, Potter? Because I say so. Because I demand so. Because you’re utterly unwelcome here and because the last think I would possibly stand is the sickening sympathy of a Potter. Your father enjoyed that too, with all his –”

“Oh leave my father out of it!”

“Did you enjoy what you saw, Potter? Did you help him?”

Potter wrinkled his forehead. “What? No!”

“Liar.”

Potter talked again, but Severus was not interested. His hand twitched around the ring, and he fought the urge to reach down and place the pillow against Potter’s babbling mouth until beautiful, divine silence filled the room again.

“What did he tell you?”

“Nothing.”

“What did he tell you, Potter?”

“Nothing, really. That he used to live here. Just that.”

It didn’t seem like he was going to get a better response. He sat down, defeated.

“You know, not all muggles are like him.”

They were. Of course they were. “Don’t be stupid.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

Oh joy. More questions. Don’t answer that. “The summer after my seventh year. We had a fight and he tried to kick me out. He regretted it.”

Bravo Severus. You are so rigorous after all.

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

Severus turned to look at him. His eyes locked with Potter’s and for a moment he was dumbstruck with the realization that he was sitting on his bed with Harry bloody Potter beside him, and his glimmering green eyes were piercing his own with something that didn’t appear quite like hate. But it had to be. Undoubtedly.

Then he saw something else. It wasn’t the slightly swelled skin that he noticed first, for it was not that bad; but the fading redness of fingers that covered his cheekbone were too familiar to miss.

He grasped Potter’s chin as panic rushed over him. “What is this?”

“What?”

Potter was unaware of it. And perhaps it was better if it stayed that way. He could spell it away before the boy went to a mirror. Bullshit. He’d need to wipe his memory too, but that would put him in even bigger troubles.

Potter’s eyes widened. And then averted. “Oh, that. It’s – nothing. I sort of – you know, fell.”

The same excuse always, wasn’t it?

He couldn’t explain this to Dumbledore. He had put protection spells all around the house to keep away every wizard alive, but it was a muggle that had made it in. Unprofessional. Inexcusable.

“Is it too much of me to ask that Dumbledore does not hear about this?”

Potter chuckled. It was a warm chuckle, one of someone who thought that the answer should be obvious.

“I’m not telling anyone.” The don’t worry behind it was almost too loud against the walls, and it crashed back along with memories of a forgotten sense of calmness. Lily had the gift of tranquilizing one’s worries without ever talking directly about them. She would dig her way between the lines and reassure his deepest fears, without needing to know them, without being interested in understanding them.

When he felt a hand between his own, he almost flinched.

“May I?” Potter asked.

He let him take the ring, although for the life of his he couldn’t explain why.

After he had put it where it belonged, he sat back to the bed again and closed his eyes for a second. “We will not practice today. Do your concentrating exercises and when you’re finished occupy yourself with something that does not involve me.”

“That’s impossible.” Of course. “You see, I began writing my essays for September. It’s my birthday in two weeks and I want them all finished by then. You have to check if I made any mistakes.”

A notebook was thrown at him before he could argue, and he opened it.  

Unbelievable.

“Common Defensive Theories? You failed at that?” Was the boy completely daft?

“I didn’t fail! I just need to write an extra scroll about it, I guess.”

Pathetic. Absurd. Laughable. It was the easiest lesson of his last year. With Umbridge teaching it, of course, it was a miracle that some students had managed to pass it after all. And something was telling him that Potter needed to be taught everything all over again. Damn professionalism. While at Severus’ care, Potter was strictly prohibited from being thickheaded.

“Very well. Question number one.”

Chapter Text

Closing his book, Severus awaited for the boy to retire upstairs; only to have him continue staring at him from his rightful place on the floor. The unexpected event of Tobias’ sudden appearance a few days ago didn’t seem to have troubled Potter much since then, and the most surprising was that it hadn't been mentioned again. 

And now, at the sight of the spineless brat defiantly occupying his carpet, it occurred to him that he shouldn’t have given permission to Potter to be out of his room unless necessary.

On second thought, he hadn’t given permission.

Potter didn’t seem to mind.

“You were poking through my belongings again, were you not?”

Potter blinked and then shook his head. “No, why?”

The demonstration of innocence almost staggered him. The disruption of the silence he was promised a couple of hours ago shouldn’t annoy him nearly as much, especially given the fact that Severus was the one to talk first.

You shouldn’t talk to him. But he wasn’t. He was only insisting on reminding the boy the distinct lines he wasn’t allowed to cross. Mentioning them again and again. Despite Potter’s attitude, there was still a tiny chance that voicing the rules would make them stronger. Stricter. A little bit more visible.

Liar.

This will only encourage him. 

“You attempted to break into the basement last night.”

Potter cleared his throat. “Oh. Er… I didn’t exactly do that. I only thought it’d be, not that I should, I just –”

“For your knowledge,” Severus said, “I could hear you casting spells on my door last night. Didn’t you have anything better to do all night long aside from fumbling through my belongings?”

The way Potter shrugged his shoulders inspired him a new wave of anger. Severus gave him a stern look and Potter sighed resignedly.

“I’m sorry.” Good. “It’s just that…Sometimes it’s just better to stay awake over something, you know?” Bad.

“I don’t,” he retorted. He knew about the visions Potter had. The whole world knew. To some people, it was legend. To Severus… well. Another bothersome, horrid situation. He nodded, impatient to get to the point. “And why is that you want to stay awake, then?” He was reassured by his well-trained conscience that he was only asking this out of desire for his own missing quietness. His curiosity sputtered to life just in time to cancel his reassurance and demand the details. “I’m not going to ask twice, so speak up.”

“Have you ever had dreams…” Potter laughed softly and licked his lips, looking momentarily down. “Well, I don’t really know how to talk about this. Have you ever had dreams that are merely memories? Not exactly nightmares, just really bad dreams. Of people you know and you trust, but not in the way you really know them. Like your mind has stuck back in a certain memory and can’t move past that point.”

Potter searched his face an instant and then turned his eyes away. Bugger. “Does it look like vacationing the fact that you’re staying here, Potter?”

“This isn’t about training, I know –”

“What is it about, then? Traumas? You don’t have time for them.”

“Well I don’t control my dreams, you know!”

“You should. You should get over whatever keeps you back from succeeding. You enjoy your failures because they buy you time.”

“Oh, shut up, Snape. You know nothing. Nothing.”

Severus smirked. “But I do. Your mind is an open book, isn’t it?”

“Well, yes, thanks to you and your sodding mind games!”

Potter’s eyes were stubbornly fixed at the armchair’s legs again; Severus had to keep himself from snapping. Damn they boy for opening his heart to him without having been asked. And a very disturbing and delirious heart it was. Damn himself too for letting it happen, then. He should have been drugging himself unconscious since the day he brought the little monster here. It would spare him the honesty.

“Cute.”

Potter snorted. “Yeah. Never mind.” Pleased that confessions seemed to have come to an end, he granted Potter a reproving expression.

And he only regretted having done so when Potter went on. “It’s just that I feel too many different things for some situations that I don’t even know how I really feel about them. Like, one moment I don’t care about something, and the next one I do. And then I go to bed and I feel both caring and not caring, and it’s too hard to keep on thinking about it, so, I don’t know, I just snap. I have to get out of bed and do something or I’ll…” he trailed off, and Severus was amazed. His stomach lurched at the images that flashed before him. He supposed there were still people that were being traumatized by death out there. He vaguely recalled himself being disoriented after grief too. He physically shook his head to dislodge his thoughts before they could begin to take shape.

He had become what he was today at the age of twenty one. He did not need reminder of what he was before. He had a neutral voice when he replied, and was both pleased and surprised about it. “The conflict between the will to deny the horrible events that have happened to you and the will to proclaim them aloud is going to drive you mad if you don’t come to terms with your own emotions. What has happened is past. Blaming yourself will only make you weaker.”

Potter stared. Severus choked on self-disgust. Dumbledore should be proud. The only thing that was left for him and Potter to do now was to buy twin bracelets to celebrate their eternal friendship.

Here he was, for all the world to know: Harry Potter’s personal therapist.

“But that’s not the point. I know that. I just don’t know it all the time.”

Severus choked around a snort. Was this some kind of riddle? Potter sat on the couch and Severus had barely time to register the change as one that indicated that the boy was interested to his opinion.

He gritted his teeth indignantly. “Your emotions have control of you. Train yourself to –”

“Oh, this isn’t Legilimency –”

“And this isn’t scolding. Train yourself to control your emotions. You have to admit your weaknesses to yourself in order to defeat them, and you’re not even trying. Your grief causes panic. Panic is the worst enemy of logic. You’re doing this to yourself.”

“I am trying,” Potter lied. Severus could see his frown now, and noticed that behind his glasses the skin was red. There was a dim light of questioning in Potter’s eyes as he lifted his head, and it occurred to Severus that he didn’t know what to make of it. “Well, I am!”

The corner of Potter’s mouth twitched before smiling weakly. “Okay. I’m not. But I have. It seems pointless, honestly.”

How to call this? Torn between the words progress and disaster, Severus made a mental note to recreate the nervousness on that face immediately after they were done with this. And Potter had yet to notice that he hadn’t received a single serious response to his problems. If he noticed, it’d be too late.

“Then you may as well become depressed. No one is going to stop you, and it’s entirely legal. Not to mention, extremely easy. All you have to do is pity yourself, something in which you are admittedly talented, for a change.”

“I’m not doing that! Look, forget it. I shouldn’t have told you.”

“You’re right. You shouldn’t.”

“I wouldn’t if you hadn’t pushed me.”

Impossible. Saucy child. “You are my responsibility, Potter. I’m sadly obliged to protect you from harming yourself for the time being.”

There. Potter bit on his lip. The awkwardness was vivid between them again, and Severus noticed that it wasn’t only his usual disgust for children that was doing it. There was something on Potter’s expression that wouldn’t let him relax. He would call it maturity, were it on anyone else’s face. On that face, it could merely be sadness.

Severus didn’t care.

Although most likely, Potter had yet to find some time to mourn the dog's loss. Oh for fuck’s sake. “Do you have any suicidal thoughts, then?”

Potter tilted his head. “What? No.”

“Then do yourself a favor and move on before you begin to.”

“And what do you know about it?”

Right. What did he? Apparently not much. He was under Dumbledore’s protective wing and watchful eye long before any of it could occur. When depression was supposed to strike him, what had instead, was a load of Potion books to memorize and be able to repeat before audience in order to become the new Potions professor. It had worked for him, and he ended up with hatred filling his mind much faster than he’d have got over whimpering. But this was a story better remained untold.

“What I know, is that once again I’m wasting my own sleep because of you. This is the last time, let me assure you.” After a moment, Potter nodded, but didn’t move. “Well, leave, then!”

Potter stood. Severus did too, and tried not to notice that the boy was smiling again.  “Honestly, Professor. If you wanted to sleep you wouldn’t be sitting in the living room until dawn either.”

Touché.


“So what if he kills me?”

Severus jolted to his senses. He was alarmingly aware of the nonchalance behind the question and horrifyingly aware that the boy didn’t seem hesitant to ask. “Then he wins.”

And they were all damned to hell, Potter included. A shiver ran down his spine at the image of England under the Dark Lord’s dictatorship and he mentally cringed at the faint memory of himself, ages ago, wishing just that with all his might.

He lowered his wand and slumped on his chair. “That will be all for today.”

“No, I mean…” Potter sat on the couch, sparing himself a moment to bend down and clear his head from the dizziness Legilimency caused. He placed his own wand on the table. “If the Prophecy is right, he’s going to become immortal if I die. Is that right?”

The range of emotions he had seen falling upon that face until now was nothing compared to the current obstinate determination. Severus had the suspicion that he didn’t want to know the reason behind it.

“It doesn’t work that way, thankfully. And prophecies can be interpreted toward many conclusions. If you die, someone else must stop him.”

“Lies. Dumbledore has told me the truth, you know.”

Severus wondered at Potter’s sudden meditation on the matter until he remembered that the lines between bravery and pointless self-sacrifice were rather blurry by Gryffindor means. He questioned his own stupidity to stick to civil behavior while he knew the risks behind it. And here he was, constantly reminded that it was entirely his fault that he was unable to discipline the brat.

“What this so called prophecy says should not concern you much. You are bonded with the Dark Lord’s soul because he’s marked you. This is irrelevant of all theories. This is fact. Prophecy or not, he’s going to haunt you down. How it began is of little importance. What should trouble you, is how it’s going to end.”

Potter didn’t look convinced. “And if it ends the wrong way?”

It wasn't determination. It was fear.

“Then you won’t be around to worry about it, will you?”

“Is that your advice?”

He hadn’t realized he was being asked for advice. “My advice,” he rubbed his forehead with a hand, “is to never try to solve serious matters by thinking. There is no way to decide your future while resting and thinking about it. You have to create it. Predictions don’t exist.” 

Severus believed in predictions, once. It was the worst mistake of his life. 

Potter glared at him suspiciously and then his features softened. Severus was taken aback by the sudden change and he mentally cursed the boy for fishing idle babbling out of him. He was meant to do so verbally too, but the opportunity was lost the moment Potter shook his head. “You’re wrong. Predictions exist. I mean… there must be something like fate, or, things that can’t not happen, otherwise time turners wouldn’t be accurate to a certain continuum.”

Severus had a mind to ask him where his knowledge about time turners derived from when he remember that he didn’t care. There was venom in his lungs. He blamed a long gone Potter for bequeathing a mischief nature to the kid before him and for managing to produce it in general.

“As fascinating it would be to assure you that the thrill of taking the Dark Lord down would be all yours, there is a considerable chance that he either dies during the war or someone arrests him before your co-conspirators manage to even form a plan against him. Call yourself a hero, if it makes you feel any better, but you’re not. And until you become one, if ever, stop whimpering about it.”

Chuckling was not the reaction he’d expect. But why expect anything with this particular boy anyway? “Gods. You’re impossible.”

Too, he silently agreed. This would require detention. Tradition had it that students did not think of their teachers as common people. Or desire to talk to them outside class, whatever the reason was. When it wasn’t annoying, it was simply tiresome.

Severus laughed. Apparently having a student under your own roof could change that.

A bit.

Chapter Text

“You should be in bed.” Severus’ voice was drenched in bitterness as he sneered. But that was expected. He suppressed a yawn as he stood and was immediately shocked at the sight of the sun rising somewhere outside the window. Severus himself should be in bed too.

“I figured you’d say that. But it’s already morning, isn’t it? Besides, my bed is awful. I bet the mattress has bricks in it. Or spikes.” Potter snorted and brought his knees up to his chest. He hugged them.

Carried away by the thought of throwing the couch Potter occupied in the trash and saving himself from this pest, Severus spelled the brandy bottle back to its place. It flew to the far end of the room and clanked against the wall before landing down.

“Why do you drink so much?”

It was summer. It was holidays. At Hogwarts, he wasn’t allowed to drink. Something about staff regulations and professionalism. And Dumbledore keeping all the alcohol to himself. “Because.”

“Isn’t it bad for you?”

More than Potter? Hardly. He chose to respond with a noncommittal grunt, deciding to carry on his nonchalance toward the personal questions he was being constantly asked. Had he not received the shock that Potter was suddenly interested in Severus’ curious existence, he might have had found it amusing. He didn’t. And the guilty pleasure of intimidating the boy was too good to miss. Sometimes, he’d like to give Potter a terror he’d remember as long as he lived; just to remind him of his place and hurt his raving pride.

Then again, there were others willing to do that for him. And were already doing it. With a certain great wizard of the light on top of the list.

“I could use a drink too, I think.”

“Naturally. I should probably help you destroy yourself even further, then.”

“Yeah, well. If I drink on my own volition it’s not your problem, is it? Can I?”

Long ago, Severus had given up questioning life’s dynamics and how they always ended up saving Potter’s arse. He wasn’t entirely convinced that the boy could be saved from Severus if he continued like this.

Patience, Dumbledore had said. Patience, indeed. “You can; you may not. And I’m well aware of my stock so don’t even think of trying to steal from me. You might find yourself regretting it. Painfully.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “You could've just said ‘no.’”

Severus grunted. “I wasn’t aware that you knew the meaning of the word.”                 

That look again. Why? He was aware since long ago that Potter’s mood was mysteriously flexible; it shifted from blue to ecstatic and then back to blue, as though he had to experience a necessary guilt after every bit of happiness that was occurring to him.

The reason was never vivid to Severus. The boy was confusing. Dreadfully so. The corner of Potter’s mouth quirked upwards. “You know, sometimes you look at me as though I’ve grown a second head. It’s odd.”

Severus shrugged off a nostalgic longing to return to the days when he could scare Potter away with a single glare. He nearly sneered, but he stopped himself just in time. It was wiser to pretend he wasn’t listening. He stood and placed his book back on the bookcase. And then broke his vow to silence to retort angrily. “You don’t need a second head to make people look at you, Potter. Your exaggerating ego is rather enough; but I wouldn’t expect you to be anything else but your father’s son, so to speak.”

“Right. Don’t you ever get tired of being miserable?”

He was being honest. Something that apparently the boy couldn’t take. “Do you want me to give you a pat on the head or do you want me to tell you the truth?”

Potter shrugged and bit his lip, as he always did. Then shrugged some more. “I don’t care what you’re going to tell me. What I want to tell you is that you seem too calm when you read. It’s a pity you don’t relax more often.”

Anger flashed before his eyes and Severus damned himself for it. And then damned himself for not locking the boy in his room indeed. His breath hitched. Once he had calmed himself sufficiently, he spoke. “I appreciate your approval.”

Potter snorted. “I thought you would.”

For fuck’s sake. The ‘I demand that you show me respect’ that was tingling the tip of Severus’ tongue never came out. Secretly applauding himself for it, he decided to move forward to pick up his things and eventually go to bed. The ‘you don’t have the capacity to think’ that threatened to get out a moment after, had successfully been bitten down too. Ignore him. Pretend he doesn’t exist.

All the more infuriating, was the fact that the boy never paused to form a response anymore. It was all coming natural. The perception of regarding Potter as thick now failed to seem profound. Not that the boy was clever. But if he could get by with Severus, he was certainly not entirely inane.

And now he was troubled too. “Is it true? That I behave like my dad? Or do I just remind you of him because you… knew each other?”

“I’m sure that you’ve been told of your similarities before. You share the same contempt against courtesy as much as you share the same hair.”

“That’s not true! I… I’d never, you know, about… I’d never do that. What he did to you. I’d never do that. I don’t know why he did.”

Another charming declaration of nobility coming from someone who did not know what he was talking about. Why he did. Why wouldn’t he? It was Severus’ goddamn spell. Severus had used it on James first. He should have known that asking for trouble would finally bring him to it, but continuing the vendetta with the disgusting rich Gryffindor boy was too temptingly good to stop. But not good enough to lose Lily over it. Still.

“Snape?”

“Professor Snape, Potter.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “You don’t want to answer. Got it.” He smiled. “I just don’t think my dad would do anything so… mean without reason.”

He would not. Severus being friends with Lily was reason enough. “I see.” What?! Where’s your rage? You could have just as well crawled up the pedestal James’ memory was pleasantly resting on and kissed his feet. Bravo.

“Is that all you have to say?”

Severus stared at him contemptuously and then released his breath. “I will say this once, Potter, and you’d better remember it. Despite your undoubtedly wise view of my –”

“Yes, I know, I’m all wrong and I know nothing. Don’t start that. It’s so boring I might go to sleep after all.”

“Watch your mouth, you insolent twit!”

Potter threw himself back on the cushions and covered his face with his hands. He snorted at something Severus couldn’t quite grasp and was most certainly not interested to. There was nothing funny for him to snort at. And if he insisted on this insomniac marathon, Severus would have to eventually drug him. It was a wonder how he had managed to survive like that so far.

“Speaking of my dad… it’s meaningless, you know,” Potter mumbled, his hands still on his face. “All those who died… it wasn’t part of a plan. It just happened. My parents weren’t heroes. They were just murdered and that was all. Like Cedric was, and like Sirius was, and so many others I don’t even know. And we can call him heroes but it doesn’t matter to them, because they’re dead, and they’re not here to hear it or feel good about it. It just makes us feel good, sometimes, if ever, and then that’s over too.”

Potter’s eyes met his and Severus and or once Severus looked away first. He should curse the boy for being able to chill his blood. He took a moment to readjust to the world. Potter needn’t have said that. It was unnecessary. And painfully right. You talk to him. Your fault. Shrugging off his raving conscience, he nearly agreed. Why the hell did he have to be the one to go through this?

Potter pulled himself up. He shook his head. “Sorry. I shouldn’t… I was just thinking out loud. For some reason. Sorry.” He snorted again and Severus had a mind to slap him. And explain to him why the living were more important than the dead. But Severus himself still didn’t believe that.  

Meaningless, he thought, and he blinked his tiredness away. Not far away. “I’m going to sleep. You may take a sleeping potion from the cabinet. Do try and sleep, otherwise you’re going to find out precisely what meaningless is during our practice.”

Potter grunted, and Severus retired to his room to watch stubbornly the wall across the bed and blame it for everything that had happened. He damned his tolerance towards a tendency to company that had most unfortunately crept into his house along with the boy and vowed to stop it before it got worse. Why would it?

He purged his mind of the terror that haunted him at the thought of possibly enjoying the boy’s absurd company and, an eternity later, he slept.


“Just so you know, I have kissed a girl. More than once,” said Harry as he spread the butter onto his bread. He wasn’t going to let Snape think of him as someone completely inexperienced and incompetent, and he was tired of being daily told how everybody liked him just because of his fame. He’d prove himself better than Snape. All these insults should come to an end. “And a lot of girls want me, actually.”

It was a lie; he didn’t feel like being above lying at the moment.

Snape poured the hot tea into his cup and drank slowly. He ignored Harry’s own cup with an expressionless glance before putting the pot on the counter. “Fascinating,” he said indifferently. The morning light was piercing through the louvers; Snape seemed strangely calm under the brightness of it.

Harry wanted a reaction. “Cho Chang was in love with me,” he blurted out. He had always known that he could not keep his temper back, but right now, he really questioned his intelligence. It wasn’t right to drag her into this. The last thing he needed was to give Snape more people to insult and bully. And Cho wasn’t a bad person. He wished he could take it back.

“Cho Chang,” Snape repeated, as though trying to remember who she was. “Hm. I might let her pass the year despite her horrible grades, after all.”

And suddenly Harry was insecure again. “No, I… I was good at it, I suppose. I hope so.” Only she was mourning over Cedric’s death and she was feeling pretty bad about dating him. He had all but fucked that up. Ending up with Cho thinking that Harry fancied Hermione, and the never-absent ghost of Cedric between them, it wasn’t weird that they never even talked anymore.

Harry doubted he could bear the constant reminder that if Harry was dead, Cedric wouldn’t have been. “She was having a tough time,” he said carefully, annoyed that his defiance was now closer to a confession, “but I don’t know, something was just missing.”

Snape snorted. “If your kissing is as horrible as your brewing, there were certainly missing much.”

Harry glared for a moment. He didn’t know if he was a good kisser, and honestly, he had never thought about it. How did one learn to kiss? And what if he just wasn’t a good kisser? Having kissed only one girl in his life was making it a bit impossible to make comparisons. Cho had never complained, however. Even if she wanted to, there had certainly been worse things in their few dates than kissing.

“She wasn’t my type. Maybe that was it,” he spat irritably. Few girls were interested to him as a person, or wanted to get to know him; unfortunately, the only one that Harry liked back, was Hermione. And he would never see Hermione as anything but a friend. There was Ginny too, of course; but she was Ron’s sister, and that alone was making it complicated.

He thought about the magazine issue under his pillow, wondering if he was actually attracted exclusively to girls with small breasts.

Ron would be so grossed out about it.

“And what do you know about kissing?” he asked, realizing too late that they were having the wrong conversation.

“You’d be surprised.” Snape emptied his teacup and avoided Harry’s gaze for a moment. “Have you exercised with your concentrating?”

Harry nodded at his bread, and then his eyes darted up and he grinned. “As always, Professor.”

Snape spelled his cup away. He looked like he was suppressing an amused grunt. “I can imagine.”

Harry failed to feel regret. “I will, alright? Right after breakfast.”

“After breakfast you will be annoying me endlessly until nighttime and then you will be delving into my books and scrolls. Be honest, Potter.”

“I delve into your books and scrolls during daytime too, actually. It has more light.”

Snape rolled his eyes, but Harry laughed. It was odd, really, how Snape could not always frighten him with that glare anymore. Deep down, he was just another man doomed to be a teacher, and somehow, that came as a surprise, every time. 

“What happened to your habit of relying solely to biscuits for your nourishment?”

“I’ve eaten them all,” Harry said.

His response was apparently not an appealing one to Snape, who scrunched his face slightly and checked his watch.

“I’m going to the grocery store today. You may come.”

Harry nodded, and thought about something he wanted to ask for some time. “Isn’t it dangerous for you to be seen with me at your neighborhood? What if a Death Eater sees me with you? They’ll attack us right away.”

Snape wiped a small puddle of tea from the table with a napkin and folded it in two. “They would, if they knew who you were. You have an Undetectable Confusing Charm on you. Tell me what it is.”

He was supposed to know this, then. Harry furrowed his brow. “Um… it makes it hard for other people to tell who I am, or something.”

“Or something,” Snape repeated, then narrowed his eyes. “The Undetectable Confusing Charm protects your identity without directly alternating your appearance in any way. It affects the ability of random passengers to make the connection inside their minds between your appearance and your person. It breaks as soon as you state your name before them or if someone else does.”

Pretty much what Harry said. “So, that gets activated when I’m outside the house?”

“Yes.”

“Then why am I not allowed to go out alone?”

“Because.”

“Why?”

Snape ignored him. 

Harry bit on his bread stubbornly.


Pacing abjectly between the market’s corridors, Harry eyed Snape from a fine distance and saw him selecting the necessary supplies into his basket. Harry had not bothered taking a basket of his own this time; hands at his sweatshirt’s front pocket, he observed the random sauces and spices at the shelves, biting on his lower lip in suspense for what he was going to do.

When Snape disappeared behind the tall fridges, Harry approached the newspapers’ bench and sidetracked the numerous muggle newspapers. Quickly going through the porn covers right behind them, he found an issue with a quite different headline and a half–naked man posing at the front cover. Taking a hesitant – but determined – look around, he rolled up the issue and shoved it hurriedly into his pocket. Putting his hands back in place, he took a moment to steel his feet, calm his burning face, and keep himself from fleeing.

When he made sure that no one had seen him, he went back to Snape.

 

Chapter Text

Dear Severus,

If this is convenient to you, I shall use one of your own old formulas to ensure that my new acquisition is safe to use.

I would like to meet you on Thursday, so please kindly come along to my office at 8 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

The next one:

Dear Severus,

I hope you’ll agree to meet me this time, as you know how much I need your support on this. Although I have honestly questioned my own urge to contact you after all that has happened, I fail to see a reasonable excuse for you to avoid me. Only a fool would think to go against the flow at the moment. Don’t disappoint your allies; they’re not many.

Bella strongly doubts that your return to the Dark Lord is to be believed, and Lucius always had his own suspicions about  where your true loyalties lie as well.

You shouldn’t be aware of all this, of course, and I sincerely regret betraying my family as I relay this information to you – but you are the only one that can help Draco, my only, last hope, and despite everything else, I do have faith on you.

Longing to see you,

Narcissa

Severus shoved the letters into his pocket and opened the brandy. Fools. All of them were fools.

What did Narcissa think when she married Lucius? That they’d live happily ever after in a small cozy cottage somewhere at the countryside? That they’d make a joyful family together, away from all troubles and worries?

She knew he was a Death Eater from the very beginning; she took the mark too, just like her parents wanted her to, and produced an heir for the sole purposes of their social prestige. The gold had somewhere to be inherited to, after all, and that was all that mattered. Draco had never been treated intimately as a child, and Narcissa had fallen in love with a man who’d fucked half Britain by the time they married. 

She wasn't but a tool for Lucius to climb up his way to the Dark Lord’s rating. A tool to be valuated as a successful head of his old traditional family, a tool to be admired and respected. To be feared, and to ensure that his name and rich heave upon it would continue to cause shivers in this world even after his death. 

Pointless. Lucius was already beginning to quail before the Dark Lord’s presence. The tasks upon his shoulders were not becoming any heavier, but his shoulders had weakened during the years of the evil’s absence. Living with a mere glimpse of the taste of freedom, waiting like a loyal puppy for his master to return and pet him. He had thought that when the Dark Lord came back, he would praise him for his loyalty and would award him with kindness, trust, and safety.

Hopefully his cell in Azkaban was comfortable enough for Lucius to earn him all the safety he needed. 

And that was why they were fools. Severus had been a fool too. He kneeled before the Dark Lord for the very same things, when he was young; and when he was given anything but serenity or protection, when he was ripped apart from all the values that made him a human being, when he was thrown bare and unarmed to a war he never wanted to participate in at the first place, he realized for the first time how he had lacked the ability to see what he was exchanging his freedom with.

He had seen. He had repented. And after all these years, he was still failing to fully set against his crimes.

Dumbledore, on the other side, was the genius of his generation – a powerful, resourceful old wizard with countless experiences, countless achievements, and a mind as sharp as a needle. He could read a man’s mind by passing past him. He could guess one’s intentions in so much as breathing in the same room with him.

And yet, with all that wit and superior spirit, he was still failing to see the point. He was still failing to see that his boy wonder was just another kid. He couldn’t see past what Lucius saw for his son, what the Dark Lord saw for his followers, what Dumbledore himself had learned to see for everyone he knew: tools. Plans. Sacrifices. The greater fucking good.

And now he was failing to see that if they wanted to find a way out of the Dark Lord’s new plans, they’d have to do a little bit more than wasting time over an undoubtedly cursed ring Dumbledore had no reason to use. 

If he fancies wearing it, let it be so. The man had alewady lived over a century. Might as well free some space on this damned earth. Clenching his jaw as he put the groceries into the fridge, Severus slammed the door against the coldness and leaned against it.

He took a large sip of brandy and closed his eyes.  

Among all the things that were buzzing into his head, Potter had to be one of them. Where had that wicked bugger disappeared into now?

Severus walked over to the living room, slumped in his seat and picked up a book.

Apparently, books had more wisdom than people. And tolerance. 


It worked.

Harry breathed heavily, propping himself at his elbows to look down at his crotch as he reached for his wand to clean himself up. The new magazine was still open to a random page on the pillow. Dread stressed his sweat, and with a sleeve he wiped off his upper lip and forehead.

Oh gods. It worked.


“I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?”

“This.”

Harry held his notebook up from where he was sitting on the floor. Snape leaned over and yanked it from his hand, supporting himself with an elbow against the armrest.

 “What he says about the moonstones. Just doesn’t make sense, or it’s too advanced, maybe.”

“You’ve studied about moonstones before, have you not? It’s basic knowledge.”

Well, he had studied. And he had learned. He had learned that if he begged annoyingly enough, Hermione would eventually help him. And that, if he was really good and polite, she would even prepare the whole essay for him. And then avoid talking to Harry for a week to take her blood and dignity back.

“Um. I forgot?”

Snape slid to the floor next to Harry and knelt. His sigh of irritation was hard to miss, but Harry didn’t care in the slightest about Snape’s discomfort.

He opened the notebook on his lap and pointed a finger to where the problem was. He explained his confusion briefly and looked up. It didn't really matter, but still; it was the first time of his life that he was able to study during summer. He never enjoyed studying, but there were little other things here to do, and doing nothing was worse than doing homework.

Snape explained with a forced patience, moving his hands in a mannered way he never used in class.

“You understand?”

Harry blinked. “I think so.”

Snape returned to his chair and Harry continued his reading, confused at how he had indeed understood. Snape wasn’t a horrible teacher – he was just a horrible person, and that was excusing him somehow. He didn’t seem to know how to be a better one either. Or to be interested in finding out.

He reminded him of those untamed wolves in television documentaries, who had lived too long in the wild to learn how to interact with people. They would bite and attack and kill, but inside they were only panicked at the human interaction, since they’d never had it before. Like stupid dogs, or something. It occurred to him also that he must be really bored, sitting there and comparing Snape to wolves.

He didn’t have anything better to do. And now Snape was doing that again.

Harry looked up just in time.“Is something wrong, sir?”

He would only call him sir or Professor when the occasion didn’t require it, and Snape would always twitch his eye at this new sort of challenging mockery.

“No.” Snape filled his glass again and half – emptied it.

“You were staring.”

“I was not.”

Harry grinned. “Liar.”

And Snape smirked back almost right away.

“Careful, Potter. If you keep up the cheek I will be obligated to give you a fitting detention when we get back. One that will have you spending all your Quidditch training hours in my office, perhaps.” His best venomous voice was covering an amused tone.

Exempt him from Quidditch? As if. McGonagall would chop off his head if he dared to even speak such thing. Would Snape go back to being a complete bastard once they got back to Hogwarts? Not that he was any better now, but… they seemed to be getting along somehow.

And if it was to last little, might as well make it worth it.

“And here I was starting to think that spending the whole summer like this might be enough for you. But you can’t get enough of me.” The urge to point his tongue out at Snape’s scandalized expression was suppressed and replaced by an insolent lift of his brows.

Intrigue. Daring. Arrogance. Exactly as Snape expected him to be. Only, now he looked like he did realize that it was just a pretense. It put a strange relief behind Harry’s actions. He hadn’t thought of not feeling tensed in front of him. This was new.

“That incurable insolence of yours. Are you sure that you’re not the one who’s asking for it, Potter?” he smirked faintly, and kept Harry’s eyes for a prolonged moment.

Harry was the first to look back at his text. “Perhaps I do.”

He frowned at his re-written moonstone summarization in annoyance. Was this the best he could do?

At Snape’s satisfied grunt, he chuckled. He had lost.


He had won. And Potter was reading silently, at last. His brows were furrowing over the words as easy as pie, still struggling to understand what he had been taught numerous times in the past, well – explained and in detail, every single one of them.

It was a disappointment, honestly. Their sodding saviour was unable to solve out a simple exercise on Potion anomalies. Potter would lick his lips, chew on them, tap his pen at his paper for hours, if that was what it’d take, and then he’d rub his ruined forehead in determination to succeed at something that was entirely common.

Then he would look up at him – a stare which would seek to pass as indifferent and in most cases incidental, while he would still his features in a pathetic attempt to hide his scream for help with his homework. A casual look; his green eyes unblinking under the possibility of losing control of his fragile mask of inordinate composure.

He was too easy to read. It didn't worth the effort of trying not to. 

Of course, the boy needn’t know. If he wanted his help, he would have to ask for it. Every time he needed it. And he would have to be grateful every one of those times that he was granted with actual help. Besides, his worrisome face was fascinating to watch.

The switch between the opposite sentiments, the embarrassment, the vexation with himself, the disillusionment when he would find out that he did not get it right this time either. The flush reddening his cheeks, when he couldn’t help but ask the same sodding question – for the third, or fourth time – the scorn of his voice when he would spit a muttered thank you before going back to his despair.

It was all too good to lose. Too good to let go. He quickly found that the darkest parts of his soul were enjoying this too much, and it was harder and harder to blame it for becoming a habit. The morals enforced upon his position and age would have to take a part in this; keep him back from humiliating a student, exchanging wicked innuendos with him and allowing him to take a close look at his own bad habits.

As a matter of fact, he objectively emptied another glass of whiskey, the alcohol voluptuously burning his throat and sternum as it sank in. A student shouldn’t stay under the same roof with a teacher anyway. The fundamentals of this... farce were ill–built at the first place. It wasn’t as if he could keep in mind to be bitter all day long. He was only human.

And the boy was furrowing again.

And judging by the way he pushed his fingertips against his temples, he was tired too.

“Potter.” What?! “It’s late. You may continue your studying tomorrow.” Why?!

Potter nodded, giving a faint smile before mumbling a too soft goodnight.

Severus’ anger was yearning to explode upon the impossible boy, searching almost maniacally to find an accusation to charge him with. When he failed, and Potter was already upstairs and behind the bathroom’s door, Severus directed his anger to himself and exhaled sharply.

You may continue your studying tomorrow.

Pathetic. Weak. It almost appeared as though he cared.

 

Chapter Text

As soon as Severus found himself into Dumbledore’s office, he got to the point.

“He wants you dead.”

Dumbledore, of course, was not surprised. “I see.”

“He expects Draco to do it. He wants him to pay for his father's sins.”

Dumbledore's eyes sparkled with curiosity; he tilted his head and for a moment Severus thought he would smile. “Is that all, then? He assigned such an essential task to a helpless boy? I wonder.”

He didn’t wonder. He knew. And he wanted to hear Severus saying it. It wasn't submission as much as it was devotion, the fact that Severus was still part of this. It was difficult nevertheless. He owed Dumbledore the truth. And Dumbledore owed him a solution. A way out of it.

“I imagine I will be required to carry out the job should Draco fail to do it,” he said.

There was a long moment of silence in which Severus fought the urge to curse the man and leave. Then Dumbledore nodded. And added nothing more. Blast his secrets and his plans. Whatever he was contemplating about, he wasn’t going to share with Severus just yet. Which made Severus’ anger boil all the more dangerously.

“How’s Harry?”

“He’s outside. Look, it’s not just the Dark Lord’s thoughts that worry me but the inner cycle’s impatience as well. This isn’t a vague passing thought of his. He’s been preparing serious plans, this time. You are going to be in danger if you don't take this seriously.”

Narcissa would need his help well before the Dark Lord at this – and even if he continued ignoring her letters she would find a way to take what she wanted anyway. And then she'd seek revenge. And she'd find it. Bella was more than willing to parade with his head on a stick around Hogsmeade after all. It’d give her a taste of what she missed all these years. All Narcissa would ever need was her sister's help and he was doomed.

Of course, this didn’t matter much. Nothing mattered much when poor young Potter had to be fed, trained, and survive through the week without a new attack against him on his record. And the small talks with Dumbledore weren’t uncomfortable only for Severus, as it appeared. He almost dragged the boy back to Hogwarts this evening. And Potter used almost every excuse he could think of to not come. But he did.

No one had ever been given a way out of Dumbledore’s chit chats.

A chuckle reached his ears, and he fought back a shrug at the inappropriateness of it.

“From Draco? I highly doubt it, my boy. His actions will be closely monitored as soon as he steps foot into my grounds.”

And me? What is going to happen to me? "And what am I supposed to do?"

“If he asks you… inform your Lord that you will serve him as you're ordered. He cannot harm me, Severus. Let him plan this out as he wishes. He'll be disappointed.”

The thumping of his heart increased. Reason was not going to calm it down. Patience wasn't either. And the vivid image of another upcoming death he'd be unable to stop was making his fingers twitch.

Severus was going to die. He would have to promise to kill the man – and when he wouldn’t, the Dark Lord would finish him. The day would come, eventually – and he couldn't care less for his own depart, were it for the cause, were it for Lily – but this filthy death, this shameful, cowardice way to go was not the preferred one.

And the bastard had the nerve to look at him peacefully in the eye as he casually announced him his death sentence. Fuck it all. I’ll die before Potter learns Occlumency. The mirthless laugh in his chest was threatening to escape. He held himself straight up of fear that it would leak out.

“As you wish, then.”

He exited the room almost running, and found Potter toying with his wand just outside.

“Your turn,” he rasped while climbing down the stairs, and he was sure that he heard a grunt behind him.


“What is it?”

“Hm?"

“Spit it out.”

Potter shrugged and almost tripped into a puddle. “I’m just a bit… crestfallen, you know.”

He didn’t. In the flicker of shadows cast by the dim lights of the street, he imagined that he must be looking downright obnoxious, and Potter didn’t look like a happy person either. He silently cursed Dumbledore for whatever worry had planted into the boy’s thick head this time. May he rot in hell.

May all the ingenious wizards of this world rot in hell.

“What did he tell you?”

He kept Potter close by one shoulder, the droplets of rain dripping down from the transformed umbrella he was clutching at for dear life. Damn the Trace too, he decided as he quickened his pace. They could be using the Floo now, were the boy a year older. They wouldn’t need to develop shielded apparation points a sodding mile away.

“Why did he tell you?”

Ah. He allowed himself an internal mirthless chuckle, reassured that the sound of rain would most likely overshadow it even if it escaped. It wouldn’t do to bark that this was none of Potter’s business. If he wanted answers, he’d have to give some of them himself. Or pretend to. “I was given instructions, mainly.”

He felt the boy’s shoulder tense under his grip and Severus silently questioned his fate; after countless torturous years of self–sacrifice and meritorious toil, after exposing the traces of sanity he had been left with at cruel, selfish masters, after wasting away his life and all the rare chances in dull happiness he might have had, he was finally rewarded with the honor of comforting Harry Potter.

Merlin help him.

“He wanted to know if you’ve been treating me well,” Potter admitted. His voice ducked into frustration, and were they in a quieter place, Severus was sure he would hear an exasperate sigh of annoyance too.

Potter did not like being reminded of his age. He took this as a form of ultimate offence, which was somehow abasing the stinging of his past to a level where his pain would not be considered real. At the same time, the only kind of pain that he was allowing himself to acknowledge was the one that came along with guilt. Ill-advised attitude; tiresome and pointless. And here Severus thought that since he reached a decent age of maturity he’d never have to deal with such childish matters again.

“And he asked me if I was improved.”

“Is that all?” he asked impatiently.

Potter’s face was focused onto something invisible, somewhere between the far end of the street and his own shoes. His feet blindly followed Severus’. He was hiding something. Something which happened to trouble him much, more likely.

As miffed as he felt, or irritated, he had the terrible honor to be aware of the complexity of Dumbledore’s intentions. Let alone the undisclosed motives that were happily nesting under every suggestion and concept. Whatever the case was, it wouldn’t be unconventional of Dumbledore to entrust crucial information to someone far less reliable than Severus. And when that person happened to be Potter, he could only feel ridiculed.

He unlocked the outdoor and watched as Potter immediately slumped to the floor to untie his shoes. Severus threw his drenched coat on a chair before casting a drying spell on both of them. Potter winced at the harshness of it and sat on the sofa.

“Go for a shower or you’ll catch your death,” Severus said before taking his path for the staircase. It occurred to him that the suggestion was absurd if he were to take a shower too just now. Torn between insisting on his demand and occupying the bathroom first, he was only vaguely aware of Potter mumbling something behind him.

“I beg your pardon?”

He turned to see the boy shaking his head frantically and making a face. “Is it really true? What you said about Dumbledore? Or were you just joking?”

“What did I say?”

“That he’s… you know. Gay. Were you joking?”

It occurred to Severus that the blank expression glued on Potter’s face wasn’t a mask to hide sentiments. It was real. The confusion and the embarrassment were absent. The fear was there. The boy didn’t know what to think.

Perhaps the information was a bit too harsh for a young boy to handle, then. Especially for his mentor.

“Mind your business, Potter.” Then, something occurred to him. “You didn’t mention this to the Headmaster, did you?”

Potter shook his head. “No. So. It’s true, then.”

Severus mentally rolled his eyes. He felt nauseous. He stared at Potter an instant. Potter met his eyes momentarily and then he looked away.

“Doesn’t it bother you? That he’s gay?”

Severus glared at him as he tried to find his calm. He had done this. And now Dumbledore would most likely have his head. “No. It does not concern me.”

“Don’t you think it’s… abnormal?”

The amount of things that were abnormal about Albus Dumbledore was so large, that homosexuality was probably the last one to catch one’s eye. Still. He was not discussing this. Not behind Dumbledore’s back. Not with a child.  “Are you through?”

There was a dim light of hesitation into his eyes as he looked up. His lower lip was chewed mercilessly for a second, and moments later he passed by Severus without looking at him.

“I’ll go first,” he mumbled, and disappeared.


“How close were you with my mother?”

Snape was sitting at his desk, organizing what appeared to be the new Potions curriculum. Harry’s own last year’s schoolbook was laying open across his lap as he blurted out the question.

Snape grunted as though knowing that this was coming. He gave himself a moment of frowning. “We were – friends.”

“Did she like you?”

Snape looked up. “I don’t know, Potter, you tell me. Do you not like your friends?”

This wasn’t what he meant. “No, I mean – you know.”

Snape tapped his quill at the desk. “Such stupendous eloquence. I deeply hope that your vocabulary skills will continue to amaze us common humans for a long time to come.”

Harry grinned. Did Snape really think that he could still use his cliché ways to drive him mad? It would take more than that to make him forget what he’d asked. Especially when he’d been waiting for so long to find the right moment to voice it. And realising that there was simply no right moment. He waited until Snape looked up again. Harry arched his brows. “I’m not buying it, Snape.”

“Be silent.”

Harry gave a reproving look to his textbook and then smiled. “Just tell me, will you?” He took advantage of Snape’s momentary distraction to push. “I’m not telling anyone. I just need to know more. About her.”

Harry’s stomach dropped at the possibility of Snape even considering telling him. He clenched his teeth as Snape let down his quill and pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a silent deep breath. Harry stared patiently.

He had almost lost hope when Snape talked.

“Your mother was a brilliant witch. She had that talent of… making people around her feel carefree. More peaceful, if you like. She would enter a room and all they eyes would be at once on her, on the air around her, her beauty, her… wit. She hated being called beautiful. She preferred the word kind. Everything else she would deem offensive.”

It occurred to him that somewhere in the middle of Snape’s monologue Harry’s heart had sunk venomously into his stomach. It throbbed repeatedly, digging its way through his skin, attuned with his wounded pulse. Snape was frowning at his paper, as though blaming it for something. He had probably let out more than intended, Harry realised.  

And he didn’t think he had heard Snape talking like this before. He didn’t think he had heard anyone talk like this before. Whatever had happened between him and his mother, he suddenly did not want to know about.

He blamed his lunch for the waves of nausea that continued attacking him even after he had gone back to his book, and he was only vaguely aware of Snape still staring at him. Why has he angry with Harry now?

Fuck. Whatever he was willing to make up to ease the tension between them, was suddenly stuck under his tongue.

“Spare yourself the misery, Potter. As you have already seen without given permission, your mother made her choice long ago.”

His moth – What? “I didn’t – hey! It’s not that. You – I don’t mind, that is.”

Perfect. Might as well dig a hole to the ground and stuck my head in. He wasn’t disgusted of Snape fancying his Mum. He was, at first. Disgusted and terrified. He had wanted to erase the information from his memory and move on. He had wanted to go back in time and punch the bastard in the face for ever meeting her in his sorry life. He wasn’t disgusted now; not with Snape, anyway. Freaked out was closer to what he currently felt. “I really don’t mind,” he decided.

Snape took a deep breath. “I sincerely appreciate your consent. Is that all?”

Harry nodded. Snape dipped his quill into the black ink and continued his work.

Harry ripped a page from his notebook and crinkled it before throwing it aside. “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Merlin help us all, Potter’s offspring is suddenly aware of manners. Privacy is not something people around you are merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite. Has it occurred to you that once you’ve gotten answers to your curiosity, apologizing for it does not count?”

Harry took the risk of shifting his eyes to him and was shocked at the sourness he was met with. He found himself mumbling something and he followed his own tongue through it, barely conscious of the sources of its initiative.

“Oh come on! Everyone seems well pleased to gabble for hours about my dad but I’ve no idea how my mother was like! I’m sorry if my curiosity displeases you, or if it disturbs your sitting alone and talking to no one all day long, but I think that I do have the right to know!” He was now yelling, he realized, and he forced his eyes on Snape’s as he took a deep calming breath.

Snape stood. “Get out.”

“Why?”

“Get out, Potter!”

Harry stood too, throwing his book on the desk angrily. “Do you still love her?”

“Speak another word and you –”

“Stop treating me like that!” he yelled. “I’m not a child, damn you! You can’t threaten me every time you’re brought to a deadlock and you feel embarrassed, and if you think I’ll quit thinking about some things if you ignore them long enough then you’re wrong!”

He was aware of his chest aching from a rage he did not know he’d been suppressing. The relief of liberating it took him aback. He held his chin high and did not flinch when Snape stepped closer.

“Lower your voice, boy! As long as you are a guest of mine and are expected to be under my supervision you will behave properly either you want it or not. Do not think for an instance that I will allow any kind abuse of my hospitality, especially from you. You might be getting away with your cheeky tone when it comes to Dumbledore, and he might even allow you fuck up his office whenever you’re having cute breakdowns, but I assure you that you do not want to test my authority!”

Harry shifted to his feet, his face a breath away from Snape’s. He looked up and pressed his lips together in what he hoped looked like disdain.

It didn’t make sense for Snape to be deranged about it. He still loved her.

Snape jabbed Harry’s shoulder. Harry didn’t grunt.

“Now, get out of my sight and go weep under your pillow for all I care.”

He was aware of his fists clenching tightly as he let out a relaxing breath. He was surprised of the calmness of his own voice.

“So, if you hate me because of my father, and you force yourself being nice to me because of my mother, do you even know who I am?” He narrowed his eyes testily, and watched with fascination as Snape’s eyes darkened with shocked astonishment.

“You’re impossible,” Snape breathed.

Harry snorted, the tension strangely slipping away. He grinned. “And you’re a git.”

Snape shook his head and sat on the sofa, a sigh escaping him. “What’s this?” He took the wrinkled paper on his hand and began unfolding it. Harry snatched it away a bit too quickly. He was awarded with a curious furrowing and he knew that Snape could see the heat spreading over his face.

“Um. Nothing, too bad handwriting, couldn’t read my own text. I had to re-write it.” He shoved it into his pocket and went back to his reading while Snape observed him for another minute. Then he went back to his desk too.

Relieved, Harry lied down and began another exercise. He brushed his shoulder where Snape had jabbed him, and was aware of the spot still tingling at the memory of it.

 

Chapter Text

Harry looked over at the desk that Snape had transferred to the living room. The summer was an awfully rainy one; the trickling noise of the rain was interrupted only by the regularly refilling of Snape’s glass.

It occurred to Harry that he had drunk almost a bottle tonight, but he kept correcting summer essays nonetheless.

Harry was occupying the sofa as usual, reading what seemed like the most boring book in the world. He heard a groan and saw Snape rubbing his eyes keenly with two fingers. Harry realised that he hadn’t seen him leaving the desk since the end of their Occlumency practice this evening.

Snape blinked his tiredness away and gulped another mouthful of alcohol. He corrected another page before taking a deep breath and shutting his eyes.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked.

“I’m tired of correcting nonsenses.”

He looked so desperate that Harry almost pitied him. “Such as?”

“Step five,” Snape read. “I added powdered unicorn horn and waited for the potion to turn pink. When it didn’t,” he hissed, “I added pink ink. The potion turned pink.”

Harry snorted. “Who wrote that?”

“It would be unprofessional of me to say.”

It would. Harry waited. Snape glared. And then he sighed. “A first year. Muggleborn.”

Harry titled his head and rolled his eyes as if trying to make up his mind about it. “Well, it makes sense, then.”

“I wouldn’t expect a better response from you.”

And now Snape was rubbing his eyes again.

“Take a rest.”

“What for?”

“You’re tired.”

Snape nodded and refilled his glass, rubbing his face with his palm. He got up and stalked towards the sofa, feeling for the wall as if he thought it might escape him unless he kept in touch with it. His armchair escaped him indeed, and he almost collapsed onto Harry as he tripled over his feet.

“Fuck. Potter. Sorry.”

He landed next to him on the sofa with a grunt. His hair brushed Harry’s shoulder lightly.

“You’re pissed,” Harry recognised.

“One should always be pissed,” Snape murmured as he rested his head back on the cushions and slid lower.

Harry thought of shifting away, but he was already trapped at the end of the sofa. In the dim light of the room, Snape’s hand was twitching weakly at the glass resting onto his thigh. His eyes were half – closed, his features relaxed in a state that Harry had never seen them before. The constant scowl was now absent, replaced by an expression that seemed to be only flashes away from lethargy.

And his body was emitting a strange warmth.

“Some students are doomed to remain empty – headed their whole lives, you know. No offence,” Snape said. 

Harry adjusted himself slightly. “Whatever,” he murmured back. He really wanted to avoid a fight right now.  

Snape raised his hand, rubbed his neck and winced, barring his teeth as he grunted. “Fuck.”

This was the exact moment Harry should go upstairs. Without thinking twice about it. Perhaps if he just left Snape here and went to sleep…

“You have a headache?” Harry asked, although he already knew the answer.

Snape hummed, either in agreement or disagreement; Harry couldn’t tell. He pushed Snape’s hand down and placed his own on Snape’s neck. It occurred to him that Snape was attempting a frown, but his face was too sleepy to obtain it properly. 

Unsure, Harry worked his fingers in circular motions on his neck, pushing aside his hair. He tugged at the collar of his shirt and slipped his fingers lower at the skin, which was so tensed that Harry could barely push at it. A part of himself wanted to convince himself that what he was doing was a mere favour to the most miserable man alive; another part of himself was entirely disgusted. And he couldn't tell why. He had a very strong suspicion that embarrassment would take over tomorrow. Or was taking over already. 

He was aware of Snape holding his breath. “What are you doing?” he choked. 

“Hold on,” Harry said. Snape exhaled sharply and shut his eyes tightly, his lips slightly parting. It occurred to Harry that it was highly unlikely that anyone had ever done this to him before. And for a good reason too, probably. He continued out of wonder; unsure of why Snape hadn't stopped him yet. Thrilled that a Hogwarts Professor could actually exist outside school. Terrified at the throbbing of skin against his fingers. Severus Snape had a heart. 

His fingers reached his upper shoulder blade, his palm sliding up again to the end of his hairline. A piercing pain on his own lip informed him of his biting hard on it again, and he made a face absently. Maybe he just pitied Snape. Not that he wouldn't deserve it. And he hated him equally. 

Under the subsiding rain outside, the sound of a soft moan vibrating on the back of Snape’s throat was almost completely shadowed. 

Harry was looking at his own hand, and he almost missed the way Snape’s lips pursued in something between a faint smirk and a smile.

“Unbelievable,” Snape murmured, and Harry was curious to know what was unbelievable, and why he allowed him to do this, and if he was going to be harsher and meaner to him tomorrow to take this back. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to ask, afraid that if Snape opened his eyes, the moment would fade away, and he would have to face his inappropriate action like a man, and then apologise for it as Snape would shoo him away like an annoying fly on his nose.

He didn’t talk. Instead, his movements soothed down and eventually stopped, his hand retreating as the dark hair fell once again to the shoulder beneath them.

Harry took carefully the glass from Snape’s hand and placed it on the table, as Snape’s hand faintly attempted to curl around thin air. He should go now. Go before he did anything that would lead him to his early painful death. He chuckled to himself for a moment, and then looked back at Snape who was now sleeping with his head fallen back.

Or pretending to be sleeping, hoping that Harry would disappear as quickly as possible. He was used to be unwanted. Right now he couldn't care less, because Snape was just as unwanted to him too, and he'd rather be anywhere but here, with a man who worked for Voldemort. 

But this was a bit different. Being unwanted by Snape was almost an honour.

Frustrated with himself, Harry eventually went to lie down.


“I can do this all night,” Severus informed him. The boy grunted, biting at his own tongue as he looked up.

“Then do so. I quit.” He was about to throw his wand on the sofa when Severus raised his own again.

“Not in my lesson, Potter. Leg –”

“Stop it!”

“Try harder!”

“I am trying!” Potter kicked at the carpet in vexation. He was trying. And he was failing. And no matter how hard they both insisted on avoiding this, he would always collapse on the floor at the end, feeling sorry about his poor attempts and his guaranteed daily failure. It was a simple thing, really. No riddles or hidden curses to restrict him here. Potter was just incapable of it.

“Your efforts are not nearly enough to contrive the proper way to succeed at it. You keep using the same way to block me every day while instead you could experiment until the way that fits you finally occurred.”

A stubborn frown veiled Potter's face. “You think I didn’t try that? I tried fucking everything, it’s just not working, whatever I do! I could shove my head into a cement block and my thoughts would still fly away!”

He barely resembled James when he was like this; drenched in sweat, his lips trembling from disappointment that he was trying to force into obstinate anger. Hair damp and stuck onto his forehead, shirt damp too, and chest heaving as though all the air from the world had been sucked into him and was desperately kicking for its escape.

“Language, Potter.”

“Fuck language.”

And disappointment it was, always. Disappointment to fail himself. To ridicule himself in front of Severus. It was a good thing to skin him from this disappointment before it took root. A hard thing though, was to do it without sounding helpful.

Being helpful to Harry Potter was not something he would do in this lifetime.

“If you enjoy being on your knees while I do this I will not object. Training is not over though. Prepare yourself.”

Potter stumbled up quickly.

Headstrong, always. But still manipulative.

“Tomorrow.”

“Now, Potter.”

“I can’t!”

Deep breath. Lie. He needed a lie. It hovered inside his throat in demur for a second. “I saw improvement.”

And Potter’s eyes lit up, green and alive. Sparkling. Green. “You did?”

“Yes. You are doing it better than before.”

Potter took his wand, keeping his back turned at Severus for a moment that seemed a bit too long. Severus thought that the boy must have been smiling to himself. Or frowning. Then he turned.

“I’m ready. Do it.”

Severus smiled too. “Legilimens.”

Now, that was better.

Chapter Text

Severus had come to the frightening conclusion that the book on the boy’s lap was Sybill’s rubbish. He decided to ignore it for the time being, and poured himself a cup of hot tea, offering one to Potter as well.

Potter accepted it and thanked him, placing it to the table in front of the sofa. Taking his usual seat, Severus appreciated the sweet silence. At last, Potter was beginning to learn to enjoy it too. Or so it seemed. 

Until Potter cleared his throat hesitantly.

"I need your help with something. I think.” He looked up at Severus with arched eyebrows, expecting to be turned down. He was right to be expecting it. 

“What is it?” Severus spat and silently damned himself. He was supposed to turn him down.

“Professor Trelawney has asked for an assignment, you know, her usual stuff. I need a partner for it, it could be even a Muggle, it says here. The other person doesn't even need to know what I'm doing.”

What could it be this time? It was a wonder they let that woman teach – her rare as hen’s teeth real prophecies were the only reason Dumbledore was still protecting her. That, and his preposterous choice of friends.

“A partner for what?”

“Well, it says I need to, you know, read someone's palm, so…” he trailed of so quickly that it was obvious that he believed he didn’t stand a chance. And he didn’t. Or he wouldn’t, under normal circumstances.

But Merlin help him, he was intrigued. This would be hilariously easy to use to prove to Potter what a scam Divination was. Potter believed in enough rubbish already. There had to be an end to it. 

“Very well.”

He moved to the sofa and sat next to Potter, offering his hand. Potter took it, his expression completely dumb while doing so. As though afraid that Severus might change his mind at any moment, Potter quickly browsed through the pages and stopped.

He read something, underlined it, and stared at his palm keeping it steeled with a grip on the wrist. After a minute of inspecting it  though experiencing a countering with Yorick’s skull, his eyes darted again to the book and his index finger brushed the length of a line.

Severus waited. And after a minute of deep thinking and eyebrow furrowing, Potter confidently stated, “You’re a male.”

Severus arched a brow. “You clearly are the most sensational seer of your generation. Your abilities leave me speechless.”

“Shut up.” Potter nudged him softly. He then shrugged his shoulders and dragged Severus’ palm on his lap as he turned another page.

“I didn’t make it up, just wait.” Severus waited. “Now, see that line over here? It says so. That you’re a male.”

He was a man. Fascinating. All his life he was just waiting for Trelawney to let him know. Thank gods that he had finally found out the hidden truth that was controlling his life. 

“I am a male."

"Yes. This is step one," Potter mumbled, but didn't continue to whatever step two was.

"Is that all?"

"No, wait. I'm just making sure."

"That I'm a male? What do you want? Verification?”

A blush crossed Potter’s cheeks and he bowed his head over his book. It was impossible to make anything of it as long as long as Potter was looking down. “Maybe.”

What? Before he had time to analyse it better, Potter scribed down his discovery and opened Severus’ fist again. His fingers were warm. He really hoped that it’d occur to Potter to demonstrate his assignment under a fake name instead of Severus’.

Blowing their summer secret so stupidly would be tremendous. He was about to tell him so when Potter talked again.

“You're going to be lucky this week, also.”

This week? “And how, pray tell, are the lines of my palm going to change themselves once this week is over?”

“Oh. Right. Then I guess you’re a lucky person in general.”

Extraordinary lucky. At last, someone had noticed.

“And here…” he pressed from Severus’ thumb downwards until he reached the middle of his palm, “shows that you will fall in love and that you will experience an unspeakable passion.”

Potter’s eyes urged him to check it over himself, as though the said unspeakable passion was hovering over his palm. Severus looked at his hand, which was as it had always been, except that it wasn’t getting any younger. He spread his fingers. 

“And here I thought that that was a mosquito scratch,” he responded wryly.

Potter chuckled. “You’re impossible.”

“I’ve been told so.”

Potter wrote it all down. It occurred to him that perhaps Potter was putting some unnecessary faith to Dumbledore’s plans and Sibyll’s nonsense.     

“You shouldn’t believe in fate, Potter." It slipped from his tongue before he could restrain it, and he watched his own words swim through the air and slowly sink into Potter. Once registered, he also realised that Potter wasn’t thinking about palm reading anymore.

“The prophecy says –”

The hell with it. If he were to start this conversation, he would do it right. “It doesn’t matter what the prophecy says. No one can force you to sacrifice yourself for the sake of a seer’s prediction. You have no proof that the prophecy must be fulfilled.”

“If I don’t kill him he will kill me, and –”

“The Dark Lord tested his fate when he decided to look out for you – because he knew about the prophecy. If he hadn’t known, he wouldn’t have made it come true.”

“That doesn’t mean –”

“He made it happen. It didn’t exist before he decided to make it real.”

“You can’t know that,” he spat, a frown of insecurity around his glare.

“What I know, is that people have the power to bring to life whatever they believe in if they believe it strong enough to let it blind them. It was his own fear that led the Dark Lord to his downfall, and it is the people’s fear that still keeps him alive. His only value in life is his own wellbeing, and his followers know that well.”

Too well, honestly. It seemed to escape the Dark Lord’s notice that he was exposing this weakness of his so openly.

Potter pressed his lips together. It would take some time for him to see it – and then some more to believe it. But this war needed him a warrior, not a pawn. And if it was up to Severus, the boy would have never been a pawn in the first place.

“You will fight. But not out of fear. You will fight out of prowess.”

Potter nodded to his lap. “Yeah. I guess so.”

Their hands were still clasped together, and he carefully untangled his fingers from Potter’s grasp. Potter let go after resisting for a moment.

"I don't know why you're telling me this," Potter said. Severus shook his head slightly, although Potter didn’t notice it. “That doesn’t mean I forgive you,” he added quickly. "I'm never going to."

Forgiveness. For the good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. But every time he almost forgave himself, the truth got a tighter hold of his throat and squeezed, and he knew that either he was going to go through remorse and forceful forgetting for the rest of his life, or carry his guilt on his shoulders and go on. It didn't matter. Potter's forgiveness would be useless; offending. For some vain and idiotic reason, people had to forgive. It benefited the spirit, dug through the fanfare of the poor epiphany and blowed new life into a dying soul. It was a sign of emotional maturity, most times. And some other times, accepting that what had been done could not be forgiven, was just as mature.

“I couldn't care less. i'm guiding you because I'm instructed to. Never forget this.” Lily was not going to come back. And he certainly shouldn’t discuss this with her son.

Potter looked up, uncertain. “Did you – know that – did you know that he’d kill me anyway?”

“Yes.”

“But you didn’t care. You wanted to protect my mother only.”

“Yes.”

“You were happy my father died.”

Yes. “No. I – didn’t have time for it.”

Potter snorted. “Right. You know something, I don’t understand you. At all. And I fucking hate you. But you’re confusing the hell out of me.”

“Manners, Potter.”

“Does it really matter to you if I call you sir or not or if i swear in front of you? It’s just stupid.”

Respect was always stupid for all Gryffindors. For them, it was always being confused with admiral and trust – values dissimilar and long ago separated from each other.

“You cannot expect to receive respect if you do not show it equally,” Severus said.

“But I don’t think respect is an honest thing, not in the way you expect me to show it. If I feel like saying something and then I have to cover it up and say it in another way, then I’m dishonest to you. How is that respect?”

“Being impolite will not make your point more obvious. You must learn to express yourself properly.” Potter did not like that. His face was struggling to keep under the surface some sentiment that was also struggling to not choke itself on its own. Perhaps it was anger again. The boy’s sentiments were too unstable these days.

“But what you call respect is just hypocrisy, can’t you see that? People use respect so they can keep themselves from becoming familiar with each other. It’s like someone who’s filling an empty space with something just to not leave it empty. That doesn’t mean that this is the only thing that can fill the space though.”

It was a struggle of Potter's to put his words into sentences, Severus decided. His brain was working over matters he was not intimate with, and his vocabulary was too poor for his brain to fully comprehend its own conclusions. Where Potter a little more educated, what he had just said would be almost interesting.

Unlike Potter’s lengthy babbling, the same point had been once richly expressed and inclusive.

And terrifying.

“Have you been reading Tolstoy?” Severus asked, inwardly panicked.  

Potter blinked, distracted. “What’s that?”

Of course not. “Never mind.”

“What’s that?”

“Never mind, Potter. My palm reading is waiting.”

Potter reopened the book, hopefully a little more certain that this war would have a positive outcome someday. For he’d have to kill the Dark Lord, prophecy or not. And if he didn’t, he would die, and everything Severus had done all his life would be a waste. It occurred to him that the pain, if the boy died, was supposed to be just for Lily’s sake.

Lily, who was gone – gone- all these years ago, while Potter was here. Alive. Breathing heavily just in front of him, drowning into deep thinking that was too much for his age, and too hard to bear. And still doing so in complete silence.

Potter didn’t want to die. But he was ready to do it, if he must. And that was making all the difference.

Severus landed his hand on Potter’s lap again, startling him. “Go on. I can’t wait to know what else is going to happen to fascinating life. Tell me my fate.”

Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be. He choked. Pathetic. Utterly pathetic. And fuck Tolstoy too.


Potter climbed down the stairs, his feet almost hopping as he landed on the floor with a loud thud.

“Morning.”

Why was he grinning now? Severus tossed him the biscuit box that was waiting for him on the table. He caught it with reflexes only a seeker could have, and sat cross legged on the floor to open it. His hair had gone wild over the last month – it was impossible to believe that it would ever manage to get even worse than normal, but nevertheless it had. Severus looked at it repelled. A haircut would do.

Then again, a haircut had never helped his father’s hair. It occurred to him that Potter was checking him with the corner of his eye, biscuit crumbs gliding down his book’s pages on his lap. Something was going on, and it wasn’t important in an actual important way. If Potter was grinning about it, it meant that he wasn’t in danger, and so it didn’t matter. To Potter though, it did.

And it shouldn’t matter either that Potter was expecting him to guess what that damn thing was. He certainly wasn’t going to fall into that childish trap and play his games. He was a grown man, and Potter eyeing him every few seconds instead of reading his homework was just not something he wanted to occupy himself with.

But it was distracting him.

“Dammit Potter, what is it?” It occurred to him that he had snapped in a way that revealed all his hesitations to drag himself into it. Bugger. They boy’s continuous presence was making him forget his professional place. He would swear that sometimes Potter could almost read him.

Despite everything, Potter grinned even wider. “Sweet sixteen, Harry, happy birthday!” he said.

Severus chocked and allowed himself a grunt. It occurred to him right away that for some traitorous reason it had sounded more like a laugh.

“Congratulations Potter. If that was a hint that you are expecting me to make you a birthday cake, I suggest you forget about it.”

Sixteen years already. Sixteen years of his life on Dumbledore’s orders and his dreadful service. It was fascinating, how quickly time ran when one had merely had to follow strict orders. Looking back, he could only find strands of life into these years. Strands, and those dim and already fading. Non important.

“You could just say happy birthday,” Potter said, before he smiled again. “Besides, I’ve biscuits.”

Sixteen years of sacrifice that had led up to this: an ignorant orphaned young boy sitting before his feet and happily eating chocolate biscuits. Years of mistakes, of crimes, of lying and regret, all of them devoted to this particular boy, who had already turned sixteen and was soon to be a man.

A man who’d hate Severus as much as his father did, as much as Lily hated him when she befriended Potter, and as much as everyone else in the world probably still did.

None of this mattered. Potter would go back to Hogwarts and he’d forget how hard Severus tried to protect his arse. He’d never understand the full extents of his offering, nor his pain as he had to go through looking at those eyes and dealing with that face daily into his own private space.

“Are you alright?”

He suddenly wasn’t. And what should he expect, anyway. Potter didn’t even acknowledged that he should respect him. He’d never recognise – never appreciate all this. For him, Severus was nothing but an ugly bastard who was just making his life difficult.

“Snape?”

And for everybody alive except Dumbledore, he was a scum too. And perhaps he was. He stood.

“I’m going out,” he spat, and grabbed his coat.


It had gone dark. Fuck. Fuck. What was he going to do? Stupid. Fuck. Stupid. It must have been something he had said. Was it his birthday? What had he done wrong now?

Snape was gone all day, without a reason or a warning about it. It had gone dark. He had never gone out before without telling him where he’d go or how long he’d be away. He couldn’t recall being told anything about a meeting with Voldemort either. Was he with Dumbledore?

Should he owl Dumbledore? And what should he tell him? Snape disappeared since morning, help, please? Fuck. He checked behind the window curtain again and kicked the wall. This place had trapped him in forever now. With all these shields and protection charms he was never going to cross the outdoor and come out of it in one piece.

And Snape could be in danger.

Perhaps a meeting he forgot to tell him about. He could be with Voldemort. Voldemort could have caught him – been torturing him – and why did that scare him so much?

“Fuck you, Snape!”

He was confused. That was all. Something was just not working well in his head. It was Snape’s own fault, probably. Legilimency had fucked up his mind for good this time – that was the only logical explanation. Damn it all. Why had Snape to treat him like this? Why didn’t he tell him where he went? The memories of Sirius attacked him all over again. How he left the house. How he died because of it. 

There could be an explanation, of course. Snape was punishing him for having been born, that was it. This was his birthday present. Or perhaps he had started figuring out what was going on with Harry and had freaked out. Well, Harry was freaking out too about it. Whenever he thought about it. And he tried to never think about it. And he certainly couldn’t think about it right now.

He felt sad. He waited and waited and waited, and didn’t eat anything all day long. His stomach had just shrunk into nothingness and his anxiety only increased as time went by. This time something was really wrong.

And if Snape died – he snorted mirthlessly, checking out the window again. He had rubbed the man’s neck. He wasn’t going to die just now. He wasn’t going to die after Harry had started getting used to him. Harry didn’t deserve this. He couldn’t take another loss that soon. It was unfair.

He exhaled sharply through his nostrils, reasoning himself. All this fuss was more than unnecessary, and he was stressed without evidence of Snape being in danger. He shouldn’t waste his time thinking of the snarky bastard. He could go take a shower and sleep. Or write to Ron. Or search the rooms for hidden treasures as he used to do until now.

Snape was looking after Harry because he had to. He would murder him on the spot, if that could bring his Mum back. Hell, perhaps he’d murder him anyway.

Snape was not a good man.

That’s a lie.

Harry didn’t even like him.

That’s a worse lie. 

Fuck.

It was the magazine’s fault. He had to throw it away. Or better burn it.

The door cricked open. He was alive. The fucking bastard was alive.

“Where the fuck have you been?!” Harry shouted before he could even see him. 

“I beg your pardon?” Snape took off his coat and hanged it, walking past Harry and towards the stairs. Harry followed.

“I fucking asked you something! Answer me!”

Snape reached the second floor and didn’t look back.

“I’m fucking here, Snape, are you deaf? Where. The fuck. Have you BEEN?”

“I was experiencing an unspeakable passion. Why are you not sleeping?” His voice was outrageously calm.

“Sleeping! You were missing goddamn you! I was worried sick, you locked me inside while you know I can't use magic, and you didn't even tell me why you left! What did you expect me to do?"

His throat burned from screaming, but he didn’t care. He yanked Snape’s arm to stop him just outside his room and he could feel his own panting throb into his ears. Snape looked at him from head to toe, but didn’t bother to concern himself further.

“Go to sleep.”

“You didn’t tell me where you’ve been,” spat Harry, his lungs still aching as he panted even harder. He’d extirpate his eyes before he cried in front of Snape.

“Mind your business, Potter.” He turned to his room door again, and Harry yanked at his arm harder, turning him to him viciously.

“Don’t you think that I deserve a fucking explanation?” he hissed bitterly.

Snape was about to turn around again, but Harry pulled on his arm and dug his fingertips in in vexation. “FUCKING TELL ME!”

Scowling, Snape yanked his arm away and grabbed him by the collar, pushing him against the wall with a frightening strength and forcing him still. Harry’s back crashed hard to the solid surface, and Snape’s breath tickled his face dangerously close.

“I was in a muggle brothel, fucking an average chick for twenty pounds while she deserved much less for her skills. Then I went to a bar, found my allies that work for the Dark Lord, and discussed the misfortune of your existence. Satisfied, Potter? ”

It was like he had drunk a very poisonous potion. All at once, a splitting headache strafed his skull, which came with a nearly irresistible urge to commit murder. A misery. That was it; a misery spread all over his heart, and surely he must have been bleeding somewhere in his insides, otherwise this dizziness would be of no explanation.

The shattering pain spreading over his veins was of no explanation too, and he found himself holding his breath to steady it, afraid of the force that it would come out with should he leave it.

He stared. He stared up at the black eyes as his heart sank down his stomach and stayed there, kicking pathetically out of shame and something else. Then he pushed Snape away and he stumbled back with small steps, pathetic – pathetic – steps, gods, he’s enjoying your shock – and he turned away, looking everywhere but at Snape, thinking of anything but him, running to his room and closing the door, fighting the urge to drag something behind it to keep it closed forever.

He felt offended. But why should he? Why did it matter that – fuck. Shit. It mattered. He chuckled bitterly as he slid down the door and sat on the floor. Snape hated him.

He took a deep breath. And another one. And another one. That didn’t make sense. He should be pissed off. Not offended. Not – hurt.

Something else occurred to him, and he grabbed the collar of his shirt. Snape had just touched him after visiting a brothel. He took off his shirt and tossed it on the floor, disgusted. I will not scream or shout, he repeated inwardly. I will not scream or shout.

He touched his chest, his heart beating ridiculously fast, and one would assume that he was running for miles – and then it almost stopped beating all at once when Harry realised what was happening to him. No. He laughed. Hard. Oh no. 

He laughed harder.

Chapter Text

For a couple of days, Potter shut his mouth stubbornly.

He took his meals to his room, he avoided Severus, and as soon as the Occlumency practice was over he’d go upstairs and leave him the hell alone. Even when Severus talked to him, his responses would be monolectic and to the point; even the eye contact had also subsided to zero.

Finally, the boy was learning.

Severus was calm again. Enjoying the silence.

But the silence could be enjoyed only during daylight hours. Potter’s nightmares all of sudden were back, and were crueler than ever - harsh and ongoing until the boy would either wake up screaming or pass out. The second night, Severus crept into his room to wake him.

The whining was too much – he thought it might be a vision. When Potter woke up and faced him, the shadows on his face had nothing familiar or childish for Severus to read.

“Bad one?” Severus wasn’t familiar with comforting people.

“Go away, get out,” Potter had mumbled, his eyes unfocused and turned down. He pushed Severus' hand away from his chest and shifted back; Severus slammed the door behind him after threatening to kick him out should this continue.

Once again, Potter was making a big deal out of something that did not concern him in the slightest, and only to draw attention. He’d have none of it. If he didn’t want to talk, they’d play this his way. No talking it was.

Until the third day, on which Potter talked.

“So, where is that place? That you visited the other day, I mean.”

The tension between them was heavy again; it seemed that all the warmth that had settled into the house had now been vapored away, leaving behind a cold emptiness. It was the kind that had to be filled with the fake distance of politeness.

“Interested?” Severus placed the plate with the bread slices on the table and took the juice out of the fridge.

“Maybe.”

Severus had to hand it to him; he was at least trying to be casual about it, although he couldn’t tell if Potter was doing it to annoy him or to fix things.

There was certainly nothing to be fixed. “You’re underage.”

Potter shred a tiny piece of his napkin. “Oh.”

Damn it all. Hogwarts should start already. He sat down and took a large bite of his steak.

“I shouldn't have asked. Not that you told me the truth ayway."

Ah. So he had finally figured that out. And here he thought that the boy would buy anything he gave him.

“Have I given you the impression that you are allowed to continue discussing this?"

“Who do you think you are, Snape?"

He was a man who couldn't care less about this very moment. Not spending Potter's birthday with him was the wisest decision he could've taken. He had taken a really long walk, almost caught a cold, and when he ended up to the pub that destroyed his father's life he decided to give it a try too.

The damp air and the long, tall alleys had helped him calm down nevertheless. He had almost forgotten that the boy existed, when he came back to be reminded of him again by having him screaming at his face.

“You realise that you sound like a housewife that has been cheated on, no?”

Potter bit his lip, holding back his anger. No, not anger. Embarrassment.

“I was worried. Not for you, but for me.”

“Why would you?”

A deep breath.

“Well, you shouldn’t.”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Potter snapped. He banged his fist on the table and glared at him, his eyes glimmering dangerously. “I don’t want you to die on me!”

Die. On him.

He was aware of his own jaw dropping open, and the fork being squeezed tightly inside his fist. He blinked and firmly cut another bite. A sigh was heard from nearby and he didn’t bother looking up.

The tension seemed to drift away. Painfully slowly. The urge for normality forced his voice form something. It occurred to him that being okay with Potter shouldn’t pass as normality.

Die on him. He never had anyone to die on.

“Have you finished you assignments?”

Potter snorted. “Everything besides potions. Are you going to help me?”

It would be highly unprofessional to help a student with an assignment he had assigned himself on his class.

“Very well. After Occlumency.”


Severus damped his hair with a towel, tossing it on a chair. The water had been boiling; he liked his showers burning hot, helping him drain off thoughts and worries.

Potter knocked.

“Wait there."

He pulled on his nightgown and damped his hair once more. He opened.

Potter was on his pajamas too. He held up a new notebook. “My assignment?”

Right. Wait, now? “It’s too late, Potter, we’ll check it tomorrow.” “

I can’t sleep.” His eyes were almost apologizing. He was probably afraid to fall asleep that early – it was barely ten, and his nightmares would only last longer.

It wasn’t Severus’ problem. He shouldn’t care. “Come in.”

Bugger.

Potter walked in and sat on the bed. I did not say you could sit, he was ready to hiss, when he remember that he had transferred his desk downstairs. Sighing, he sat on the bed too, just as Potter had made himself comfortable and drew the sheet around his feet. Severus covered his own feet too, yanking at the sheet in an indication that hoped to pass on the simple message mine.

This could be highly misunderstood, for anyone who’d see them. It was a soothing thought that if they were discovered together in bed they would likely be killed before they’d have the time to offer explanations.

“Have you completed it?” he asked.

Potter handed him over the notebook. “Almost. Some parts confused me.”

Severus read the first page in silence. “You have copied extracts from the book. And your handwriting is getting worse."

“It’s a draft, I’ll rewrite it on a papyrus scroll. If the book has it right why is it bad copying it?”

“Because it shows rush and laziness. You must be creative.”

Potter snorted. “Creative at potions? I might blow up something.”

“And that will make you learn.”

“Now what?”

“Rewrite it.”

“You didn’t read it all.”

“Rewrite it.”

Fuming, Potter sighed, and much to Severus’ surprise he took his pen out and took back the notebook. He was going to do it now?

“Just wait a minute. I can make the corrections and it’ll look right.”

Severus wanted to tell him that correcting a copied text was not going to make it right, and that he was shamelessly cheating in front of his professor, without even being aware of it. That his assignment should have a large blood red FAIL across it – and that it was probably going to have it, come to think of it.

Instead, he waited.

And he waited some more, until his back tingled and he made himself a little more comfortable. Then a little more. It seemed to take ages for Potter to finish up, and his scratching pen on the paper was rhythmical and low. There was a star of light drifting above him, and it took some concentration to remember that it was the flickering of the night table light, while a smell like a herb garden attacked him– like fresh flowers dipped in water, in a nice china; perhaps a sunny day, a china placed on a wide white window, somewhere, for someone.

The soft warmth was peaceful, and he stretched out at his back, sliding further down on his bed until he lied down completely, and was ready to bark something at potter – to finish up, to get out, to get this over with – but instead, he yawned. His eyes flickered opened sometime later, but Potter had fallen asleep too, pen at hand, and Severus shut his eyes again, sleep taking him in so quietly, that it was like an elephant had been resting on top of his chest – and now he had slowly sat up, and was finally padding away. 

Chapter Text

Morning was wonderful. Made of relaxation and phenomenal happiness, constructed with bright light penetrating the dark curtains; contradicting and yet creating the absence of worries that its light promises. Morning was a life given gift.

Its only drawback was that it came at such an inconvenient time of day. A time of day in which a man had to force himself cruelly awake, he could not think beyond taking a piss, and had to grunt his consciousness into alarm for everything that still occurred to the outer world.

Like that figment that was breathing evenly and was attached to him. He decided that it was human.

His eyes snapped open.

Of course. 

It occurred to him that this was a really pathetic dream for him to have. And then it occurred to him that it wasn’t a dream.

Potter was hugging him.

The last time someone had hugged him was when Dumbledore took him back. He had hugged him then, Severus sitting on a chair, Dumbledore hovering above him, squeezing his shoulder, telling him to look after Harry Potter, always.

That was a decent hug. A respectable one. 

This one wasn't. 

The feeling was incomparable with anything else; it held a familiarity and yet it wasn’t something he’d ever wish to accept. The warmth of another body willingly clutched at his own was unnerving.

The boy shifted slightly in his sleep and his body slid even closer, their chests joining as they breathed. Potter slowly. Severus with a discomforting difficulty. This intimacy was the very reason Severus never wished for children. 

If Potter could only see himself now, his hands wreathed around his most hated professor’s torso, his face a vivacious pink from a rare, nightmare-free sleep, he’d most likely obliviate himself right away.

Still, his fingers clamped weakly on the back of Severus’ pyjama shirt. It was Black’s death behind this. The boy’s mental stability had become weaker than what anyone had anticipated, although Potter insisted on hiding it well. He wished to appear strong. To live up to other’s expectations.

Severus wondered if Potter had ever let his grief overwhelm him, even for a day.

A subconscious need, expressed when he was at the lowest state of awareness, and was too weak to fight it. Potter didn’t even know it was him that he was hugging.

It was wrong nevertheless.

“Potter.”

His insolence was beyond control. He must have woken up at some point during the night – and instead of returning to his room, the little brat had sneaked under the bedclothes.

Bugger. 


Harry hadn’t felt this cosy in ages; his heart was heated and his chest was tingly. For a second there he imagined that he was a baby in a womb – tiny and protected and safe – that nothing mattered. He shifted closer – if only Snape could continue sleeping for the rest of the day – if he could continue be calm and nice like this…

“Potter.”

He opened his eyes. Snape was staring at him as though he had grown a second head. He closed his eyes again and thought.

Snape. Cosy. Oh fuck.

His eyes reopened, this time as wide as they could go. He was aware of his heart beating embarrassingly fast, impelling blood to all the wrong places. 

He was hugging Snape. His face was barely an inch away from Snape’s nose. He considered of saying something quickly. He couldn't.

It occurred to him that he should get up, but somehow he couldn’t manage to. Didn’t want to. He stared back at the dark depth of Snape’s eyes and realised that the man was experiencing some trouble appreciating this unexpected situation.

“Potter,” he croaked again.

“Snape.”

Snape parted his own lips too, bur the anger that surely was building up inside him didn't come out. 

Instead, he muttered something else, his tone low and slightly panicked. “I’m going to jail.”

Snape remained frozen, as though trying to make this new information sink in easier. 

Harry chuckled. “Dumbledore’s going to save you. He’s gay after all, right?”

Oh how clever. Bravo, Harry.

How the hell had that slipped out?

At the mention of the word gay, Snape’s eye twitched dangerously. “If you would you please un-attach yourself from my person, I would truly appreciate it. Potter.”

Then, before he could answer, Harry was pushed aside. Snape got up and put on his robe, his back on Harry. Harry stretched out, yawned, put his glasses on and stared.

“I do not recall seeking your exceptional company or inviting you to my bed, why did you sleep here?”

"The mattress's softer, sir," Harry said innocently. Whatever Snape muttered though, Harry didn't hear it. “I wanted to," he added. 

“You wanted to sleep with me?” asked Snape suspiciously, going through a pile of clothes in the closet to find something.

“No, I was just sleepy."

It was his wand that he was looking for. He let it on the night stand, rubbing his face with a hand and staring back at Harry. He’s trying to figure out what to do with me, Harry realised.

“What you did is unacceptable.”

“So what? No one knows.”

“This is not the point, Potter! Why didn’t you go to your room? Nothing has given you the right to cross the lines so light hearted but you nevertheless do so, every goddamn time!"

“I was sleepy,” Harry repeated. He wasn't going to let Snape know that he felt the shame himself too. 

Snape exhaled hard.

Well, the bitterness was back then. “You will not play games with me! I don’t know how you interpret my hospitality boy, but you are certainly reaching the wrong conclusions. You find your way to my bedroom far too often lately, and for that there’s no denial. Perhaps you have more in common with the Headmaster than you dare to admit.”

And that bothers you, he wanted to say. Or, that doesn’t concern you. Or something as cool and sophisticated as Snape’s words were when he wanted to dismiss a subject as ridiculous or off – limited. Taken aback, he thought of anything that he could defend himself with.

Then he noticed something else.

“Well, judging from how much you seem to enjoy my exceptional company, I suppose you have some things in common with the headmaster too.” He grinned widely.

It took some seconds for the comment to sink in. Snape looked down at himself, and Harry’s cheerful blush was nothing compared to Snape’s bewildered one. “Potter… out.”

He didn’t even look up as he covered his body with the baggy robe, and it occurred to Harry that it was the first time in his life he was seeing Snape scared to death. Harry got up to his knees, fumbling through the sheets for his pen and notebook. 

“Good morning, sir,” he said still smiling, and this time Snape didn’t comment on whether the morning was good or not.


Harry slumped lazily towards the kitchen.

“I’m hungry!” he said loudly, so he could be heard from the living room.

“Starve,” a voice barked back at him.

“We need groceries,” he mumbled to himself as he observed the fridge. Then, “Snape! What have you done to my snacks?”

“You didn’t pay for them, they were not yours!” Snape shouted back.

“You ate them!” He was really going to die from hunger. Those terrible soup meals were driving him mad. He went back to the living room. “Why did you eat them?”

“I was hungry. I was sleepy. I felt like it. I imagine these excuses are good enough for someone who uses them on a daily basis to justify every impulsive action of his.”

So they were still at this. “Fine. Be difficult. I’ll order pizza.”

“You’ll pay for it.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“Then you'll starve.”

Harry collapsed to his place on the sofa, covering his head with a pillow. “You’re pathetic. You’re taking revenge.” he said through the fabric.

“I can’t hear you, Potter.”

He lifted the pillow a bit. “I said, you’re pathetic!”

Snape considered it. “I’m not. Order pizza.”

He was bored to get up. And he was bored to order pizza. He breathed into the pillow until he became accustomed to the idea of actually starving in order to piss Snape off. 

Someone knocked on the door and they both stood up at once. Snape took out his wand. Harry had his own upstairs; he looked at Snape for instructions.

“Up,” he whispered. “Whatever you hear, whatever happens, stay to your room. You understand?”

Harry stared.

“Whatever happens. Am I clear?”

What did that mean? He nodded. 

“Go.”

Chapter Text

Harry closed the door of his room and waited – for what, he didn’t know. A fight. Some sort of explosion. Snape getting killed by Voldemort. Voldemort climbing up the stairs and murdering him.

Nothing happened. He was aware of steps and a female voice, but he could not make out the words. Counting under his breath, when a few minutes passed and Harry realised that the visitor wasn't planning on leaving soon, he carefully opened his door again and tiptoed out. He reached the chairs and crouched down, wand at hand, trying to kneel as soundlessly as he could. 

"In other words, it doesn't matter to him if Draco is killed!" the voice shrieked. It was one of those moments in Harry's life, where he had to chose between grasping the moment to take revenge and doing nothing at all. Control your emotions, he remembered. But Bellatrix had killed Sirius and no control was enough for him to calm down.

"The Dark Lord is very angry," said Snape, barely audible. "He failed to hear the prophecy. You know as well as I do, Narcissa, that he does not forgive easily."

A different female voice wept and sobbed. "My only son... my only son..."

"You should be proud!" Bellatrix shrieked ruthlessly. "If I had sons, I would be glad to give them up to the service of the Dark Lord!"

They went on and on, failing to reach a conclusion as Harry bit his lip and tried to keep absolutely still. The hate he felt was blinding; it soaked into his skin and reached his bones, thundering like a crashing curse that would break and shatter them to pieces. It was her fault; Sirius was dead and she was still free, plotting and murdering and –  Harry held his breath, trying to listen to every word.

"It might be possible... for me to help Draco," said Snape. 

"Severus — oh, Severus — you would help him? Would you look after him, see he comes to no harm?"

"I can try."

"If you are there to protect him... Severus, will you swear it? Will you make the Unbreakable Vow?"

"The Unbreakable Vow?"

Bellatrix shrieked – it was a paranoid laugh – one of those Harry remembered too well. He could do it. He could run downstairs and cast the Killing Curse, point his wand at her face, destroy her, make her pay for all this pain, all this –

“Severus, please, he cannot know it –”

“Are you suggesting that we keep this a secret from him?” asked Snape.

What the hell they were talking about? Why didn’t Harry know any of this?

“Narcissa, reason yourself. An Unbreakable Vow about that would have me killed the moment Draco hurt his finger out of my reach. It is impossible.”

Unbreakable Vow. He’d never heard of it before. He had to get Snape out of this. How?

“I’m begging you, Severus, whatever you want – he’s my son… Please, please…”

Harry got to his feet and tiptoed to the bathroom. He looked at his own face at the mirror, trying to think of something.

Think.

Think.

Placing his wand in his pocket, he carefully unscrewed the water pipe until water began dripping onto the floor. Then, with all his body’s strength, he pulled the pipe from the wall downwards. It broke. 

Just let this work.

Water spilled onto the floor immediately. The pipe made a horrible sound, one that resembled much Bellatrix’s voice, and the water soon overflowed the floor.

Harry heard steps. He took his wand out again, ready to attack with all his might, but Snape had come up alone. His eyes darted from the flooded bathroom to Harry. His face promised murder.

He grabbed Harry by the arm. “What the hell are you doing?” he hissed to his ear.

“Saving your life,” Harry whispered back. I think.

Snape spelled the floor dry and pointed at Harry’s bedroom with a finger before descending.

He must have used a spell, also, for Harry could not hear their conversation anymore. After a couple of minutes he heard the door banging closed and he breathed again.

After another five minutes, Snape had Harry against the wall, grabbing him by the ear.

“Are you completely – utterly – astoundingly out of your mind, you stupid shit? Do you ever realise the risk –”

“Ouch!”

“– you are putting your life in with every stupidity you decide to act on?”

“You’re hurting me!” Harry complained. He pushed at Snape trying to escape him, but it was useless. 

"Kill yourself," said Snape cooly. "Do us all a favour and do it yourself before someone else kills you first. Either way you'll end up where your sorry father did because of the same damn idiocy!"

Harry stopped writhing around. Their eyes met. Snape let go.


Sitting on his bum on the floor, his head resting against the wall, Harry refused to look up when Snape appeared again an hour later. He wished for the bastard to disappear again, but Snape kneeled down too, staring at Harry for a long moment before he spoke. 

“I demand responsibility from you," Snape spat.

There was an interesting hole on the carpet, Harry noticed. It looked like it was burned from a cigarette, or maybe magic. “What did they ask of you? What is Malfoy going to do?”

"This was a private conversation you were never meant to hear."

Harry choked around a snort. "Yeah, well, but I did. It's about Dumbledore, isn't it?"

"What?"

"Fuck you."

Snape sighed. Most likely he was already losing his patience. "No one can harm Dumbledore. Is that clear?"

"You can."

“Don’t be an idiot, Potter.”

“You took a vow!”

Snape's face was expressionless. “I did not.”

"Yeah, right." Harry laughed, because there was nothing else he could do. Either Snape killed Dumbledore or was dead himself. Well. Better Snape than Dumbledore. At least Dumbledore loved Harry. At least Harry loved Dumbledore. 

“Tell me you’re not going to do it,” he choked.

“I’m not,” Snape said. His voice was stable. 

“Promise me. I don't want to hear more bullshit, just promise me.”

“You shouldn’t have heard this conversation.”

God, he was going to do it. “Snape!” His own voice was unrecognisable – too pitifully close to a sob. 

“Dumbledore knows everything that concerns him or my possible instructions. I have never acted behind his back. He’s going to protect himself well.”

And you? he almost asked. But then he was reminded that he didn't care. 


Lumos.”

The tip of his wand illuminated, a thick beam lighting the white pillows. Outside the window, the moon reflected onto the window glass dimly. Harry turned to the Advice Squad page of the magazine and read a young boy’s questioning. 

I’ve been going crazy over this for two years now, I think I’m beginning to have paranoia. I don’t have any experiences. How do I know if I’m gay? I really don’t want to be. Help.

The response letter was huge. It went through medical arguments and encouraging societies, to parenting discussions and tips of self-awareness. Harry stopped to the actual conclusion point, which was brief and not very helpful.

You won’t know if you are gay unless you do something about it, and even then, you could be just curious. Personally, I think that if a man goes to the extent of kissing another man, and desires to repeat it, then he has to be sexually attracted to men. Only you can tell for sure, though.

Harry hoped that the boy who had written the letter had figured it out already; Harry certainly hadn’t.

Nox.

Chapter Text

His head ached. He was thinking of the pain, wondering how it was possible for physical agony to be so intense. Severus had never imagined that such a torture could be endured. Yet here was he, both conscious and in the middle of the splitting torture. 

Able not only to think, but to observe the process and make calculations about it. The steel circle around his skull was closing in with faint cracking noises. How much farther could it shrink? He counted the cracking sounds. Since he took the last double dose of the pain-killer a couple of weeks ago, he hadn't brewed more. Foolish, to think that one could live with a Potter without needing pain killers. He took out his wand and laid it on the table.

He was fucked. He was totally, roughly fucked up the arse. He didn't feel physically sick. But mentally. His mind was twisting in so many ways, all of them ill-advised and pitiful.

He cracked his neck, wishing for death. His death. Dumbledore's death. Voldemort's. 

Making a mental note of all the deaths he should take care of, he pushed the thought aside and couched his throat raw.

“Are you sick?” Potter was sitting on the sofa, one leg up at the table. Filthy brat.

He wasn’t sick. It was mostly a psychosomatic dread of a future he could not overlook anymore. When Dumbledore offered him a chance to come back, he did it with no desire to ever meet Lily’s son in his life.

“My head is going to explode.”

When he did meet Lily’s son, it was Potter’s son, and there was nothing loveable, nothing interesting or admiring on him. The years passed and he didn’t stop being Potter’s son. His father’s revolting ghost kept hovering over his head, shadowing him with his features, his wit, his memory.

“Oh. Have you taken a pain killer?”

“I must brew one.”

“Oh.”

Such verbal fluency.

He was the centre of attention from the first moment, and there was no person in Hogwarts that would be displeased by his lack of manners or poor obedience of the basic school rules. Except Severus.

Severus had seen what others didn’t. And like a revenge given from life itself, now he could see again, what others had never seen. 

He was determined to despise the boy. To help him for Lily’s sake. Liking him had not been in the plan. Enjoying his company had not been in the plan. Waking up with Potter curled up against his chest had certainly not been in the plan.

“You don’t look like you can brew anything at the moment.”

“Because I can’t.”

And responding to these urges towards familiarity was absolutely unacceptable. Not only sinful, not only depraved – but absolutely, thoroughly, downright wrong.

It was the circumstances. Spending too much time with someone was bound to break the ice, and when combined with brain activities – he coughed again. His brain had no activity at that moment. If it had, he’d Oblviate both of them before Potter any of this happened. 

“Could I brew it for you?”

“No, shut up.”

Sharing the bed with James Potter’s son. Now, this was a secret that he would carry to his grave. He allowed himself three minutes of thinking of Dumbledore's death and the consequences following.

He had made up his mind at the end of those three minutes — for the first and last time in his life — that if his headache didn't stop within the next ten minutes he should throw himself under the nearest Muggle car.

“I have aspirins.”

Severus glared. Or he tried to. 

“Aspirins, you know. For headaches and such. Muggle medicine, but even Madame Pomfrey has it. I must have some in my trunk, I’m going to check.”

Right. Aspirins. He was about to plead Potter to let him alone with a good dozen of them, but Potter had already fled upstairs.


When the clock read nine and Snape hadn’t barked from downstairs that dinner was ready, Harry descended on his own.

Snape was just getting up from the sofa to take a bottle from the table. His face was flushed and his hair damp. “Imagine if Longbottom was in Slytherin. Salazar would be twisting in his grave at the disgrace, or maybe his bones would worm their way up the ground and roll away. I remember how Dumbledore was telling me about the Sodding Hat and I thought it impossible that you’d end up in Gryffindor. You contradicted me.”

Harry gave him a confused look. “Excuse me?”

Snape grabbed the bottle and closed his eyes as though concentrating; then he snapped into a laughter that sounded more like intense growling. “Isn’t she hilarious?”

Harry stepped closer and placed his palm on Snape’s forehead. It wasn’t fever. “How much have you drunk?”

Ignoring his question, Snape took another gulp straight from the bottle and immediately covered his mouth with the back of his hand. His chest heaved dangerously. His throat convulsed around a choking sound and he gasped.

“She's... not hilarious."

“Of course she isn't,” Harry said with a straight face as he snaked his hand under Snape’s and snatched the bottle away. It was rather empty – Snape leaned forward to take it back but Harry took a step back. 

“Harry. Give it back.”

“You’ve no idea what you’re saying,” Harry muttered. He couldn't explain why he was feeling that annoyed. 

“Give it back, Harry!” He still made no motion of standing. He seemed to try out the word, trying to figure out how it sounded on his tongue. “Harry. Harry, Harry.”

Harry gulped a bile of a daring sentiment that had struck inside his throat. It pitifully landed between his lungs and throbbed for attention, forcing his breathing come out shaky. “You should… rest. You’re not well.”

Snape got up, coughing into his palm again.

Harry stood still, trying to figure out what was happening. Snape couldn’t be that pissed. It had only been a couple of hours after all. What had happened?

He glanced over at the table and noticed it. The aspirin pin box laid opened next to an empty glass and Snape’s wand.

“Woha, you took aspirins with alcohol?”

Snape shook his head. “Don’t worry; I won’t kill myself just yet. Maybe next week,” Snape said as he fumbled his way to the staircase. When he reached it he glared upstairs as though it was the stairs’ fault that it had so many steps. Grunting to himself, he took hold of the wall and sighed.

“Haven’t you taken aspiring before? I thought you had!”

Snape looked at him as if he were dumb. It was the glare he’d give him at class, when he was going to say something deadly obvious that he had missed. “I’m a Master Potion, Potter,” he explained. “Why would I need it?”

Harry nodded once. “Um. Okay. Listen, you shouldn’t have mixed aspirins with alcohol. You’re a bit drunk at the moment.”

Snape scratched the wall in an attempt to hold himself up. “Sod off, I don’t get drunk. Do you know when I had my first drink? It’s an interesting story. Father had beaten the shit out of–”

He didn’t want to hear that. “No, you listen. You’re not well.”

Harry watched him as he attempted to climb up the stairs and stumbled over the first step before sitting down. That struck Snape as hilarious too, for he broke into laughter.

And once he began, he couldn’t stop. He laughed until he was gasping for breath, shaking his head. He tried to move and stand up, swaying like he was following his vision’s spinning around the room. He tilted violently forward and he almost fell again, still grunting with laughter.

“I never get drunk – Merlin, I had drunk – so fucking much.”

That was enough. Harry caught him, dragging him up his feet. He placed Snape’s arm around his shoulders and steadied him.

“Snape, are you listening?”

“I’m not deaf.”

“Right. Come on.”

“No. You sound suspicious.”

Snape’s breath smelled heavily of whiskey, and he was so close that Harry feared he might get drunk too. “Suspicious of what?”

Snape just looked at him, trying hard to focus his eyes. “You were there.”

Harry blinked. “I’m taking you back to your room, can you walk?

“I’m not crippled,” he snapped defensively.

He carried him to his bedroom carefully, Snape’s moves hindering rather than helping. The shoulder that was not being supported on Harry had sagged downwards, and his weight kept slithering through Harry’s grip on his arm.

Snape struggled, but Harry ignored him. This would be so much better if Ron was here. Only the pranks they could do...

“Be cooperative now.”

“Sod off.”

If a fully conscious and alert Snape could be bitter and stubborn, a drunk one was just impossible to get on with. Lifting Snape’s hand from his shoulders, he turned around to steady him before helping him to the bed. It didn’t work right.

Snape got hold of his shoulders and lost his balance at once. Harry fell on the bed and was immediately covered by Snape’s unconscious body.

“Mph.”

Not unconscious. Harry’s head sagged on the pillow as he stared up the ceiling. Snape shifted a little bit and stayed there.

Harry's life just hated him.

And breathing was becoming a difficult progress as the seconds went by. A strand of dark hair fell to Harry's cheek. Was the man even breathing? His nose must have been buried into the pillow.

“Snape?”

Snape grunted in acknowledgment.

He placed his palms against Snape’s shoulders and pushed. “You’re suffocating me.” He pushed harder. How heavy was he exactly? He looked too thin to weigh that much.

With another firm push he rolled him over on his back and Harry sat back. Snape inhaled deeply, and it occurred to Harry that he hadn’t been able to breath for some time.

Snape weakly tugged at his own coat’s collar. “Suffocating,” he agreed before bursting into low laughter. Of course.

Pushing his hand away, Harry undid the first buttons of his coat and inner shirt. As he revealed some skin, he occupied himself with an interesting spot on the wall to not stare. “That’ll do,” he said at last, but Snape had closed his eyes again.

“Snape?”

That was it; he had passed out. Harry rubbed his palms on his thighs, not knowing what to do next. Snape choked again and Harry poked him on the head.

“Snape!”

“Yes.”

“Do you even recognise who I am?”

Something was funny about this question too, as it appeared, because Snape risked another series of coughing to express his laughter. 

He couldn’t leave him like that. Sleep here again – no, Snape would be furious. He watched as his lips quirked, as he furrowed his brows even in that state of dizziness, as he struggled to remain awake. It was Harry's fault. He should have warned him about drinking.

Maybe he should lift his head a little, just to make sure that he was going to be alright. Just that, and then he’d live. Still sitting next to him, he leaned over him to catch the pillow and slide it under his head. Snape showed his appreciation with a sigh of relief and nothing else. Well. He should leave. He should – Snape’s eyes snapped open.

Too close. He was too close. It occurred to him that he should back up now, and yet he couldn’t keep himself from staring – the black eyes, the parted lips, the sweated skin as the long eyelashes had stuck together with tears of laughter. He kept steeled while the darkness poured out of those eyes and seemed to fill the room and drown him in it.

Snape stared back. It was a wonder, if he could understand whom he was staring at, if his eyesight was blurred or steady – but he observed Harry’s face slowly, as though he had all the time of the world to do just that. Every second seemed to announce its departure with a soundless heaviness that lasted excruciatingly long. His lips could almost brush the skin –

Snape reached up a hand, too certain, too quietly, and placed it on the back of Harry’s neck. And Harry was too startled to move, so he didn’t shift, or move, or speak, and he wanted to lick his lips but didn’t dare take his tongue out just now. Then Snape grasped him fiercely, as though a sudden sobriety had struck him - and Harry locked his eyes with Snape’s until both of them closed them together, slowly.

Harry leaned down.

At first, the brush was so soft that he thought he had imagined it. Their lips barely met, and as Harry sampled the touch for a second, he couldn’t tell if this impossible emotion inside his chest had just spurted out, or if it was something perpetual, something that knew how to hide all along but was aching alive and confident all the same.

Once he parted his lips, Snape’s tongue attacked him so deeply that he didn’t know who was breathing for whom, but his mouth and tongue tasted like warm honey and fire water. It wasn’t exactly harsh; it was more like a whisper than a sound, more like the memory of a kiss than a real one, careful and measured and yet desperate.

A strong, gut-wrenching terror kicked into his stomach, but he ignored it defiantly as he slid into mindlessness, and all he felt was skin and teeth and wetness, and all he heard was their breathing, and a soft moaning that had to be his own.

It ended too soon. Their lips parted as plainly as they had met, and Snape looked up at him for another long second before drifting to sleep. The hand on his neck crept on the sheets and stayed there.

Harry’s underpants were all of sudden too tight, and pressing against another man’s crotch while said another man was sleeping wasn’t exactly right. He allowed himself a minute of shock, and then a few more seconds of smiling like the idiot Snape was usually accusing him to be.

Then he got up, promising himself that the panic would come later. He tucked Snape with a blanket and loosened another button on his shirt just in case, before fleeing to his room.

He suddenly knew what was missing with Cho.


Severus woke up in the middle of the night, sliding off his coat to sink better into the comfort of his bed. The window curtains had been pulled open – how absurd, he never opened the curtains – and he knew that he should remember something, something should have frightened him to his death by now.

The moon looked like melted mozzarella to his bleary and blurry vision. Was he tired, intoxicated, or in love? Or was he sober, asleep, and alone? His lips tingled with something – like the memory of a nice kiss, but prostitutes never kissed him, and the curtains were never opened.

He couldn’t tell whether he should stick to his awakening, or just let this comforting sensation lull him in sweet oblivion. One thing was for sure, there had been pain in him, too much pain, and now that pain had left with the suddenness of lighting.

The mozzarella cheese was swallowed wholly by a thick cloud of smoke, and it was surely the smoke of a well baked Italian pizza, with grilled ham and fresh warm tomato on top. He sniffed the empty air in expectation, and almost smelled it there, with the crust yeast and the peppers and the garlic pork and the happiness.

Oh, the happiness.

Chapter Text

It was coming to this since 1981. Dumbledore had testified for him the first time, and the governor had believed him; severe crimes had been confessed and erased from his file in a single afternoon, marked as false and forced upon his name by his enemies.

There would be less people in this trial, assuredly. Perhaps a colleague or two; Sibyll, to inform him of his grim upcoming future and offer him a shoulder to cry on; Pomfrey, to hand him over the necessary relaxants and her vague support.

A random therapist of the Ministry too, most likely, to observe the damage on poor Harry's psyche caused by the molestation his wicked professor had burdened him with. And that would be all. 

He should ask Bellatrix for advice. It couldn’t be that difficult to get on with the penalty of imprisonment. He’d keep his mouth shut for the best part of the day. He'd befriend his inmates. He’d contact the right people; he’d avoid the guards and keep a safe distance from the gangs until he created one of his own. And he'd not drop the soap.

Definitely not drop the soap.

As he stormed into the hallway, his robe billowing dramatically behind him, he began forming his bitter speech as it would be delivered to Potter. Overstepping on the black hem around his feet, his considered his dramatic effect being actually pathetic. 

His head was spinning mercilessly. He was aware of the tempting aspirins awaiting him just a floor away, offering themselves for his relief, promising to eliminate the stabbing pain... but no. He’d better die.

Many people had attempted to trap him in unfortunate situations in the past. In rare occasions, some of them had succeeded. He would then have to face unwished consequences, feeling discomfort, awkwardness, and a few times even danger.

While facing the Dark Lord’s kind and plotting his own private resistance equally against friends and enemies, he had proudly escaped the worst plot holes on both battlefields, and the traps he had fallen into were restricted to the minimal, all of them unimportant and easily fixed.

Until now.

Falling in a trap created by Harry fucking Potter wasn’t in the plan. He didn’t remember it to be, when he agreed to Dumbledore’s wishes, he didn’t considered it possible when potter was sorted into Gryffindor, accusing himself a saint. This was new.

And it was wrong in too many extends to be left aside until forgotten. Or forgiven. Never forgiven. Never. If this was some kind of twisted plan of Potter’s to have him sacked, he’d have to try harder.

Slamming the boy's door open, he made a show of taking out his wand, only to realise that his speech had been abandoned in the middle of its construction.  

“Potter.”

As soon as he appeared into sight, Potter threw his book aside and stood up. His lower lip was too red on a particular spot. Bugger all. Refusing to make a fool of himself, he went on.

“What have you done?” Was that the best you could do? He tried again. “Answer me!”

“Sir. You – you mixed aspirins with alcohol. I forgot to tell you that you shouldn’t. Or maybe you were just pissed.” His tone was far from apologetic. He looked up at him unsure, as though struggling to figure out something perplexed.

And all of sudden, and with only probable purpose to drive him mad, Potter had miraculously remembered his manners. “It is sir now, isn’t it?”

He was about to scold him for the hideous look of confusion that seemed to have had taken over his face when Potter set his lips in a grim line. “Sir?”

“Sir?" Severus repeated in a hiss. "Are you sick?" he added, his voice louder. "Speak up, are you sick?"

"Sir, I..."

"No," he cut him short, raising a hand. "No explanations. Not even one. I believe I’ve told you that you’re interpreting my generosity in a misleading way and you still ignored my warnings to stay away. What you ventured to do upon me was too low, too low even for your father and his abominable gang, too low even for all the Gryffindor little bastards put together and forced to do their worst." 

He was quite proud of himself, he decided. Over the years, he had learned that improvising was his weakest point as a spy, and he often had to organise his part perfectly before performing before an audience. Despite the lack of a wiser appreciating audience, inspiration had chosen a successful point in time to emerge. He made a mental note of congratulating himself later, when he noticed that Potter was glaring slack mouthed while his eyelashes dipped into slow blink.

“Hold on, what do you mean?”

And now he was contesting his patience by playing dumb. “You drugged me. You attacked me. Your father would be proud.”

“My f... no. No, what are you talking about? I didn’t know you were going to drink whiskey or whatever that thing was, you were supposed to know better than mixing medicines with it. You are the Potions Master here, so don’t blame me!”

“Should I not blame you for assaulting me either, then?” he hissed.

“You – no. What exactly do you remember?”

Severus opened mouth to talk but nothing came out. Could he be wrong? Could he have imagined it? “Enough of this. You have one minute to explain yourself in detail, otherwise pack your belongings and get out of my house.”

Potter glared. “You're kicking me out."

"Gladly so."

"Because we kissed.”

He hadn’t imagined it. In Potions terms speaking, Severus liked to consider himself a base, strict and stable under most circumstances. While observing this new insanely constructed experiment, it was proved that its elements interacted poorly when combined with other perplexed substances. He made a mental note to register Potter on his Potions memorandums as one of those.

Right now, this was an ordeal. A tribulation sent from Hell to give him an idea of what damnation was going to taste like.

“We didn’t kiss, you moron," he said. "I was drunk, intoxicated, and had no idea who you were!”

And among everything, he had to suffer Potter’s wounded look too, before quickly changing to stubborn. The boy dared be wounded about it. The implication of Potter preferring him to be aware of whom he was kissing brought another torturous stab above his right eye.

“You knew it was me. You called me by my name, so stop pretend –”

“Shut it,” he hissed back, hoping to pass over the deathly glare was delivering in class half his life. Having a hangover that hadn’t completely erased his memories of shame wasn’t a helpful company in this battle either.

“Well I’m not a little boy anymore so stop talking to me like that!”

“Little boy? You took me wrong; I have ceased believing anything so noble about your person long ago. You are a ruthless, unprincipled pathetic faggot who cannot control himself over attacking someone at his first chance, even if that means to take advantage of someone twice his age.”

Fuck Bellatrix. He would ask Dolohov. A little voice on the back of his head protested that the best way of dealing with jail would be to drop the soap on purpose, become someone’s bitch and gain protection for the best part of the next decade.

Potter’s eyes narrowed to thin slits. “If you’re going to be angry because you liked it, be angry with yourself. You kissed me back, you know. And you do know."

He had most certainly not. His fingers twitched at the expectation of a slap he wouldn't give. “You will pay for this," he said stupidly. 

The boy laughed. “Does ‘No, I don’t think it’s abnormal, because it isn’t,’remind you anything? Or was it all lies?”

Severus stared. “It was lies. And from now on, you are expelled from all my classes. Pity that without them you can't be an Auror."

It was wonderful to see that arrogant smile melt into terror. "You can't."

Watch me. He turned to leave. 

"No, wait. Wait. You can't. It was a mistake, come on. I... you... you wanted it too, damn you, you can't punish me!" he shouted. "Will you just listen to me?"

Looking at the hallway in front of him, it was easier for Severus to keep his voice steady. “I was unwell, what’s your excuse?”

“What makes you think I’m going to hide behind an excuse?”

Touché.

He took a breath, to deliver his poison with calmness. “You should have been sorted into Slytherin, but it appears that you are too vile even for the Dark Lord's house.”

“Well maybe I am, but you’re an arsehole.”

Severus turned. He took out his wand. "Repeat that."

Potter’s shoulders slumped as frustration crinkled his eyes and he shut them. He offered himself a moment of regaining control and passed his hand through his hair; Severus found himself traitorously glaring at the bitten lips again. He had done that. He had assaulted a student, and said student didn’t even seem to particularly mind. It was his fault; blaming Potter was far easier though. And far more satisfying. Relieving. 

He became aware of his nostrils flaring and his tongue having been stuck on the top of his mouth. It occurred to him that, if he were some years younger, he would worry his lower lip right now exactly like Potter did when he felt nervous.

Then he decided that he wasn’t supposed to know how Potter worried his lip when he felt nervous.

“Repeat it."

“Fuck off, Snape,” Potter muttered. When he strode out of the room, and Severus heard the bathroom door slamming close, he punched the wall with his fist. 

Yes, do go and weep like a snotty baby, and do suck on your thumb while you think about life’s unfairness, he thought of shouting. He decided against it.


He became aware of a thudding noise that derived from the world outside his head. Cautiously opening one eye, he watched Potter dragging his trunk down the stairs and scratching defiantly the floor as he pulled it to the outdoor. 

“Do you care to inform me of what in Merlin’s name are you doing now?” Severus asked. Everything sounded too loud in the midnight. Potter had disappeared from sight for the whole day; a good decision for both of them, surprisingly. It had been years since he was done with daily bickering. The exhaustion of it was something that he was hoping to never have to go through again. It was pathetic how he just wished it to end.

“I’m leaving,” Potter informed him.

“I thought you wanted me to listen to you.”

“Well, not anymore.”

“I can answer questions too,” he offered.

“With what?” Potter sneered, his voice hoarse. “Excuses?”

“No. Answers. There's a difference –”

“Really? How? What difference?”

“Excuses are what people use when they need to lie.”

“That's not what I want to hear.”

“We could try answers, then.”

“Answers from you, yeah. Do you know how’s that going to be? Fuck that. Your answers don't explain nothing, and I'll have even more questions in the end.”

Fairly true. It occurred to him that despite warning Potter about his language, it was only becoming worse as time went by. “I see.”

“See you in September.”

“And where are you going to stay, pray tell?”

He shrugged, looking away. “I don’t know. At Ron’s.”

“You can’t aparrate.”

“At some motel.”

“You don’t have any money." 

“I’ll be a kosher, then.”

Severus snorted. “What are you talking about?”

“I don’t need you, or your home, or your looking at me like I... like you hate me so much. Why live with someone who hates me? I’ll be a kosher.”

“You’re going to be Jewish food?”

He shook his head confidently. “Kosher, you know. I’ll be homeless.”

Despite himself, Severus laughed. “That’s clochard.”

“Even better.” Potter took hold of the doorknob, and Severus approached him, pushing his hand away and closing the door again. If only he could get rid of Harry Potter that easily.

“You’re not going anywhere. Sit down. We’re going to talk.”


Potter was sitting on one end of the sofa and Severus at the other, the silence clapping its presence into painfully audible announcement. The rain had struck again, if only to twist the mood even more. 

The boy glared fixedly at his fingers, clutched tightly around a hot cup of chocolate. Severus had one into his own hands as well, dark brown and steaming.

“After this conversation is over, we will never touch on this subject again.”

“Fine.”

“I expect you to move over this unspeakable accident, then, and not torture yourself too much cogitating about it. If you decide however to inform the Headmaster nevertheless, I am ready to take responsibility of what happened.” He took a breath. “Still, it would be preferable if you didn’t.”

It was unbelievable that he had to beg Potter for his reputation. For his job. Despite the hell he was going through, he had to remain in Hogwarts as a trustful teacher and a decent man. Without Dumbledore’s assistance he was dead.

That with Dumbledore’s assistance he was usually worse things than dead was entirely another matter.

Had the boy even grasped the severity of the danger?

Potter snorted. “Of course.”

Definitely not. And now he was chewing on his lip again, reddening that dreadful spot that Severus had been trying to forget since morning that ever existed.

“Anything else you'd like to add?” he said impatiently.

“Yes.” Potter chewed on his lip some more, and after a quick glance at Severus he blinked at his hot chocolate. “I’m gay.”

Professor Snape molested me, I’m gay now.

So, being dead it was. “Don’t be stupid," he said alarmed. "You're not.”  

“I knew I was before that.”

Ah. So he was just making sure. He carefully dug through the forgotten details of his past, desperate to discover some clue of what he might have done so terribly wrong to deserve this.

“And you reached this assumption, how exactly?”

A wild blush attacked his cheeks and he looked up, panicked.

“Don’t answer that, I withdraw the question.”

His vow to protect Potter was about hardihood rather than predestination. The obstacles were getting harder and harder to pass through. How had he been dragged into this? He should have known better than let anyone embarrass him so personally. Potters did tend to cross the lines of veneration, of course.

He was suddenly reminded of the risks familiarity carried and the ache that followed all affections and impulse-driven desires for intimacy.

There was a reason he didn’t have friends. There was a reason he wasn’t nice or devoted to anyone. He was a private person and he preferred it to stay as that.

As for this... this was the kind of conversation that benefited solely the one who had nothing to lose by talking. He had to put an end on it. He reminded himself that convincing the boy to keep his mouth shut was wiser than kicking him out.

Just after one more question. Your curiosity will be the end of you. “It wouldn’t happen for this… discovery of yours to have occurred because of our cohabitation, would it?”

Say no.

Like a good boy, for fuck’s fucking buggering sake. Say no.

Potter swallowed. And then he chuckled. “You’re trying to ask if I fancy you.”

How dare he!

“I withdraw that question too.”

“Does it make you feel awkward?”

No, it made him feel perfectly normal. The normality of it was so great that he could almost feel the bones of a particular dead man rising from his grave to travel all the way from Godric’s Hollow and sodomise him with his skull for daring touch his son.

He was aware of himself laughing, and he absently raised his hand to ease Potter’s confusion. If only he was as depraved as to take Potter to his bed! It would be his upmost retribution, his finest repayment to kick James back, and in the spunk that had spurted out of his very balls, precisely. Then, once Severus died, he’d let him know. I made a queer out of your only son. Beat that.

It occurred to him that taking Harry Potter to his bed shouldn’t sound like a good plan, despite the advantages. Fuck. The alcohol must have been still running into his blood.

“What about you?” Potter asked. “You never liked a man?”

It was amazing how casually the question was phrased. I do like a man, which happens to be you. Your turn now, Professor! More aspirins would do. All of them would do. The absence of whiskey on his reach was making this entirely too real. Play along. Keep him calm unless you want Albus to destroy you. 

Of course not. “No, never.”

“Even liked a woman besides my mother?”

Not really. And he never had sexual thoughts about Lily either, come to think of it. At first he was too shy to think of her improperly, an later on – well, she was dead. “This is becoming personal.”

“Then you can’t know for sure.”

The brat. He swore that if Potter was going to ask him whether he felt any alternations forming themselves within him after their kissing he would politely escort him to the outdoor himself.

“For fuck’s sake, quit smiling like that or I’ll hex you.”

Potter hid a grin behind his cup, and it suddenly occurred to him that the boy wasn’t wearing shoes at all. 

I’m leaving. See you in September.

Fool. Severus was a fool.

“I bet you’re flattered,” Potter said, his gaze intense.

Flattered, yes. Because the only person who ever fancied him without being paid for it or blackmailed about was a sixteen year old boy that was experiencing self-conscious syndromes. No, not true; there was that woman over a decade ago, who had been dating him so she could get into the Dark Lord’s inner circle. Indeed, he was a sex god.

“Could you be wrong about it?” he asked instead.

As Potter shook his head negatively, Severus watched his last tiny hope for escape fluttering off his chest and leaving the room daintily. His consciousness protested against raising a hand and waving at it his last goodbye. This was certainly not going to solve itself within the next hour, then.

“Wrong. I don’t know, can I kiss you again?”

Severus glared.

The boy snorted. “I’m sorry. No, I don’t think I’m wrong, I’ve been thinking about it.”

He’d been thinking about it. Merlin knew what he had been thinking about. And he certainly didn’t want to know any of it. Let the dirty details’ interpretation for another therapist.

“It does make you feel awkward.”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

Gods. He was a child. “What are you being sorry for exactly, Potter?”

It was absolutely prohibited to have this kind of conversation with a student, and undoubtedly Dumbledore would have a protest or two to raise on that subject too.

Potter shrugged, but didn’t reply. “Well, you’ll get rid of me in a week, so you don’t have to worry. Sir.”

Indeed, although he tried not to think about it just now. A Potter facing his battle with horrifying nightmares in a crowded Gryffindor tower, physically suffocated and mentally absolutely alone; a Potter having to deal with his carefree giggling classmates, obliged to be putting silencing charms around his bed so he could scream and whine undisturbed his nights to paranoia.

“Does anyone else know?”

Potter squirmed to his seat. “No, I haven’t told anyone. I mean, I’ve only been thinking about it quite recently.”

Too recently, Severus was afraid. “I see."

This was surreal. He felt positively sure that if Voldemort jumped out of Potter’s head and started clapping his fingers and singing God Save the Queen, Severus would stand up and dance to it.

“I don't think I'm going to. Ron would be furious.”

“Then I suggest you live your life as Ron commands.”

Potter spurted some chocolate on his shirt. No jacket on either. Fool Severus.

“It’s not that, he’s just – you know, he was my first friend in Hogwarts. I can’t even think of losing him.”

“You’re being absurd, if you are friends he will accept it.” Then, “I suppose it is clear that should a conversation about this ever occur with your friends, my person would stay entirely out of it, yes?”

“Of course, what could I tell them? That I kissed Snape?”

Of course not. Unless Potter wanted them traumatised for life, this was a tale better left untold.

Potter eyed him worryingly. “You don’t want me to tell my friends that I’m gay to lose them, do you? Would you want me to be left alone?”

He was already alone. An imbecile ginger that was probably the only baby boy that everyone wished to have been a female, and an inhibited girl that was incapable of approaching people of her gender to pass time with didn’t count exactly as inspiring company.

“Do whatever you want,” he decided. Why did he even bother? This wasn’t his problem. “There are two types of secrets one should be aware of. The kind one wants to keep in, and the kind one doesn’t dare to let out.”

“And the kind one must keep in while letting out something spurious,” Potter added, and Severus watched his gaze fall from his face to his left arm.

“Yes. That too.”


“When you were born, I swore to murder your father.”

Harry considered that. “Oh.”

“I went to your home and hid behind a bush. When he got out, he was holding you into a tiny orange blanket, and was babbling nonsense to you. You seemed brighter than him, to be honest.”

Almost jealous that he couldn’t recall that memory, Harry snorted. “Shut up.”

“I couldn’t do it. Your mother came out in the yard too, and she hugged him –” Snape shut his eyes tightly, then opened them again, “and she was happy. I’d never understand it, never accept it as something right or even of no influence to me – but she was happy. It was all it mattered.”

“You were a Death Eater.”

“Yes.”

“Did you…. Did you think that Muggles were filthy? Like all the Death Eaters think?”

“I thought them inferior. They are, in many ways.”

Only in magic, and that didn’t affect their intelligence or kindness. Muggles had been getting along without magic under situations on which wizards would have failed. How could one judge people so easily? “What do you think about them now?”

Snape let a long moment pass quietly before he answered. “They are inferior.”

“But you don’t hate them anymore.” Harry held his breath.

“Hate them. Certainly not more than I hate wizards.”

The time passed; Harry didn’t know what to respond to this. Snape never had a loving family, but then again, neither did Harry. “All my life I thought people who believed in magic were freaks. This is what they had told me to believe, so I believed it.”

“I can imagine,” Snape said nonchalantly.

Every silence was longer than the last one. What had his father been telling him when Harry was a baby? Perhaps that he’d teach him how to ride a broom when he’d grow up, or that they’d have great fun with Sirius and Remus once he got a little older. He faintly smiled at the mental picture of his dad throwing him the quaffle.

Would his dad be better than him in Quidditch? Would he let him win on purpose at his first game, at the backyard? Would his mum shout at him, perhaps because they broke a window glass, or because they were late at dinner? How would it be to have lived all these things? How different was he from Ron, Hermione, how close they truly were to him and to what he had gone through before his Hogwarts letter came?

“Have you had any visions lately?” asked Snape. Harry furrowed his brows. Of course, in real life the questions were always like this one. Snape continued. “Your scar is quite a legend among... people. It is said that you're able to feel when he’s... acting.”

“And when he’s happy, and when he’s furious, and when he’s just troubled over something. It’s there all the time, actually. I just learn to ignore it.”

Snape exhaled sharply. “You should not ignore it. You should fight it. Otherwise you’re pulling open doors for the Dark Lord while it would take him years to break them on his own. You’re inviting him in.”

And what did it matter? They’d have to battle over their lives anyway, and only one of them would come out of it alive. He wasn’t going to avoid it, so why postpone it? It wouldn’t do to believe in a normal life or in a life at all, before this battle happened. It would be harder to go to Voldemort if he had things to live for left behind.

“The visions have stopped though,” Harry insisted. 

“It could be temporary. You are aware that they might return once his powers have fully returned to him, are you not? The fact that he has now felt your fear has weakened him, but also enlightened him about your capacity to experience it and be affected by it.”

“That’s stupid. He must have felt fear before. He has been human too.”

“Yes, but assuredly not in the way you apprehend humans. We are unpredictable creatures, Potter. There is no common basis to our behaviour. It is possible that he was becoming dark as was growing up and it is equally possible that he was born with it. One cannot know.”

The air was suddenly too thin for this conversation. He didn’t want to talk more about Voldemort. He emptied his cup with a last gulp. Over the last hour it had gone cold and light inside his hands, and as he placed it to the table it clacked softly.

“How did Dumbledore tell you? That he’s, you know. Gay.” It felt bizarre that Dumbledore could even have a sexual orientation.

Snape rolled his head towards him, his hair fallen back on the sofa cushions. He gave him a wary look and then he returned his focus on the ceiling. “That’s not a story for you to know.”

Why not? “Come on, tell me.”

“Potter.”

“I won’t tell.”

“That’s not the point.”

How did people come out? What did they say? How were they even sure that it wasn’t just a phase, or their idea, or some curse or potion forced upon them? It was impossible for one to be sure. What if he told his friends and then he changed his mind? They’d never believe him. For all he knew he could be just making this up to kill his time. Or not. 

It was fucking difficult. He had to know what Dumbledore did. After all, he was the cleverest wizard of his age. However he had done it, it had to be the right way. “I need to know.”

“Do you think I’d have survived so long in my circle if I spilled my knowledge whenever someone pressed the matters? I’m not going to tell you, boy.”

Annoyed, Harry sighed. “Fine." he said. “I feel kind of drowsy,” he added. 

“Your bed,” Snape snapped. “I mean,” he added with a deep breath, “go to your bed, then.”

It had to be dawning anytime soon. “Your head is still killing you, isn’t it?” Harry asked.

Snape arched his eyebrows and snorted, although his eyes were closed. “Don’t ask.”

“Do you want –”

“Careful, Potter.”

“No then,” Harry mumbled. He almost smiled. “Better not.”

Chapter Text

“Have you packed?”

“I have,” Potter said. “Just give me a couple of minutes; I have a few more things to check.”

“Now?"

“A minute.”

“Be quick.”

Severus vanished the milk, the eggs, and whatever meat and vegetables had been left in the fridge. Opening the cabinet, he checked the plates, the glasses, and made sure that everything was in place. Just before leaving the kitchen, he stared fixedly at the battered biscuits box, and scowled at it before vanishing it too.

The living room was alright, or at least it seemed so. He closed the shutters, sliding the rusty locks in place and savouring the sight of the scourgified carpet, the bottles of liquor he wasn’t allowed to bring to school, and the old sofa, with its absence of dustiness and the forming concavity on one end – mark of well-used cushions.

No one had ever occupied this sofa that much before. Tobias was usually either outside or passed out in bed, and his mother barely rested at all in her dreadful marriage. Severus didn’t dare be in the living room with them for too long when he was a child.

This sofa could very well be ghost furniture, he thought, gracing the room with its personal sadness; coated with flatness and sheer vapidity. He couldn’t decide if Potter had given it life or defiled it even more, and was torn between casting the last scourgify and burning the thing to ashes.

“I’m ready,” Harry said from the stairs. “Apparation?”

“No, walking. And then apparation.”

“It’s raining again,” Potter protested, making a face.

“Then you can drop school until raining stops.” In this hell of a place, this would certainly take some time. Well; Potter hadn’t been the brightest star of Hogwarts anyway. “I’m leaving.”

“Hey!” Potter stumbled behind him, hopping on one foot as he struggled to shove the other one into a shoe. “Give me a – what the – minute, ouch. Fuck.”

Severus rolled his eyes, and Potter surrendered to his trouble and bended on one knee to solve the mazy enigma that was how to wear a shoe. When he succeeded, he stood up quite proud of himself.

“Really, Potter.”

“What?” Potter's cheeks were flushed. There was mockery in his eyes. 

“You are absolutely impossible.”

"Thanks." It wasn’t a compliment. Apparently Potter took it as one.

Never mind. In a few hours the boy was going to be someone else’s trouble.

“Have you got all your belongings?”

“I think so.”

“Your ridiculous Muggle clothing?”

“Aha.”

“Think again, Potter. We’re not coming back anytime soon.”

Potter grinned. “That means that we are coming back.”

“I am,” Severus corrected strictly. “You most likely,” and most hopefully, “will never see this place again.”

It was amazing how easy had turned out to read Potter; how predictable he was when Severus used the right words and made his face fall. The guilt that had hit home had just no reason to be there. He did most certainly not prefer a grinning Potter than a grim one. In fact, he preferred no Potter at all.

“Yeah. Who knows how next summer’s going to be like.” His voice carried an annoyed tone, and Severus couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

“For you?”

“For me,” Potter said, looking at his shoes as he swung his backpack onto his shoulders, “For you. For Dumbledore.”

The shiver that ran down Severus’ spine was unacceptable. “The only thing you should be worrying about, Potter, is the utter flop that our lessons have been. The Headmaster is going to be as fine as he always is, now am I clear?”

“No, you’re clearly lying though. If Malfoy’s going to try and kill Dumbledore –”

What a wonderful time to discuss this, indeed. The boy did have talents, after all. “If Mister Malfoy is planning on harming the Headmaster or any other school member or staff for that matter, you should certainly not be discussing it on my doorstep.”

Potter bit his lip. “You’ve promised me, you know,” he said. His anger was hard to hide. And Severus had never promised anything.

“Move, now, I want to lock the door.”

“Fine. While you should thank me for not mentioning it all this time –”

“I do thank you from the depths of my heart for not mentioning in the safety of my warded walls so you could wait to bring it up right out of them. Step aside.”

Potter stepped out and Severus locked, muttering the protection charms under his breath. 

“I'm asking you,” Potter whispered, as though that would make any difference, “because he’s not going to tell me anything.” 

Ah. Now Severus was the good one. How charming. “And I’m not either. Now hold your tongue mister Potter and follow me.”

Mister Potter,” he mocked. “That’s stupid.”

“It’s stupid, sir,” he corrected. He wasn’t planning on have an unrestrained Potter obstruct his professional role in the school with his audacity. He had allowed too much freedom on the boy already. “And it’s your name, I am afraid. I am not to blame if it’s stupid, as you put it.”

Despite his anger, Potter snorted. His negative sentiments were always drifting away too quickly for his behaviour to be considered as normal. Emotions were not made to be disappearing in a flick of time, and Potter was too bad an Occlumens to be hiding them. Suppressing though, seemed exactly what he was doing them.

“How many points are you going to take from Gryffindor once we get back?” Potter asked, a faint smile on his face. Severus' umbrella wasn't nearly as large as it should. It wasn't the right place to use magic though. 

“Not even one. I am going to wait for your house to reach on hundred. Then I will take all of them.” It was his old tactic, really, and he was only spilling it out because Potter wasn’t going to believe it.

“That’s your old tactic. I meant how many you were going to take until you forgive yourself for letting me into your house,” he said.

Severus stared. 

Potter laughed. 


Harry had stolen many times in his life, and all of them it was about insignificant things. When he was little, he used to steal food from the Dursleys because they wouldn’t give to him anything but leftovers, and sometimes he’d steal Dudley’s toys too. Once, and only once, he stole the market of Little Whinging as well, hiding a delicious large chocolate inside his pants.

He’d stole from the grocery shop at the end of Spinner’s End too, and with Ron’s assistance he had copied an assignment from a Ravenclaw girl when he was thirteen.

But none of his stolen items was as unreasonable as Severus Snape’s silk black cravat. He folded it carefully inside a piled Gryffindor cloak and shoved it into his bag. He didn’t know why he did it, which was making it uncomfortable to think about, and he usually felt bad for stealing when the reason wasn’t important enough. Checking the room for the last time, he swallowed and descended.

“I’m ready,” he said, and tried hard to kick away the certainty that he was going to miss his fake calmness. He had never realised how important it was, to not worry himself sick over the same things again and again. To have someone reason him instead of pushing him to solve the mystery, instead of intriguing him to take another battle against the weights on his shoulders. To be understood with as much as breathing, even if it was with someone who had turned alcoholic to endure Harry’s presence. “Apparation?”

“No, walking. And then apparation.”

He didn’t know why he stole the scarf with the strong scent of thick ink and Snape. He only knew that this scent was somehow soothing him, and he didn’t dare meditate more about it.

End of Part One

Chapter Text

Dumbledore nodded as Severus finished his detailed report on Potter’s Occlumency failures.

“I see,” said Dumbledore.

“What," said Snape, without hesitation, "what am I expected to do now for my protection? Merlin knows how much I’ve tried. I used all my methods, and not just once. He won’t learn.”

“Time will show, Severus. Time will show.”

Time was something they did not have. Dumbledore knew this too, but insisted on ignoring all the dangers until proven necessary to face them bare handed. If they were to put their faith in Potter, they had to be at least a little harsher about their expectations.

"He knows secrets," Severus reminded him. "He was asking questions. He has memories of himself asking me about Lily." He sounded furious. He could do nothing about it. 

Dumbledore smiled. "What do you suggest?"

"Obliviation," he said strictly. He was prepared for this. 

For Dumbledore's laughter, however, he wasn't. "My boy... you seem to forget you're not talking to your old master, sometimes." Severus almost told him that he wasn't aware he had a new one. "I kept your secret for fifteen years, as I had promised you. I intended to take it to my grave. Surprising, that it slipped out of you in the end."

"He wasn't supposed to see those memories. I have every right to take them back."

"Hm." It was that expression on Dumbledore's face, that would piss Severus off more than anything. The one that implied that he was considering Severus' words. While he clearly wasn't. "Obliviation is a criminal act, is it not, Severus?"

"Yes, but -"

"I'm glad we agree, then."

The rage inside him fumed. Lily was his. Those memories belonged to him only. The boy had no right to know. His mind was vulnerable and constantly exposed to the Dark Lord. And there'd be no way to escape death if the Dark Lord knew Severus' true loyalty. 

Dumbledore stared at him with an intense glare Severus knew too well. His expression was relaxed but unsettling all the same.

Trying to read my mind, Headmaster? he thought. “Not even he has managed to succeed at it after all these years.”

It wouldn’t do to inform Dumbledore that he kept his back to him as much as he did to the Dark Lord. Still, the monster that loyalty was had curled around him like a snake with a head on each side, and he’d surrender to his asphyxiation long before he decided to trust one end more than the other. 

“Forgive me, Severus. It’s an old habit of a tired man, I suppose.” He suspected that the heads shared the same determination too. “It was a risk to have Harry outside the wards of his home for so long. I was hoping for the best, only.”

“If he hadn’t broken into my past he wouldn’t be needing this assistance in the first place,” Severus insisted. “And even like that, he hasn’t learned anything. His mind is as thick as it's always been, only now it has my life in it as well.”

Dumbledore seemed thoughtful, but didn’t blame Potter as he should. “Voldemort will think twice before searching into Harry’s mind again, that’s for sure. The last time cost him strength and magic; the two more valuable things he has.”

Severus didn’t have to push. Dumbledore wanted him alive as much as Severus wanted himself to live. The fact that he had trouble believing that he could be saved at all could wait. 

“Is there anything else you believe I should be aware of?” Dumbledore smiled kindly. Severus shook his head a little too quickly. 

There was certainly nothing else that Dumbledore should be aware of.

“No, Headmaster, that is all.”

The blue eyes sparkled curiously, and kept studying Severus’ face with what seemed to be enjoyment. Severus found himself torn between goggling his own eyes in challenging stubbornness and punching Dumbledore in the face.

“What?” he snapped eventually. This was getting old. “With all respect, I have a schedule to prepare. I would like to be excused now."

"Not yet."

Severus sighed. "I've told you everything you need to know.” Should he go through their nutrition routine as well?

“Have you?” chanted Dumbledore. How was this the most powerful wizard in the world? And more precisely, why? “I was under the impression that unethical developing intimacy between educators and students is, in fact, something I need to know, when I rule a school."

Bugger. Fine. Fuck. Kill me now.

Of all the right things that battled on the tip of his tongue to be heard, like, what the boy wants concerns no one but himself, for certainly I do not want anything from him, and, the only developing thing that I can think of me growing towards him is utter repulse, his mind chose the most sorry one to blurt out.

“He talked.” Bravo. You might as well slap a CHILD MOLESTER sticker on your forehead and parade around the castle for the entire world to see.

“Severus…”

“He garbled the truth, whatever he told you. Your precious boy intoxicated me so he could make a quick check on his sexuality on my expense. I assure you that he did regret it.”

He did not, but it didn’t matter. If Dumbledore assumed that Potter had been already punished accordingly, he would save him a precious amount of time. However, something was telling him that this was not where Dumbledore was planning on directing this conversation.

“You claim that he intoxicated you?” Dumbledore looked like he was almost enjoying this. Severus didn’t. At all.

He had. Intoxicated. Him.

Damn. It did sound more stupid when told aloud. He had been worrying that it would, but his common sense had reassured him that he was not going to speak of this aloud anytime in this lifetime.

Obviously, he had been wrong. Thank Gryffindors for digging out all the wrong secrets.

“I had certainly not drunk that much. I assure you I can control myself. It was his fault.”

“That you didn’t control yourself?”

What kind of game was this? He resisted the urge of taking out a notebook and a pen to write down Dumbledore’s new behaviour.

Instead, he grunted. “What did he tell you?" He passed a hand through his hair. "I swear, if he lied..."

"What he told me, is between him and me. And what you tell me is between me and you. Tell me what happened."

"Nothing happened! I was in my home; I had every right to relax. Do you think it was easy for me, spending every moment of my days with him? Having to look at his face again and again? I have nothing to apologise for.” Now, that was better. It occurred to him that the more he talked the more it sounded like he was apologising. Dumbledore didn't respond, and after a moment Severus felt that the silence was working against him. "He kissed me. I was too drunk to understand what was happening. The next morning I told him to get out of my home. The only reason I didn't kick him out right then and there was you." Feeling the weight of lying eventually lifting off his chest, Severus could only wait for his fate to be decided. 

"Did he try to do it again, after that incident?"

Severus lifted his gaze. "He wouldn't dare."

Dumbledore nodded. He seemed skeptical for a while and Severus preferred to stare at the floor as the silence became longer and longer. "I did everything you asked of me," he added eventually. It was humiliating, having to remind Dumbledore that he was loyal to his intentions. Even now, after everything, he was still being questioned. 

"And I hope you will continue doing so, my boy. For the greater cause, yes?"

"Yes."

“What you did for me this summer was precious. I admire your efforts and your loyalty and I have never doubted you. I can only think about Harry, now, however."

Dumbledore's tone was conversational; his words weren't. Severus knew the signs. 

"What about him?"

"Ah. You don't get it, Severus? He's young. Confused. Intrigued, perhaps."

How can you say that? A voice in Severus' head spat. Another one whispered that if he wanted to get out of this idiotic situation he had to be docile.  

"I hate to break it to you, Headmaster, but Harry Potter isn't the first teenager to break through on this world nor the first one to be intrigued or confused. I fail to see how these undeniably shattering virtues of his have to be my concern."

"They have not. And this is why I believe it is time for you to stay away from Harry now. It would be preferable if you kept your interactions outside class to zero, for the time being. As you can barely stand the boy, I can imagine you agree."

Of all the things that had annoyed him in the past within this office, this had to be the top one. Was this a punishment? Had Dumbledore imagined that he wanted to be near the boy? Did he think, in that conspiring brain of his, that he was going to keep Severus restricted while he would cry and weep Potter’s unbearable absence away?

“And what if I don't?”

Dumbledore snorted softly, still studying Severus’ face. “Do you want to fight against me, Severus?”

“This is insane.” Protect him, but keep on hating him. Guard him, but don’t like him. Obey, but don’t ask. His thoughts were interrupted by a mental punch on his gut before they reached the see but don’t touch part. “No, not insane,” he corrected. “This is disgusting. You can’t believe that I would be that kind of person or that I'd betray you like that.”

Bullshit. He'd been worse and he'd betrayed more important people. 

Dumbledore looked at his hands. He did believe it. After everything Severus had done, his life depended on a blasted kiss. Fuck punishments. He was going to strangle Potter.

“I do trust you, Severus.” But?  “But this is entirely different. It is essential for Harry to remain unharmed. I do not want him damaged, Severus, as I do not want any other student being in such trouble.”

If this was the nice to way to say that Severus had damaged an underage boy, he preferred the ugly one. “I do not touch students,” he hissed. “You should be ashamed of even accusing me of such filth. How would you…”

Filled with bitterness, he watched the red fowl flapping happily beside Dumbledore’s head and crossed his fingers to witness it defecating on the Headmaster’s head at least once before he died.

“Explain it to me, then,” Dumbledore said calmly.

“What’s the point? You’ve already made your assumptions.”

“I wish to understand. I was expecting you to give Harry a hard time, Severus, but not -”

"Not what? He's a liar. He's just like his father. Don’t you think that I’m utterly disgusted of what he did as well?"

“My boy.” The boy crap again. Severus wasn’t a boy. And he certainly wasn’t attracted to the actual boy Dumbledore was trying desperately to protect from him. “It’s my duty to look after Harry’s best interests. He’s been through many disappointments, and one can only take as much before he breaks.”

The man before him had guaranteed Severus’ innocence in a courtroom while he was aware of at least half of Severus’ crimes. It was something that had never been mentioned again, and in Hogwarts grounds he had never been faced as a criminal, by no one. Apparently kissing Dumbledore’s precious collectible boy toy wasn’t something that could be forgiven as easily as murder.

“Of course, Headmaster," he mocked. 

“He was happy to come back."

No. He wasn’t. He was going to be an insomniac mess. He was going to be angry and once again abandoned by someone he was cautious to trust in the first place, but nevertheless did. Trusted him.

Severus resolved that caring about it was beyond his personal apprehension. Yes, the boy was happy to come back. And he was going to be fine.

“Your decision to remove the brat from my care could not have made me happier. I am relieved from the dirty work, and please spare me any repetitions of it. Now, if you’re through.”

“Not yet, Severus. I believe we should discuss about Draco.”

Oh joy. The torment never ends.

Chapter Text

The first important thing Harry did when he came back to Hogwarts, was to take a shower. He unpacked his things, enjoyed the emptiness of the common room, and made sure that all his assignments were ready, clear, and that the ink hadn’t been smudged. Dumbledore invited him to his office, greeted him, checked his progress, and then asked him all kinds of questions.

When they had finished, Harry went to Snape’s quarters, knocked on the door, then banged at the door, and eventually left.

He met his friends a day after, and told them some awkward lies about his summer holidays. He listened to their family adventures and ate with them at the Great Hall. They endured Dumbledore’s regular speech together, clapped their hands at the announcement of the new Potions professor named Horace Slughorn, commented on Snape’s satisfied expression as he eventually became the Dark Arts Professor, and watched as the Sorting Hat decided for the destiny of excited small children who couldn’t wait to be sorted.

It was when both of his friends were busy eating a delicious chocolate cake that Harry took a better look of Snape, who was eating something similar next to Dumbledore on the large wooden table. Harry suddenly remembered who Snape was, and what he, along with all his friends and classmates, used to think about him. Hermione dragged him and Ron to the Tower early, and they stayed awake until morning, small chatting and giggling over nothing in particular.

The second important thing Harry did, when he woke up in the middle of his third night back, drenched in sweat and panting his strange terror away, was to open up his trunk and take out the silk dark scarf from the bottom of it. He felt regret, regret for everything he had thought about over the summer, everything he had dared talk about, and more than anything, he felt stupid for believing that he felt the unspeakable things he had thought that he felt.

Unable to take it back, unable to make Snape forget Harry’s humiliation over what he had done, he decided to do the only thing he could do to make this up to himself. So he wore his Invisible Cloak and walked to the Fat Lady’s portrait, determined to throw the scarf away or even burn it. He met Ginny just behind the portrait. He stared at her stupidly, and she smiled at him softly, and Harry was well aware of her feelings towards him and even more aware of that terror growing stronger and stronger inside him with every day that passed.

So the third important thing Harry did, was to kiss Ginny. She was trembling and willing to lean into the kiss as though she was expecting it her whole life, and she kissed back with a passion that Harry didn’t have. She told him that she felt surprised about it, afterwards, and Harry felt terrible, but instead he told her that she shouldn’t be surprised, because she was a beautiful, wonderful girl. It made it easier that on that he didn’t have to lie.

A week later, the whole school knew that they were dating. Behind a dark corner of the South Tower, where no one could see them, she rubbed her body against him, and thankfully, as she was rubbing, Harry had managed a moan and had hugged her tighter.

He tried to not think of how much he hated it, and how much he was beginning to blame her too inside his mind for hating it.

Ginny began to sit next to him during lunch after that night. As they couldn’t keep it a secret forever, as Ginny had put it, she had told Ron herself the day right after their first kiss. Ginny was pulling happily on Harry’s sleeve as she was hugging his arm, and she announced that they were now in a relationship, and although Harry hadn’t noticed how matters turned to something serious, he had nodded dully in agreement.

Ron wasn’t happy about it, but then he had a talk with Hermione, and then he was.

With the weight of guilt haunting his chest, he forbade his mind to think of how he had dragged himself into this and he kept going.

Harry’s grades were as stable as they’d always been, and he was almost glad that he was back to his friends and classmates. Back in the safety that Hogwarts offered, along with the familiar sense of being home, being happy and being okay. Almost glad that he was back to his life.

Back to the empty coldness that wouldn’t leave him alone and back to the tensed atmosphere he had to keep up at all times to avoid the disaster he had bound himself to create. He found that giggling and laughing for the best part of the day wasn’t what he wanted; he also found that worrying sick about Voldemort wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest part of the day either.

Hogwarts didn’t feel home anymore. The rooms were too big and chaotic, and no matter how many people where in them they always felt cold, unbearably cold and echoing.

Lying was new for him. He had never lied to his friends before, and he had never imagined that he would do it to save his own arse. Until now he was sure that he was not that kind of person. When he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see a bad friend, a traitor, he didn’t see a bad person at all, but nonetheless he knew he was, because he had never taken advantage of a friend for his own benefit as long as he lived and now he was doing just that.

And whenever Ginny was stroking his arm and kissing his cheek he would bite down heaves of shame and nausea and something else, aching, unidentified.

Chapter Text

“What's the git up to this time?” Ron mumbled.

“What?”

“Bloody Snape.”

Harry looked up at the high table and watched as Snape cut his steak firmly.

“He was looking at us,” Ron explained. “A whole minute. The creeper.”

Harry shrugged at his plate; just when he thought that he was left in peace, Ron’s nudge startled him again. “Now, Harry! He’s doing it again!”

If Snape was looking at him, he was determined to have Harry miss it every time. It occurred to him that Ron’s attempts to have Harry notice were too fucking obvious for Snape not to notice.He couldn’t keep himself from always giving Snape a laugh, could he?

He reasoned himself that Snape was always looking at him. If a fly flew its way to the dungeons Snape would watch him and blame him and take points from him for it, because somehow it had to be his fault. This was how it had always been. Nothing new.

He was aware of his holding his breath, and he forced himself calm down.

“Oh Ron,” Hermione bent her head to take a better look of his face. “You have sauce all over your face again."

Harry snorted. He mentally went through the rest of his daily program and scrunched his face as he was reminded of Ginny waiting for him after the Quidditch practice. He used to like Ginny, as a person. She didn’t deserve this.

Pushing himself to forget about his worries, he shook his head as Hermione scolded Ron for his eating habits while Ron nodded absently and continued eating with the same eagerness he always had. 

He was looking at him. Of course he was looking at him. He was probably thinking of how he had allowed such a little pervert into his house for so long. Harry felt something like envy form inside his stomach. Snape had still his personal space, a place where he could act and talk however he wanted, away from all his friends and all the curious people.

It occurred to him that Snape didn’t have friends, and that with no one to talk to his personal space he was probably rather lonely. It was stupid to think that Snape missed him. 

“Harry, what's wrong?” Hermione asked. 

“What, I'm eating like a pig too?” Harry beamed his enjoyment quite honestly. Ron mouthed "traitor" at him behind her back. 

"I just thought you seemed skeptical."

Harry shook his head in a motion that indicated dismissal. "No, I'm just sleepy. Terribly sleepy, actually."

The lies came easily, he noticed. He didn’t even mind. His days were passing dully, more slowly than ever, and every moment of joy was unrealistic, sparse.

When he couldn’t sleep, he'd think of too many things. When he'd fall asleep, he wouldn't want to wake up. He had come to the conclusion that he was having a much better time asleep, without the sadness and the happiness bothering him.

It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when waking up from a nightmare, relieved. Only he had woken up into a nightmare, and for some reason it was a blissful one. Or it should be.  

“I’m going to worry more if you two don’t finish your meal soon. Quickly, we're going to be late,” she said. Hermione's voice was coming from miles away.

“Right, Charms," Harry said. "We’d better run, I wrote a gorgeous essay.”

“You copied my essay. Let’s go.”

Harry laughed, and he wondered how a fake laughter would look in a mirror. Could he be fooled by it?

“I copied it too,” said Ron and laughed.

Sometimes he thought that he had imagined it all.


Potter had bent above his examination sheet, a confused look on his face as he was trying to figure out what he had done wrong. Of course, all of it was wrong.

“Mister Potter.” He looked up. “Take a new paper from my desk and begin again. Your sheet has so many scribbles that I can barely locate the text.”

Potter nodded dully at his desk, and Severus had to mentally slap his hand from the impulse to grasp Potter’s chin and tilt his head up.

The boy wouldn’t look at him. He hardly ever raised his head in his classroom anymore. Apparently Potter didn’t find it necessary to face him.

Not after he kept knocking on his door for a week and his efforts to meet him had passed in vain. Thank Merlin it had taken Severus only a week to get rid of him. What had Potter thought, anyway? That Severus was obliged to suffer his company for the time being?

“But I asked for a new paper half an hour ago and you told me no and to correct this one. Sir.”

Right. Now Severus was the one to be scolded, wasn’t he?

Well.

Certainly not in his class. And not in this lifetime.“Ten points from Gryffindor.”

He was aware of a female voice yelping somewhere behind Potter and he defiantly ignored it as he returned to his desk.

Severus decided to occupy himself with the construction of a teaching schedule for the second year class, when he saw Potter’s hand snatching a paper from the stack before him and going back to his seat.

Ten points for being outrageous. For not looking up in humility when I talk sense into you. For not respecting me as I deserve to.

Another hundred, Potter, for daring be angry at me.

Pursuing his lips, Severus marked the most difficult pages of the book laid open before him. If that damned position was cursed, he had only a year to teach these dunderheads something useful. Might as well teach them everything he’d teach them in a full seven year curriculum.

Potter had lost weight. The corner of his eye kept twitching towards the boy, and he pressed his quill harder down. Why teach the nature of the unforgivable only to sixth year students? Eleven years old was a fine age to start learning. This was education, after all.

It didn’t make sense. Potter was eating as much as his friends. No, perhaps less. But it had to do.

Perhaps he should see that his meals were soaked in some traceless sleeping potions and some vitamins too once a week or two; of course, Potter was not going to be informed about it, so that would be unethical. It would be exactly what Potter hated. Good. 

A lot of vitamins would do. He was disgusted with himself for not having thought about it sooner.

Potter muttered something through his teeth and Severus was sure it was a curse. He was tempted to challenge him into repeating it out loud, just to have him look him in the eye with that raging spark again.

Where was his cheek now? Where was his temper?

Why did he care, again?

Of course, it was professional. His actions were inspired by true devotion to his position and by duty. 

Dumbledore’s wand stuck constantly on his temple had assuredly nothing to do with it.

The ring belled and the brainless brood that was now called Hogwarts students spurted out of the class in relief. It occurred to him that the fact that his students hated him shouldn’t be pleasing him that much.

With all the students gone, he shrugged off the suspicion that something wasn’t right and stood. All students gone, but Potter.

Severus shivered in horror as Potter looked up at him, eventually.

“The class is dismissed, Mister Potter.”

“I noticed.”

Contemptuous little brat. How dared he look him like that? Why was he calm? Why wasn’t he arrogant?

Potter wasn’t even blinking.

“What do you want, then?”

If Severus looked as terrified as he felt, he'd better ran away and hide. Forever. Under a rock. 

Potter stood too, swinging his bag unto his shoulders and stepping closer. He was suddenly inspired to do something, and Severus could tell that it wasn’t going to be clever.

“Why did you quit our lessons?”

Was that how the story had ended up to his sensitive ears? He almost laughed. “Because I have better things to do and because I’ve been busy.” Truth was, because Potter had spilled his guts to Dumbledore.

Daft, ridiculous child.

“No. I want the truth.”

Then he’d get another lie. “Because the Headmaster owes me a salary that I have yet to receive. Dismissed.”

Severus watched closely as the boy's inspiration turned to guilt. He suddenly recalled a sense of nostalgia from the time when Potter would lock himself in a toilet stall and scream off his denial of having to practice Occlumency again. Of course, Severus wasn’t supposed to know about this.

“You were being paid. To have me in your home.”

Praise the gods, he has finally figured it out. Regaining his full weight that had struck home again, he decided that being a complete bastard wasn’t a bad thing.Better end this farce for good.

“Of course I was. What did you think? I don’t enjoy babysitting mentally unstable children, no ones does.”

All in all, this had to do it. His sanity was all Potter had; with the wizarding world against him and the press ridiculing him on a daily basis it was only a wonder that he hadn’t bought his being nuts too.

“Right,” Potter snapped. “Because you think I’m so stupid that if you insult me and drive me mad I’ll forget what my question was about.”

Severus mentally bowed to the scene they were making and clapped his applaud in admiral. For the last time, Potter wasn’t going to have control over this. It occurred to him that he was falling into his own trap.

At least, Potter was angry.

“I believe I responded to your question, and I do not make a habit of repeating myself. Get out.” What Potter hadn’t grasped yet, was that his mental stability had only been shaken by those whom the boy had trusted. Involuntary or not.

“You’re not answering, you’re explaining what I already know!” Where they still on this? “You thought it was a waste of time, right? You thought I’d never make it and you didn’t even think of telling me yourself! I am trying, you know. I’ve been clearing my thoughts for some time now.”

“Practicing? When?” If Dumbledore was teaching Potter himself and Severus wasn’t aware of it – well, that would be too much. He scowled off his wistfulness for a particular bottle of scotch hidden numerous miles away.

“At nights, usually. It takes a few hours to completely achieve it. Especially when I’m not very tired.”

The words stuck together and Severus’ comprehending found its place in the world. This could only mean one thing. He watched Potter, his fragile skin, pale and thin, the green eyes behind the hideous glasses, the bony shoulders that did not make sense for a Quidditch player.

“You haven’t been sleeping.” As soon as he said the words, he wanted to reel them back into his mouth and forget that they were ever formed. It wasn’t the first time he swore to avoid displaying emotion to the outer world. It was however, the first time that concern had hit the peak of the dangerous sentiments he should not let out.

“I have. It’s just not – forget it.”

Potter left, and Severus played the scene inside his head again. He laughed.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t burned it, but he had forgotten that he still had it.

It occurred to him that to an observing eye, the scarf wasn’t a completely unrecognisable piece of cloth.  He buried it into a shirt again, and shoved it on the bottom of his trunk.

Lying back down on his bed, Harry firmly closed the curtains and relished into the dark nothingness that surrounded him. He breathed in. Breathed out. Breathed in.

Opening the Advanced Potions Making book he had discovered only a few weeks ago, he slowly trailed his fingers over the Prince’s notes. The handwriting was turned and flawless, scribed with the same black ink that had crossed off most of the book’s original paragraphs.

Furrowing his brows, he turned the pages one after another, looking for clues. A name. A date. Something. He’d almost ask Slughorn about it, if he wasn’t afraid that he’d take it away from him. He’d ask Dumbledore too, but Dumbledore seemed determined to not let a single minute of their meetings be wasted. Tom Riddle’s memories were crucial; Harry had to see them all. He had to understand them all.

“Are you awake, mate?”

Harry blinked at Ron’s sleepy voice. “Yeah.”

“Reading that thing again?”

“Aha.”

“I was thinking.”

Prince. Images of knights with white horses popped into Harry’s mind and he couldn’t help but relish the mental image of an actual Prince hiding somewhere in the castle. The textbook’s yellowish pages indicated that it was old, and Harry wondered if it was someone he knew, or if Remus or Snape knew anything about it.

Dumbledore would.

Suddenly, he was certain that no one could know.

“Harry?”

“Yes,” Harry said absently.

It was a strange nickname for one to have. Someone clever enough to create all these potion alternatives. Someone who, if he was still alive, was now probably powerful. And beautiful too, Harry hoped. He lowly chuckled to himself. That prince image with the horse and all that had stuck into his mind was really irritating.

“If you don’t want to talk just say so. I wanted to say something important, and I’m not going to say it if you’re not listening.”

Harry sighed. “What is it, Ron?”

“If you hurt Ginny, I’ll hate you.”

Harry closed the book. He didn’t open the curtains.

“I don’t want to hate you,” Ron added quietly, his bravery fading to uncertainty. He was thinking about that, Harry realised. Long silences weren’t something Ron did. And if he was thinking about it…

“Why are you telling me this now?” he asked with a hint of panic.

A breath was released sharply, and Harry held his own.

“I don’t know, because she’s my little sister, maybe? If you – no. Hermione said –”

Harry’s thumb caressed the hardcover as the tension intensified. Had Ron understood? Impossible. One part of Harry's mind told him that whatever had once possessed him was now over. He was normal, dating Ginny, and happy. Another part of his mind drifted far away still, wondering if the book at hand was abandoned or even cursed. It had a surprisingly smooth feel, too smooth for such a hard object, and just a hint of foxing at the edges.

“I can overlook that you’re kissing her,” Ron said after he had put his thoughts into words. “But if you do more than that – you can’t hurt her. She’s been getting on the family’s nerves with her talking about you since she was eleven. Do you get what that means? You’re not just a boyfriend for her. I don’t know if she loves you but she cares for you. Everyone knows that.”

Harry nodded, even though Ron couldn’t see it. He loved Ginny. He loved her with all his heart, just as he loved Ron and Fred and George and their parents. The Weasleys were his family. The only family he ever had.

“I know, Ron.”

“You’re reading that book again, aren’t you? You’re not paying attention. I told you I wanted you to listen to me.”

“I am. Paying attention.”

And he did. But he preferred not to. He doubted that he could ever think about Ginny again without that heave of guilt inside him. The pages fell open again on his lap and he saw a note about a spell named Muffliato.

Had this book been someone’s desperate attempt to escape from torturing day routine? Did he invented spells because he felt lonely?

“Forget it. Goodnight, Harry.”

“’Night, Ron.” His hypocrisy disgusted him. He hated treating Ron like that. He hated failing at being normal in all aspects of his life. He was trying. Why was he only making it worse for himself? Was he just doing in on purpose, subconsciously, to make people dislike him? Why would he do that? Why was this happening to him?

Harry’s life was so empty that he now needed a potions book to fill it. 

He closed it with a thump. Nothing felt important anymore. Or interesting.

Snape. So humiliating, so absurd... How could he cross the line like that, bring such a shame to himself, and for Snape, of all people? He needed him. To talk to Harry with that warded look and smirk just in time for Harry to catch a glimpse of it – to smile so rarely that there was no doubt that he meant it.

He breathed in. Breathed out. Where that calmness used to be, there was a hole ripped open, which he found himself constantly poking curiously at with a finger in the daytime, and falling in at night.

He missed it.

Like hell.


Longbottom’s face was priceless.

As he watched him scratch his temple with his quill and goggle his watering eyes, Severus felt a hint of unfairness for the fact that sketching had never been his call. If it had, Longbottom's utter disappointment would have been the ultimate moment he’d enjoy to capture in the finest detail, so he could look at it later on and have a laugh whenever he felt grim.

“Ten minutes,” he announced.

It was beyond him, how Severus was doomed to still teach in these horrid dark classrooms. Sometimes he’d swear they smelled of incense and death - death that had coated the stones and burrowed inside them, unleashing roots and invisible bleeding foliage, which crept around the walls and into the cauldrons and the textbooks.

He pictured old Slughorn comfortably sitting on his Potions classroom just a few floors below, and he mentally summoned whatever Hogwarts ghost might have been listening to go and haunt him. People who chose Hogwarts over their freedom were always being haunted by something. Duty, promises, honour, ghosts. Severus was teaching Defence, and everything was still the same. His release from the dungeons only added to the irony that his life was. 

Twenty days for the end of term. Two and a half months without Potter giving him a headache. It was… acceptable. No. It was good. And it would have been better, if Potter had given to the world the slightest indication of a normal sleeping behaviour.

A teenage boy suffering from unholy nightmares should seek professional help - but of course Potter’s nightmares weren’t the kind one could talk about with a therapist.

He doubted that there was a therapist out there that could even speak the Dark Lord’s name.

As though you can.

“Time is up. Hand over your papers.”

He extended his hand as he walked between the desks, glimpses of the heart attack that was surely coming due to the examination answers attacking him from the corner of his eye. These snotty children would be the adults of the world someday. Hopefully, he wouldn’t live long enough to see it.

Potter pushed his paper at the edge of the desk with abandon, and Severus allowed himself a quick glance before passing over to the next student. Well, blank should be considered wiser than ruined. Only it wasn’t. Potter hadn’t even bothered to check the multiple answer boxes. And this was supposed to be the easiest test Severus had constructed the last decade.

Damn you, Dumbledore. He needs help.

And Severus needed his job, despite Lily’s boy collapsing from day to day.

Hell? No.

Retribution.


“Everything is alright, Severus.”

Of course everything was alright. Except Potter. The boy couldn’t concentrate over a forty five minute lesson without sweating, let alone cope with all the expectations of his other classes and that bloody obsession with the most predictable flying sport in the world.

“He is unwell.”

“Don’t be so worried, Severus; he’ll sort everything out - in time.”

Severus sneered and slid the folder on the desk to Dumbledore. “His grades.”

Sliding his half-moon glasses down the bridge of his nose, Dumbledore checked the grades with his hands casually clasped together, and Severus swore that if he didn’t see anything wrong with them he’d simply hex him.

Dressed with hypocrisy, with kind smiles and caring advices, Dumbledore was just as dangerous as a Death Eater was. No, Death Eaters were easier to convince - or to control. They’d place a wand on the victim’s throat and they’d play for a little, like the cat did with the mouse. Just a little.

Then death would come, sedate and outspoken.

Right here, death was a torturous slow progress of firstly losing patience and secondly losing sanity. Hope, however, was already ripped apart at the moment one dared to step foot in these soaked in lemon aroma cursed quarters.

Dumbledore didn’t need to point a wand at him to have him obediently crawl to his next mission. A pure talent of his, it was, to achieve it with a mere suggestion. It was brilliant. Outstanding. Evil.

“Harry’s grades were never better, honestly. The difference is that you are now aware of them. Perhaps it's also that you now care.”

Care? It wasn’t interest. And if Dumbledore thought he’d fish out whatever sentiment he thought he'd find using empty innuendos, he’d have to try another method. Severus was a spy. A proud one. When he needn’t be one for Dumbledore, he was one for himself.

“You think I care for him?”

Dumbledore’s narrowed eyes peering at him didn’t please him. At all. “Lily?”

Severus’ heart dropped a little at the mention of her name. He carefully packed his emotions away and cleared his face from all expressions. He did not need to nod or speak to communicate his affirmation. 

“But no,” argued Dumbledore. Smiling.

Why smiling?

“You care for the boy, Severus.”

He told himself that it only made sense, how abruptly he stood up at that. One could not stand be insulted.

Unfairness had many faces, he decided. This was a cruel one. Cruel and utterly unexpected.

As he glared back at Dumbledore’s unaffected face, he was struck with the impression that only James Potter could have been behind this, behind something so repugnant, so unspeakable, and his vision momentarily blanked with the certainty that yes, it was, it had to be James’ plan, James who was still laughing at his face through it all. 

“I hope you are not implying what I think you do , Headmaster, because if you do –”

“You care, Severus. It is only reasonable.”

Chapter Text

Time, that was the right word.

The time to this had been ticking away like a clock bomb from the first moment; it was a matter of time to let it all go. Only that now that was happening he didn’t know how to react to it.

“Just tell me who she is, okay? I can...” Ginny’s voice broke a little and she swallowed, “I'll understand. Just tell me who she is.”

“There’s no one else, Ginny, I just – look, I like you. A lot. I- I’m sorry.”

He was sorry. He was sorrier than she understood.

“You’re lying to me,” Ginny whispered, her tone close to a sob. “Why are you lying to me? I never lied to you.”

“I’m not, listen to me.”

“I will not! I will not stand to be thrown away like that! I cannot know that you’re lying and pretend that I don’t, just to make it easier for you! Just be honest with me. I deserve your honesty, dammit!”

Harry’s nerves were close to splitting. It hurt. “Ginny, I’m sorry.”

“Who is she!”

Harry shook his head, tugging at his Gryffindor scarf and tossing it on the carpet. He stared at the hearth, a hand on his hair, the other closed in a tight fist.

He’d lose Ron. He’d lose Ginny. He’d probably lose Hermione too. And it was going to be in the papers for at least a couple of weeks.

It did not matter. He was losing himself so gradually that he had barely noticed. Lies weren’t for him. He couldn’t.

The loneliest moment in someone’s life, Harry reckoned, was when they were watching their whole world fall apart, and all they could do was stare blankly.

It occurred to him that Ginny was still talking.

“You were lying to me, weren’t you? You wouldn’t even kiss me on the mouth for the last month, am I so boring to you? Do I mean nothing? Give me a reason, Harry, and I’ll drop it. Give me a reason I can believe and I’ll never bring this up again.”

“I’m gay.”


The silk shifting of nothing swiftly rounding a corner was too familiar to miss. Out again. Severus smiled inwardly at the irony of being the one to catch him in the act again. The sound of steps led him to a small tower, cold and with the window frames shattered long ago. 

He didn’t move closer, but he heard the cloak falling down and then the silence kept up for what seemed an hour. It occurred to him that despite the torturing progress the seconds were going through in order to pass, it couldn’t have been more than five minutes.

Without a Lumos or a candle, the place was annoyingly dark. The moonlight offered little help to this, and Severus wondered why the hell he wasn’t sleeping like all the rest school professors. When it was clear that the boy wasn’t returning to his dormitory anytime soon, Severus walked forward.

“Potter.”

He was slumped on the stone floor, toying his wand with a three – fingered hand. One of his shoulders and half a leg were missing too. He looked up in surprise and then, as though he remembered that he shouldn’t, he looked back at his feet and stood up.

“Take that thing off. Explain yourself.”

“Explain what?” His voice cracked.

So did Severus’ sternum. “Explain the reason you are outside your dormitory. Wandering overnight is not allowed in this school, I am afraid. It appears that Potters show little respect in rules, however.”

Potter snorted. His head was bowed, but a shadow on his face was darker than the others. 

“Look at me.”

No response. 

“Look at me, Potter.”

“No, let go.”

He strode over to Potter and gripped his face, pulling him to his feet even as the boy grunted. His left eye had a perfectly round purple circle around it. Severus sneered off his fear and he freed Potter harsher than intended. Draco had already begun.

Just to verify it, “Who did this to you?”

Potter shrugged. Severus suddenly felt the air thin and breathed deeply. “Have you encountered Mister Malfoy this evening, perhaps?”

The boy raised his head, confused. “Malfoy?” It wasn’t him, then? “No, why?”

“Who did this to you? I demand to know.”

“No one, and stop that.” His hand was pushed away and for the life of his Severus couldn't have remembered when he had grabbed him again. “I guess I deserved it anyway.”

He probably did.  “That’s not what I asked.”

Potter pressed his lips in a thin line and watched the dark sky, ignoring Severus. And Severus’ patience was beginning to thin.

“Crabbe?”

Potter lightly shook his head.

Well, if he thought that he’d get away with silence, he was being mistaken. Severus took advantage of it and went on. “If this was an organised attack from my House, you have no right concealing it from me. I am the Head of Slytherin and I assure you, you do not wish to push me. I can make you spill out what you’re hiding in a flick of a second.” He creased his eyebrows and waited.

Potter was not affected. “It wasn’t a Slytherin. Leave it. Go annoy someone else.”

Between the impulse to take points and shake the boy until all his secrets fell on their feet, he realised that this was supposed to be his line. Thank Merlin for giving the boy a proper role model to look up at.

Potter hugged his half visible torso, making his silhouette entirely surreal. The bricks that were surrounding them left little space for Potter’s abandonment. The moonlight was making him look just a little bit more alive.

He should take a hundred points for Potter’s insolence. No manners, no respect, no obedience to Severus’ authority. 

He hated Potter. At this moment, he truly hated him.

Go annoy someone else.

And leave him wallow in his self-pity until morning?

“I doubt it. Follow me.”

Chapter Text

Whatever had happened, Potter did not want to talk about it, and Severus found that he was rather relieved about that.

Spared from the terror of dealing with open exposure of emotions, he relaxed on his sofa as he thought of happy little things, like the dismissal from his professional duties that he’d assuredly receive from Dumbledore quite soon.

Potter sat at the other end, a shoed foot on the cushions and one on the carpet. He thought of the curses that would make Potter’s legs stick permanently to the floor and waited for his babbling to begin.

They sat in silence for a long time. Severus distantly pictured his exquisite bottles of alcohol that were left back home with internal longing, and for a dreadful moment he was faced with the fact that Tobias was as fond of his drinking at his age as he was.

Well, only on summers.

Potter had a children’s book on his lap, and it took only a glance to tell that he wasn’t really reading it. It was a wonder how a book like that one had appeared in Severus’ library. Or perhaps, it was Peeves.

The absence of an armchair in these chambers was awkwardly perceptible. It was making once wonder, how a plain piece of furniture could guarantee the desirable distance between two people, when another dubious piece named sofa was only working against this.

“Are you planning on appearing with a swollen eye in the Great Hall tomorrow?” he asked, and immediately regretted it. Damn. He wasn’t good at this.

“I’ll cast a glamour.”

Severus figured that there was alcohol in this room after all. Potter eyed it first, a half empty bottle between the dusty books on the bookcase, and Severus inwardly cursed for not having thought of it earlier. Of course, wine was alcohol too.

The particular bottle had remained on that shelf for so long that he had stopped considering it anything but decorative.

It would remain. Decorative.

“Stop doing that. If you want to drink, drink.”

He was staring at the bottle. Brilliant.

He strictly reminded himself that Potter and alcohol was a solution that made the base feel sorry for itself. Pleased with his self-discipline, he breathed in and enjoyed how well this was going.

“Why did you bring me here?” Potter asked.

Because, despite the Headmaster’s endless optimism, “You cannot continue like this.”

Putter shrugged off what looked like vexation. “I’m fine.”

“What you are is far from fine. You’ve been wandering through the corridors again, you do not sleep, and your grades are disappointing. Why?” If he had a second chance over this sentence, he’d have made it stricter. It occurred to him that Potter was misinterpreting his anger for worry.

It was anger.

And what was on Potter’s face was shame. “Because.”

The professional way indicated that there should be a reprimand here. He searched for the right words for it and failed. Eventually, the flashes of anger in Potter’s face took control and he exploded.

“Everyone asks me if I'm fine, and the only thing I hear when you all do that is your absolute conviction that I'm retarded. Whatever might be bothering me just pops up in my mind whenever you do that! I’m not crazy and I don’t need to be protected all the fucking time! How long are you going to keep me here?”

Did he believe that he was being kept here until he confessed something? “You are free to leave whenever you wish to.”

“Fine.” But he didn’t leave.

“I will not allow you play the I’m fine card on me, so cease using it. Neither will I witness you take a downfall in your life because you desire to torture yourself over your weaknesses instead of focusing on your strengths.” Thinking about it, he decided that Potter should appreciate this.

“That’s bullshit. I don’t feel sorry for myself, I don’t wallow in sadness or depression or whatever you think I suffer from this week, and I don’t need to be watched over twenty four hours a day just in case something unbelievable happens to me.”

His sinister side chanted that karma had struck in a wonderful way, and that the more Potter begged to be granted with mere hints of privacy, the more he should be denied them. His forgotten side, protested.

“You cannot let go of anything that happens to you. If you let life control you, life will break you. You may now think that if you push yourself much, you’ll be strong and nothing will disturb your peace of mind.” Severus shifted straighter to his seat. “When you’ll succeed on that however, you will not know what to do with this prosperity.” Potter licked his lips, ready to respond. Always ready to respond before he had heard the point. “The normality you’re seeking isn’t real, and you won’t find it. It doesn’t exist. You can be swallowed up by just another ordinary façade for all I care, but don’t be surprised when real madness strikes you.”

There. He had finished. Potter closed his eyes and Severus was momentarily impressed with his capacity to come up with something actually helpful. And then shocked at the realisation that he wouldn’t have come up with it if he didn’t mean it.

Indeed.


“What am I supposed to do, then? Be a mess because I won’t stop thinking what hurts me? I thought you wanted me to get rid of emotion.” Potter blinked and his mouth curled in what looked like an offended grimace.

Were he capable of speaking openly, he’d tell Potter that emotion was something people would never get rid of. One could always fight it, if he chose to, but emotion would just alternate a little bit and that was all.

Instead, “Yes, when you practice Occlumency. Not at all times.”

Potter grinned. He dared grin at him. “That’s not what you wanted to say.” Blasted boy. “And what about you? You never show emotion.”

Yes, because I don’t have one, Severus thought of saying. Then he glanced at that grin. Potter was not going to buy it. He sighed.

“Being emotional is a weakness. Men who foolishly expose their hearts, who ache for respite, who paralyse in the sight of their own ruins, those men deserve their fate. It is a good thing that they suffer from it. Showing emotion is either a call for attention or a strategic move. Accepting the existence of your emotions is power.”

Potter’s gaze deepened at that. Were he anyone else but Potter, Severus would think that he was trying to read his mind. He reflexively guarded his thoughts and was stunned with surprise at Potter’s brief snorting and his gaze relaxing again.

“You make it sound easy. I bet it took you a lifetime. I bet you can’t even show emotion to yourself.”

Severus swallowed. He was shocked. Aghast. Provoked. Furious with himself for allowing Potter into his chambers despite the reasons against it and deranged at Potter for taking advantage of his generosity so he could kick back.

He certainly wasn’t hurt.

A dangerous urge to tear the encounter down with a memorable bitter remark was immediately pushed aside, and he nodded his head in what he believed to be a stern agreement to the boy’s statement.

Not true, was the right answer.

But close enough.

“What I do hardly concerns you. It is you we are talking about.”

Potter grimaced. “Thanks. As though I’m not put under the microscope already.” Severus opened his mouth to retort a point, but wasn’t quick. “Look, Professor. It is one thing to receive help and another to be subjected under special assistance. When you say that everybody admires me while they shouldn’t you’re right. Sometimes all I want is – to be sixteen.”

Potter stared fixedly on him. With one and a half eye, more precisely. Damn. That blasted bruise was bigger than when he’d found him.

How could he advise him? Severus hadn’t been sixteen or any other age, ever. His own life was marked by events of coincidence and error, not by ages and what they indicated for people to do. Potter’s life followed pretty much the same tactic.

But hopefully not the same path.

Mentally sighing in relief, he reminded himself that he did not care to help Potter anyway.

He was doing this because he should. Not because he wanted to.

“You are the Chosen One. You can’t. Chose something else.”

“Be left alone?”

With Dumbledore pulling his threads like a puppet? Most likely they’d turn into a noose the moment he’d even think to escape. “I highly doubt that you would like that.”

“Yeah.” Potter snorted. “I guess I wouldn’t.”

Chapter Text

“Thanks, Hermione. It’s perfect.”

Hermione smiled. “The ink is magical, so it never trails off as you write. You just need to re-cast the spell on the quill every week.”

Harry hugged her, feeling bad for not having thought of buying her something too. “I'll give you yours after we come back, I suppose.”

“It’s alright, I know.”

He’d just thought they’d be at Burrow for Christmas. He hadn’t imagined that they’d exchange gifts so soon.

“If you need anything, and I mean anything –”

“Hermione, don’t start.” He smiled faintly at her and with the corner of his eye he could see Ron fuming.

“He’s staring,” he informed her. 

Hermione rose to her full height, her shoulders square. “He will be well pleased to know that I do not care about what he does. Besides, his lovely sweetheart is waiting for him just behind him.”

She was right, although Harry didn’t know how she knew it with her back turned to Ron. He placed the peacock feathered quill into his bag and sat on the couch. As much as he didn’t want to look at Ron, his eyes seemed to have a will of their own, almost pushing themselves up at him. The Common Room was full of people and music, once again; but the prospect of Christmas Holidays had never been so unpleasant before. 

He passed a hand through his hair in awkwardness. Hermione sat beside him, her hand on his back. It took much self-control to not snap it away.

He had never asked for sympathy. 

“He’s being stupid. Ignore him.” Her features were still as a stone, and Harry found it hard to tell whether she was saying this to him or to herself.

“I know.”

Harry had never imagined that they’d split up that easily. They, who had met each other when they were too small and too strange for this new big world and yet together they had managed to succeed on things none of them could've have coped with alone. They had imagined their lives together, just the three of them, after school was finished and after Voldemort was gone, after everything they had gone through and everything they wished or wanted or should do.

They had made a promise that they’d stick together no matter the difficulties, whatever may come.

Now Hermione wouldn’t speak to Ron because of Lavender. Ron wouldn’t speak to Harry for Ginny’s sake. And Harry found himself barely fond of speaking to anyone in general. 

Being with Hermione wasn’t the same anymore. The missing part of their trio was just too perceptible to ignore. And painful.

“Harry.” He looked up. “You can still go, you know. It’s Mrs. Weasley who invited you, not Ron. It might help you solve this out if you spend some time together. This has happened before.”

Yes. When they’d fought over Quidditch and the Triwizard. Not over taking advantage of Ron's sister. “I’ll think about it.” He wouldn’t, but he was tired of discussing this. Tired of having done this. Tired of having stopped it.

Then he remembered of something that he hadn’t told her. He lowered his voice. “Oh. By the way. I think Dumbledore liked the fact that I'm staying. He has tasked me with something and he said it's going to be helpful if I stay anyway."

Hermione shifted in her seat, giving him a much too stern curious look. “Does it have to do with You – Know – Who?”

It had, but it would take him a lot of time to explain it all. Across the room, right next to the stairs leading to the dorms, Ron was now kissing Lavender with his eyes wide open in excitement. He hoped Hermione wouldn’t notice it just yet. “With Slughorn, actually. He wants me to make him trust me. Dumbledore believes that Slughorn knows something crucial that can help the Order, but he’s afraid to spill it out for some reason.”

Scrunching her face a bit, Hermione seemed to considering it. Despite what Slughorn was publicly supporting about his opinions, it was hard to oversee his surprise when Muggleborn students excelled in his class just as well. Hermione had noticed too, and Harry could tell that it hurt her.

"What about the memories?"

"I asked him if I'm going to see more over the holidays, he's not even sure if he's going to be in the school though."

Hermione nodded, still looking concerned. "Hogwarts will be unguarded, then."

Harry snorted. "No, not really. Dumbledore comes and goes all the time, doesn't he?"

"And how are you going to make Slughorn trust you?"

This was something he hadn't thought of yet. "Dunno."

“He's a Slytherin. If you are going to lie to him please remember that he’s probably good at detecting lies, and that if Dumbledore hasn’t found the information he seeks yet then he must be a strong Occlumens too. And, most important of all,” she made a small pause for emphasis, “don’t forget that he’s a professor.”

Harry chuckled. And then took her hand in his own in appreciation for everything she had done for him. For a moment none of them talked, and Harry wondered in dread whose side Hermione would have taken if Ron had fallen for her instead of Lavender.

An invisible beast clawed its path inside his stomach and he fought the fear that someday it would dig a hole to his gut and rip him apart.

“So, good luck with it. And please give that copy back to Slughorn as soon as you can. You're coming to the party tomorrow, right?” Harry nodded just as he felt a soft kiss on his cheek. There was no way he was going to return the Prince's book. “Happy Holidays.”

Harry smiled. “Happy Holidays.”


“McLaggen?” Ron asked, his eyes wide.

Seamus shrugged as he slumped back to his bed. Next to his own bed, Harry struggled with his formal robe and did what he'd learned how to do years ago: pretend he didn't exist. He wished he could join the conversation as much as he wished he wasn't part of the scene at all. 

“Well, if she didn’t want you to know she wouldn’t have told Fay to keep it a secret, honestly,” Seamus said.

Harry could imagine Ron's features muddling as though his whole life was a strange lie. “She snogged Krum, she’s gonna snog McLaggen too now?”

“Dating doesn’t necessarily mean snogging,” Seamus pointed out. “Or maybe it does,” he added, confused.

“It does,” Ron confirmed.

“I thought you didn’t care, right?”

“But I don’t. I’m just sad for her, you know. Her poor life choices.”

“Life choices,” Harry muttered under his nose in amusement. He observed his tie in the mirror and shoved his wand and invisibility cloak in his pockets. Then, somehow finding the courage, he stopped right in front of them before leaving the room. “You know, if you wanted to come tonight, I’m sure Slughorn wouldn’t mind. It’s just a few days before Christmas after all. It's not like he's going to tell you to get lost because you're not in the club."

It was one of those silences that could only break with humiliation. How much time of silent staring was considered a clear "fuck off" answer though?

"Never mind."

His steps were loud against the cold stones of the corridors; so loud they could almost muffle his self-loath.


“Remind me what other subjects you’re taking, Harry?” asked Slughorn.

The party was just as Harry expected it; not boring enough for him to retire but not interesting enough for him to wish to ever repeat it. If it wasn’t for Dumbledore’s request to befriend Slughorn, he wouldn’t be here.

“Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology...”

“All the subjects required, in short, for an Auror,” interrupted Snape, with a cold sneer. Harry couldn't recall Snape walking towards them, but here he was, making Harry's life difficult once again. 

“Yeah, well, that’s what I’d like to do,” retorted Harry.

“And a great one you’ll make too!” Slughorn said with enthusiasm. Harry gave him an honest smile. Snape shouldn't be here now. He was only distracting him. 

“I don’t think you should be an Auror, Harry,” Luna argued. “The Aurors are part of the Rotfang Conspiracy, I thought everyone knew that. They’re working to bring down the Ministry of Magic from within using a combination of Dark Magic and gum disease.”

Harry almost choked on his drink as he laughed. He was about to make a comment on her newest conspiracy theory when Filch and Draco Malfoy appeared; Filch was dragging him by the ear – Malfoy’s face was red with embarrassment.

“Professor Slughorn,” Filch panted, “I discovered this boy lurking in an upstairs corridor. He claims to have been invited to your party and to have been delayed in setting out. Did you issue him with an invitation?”

Malfoy pushed himself away from Filch and looked at him disgusted, rubbing his ear.

“All right, I wasn’t invited!” he yelled. “I was trying to gatecrash, happy?”

“No, I’m not! You’re in trouble, you are! Didn’t the headmaster say that nighttime prowling’s out, unless you’ve got permission, didn’t he, eh?”

“That’s all right, Argus, that’s all right,” said Slughorn. “It’s Christmas, and it’s not a crime to want to come to a party. Just this once, we’ll forget any punishment; you may stay, Draco.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

Harry could explain Filch’s obvious disappointment, but what he couldn’t explain was Malfoy’s trembling shoulders and Snape’s fearful stare. 

“It’s nothing, nothing,” said Slughorn, smiling. “I did know your grandfather, after all…”

“He always spoke very highly of you, sir,” said Malfoy. “Said you were the best potion-maker he’d ever known...”

Harry stared at Malfoy. As used as he was to Malfoy’s arse kissing, he realised that this time Malofy wasn’t much into it. He almost looked like he wanted to flee the scene and disappear. But why would he want that if he was trying to sneak in the party uninvited?

“I’d like a word with you, Draco,” said Snape abruptly.

“Oh, now, Severus,” said Slughorn, placing a hand on Snape’s shoulder, “it’s Christmas, don’t be too hard —”

“I’m his Head of House, and I shall decide how hard, or otherwise, to be,” said Snape coldly. “Follow me, Draco.”

They left, Snape leading the way, Malfoy looking resentful.

Harry stood there for a moment, undecided, and then he suddenly said, “I’ll be back in a bit, Luna — er — bathroom.”

He ran out of the party and away from the office. The corridor was seemingly empty; the loud music could still be heard as he pulled his cloak out of his pocket and threw it over himself. Malfoy and Snape were nowhere to be seen. Carefully, Harry strode down the corridor, pressing his ear against all the doors he was passing by. At last, he found them. His ears were still ringing from the loud music, but Snape’s angry voice was unmistakable. Harry held his breath, and listened.

Chapter Text

He was supposed to meet Slughorn tonight.

Meet Slughorn, like he had done yesterday night and the night before that. Slughorn would offer him a glass of something, and they would sit by the fire to chat about things that either bored Harry or annoyed him. Once again, Harry found himself spending the Christmas Night in the freezing grounds of Hogwarts – this time without his friends to keep him company. Slughorn was more than willing to invite him over, and Harry was beginning to think that the man was rather lonely to prefer the castle and Harry’s company to proper holidays. 

Slughorn had never admitted how fond he was of pureblood wizards, but his preference to associate with them betrayed his true interests. And no matter how much Harry was trying to reel their small talk to Voldemort, all his attempts until now had sank.

Buttoning up his shirt, he descended from the Gryffindor tower and followed his own steps away. He had to bear it, if he wanted Slughorn to trust him enough. It felt like duty - he wasn't going to disappoint Dumbledore. 

The night was cold, and Hermione wasn’t here, and Ron wasn’t going to be here  ever again.

Not in the way he wanted him to. Not in the way he ought to. And after all these years of knowing each other, he was surprised to feel nothing but a dim acknowledgement at the fact that nothing was going to be the same from now on.

He tried to care. He couldn’t. If only he could, just for one night, to stop cultivating this ball of messy worries inside his stomach, if he could leave aside Voldemort, prophecies, tasks, he would be just fine. Absolutely happy.

Just for one night. 

The feeling was too familiar to let go. He tried not to care. He couldn’t either. The way it tunnelled into him made his soul feel small. 

It was already Christmas.

When he found himself outside a door that wasn’t Slughorn’s, he didn’t care. He knocked.


Severus preferred his decorations kept to a minimum.

As he opened the wine bottle, he decided to drink to Potter’s unprecedented prudence. Days had passed and he hadn’t even heard Potter’s name. Not a single mention of it.

Not from Dumbledore, not from Minerva, and thank Merlin, not from Poppy. God save the True Hero from sliding off his broomstick again. Now, that was a suitable death for the world’s saviour. The History textbook would have a nice version of it someday.

Probably an alternated one.

All the schoolbooks were alternated. Nothing was proper. They were teaching them rubbish and the students were buying it. You will teach Defense, Severus. I have come to the conclusion that the time has come.

Translation: You are taking up space where I need to park Horace Slughorn for the year. Please step aside, Severus. Vite vite! We might as well fit you where we find some room for you as well, no need to worry. Ah! Isn’t that the Dark Arts position you wanted?

To Dumbledore too, then. For giving him the position and forbidding him teach anything but what the Ministry allowed. For keeping an eye on him as though he’d suddenly Avada Kedavra his own students. For saying nothing about the Horcruxes but insisting on learning everything about Draco’s motives.

But he trusted Severus.

Of course he trusted him.

The glass filled and emptied. Christmas was a hateful word. Another feast for the fools, for families to gather together and laugh and giggle while they hate each other, for children to whine and let their snot run down their faces because they wanted something they could not have. And they always wanted something they could not have.

Stupid things; impossible. Ludicrous to the very end. Like a  puppy that wouldn’t empty his bladder on the carpet, like a doll that would be pretty again after it had been ripped off her limbs and head, like a father that would not send their mother to the hospital on Christmas’ eve.

Stupid things.

He was suddenly annoyed by his own displeasure. The throbbing of his thoughts deepened, so loud that... in fact wasn’t a throbbing. Someone was knocking.

He could only hope that it was a Slytherin. Then he was reminded that the few Slytherins that had stayed for the holidays had most likely no desire to seek their Head of House. And if it wasn’t a Slytherin, there was only one other possibility.

“Potter.”

“Um. Hullo?”

For the life of his, he couldn’t imagine why Harry Potter would visit him on Christmas night.

And he had a rather convincing feeling that whatever the reason was, would render him dismayed to the point of speechlessness.

“What do you want?” 

“Um. Are you busy?”

It was not the proper time to judge whether busy was the fitting word for someone who had happily decided to sink himself into self-loathing and life-cursing dilemmas. Constructive it wasn’t, but it cleared a mind from wit and common sense, leaving the pure anger behind to take control.

An anger he would swear that it was right there a moment ago.

“Yes. Why are you outside?”

“I had an appointment with Professor Slughorn.”

“And?”

“May I come in?”

He slightly stepped aside, determined to not directly answer Potter’s request if he could help it.

Accepting an invasion was one thing. Offering an invitation was another. That both paths would bring him to the same result didn’t particularly matter at this point. If he was bound to stand Potter’s presence for a minute or two, he’d have to leave logical assumptions aside.

A few days of silence. This was all Potter could do.

Severus watched as the boy took a seat without being told to. Severus sat at the other end of the sofa, refilling his glass. He was vaguely reminded of some flashing warning he had put on his subconscious function about alcohol, but as couldn’t quite recall it. He packed the worry away.

And immediately brought up another one, shivering at the thought of Horace. Horace inviting Harry Potter over. 

“Well?"

“What?”

Was Potter trying to drive him mad? “I am waiting to hear the reason you are you here."

“Um. Well. I thought of coming here because I didn’t want to spend Christmas with professor Slughorn, actually. To be honest, I didn’t think of it exactly, I was just pissed off about having to, I guess, and then it just happened. I reckon I decided it somewhere if the middle of walking and I didn’t even know it until it was already done. So I just knocked and hoped you weren’t sleeping or working or something. Why? Is that wine?”

He didn’t want. To spend Christmas. With Slughorn.

Severus laughed. Hard. Inwardly. He hadn’t the faintest idea what was happening outwardly of him, and he wouldn’t care to stop not even if the Dark Lord entered the room and split Potter in evenly cut pieces.

So Potter wanted to spend Christmas with him.

He became aware that the mental wards around his safe universe were beginning to crack, and that he was snorting. How to fix this? He scowled.

“You have an appointment. Go where you’re expected.” He was about to stand up, but his reflexes weren’t as good. Or his balance. Something was holding him back. He realised that it was Potter’s hand. On him. On his arm.

Freezing on spot had never occurred to him that profoundly. “What are you doing?”

“I won't stay long, I just came to say Merry Christmas and I'll leave. He doesn’t expect me yet.”

Severus swallowed what seemed to be a stone resting on his throat. “When does he expect you?”

A pause.“In an hour.”

He could as well brand I’m lying on his forehead.

It would be a disgrace to his whole life as a double agent to pretend that he had bought this. And it would serve Potter right to throw a tantrum at him and kick him out for daring seek his company after all the bitterness and the vice he had forced upon the boy.

For having not let go of his arm even after what seemed a whole minute to hell.

For still hoping to sedu–

S top.

This wasn’t happening.

"So. Can I stay?"

He thought carefully. “One hour.” One hour? Oh my. How rigorous I am. I might cry.

Potter grinned. And eventually took his damned hand away. “Cool. So, do you have any books here?”

Habits die hard, this everyone knew.

Severus couldn’t recall when this one was created.


An hour passed. And then another one. By the third one, Potter was yawning.

The book on his lap was eventually something that looked like he could actually read, and not just pretend to. The regular turning of the pages irritated Severus to no end; his stare lost into the gleaming hearth, he repeatedly failed to summon the loath he was planning to compose tonight.

It took concentration for one to lose himself into the past. Concentration and abandonment impossible to relish in the presence of others. He snorted at his drink.

Frustrated at failing to be frustrated. The things Potter could cause.

“Can I have some?” Potter eyed the bottle, now half empty. No, not half empty. Half full. 

“Absolutely not.”

“Slughorn gives me.”

Severus couldn’t believe that Potter had the cheek to mention Horace again. Would it hurt him that much to help Severus save some of his dignity? Was it that hard for him to just mind?

It was provocation. It was a plan to destroy him - a brilliant, cunning plan to bare him from everything that he was. Potter had lied to him so he could stay. Then he stayed far more than he promised to, and now he didn’t even resist reminding him so.

“Then by all means, go to Slughorn.” That had to be professor Slughorn. Well. Pity. Next time, maybe.

“Nah.”

Taking the bottle, Potter tried a sip. As soon as he swallowed, an impressive coughing struck him, and he bent forward as his face turned red.

“Slughorn gives you,” Severus muttered, snatching the bottle from Potter’s hand. He then sneered off his new depravation. Drinking with a student who couldn’t handle a sip of wine. And not just any student.

“He does,” Potter protested, shrugging off his embarrassment. Then he looked up in curiosity. “What’s your Patronus?”

Why did he care? Severus returned the look, guarded against something he was failing to define. Potter slid a bit lower to the cushions, relaxing. In front of Severus. Relaxing.

“A bat,” he lied.

And Potter grinned. “I knew it.”

He knew nothing, or, he should know nothing. Or maybe he already knew too much. Disgustingly sleepy as he was, Potter fell in the mood of making questions. He furrowed his brows and made a move of approaching the bottle again.

Slapping his hand was a good idea. Only it would contain physical contact. Which was a bad idea. He let Potter take the bottle and sighed off his surrender. This time, he managed not to choke himself.

As much as Severus wanted to put his feet on the table and stretch out, he pulled himself together. Apparently, he couldn’t be himself even in his own chambers anymore.

“What memory could bring up a bat? Or is it just your favourite animal?”

Nosy, insufferable child. “Favorite animal.”

“Hm. My favorite is owls. I hate dogs, though.”

Severus was aware that there was some memory that he should connect this to, but wasn’t sure. 

“I hate dogs as well,” he spat. And am very glad they passed away.

Why was his glass empty? And why was Potter filling it for him? He drank.

“I told my friends,” Potter said. He had told his friends about dogs? “I lost them.”

Realisation hit in. He had come out. Severus was almost impressed. “Define lost them.”

“Ron wanted to kill me. He said I was a trickster.”

“He was wrong.”

“I was going out with his sister.”

“Then he was right.” So that was how the black eye had occurred. Potter had managed to turn his world upside down once again. And who was picking up the ruins?

“I know.”

Was his friend who had hit him or Ginevra Weasley? “Is this the whole version of the events?”

Potter hid his smile behind the upturned bottle. After a moment, “No.” It was the I’m not going to tell you kind of no. Severus was quite glad about it.

The bottle hit Severus on the ribs as Potter yawned and stretched out. Severus took it, and watched as with an unprecedented dumb look across his face, Potter put his feet on the table. 


“I think I need the lessons again,” Potter said. Unfortunately, all Severus could hear was I’m officially homosexual now. I need a good spanking, Professor!

Choking on his drink, Severus gulped forcefully. “Discuss it with the Headmaster, then.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I’ve heard that you are particularly fond of opening your heart to him lately. I believe he’ll assist you.”

“What?”

What? If it wasn’t for Severus’ importance to the Dark Lord’s circle he’d have gone through the Board of Governors for enticement of a minor the second he let Potter into his bedroom, and with all his heavy past and the strained Ministry record it’d be a miracle if they had settled him to a mere life sentence program.

Then again, “If you wanted our lessons to continue you should have held your tongue. Apparently this is one of the many things you have yet to learn how to accomplish.”

"What are you talking about?" Potter frowned. “Wait. You think I told Dumbledore? Because I didn’t.”

“Really? Please, do fascinate me, then. I can’t wait to hear your subversive excuse of how you didn’t tell him.”

“But I didn’t. He wanted to cast Legilimency on me so he could see if I had improved. He saw that once I had fallen asleep on your bed, not – you know. He didn’t see anything else. I told him it wasn’t your fault.”

He was fascinated. Dazzled. Humiliated. Livid with submission to his one true master, and at the same time still respective enough as to not burst his office to fire. Fuck it. He’d explode the whole castle someday.

He raised his glass. To Dumbledore’s maliciously wickedness. To Potter’s outstanding demonstration of maturity. To himself, who had divulged his newest sins to Dumbledore, completely unaware of his own stupidity.

It was Severus who had told him. Potter hadn’t talked. He felt betrayed. Thwarted.

Potter hadn’t talked.

He felt happy. There was one foolish thing in the world that Potter hadn’t done. It was a start.

With the first chance, he'd have to retrain himself as a spy. There were leaks in his personality, he figured, and too dangerous ones to be surpassed. Leaks mostly based in a vacant trust to Potter’s idiocy. He couldn’t be wrong, though. Potter had to be an idiot. Why wasn’t he? It’d make it easier to keep on hating him.

I do definitely not need help with that.

“It was Malfoy cursed that girl, wasn't he?”

He raised an eyebrow and Potter sneered. Damned boy.

“Of course not.”

Potter looked at him with a grin. Severus watched as the arrogance faded to hesitation. “I followed you… After Slughorn’s party last week.”

A dilemma. Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee? The answer was always in between. Alcohol. “Go on,” he said carefully. He would have snorted at his own terror, but it’d create troubles. More troubles.

“I heard you. Why does he think you’re trying to steal his glory?”

He had to silently applaud Potter for his arrogance. Eavesdropping, and then demanding to know the details he failed to catch. “Is this why you came here tonight?”

The rush of emotions that ran over Potter’s face nearly had Severus roll his eyes. He found himself too stunned at the realisation that the only reason the boy was here was still to extend the little dark secret that was born last summer under the most bizarre of circumstances.

In your own house. So you can have another unthinkable bad experience in Spinner’s End, this time with Potter.

“No. But I want to know. And don’t tell me it’s not my business because somehow it obviously is.”

Some part of Severus’ mind insisted that he should inform Dumbledore immediately that Potter once again was aware of things he shouldn’t. It can wait, the traitorous part of his mind argued, and he decided to be lured by that. The boy looked at him as though there was a conversation going on. There wasn’t.

“Change the subject, or leave. And if you ever stick your nose again where it doesn’t belong I’ll Obliviate myself out of your little brain once and for all.”

At last. Fear. How satisfying it was to watch that face suffer. Then again, he was concerned but not angry, Severus noted. He resolved not to speak until Potter was entirely panicked, but the moment never came.

“You can’t blackmail me with that.”

Severus sneered. Watch me.

Potter glared. “I’ll only change the subject because I want to.” 

The word “child” echoed so loudly in Severus’ head the distinct impression that life loved to torture him became suddenly his only realm.

"But just so you know. You can't just drag Malfoy out of a party and expect people not to be curious. Do you remember what you said? That you're his Head of House and you shall decide how hard, or otherwise, to be."

"I quite understand your wish to be helpful but if anyone finds out -"

"I know. I was just curious, how hard you'd be." Potter chuckled before he could blush. 

For fuck's sake. "Say anything like this again, and I mean anything," he hissed, "show lack of respect one more time, and I'll personally see that you get expelled. Then you'll see how hard I can be."

"'Kay."

Potter leaned back and rested his head on the cushions again. Silently damning himself, Severus rested his head back too and sighed, looking at the ceiling. May Dumbledore rot in hell. May he rot entangled with the Dark Lord’s limbs above a fuming, burning cauldron. One that'd be under Longbottom’s constant supervision.

Severus’ eye was twitching. He turned his head to the side. Potter was staring at him. His eyes were beaming, searching too deep for something that wasn’t a thought or a memory.

Potter was a trouble, one of those that no matter how hard one ignores them, they keep growing until they become the elephant in the room, and even then they demand to be fed and grow more. Suddenly, being sacked wasn’t his most frightening nightmare regarding Potter.

Potter’s stare wasn’t intense. It wasn’t challenging or contesting, or made to provoke him. What it was, was a close to sleep state of "I can barely focus but damn, look at you" and yet aware of every quick flickering of Severus’ own eyes.

It went on for a minute. Two.

“What?” Severus croaked.

“Didn’t it mean anything to you?”

Severus rolled his head back to watch the ceiling. The memory of the accident he refused to name kissing called to mind and he dismissed it. It had become all too common occurrence to find himself terror stricken whenever he’d be reminded of it. The boy’s total disregard at his attempts to wipe it off their history would never cease to leave him speechless. He considered it.

Mean anything. Of course not.

What could it mean?

“No, Potter. Absolutely nothing.”

Potter chuckled. Severus sighed.

Wait.

Chuckled?

Potter didn’t believe him.

Fool Severus.

Chapter Text

Severus had to literally push him to the door. Potter yawned and stopped walking two feet before he reached it, causing his head to fall back at Severus’ chest. Startled, Severus stepped back and Potter swayed on his feet.

“What time is it?” he murmured.

Almost morning, and Potter shouldn’t have slept on his sofa. “Don’t ask.”

“Right.”

“Potter.”

“Yeah.”

“If you are to exit the Tower again after curfew, I ought to inform your Head of House. This is not something I am willing to permit.”

And why not very well inform her now?

“Inform her now. I don't think I'll stop it.”

How dared Potter tell Severus that? Why didn’t he lie?

The irony was too big. 

No. The frustration was bigger.

“Besides, Professor, I think Dumbledore knows. I mean, he doesn’t mind, I think.”

Of course he didn’t. It definitely was a joyful hobby of Dumbledore's to expose the Wonder Boy to all possible new adventures.

“The Headmaster knows,” he corrected, “and I know too. Be assured, though, that I am not going to turn a blind eye to it.” So, against Dumbledore, “As a professor of yours, I officially forbid you to wander around without written permission from Professor McGonagall or the Headmaster himself.”Well done. End of discussion.

“However,” end of discussion “if you find yourself experiencing the same trouble sleeping, you shall immediately seek a staff member.”

Potter shrugged as he stepped outside the chambers. “It’s not right to wake up the professors whenever I want to, and I’m not going to do it,” he said. “Anyway. I won’t go out again, I’m sorry. For getting you into trouble, I mean. Professor.”

“Potter.” end of discussion “I might give you permission to exit your dormitory when you need to, I repeat, only when you absolutely need to and cannot do otherwise,” ENDOFDISCUSSION ENDOFDISCUSSIONENDOFDISCUSSION “if you contact your Head of House or come to me instead of roaming the corridors.”

Guilty as charged.

My neck. Here. Take it. Please kill me now.

Potter looked confused. “Are you sure?”

Severus nodded.

It is only reasonable.


 

Harry did receive a present from Mrs. Weasley.

It came with a freezing Hedwig, who hooted and cleared her feathers frantically as she rested on the tower window. The present had been nicely wrapped with dark red paper, which was expected from a Gryffindor family, and a large yellow bow on the top.

The gift card read Happy New YearHarry! on it, and Harry touched the letters with his fingers. It was a box with chocolate sweets, he figured quickly, and he ate most of them while sitting on his bed. Hedwig watched him, so it was just right that he offered her one. It turned out that she didn’t like sweets.

And although grateful, and even a bit surprised, Harry couldn’t help but admit that this wasn’t a present that Mrs. Weasley would have chosen.

Perhaps she wasn’t planning on buying him a present at all, but had changed her mind at the last moment. Aunt Petunia would always buy presents for neighbours she didn’t like anymore, or for neighbours that she never liked, and the reason for it as she’d later explain was to “shut the mouths of those who can’t wait to receive nothing so they can have a reason to gossip.”

Mrs. Weasley certainly wasn’t like that, but it made sense to buy him something just to pretend that as a mother she was above school fights.

Getting his Cloak, Harry descended to the Great Hall and found it empty. The hovering candles had been burned short, a faint smell of fir and earth coming from their melting figures. Fragile and dying, their light flickered sadly as it illuminated the stones.

It wasn’t a cold night, or at least, not as cold as he’d expected it to be. Sitting down before the wide hearth, he lit it with his wand and watched the flames dancing above the old ashes.

He heard steps. Pulling his Cloak back over his head, he held his breath and tiptoed his way towards the hall. The sobering voice was talking too fast for Harry to make out the words, and as he stepped closer he saw that it was Draco, with his eyes filled in tears and his back pressed on the wall by – by him, of course.  

“Let me help you, Draco. I am closer to him than you are... You don't have to be alone in this - I know things that you don’t.”

“Well them to me, then!”

“Fool! The school is empty, and you chose such a day to do it? What were you thinking? He greeted you half an hour ago. Trelawney saw you. Filch saw you. He’s already suspicious.”

“I wrote Dumbledore,” Malfoy said tentatively. “Yesterday morning. I said I had a fight with my family and wished to spend the rest of the Holidays here. I know what I'm doing."

It was too dark for Harry to have but a faint picture of what was happening.

“You wrote him? Wrote him? There is no wonder the Dark Lord puts so little faith on you,” Snape said lazily.

“He - he does?” 

“You left proof, idiot.” Snape’s hissing was low, but apparently was enough to make Malfoy choke around a sob again. “Potter’s here too,” he said, spitting Harry’s name with disgust, and Harry froze. “He didn’t leave school for the Holidays but no one cares. Why is my staying suspicious and his isn't? Why do you want me to be scared and not powerful?"

“Potter is an orphan. The Headmaster shows pity on him. He won't show on you."

Something broke inside Harry’s sternum and he held his breath. Gritting his teeth, he willed the sentiment away.

“Now tell me, who would be more likely to be blamed for any suspicious events, Potter or you?

"The Dark Lord-"

"Keep your voice down!"

"The Dark Lord would never let Dumbledore touch me. Leave me alone, Snape."

"The Dark Lord will punish you like he punishes your father, if you fail. And who will take care of your mother, then? You might think you can do this alone, but you know you can't afford the risk of failing, Draco.” Then calmer, "Let me guide you like I've always done with all my Slytherins. Only I understand your determination. I know this is your moment, your turn to prove who you are at last. And accepting guidance is a sign of wisdom, not weakness."

“I have a plan, it’s good... You can’t tell me what to do! I know what I’m doing, I must – I must –” Malfoy’s voice trailed off and a hitching breath betrayed that he was crying.

“Is your father aware of your mission?” After a pause, “Go back to your room. I have given a promise to your mother to help you do it right, and I’m not going to violate it.”

When Malfoy was gone, Snape stood on spot and waited. It occurred to Harry that he was counting through his teeth, seconds or steps or something, and after a couple of minutes he talked.

“Pull that blasted thing off.”

For a brief moment Harry allowed himself the impossible hope that Snape was talking to himself, and was not aware of his presence before him. However, silk sound of Snape’s voice was burdened with a temper that Harry feared it might burst if he didn’t do as he was told.

“How did you know?” he asked as he pulled the Cloak off his head and wrinkled it into a pile.

“You’re breathing too loud.” 

“Are you going to Dumbledore? Can I come too?”

“I was going to my chambers, as a matter of fact. And you are not welcome.”

“What? Malfoy basically told you – you must tell Dumbledore – what if he’s... How do you know he’s not... You can’t just ignore this like that! You must tell him!”

“Are you aware of how disgustingly annoying you are, boy?"

How could he not be scared? If Dumbledore died, Harry would never get over it. There would be a war. Hogwarts would shut down. The students would get killed. And Harry would have to shoulder the burden of knowing it was going to happen and not doing anything to stop it.

“If you’re not going to do something about it, I will."

Snape bared his teeth as he strode close and grabbed Harry by the neck. Harry yelped. Snape narrowed his eyes, which in the dark of the night looked barley human.

“If you stick your nose in this we will both die, and it won’t be quick. I assure you that even if we don’t have to face the consequences of your endless stupidity, I will personally see to it that you have a slow and painful end. I will watch it happen, Potter,” he hissed.

And for the first time in months, Harry was afraid of Snape. The old certainty that Snape would definitely kill Harry if he could, was now back. 

Snape pushed Harry back and turned around to leave. When he had reached the far end of the corridor, Harry heard the first clank from the Clock Tower.

“Happy New Year, then!” he said loudly, making sure that his voice sounded confident.

And although he didn’t get an answer, when he returned to his fire lit hearth in the Great Hall and sat on the stone floor, he would have sworn that the Gryffindor hourglass was slightly emptier than before. Shaking his head, he chuckled. 


“What are you playing at?”

“Nothing, I’m not lying.”

“Give me that.” Severus snatched the Potions test from Potter’s hands and looked at it. And then he read it carefully. “You cheated.”

“I didn’t. Ask me whatever you want.”

No, thank you. Letting Potter rub this on Severus’ face wouldn’t happen that easily. Even better, it wouldn’t happen at all. Horace was being soft on the boy, and was falsely letting him believe that he was actually becoming good at Potions. Potions, in which Severus was usually split between saving the day from Longbottom and crossing his fingers for Potter to shut up until the lesson was over.

Horace was a stupid man, a fact which was known since Severus’ days as a student. He was the one to teach Severus the basics, but he had no knowledge beyond that. Severus knew what crept into the souls of those who secretly admired the Dark Arts and openly banned them.

It was the kind of hypocrisy that once he detected, he found easy to splash the missing details over the picture. Preferably hard.

The boy’s complicated past was exciting for Horace. He wanted to unfold it. Know it. Disrupt it. He regarded Potter as another fragment of human being to put on his collection, so he could look at when he’d fail to bear his own miserable life.

And suddenly Potter was good in Potions. The invisible middle finger that had arisen between Severus’ eyes was so observable that his hands twitched in the temptation to grab and break it.

“You’re squinting,” said Potter, confused between grinning and beginning to worry.

“I’m reading,” Severus responded strictly.

While he was failing to teach Potter the simplest things, the boy was succeeding rather enthusiastically on everything others were teaching him. And here Severus had thought that Potter’s new motivations would make him pay some more attention to his class.

Stop.

“I didn’t cheat. You don’t believe me?”

“It is irrelevant, your Potions progress does no longer concern me. You failed in my exams and this is what you should be worrying about. If you look forward to reaching your seventh year in Defence I suggest that you study harder. Or should I say just study?”

The fact that he had failed in a term examination shouldn’t be enough to turn Potter into a big eyed disappointment. Then again, it was Severus’ fault that the boy had knocked on his door on a Sunday evening to show him a test. 

Apparently only when you absolutely need to and cannot do otherwise was poorly comprehended. Still, he did make a habit of apologising every time before stepping in, as though skinning his guilt off himself before moving ahead to shamelessly sharing time with Severus was going to benefit Severus in the slightest.

At least, Potter’s sleep had gotten better. Or so he said.

“You graded the tests?”

“Yesterday evening.”

“How did I go?”

“How did you go, Potter? You handed me over a blank sheet!”

“I didn’t! I wrote three paragraphs about question five.”

Yes, although all it needed was a ten word answer. “You wrote three paragraphs on another subject than the one the question was regarding to.”

The corner of his mouth twitched. “Yeah, I liked that subject better.”

It was Potter who was running the school now, wasn’t it? It should be second nature for Severus to kneel before him and kiss his hem. Hooray to the masters. To the strong ones.

Perhaps he should host Potter a party. Gather the staff, the portraits, Filch, and make an accountable announcement of who was now the boss. He made a mental note of visiting Hogsmeade for conical hats and party horns first thing tomorrow morning.

“Then you will like your grade just as well.”

Potter fished a book out of his bag. Severus did certainly not remember him bringing his back with him, and was momentarily startled at the boy’s nerve to bring books along in what had to be a quick visit for studying reasons. Packing away the horrifying assumption, he cleared his throat and waved his wand at the hearth, renewing the fire.

Potter’s Defence book was viciously thrown on his lap and he winced when it hit the wrong spot.

“Tell me what I don’t get, then. Tell me from what page you put the question and what kind of answer you were expecting. You have to stop waiting for me to guess what you meant for me to do when I don’t do it right, because it doesn’t work that way. I could be trying for years and with what you do I would still be ten steps behind and lost. And I still haven’t forgotten how you abandoned my lessons just when I was starting to get better.”

If he hadn’t abandoned them he’d have to fight for them, and fighting was not something he did unless he cared. Putting an effort so he could be burdened with Potter’s suffering companion again would be suspiciously excessive, let alone absolutely unwelcome.

His dislike for Potter was not going to change, not because of some tête a têtes that could only be described as nightmare, not because he was just kind enough to fulfil Dumbledore’s plans, and not because Potter wanted it.

Severus disliked him. Abhorred him.

He stood.

“Get up.”

Potter did, although furrowing his brows. “What, here?”

“Yes. I believe you said you’ve improved.”

Potter took out his wand and smiled, and all Severus could do was smirk back as he raised his own.

Legilimens.

 

Chapter Text

“You should move in. It is a shame for those poor muscles of yours to get jaded every time you fancy a date with your Professor. Oh, let me guess, you’re already considering it.”

Potter rolled his eyes and passed under Severus’ arm to get in the room. Rolled his eyes. Instead of being ashamed. Severus closed the door. “If you somehow missed to consider it, I might desire some privacy without your existence bothering me. Not that this should stop you from harassing me or being a pain in” the arse “the neck, but it should at least make you feel obliged to disappear once in a while.”

“You could pretend that you weren’t here and let me knock until I got bored,” Potter offered as he sat on the sofa and took out a textbook. He was so calm that he could just as well said “I don’t give a fuck if you don’t want me here, here I am, deal with it, bring drinks, fuck off.”

“Next time I might do just that.” Might? Why might? You will.

Even when reminding Potter that his thoughtful offer to assuage his sleepless nights was not in fact an open invitation to sleepover, he was incapable of adding the respectable amount of bitterness to his words. He had caused this to himself. And thus was being hit by a new wave of self-loathe.

That it was the boy who was insisting on spending time with him was not an excuse a wise person would buy and it did definitely not justify Severus’ permission to continue it. He was the adult here. The professional. The one with power.

The one that was standing shocked still and staring.

“Professor?”

Blinking the horrors of reality away, he sat. And recalled something objectionable and rather nerve racking. “What happened in Minerva’s class today?”

Potter shrugged and turned a page. “I don’t want to talk about it." Then, "God, does everyone know?”

Yes. “No, she informed me privately. Do you care to explain?”

It occurred to Severus that Potter had come here to escape from just that, and now he looked close to breaking out. “Again? I was on Dumbledore’s office two hours ago, sir, if you wanted to listen to my apologies you should have come by and watch like half the students were hoping to do. They were waiting just outside.”

He had heard so. His Slytherins had laid it on thick, and in a matter of hours the school was bloating with all kind of rumours and cliché descriptions about it. Right now, the tale had it that Potter was doing meth in class and therefore collapsing during it. “I am aware, but what I haven’t heard yet is your side of the story.”

Potter snorted and closed his book. “Why would you care? You’re just curious about what stupid thing I did this time, and how much I bullocked it up. I... did. I can’t take it back or anything so there’s no point in choking on it.”

“Language.”

“Yes,” he spat. And after sharply exhaling, he tiredly added, “Language.”

“Is the fact that you were caught sleeping in class so uneventful to you, then? I was under the impression that you were planning on being an Auror,” a job that you won’t stand hearing about once – if – you kill the Dark Lord and get done with it “and that since Christmas you’ve been sleeping well. For your own good, I deeply hope that you weren’t fooling me.”

The real question was: Am I wasting my time on you?

“No. Of course not, I – I wouldn’t do that. I think.”

He thought. How brilliant.

“I feel so embarrassed, actually. I don't know how I'll ever face her again." Leaving the book aside, Potter made a face before chuckling. "The last nights have been bad, that is all. You know, second term, all the students are back, I guess I was stressed. When I don’t sleep at night I have to sleep at day, don’t I? And I wasn't planning on falling asleep anyway. My eyes were just closing. I told Dumbledore, though. McGonagall said she had to poke me with her wand to wake me up."

Why was James Potter's son sharing this with him?

Ah. He'd asked.

A mistake to never be done again.

"She must be thinking that I don't respect her at all, and I do. Respect her. She was the first person I ever respected here. I fucked up. Messed up. Language. Sorry.”

Severus could feel his graveness and panic contort his features and was briefly besieged with a sympathy that had no place in his insides and should be instantly dismantled. Consuming it to the safer method of severity, he quickly constructed a reply that fitted him and then dismissed it away.

The hell with it.

“This is not an excuse, and you well know it.”

Potter nodded.

Severus went on. “The Headmaster is worrying but cannot be occupied with your so-called condition at the moment. You may now think that you’ve been through great pains but you have not. Life is cruel. A man only becomes what he believes himself to be, and never what others believe of him. Do you want to be weak?”

Potter rolled his eyes. “I said, I saw Dumbledore, I don't-"

"Do you want to be weak?"

No response. And the boy was angry. Staring at something on the carpet, pressing his lips together.

"Do you want to be weak?"

"No."

“Hm. But you are.”

“I’m –”

“If you keep on saying to yourself that there are certain things that you can’t do, then you will end up really becoming incapable of doing them. On the contrary, if you have the belief that you can do them, you shall acquire the capacity to do so even if you may not have had it at the beginning. You are falling behind for what, Potter? For Weasley? For Black? For Diggory?”

“Don’t.” Potter’s eyes narrowed dangerously, but at the sight of his fingers slightly trembling Severus took the courage to go on. He’d break the boy. If no one else dared to do it, he had to.

“Do you think Black would take you in, then? Do you think you’d have a happy little family together? He never wanted children, Potter. He never liked you. He was only seeing your father in you, and was hoping for you to be like him so he could live again what he lost when your father died and he was locked up. He’d either make a bully out of you or he’d be utterly disappointed at his best friend’s son.”

Potter shook his head, but said nothing. His eyes were glimmering.

“It is true, and you know it. Just as you know that despite everyone telling you that Diggory’s death wasn’t your fault, in fact it was.”

Potter parted his lips. Severus was fast. “Why share the prize? You could for once take something for yourself, but your kindness wouldn’t allow it. I’ve heard the story, you know. Everyone has. How you could have been faster, but didn’t. How you could have saved him. Why didn’t you, exactly? Were you too startled? Too afraid? Too weak?”

“Shut up," Potter muttered, his voice barely above the faintest whisper. "There was nothing I could have done. Nothing. You'd... know it. If you were there. There was absolutely nothing I could have done."

My point exactly. The corner of Severus’ mouth twitched. Potter rubbed his face, looking away. 

Being done with this, Severus fetched the wine and poured himself a glass. Potter gulped what was left in the bottle and then handed it over to Severus. 

“You’re a very sad bastard, you know.”

“Cheers.”

Chapter Text

“I need a break.”

“You begged for this, and now you need a break?”

Potter nodded impatiently, still on his knees. A drop of sweat fell from his upper lip and he slowly arose, his knees trembling as he let himself collapse on the sofa.

“I did better. I did, didn’t I?”

Did better, by shielding his mind for five seconds. The melioration was too fascinating for Severus to bear. Practicing was supposed to alert Potter’s consciousness and prepare him for unpredictable attacks and possible impetuous outbursts. There was no denying, however, that he was becoming weaker and weaker every time he found himself ridiculously splayed on the floor like an acromantula in pain.

“It’s not enough.”

Potter mumbled something under his breath that Severus didn’t catch, but couldn’t be any better than “fuck off."

“Language.”

“Fuck. Cunt. Shit.”

“You’re being childish.”

“Then let me be.”

Why in hell he had agreed to teach Potter, he didn’t know. It was bad enough that Dumbledore had forced him do it once; continuing it on free will and behind Dumbledore’s back was not only reckless, but scandalous. They would get caught, sooner or later, for there was no way around it. Potter’s extenuation would be the spontaneous spirit of his adolescent soul and the congenital nonchalance regarding restrictions.

As for Severus, there would be no such excuse for that matter, and his assistance would be seen as inducting the Saviour to the Dark Arts in private. Or breaking his mind, or fucking with it. Which in honest was all that was happening.

“Five minutes, Potter.”

“I need at least ten. Don’t speak, I’m focusing.”

“Why, Potter. Do you wish me out of my chambers as well? Perhaps I should ask for permission the next time I desire to be in my sitting room.” However displeasing it was, Potter was spending half the night here anyway. Severus should demand rent. Or at least obedient servitude for a year. If Potter lived to see the end of the year, of course.

The positive end of this swaying thread was that at least he was exhausting Potter so mercilessly that Potter had no other chance than drop dead asleep right after.

“Don’t speak,” Potter repeated, closing his eyes. His shirt was damp and stuck on his chest and armpits. How could a skinny boy sweat like a whale, was beyond Severus’s understanding. The boy had no fat to burn. He was most likely wasting his muscles away.

Tired as he was, Potter huffed and grabbed his head in his hands, squeezing. Headache was a common side effect after extensive use of mind controlling spells. Confusion was another, as well as dizziness and nonsensical verbalism. 

At least the last part was attached to Potter since birth, so Severus would have a sin less to shoulder after this mutual torment was over. 

“I’m ready.”

I’m not. Digging into that abused mind again? What for?

He mentally went through the list of horrors that he was about to fight and shivered in terror. Raise his wand, to watch the deaths of innocents. To watch the despair of the night and the pretence of the day, the disapproval and the hoot in the eyes of people he did not care about, tensing further at the reminder that Potter did. To see himself through Potter’s eyes and draw back frightened to death, or as Potter would finely put it, scared shitless.

Because he didn’t want to know.

He didn’t.

And Potter’s manipulated psyche had ceased to amuse him centuries ago. 

“Legilimens!”

Potter did resist. The impedance was there, vivid and brushing near his magic as he pushed ever so lightly and then viciously into Potter’s scrambled blend of a brain. There were images he could not quite make sense out of; rooms and trees and mouths talking, laughing, chewing. Severus was in there too, but he found that he didn’t care, for it didn’t matter, and Potter was falling on his knees again holding his stomach as though it would drop on the floor if he just let it go.

“That will be enough for tonight. Get up.”

A gargling sound escaped Potter’s throat and he brought his hand to his mouth, spitting some blood on it. Looking at his own blood wide eyed, Potter tilted his head up for help, and all Severus could do was look back down in dread and let the chilling ice that attacked him stab his lungs. He stood speechless. He furrowed his brows. He gaped. He closed his mouth just as Potter opened his to let more blood out.

“I - sir.”

Severus quickly kneeled down, not knowing what to do. What had happened? Poppy. Not Poppy. Dumbledore. Bugger not Dumbledore I’m dead I’m sacked I'm dead -

“Potter! Talk! Get up!”

Potter got hold of his shoulder as he covered his mouth with the other hand. He coughed hard, more blood spilling out, and his forehead landed on Severus’ chest.

“Potter!”

“Fuck.”

“Potter!”

He became aware of his vocabulary having been suddenly limited to a point where he could not prove himself helpful or even merely intelligent, and being willing to assist didn’t make any difference to his uselessly sitting there and watching Potter throw up his blood.

“Can you talk? Potter! Get on your feet!”

“I’m…” choking to death? Blacking out? Dying? “…fine.”

The hero was fine. Just a tiny accident, nothing to worry about. An artery, yes. Split up due to exhaustion while being taught illegal dark arts. Yes, Professor Snape was with me all the time.

He should begin composing his apology. Somehow, “it was an accident” did not sound very convincing for mindlessly breaking down the Wizarding Wolrd’s last hope.

“Get up.”

Trying to calm his own rapidly beating heart, Severus helped him to the couch and fetched a pack of napkins. Potter accepted one and cleared his jaw.

“I bit my tongue,” he said with a hesitant look of shame on his face.

He'd bitten his tongue.

Severus was quite amused with his luck.

Under pressure, he’d admit that his sins were haunting him gracefully, and whatever deities were supervising his debt payments had to be pleased with his humility. Then again, he was most likely cursed. And the list of people who’d like to curse him was longer than Granger’s essays. Were this a mystery he’d care to solve, he was sure he’d find at least one voodoo doll resembling himself under a pentacle in someone’s house, with a Potter doll attached with pins on him. It made sense.

“This is getting dangerous for your health. You are already -”

“No.”

“Should the Headmaster -”

“No, we’re not quitting again. I want to do this.”

“You understand that I am responsible for whatever happens to you here, do you not?”

Silence. Deep breathing. Another napkin. Potter hadn’t seen his shirt yet, had he? It’d be a phenomenal plot twist to get caught walking like this back to the Gryffindor Tower. A student exiting the fascist’s chambers drenched in blood. This was getting better and better.

“I know. I’m sorry. I - no. Actually, I’m not.” Potter took a deep breath, one of those one took before directing suppressed anger in the wrong place. “You won’t turn the tables so you can make this be my fault. I requested you. You accepted. And you accepted this, me, knowing how bad I’m at it. If you didn’t want me near you, I wouldn’t be. You wouldn’t have let me.”

Severus had to admit it, tricking a powerful leader was a useful task. It promised knowledge few could gain, along with experience in aspects of life that were rare to meet under other circumstances. Meeting the dark was different than knowing it, and knowing it was different than feeling it or letting it in.

In his life, during the best years of it, or rather, wasting them, he had the vigilance to respond to lies with impossibly undetectable bluffs and always cause his enemies to boast for their victories while they were moments away from their deaths.

He was a brilliant spy. He admired himself for it.

Vigilance to respond to Potter’s truth, he had not.

So some moments passed, which Potter interpreted as agreement.

And then some more, which he took with confusion. “You want me here.” His lips were as red as they’d ever be, and reminded of Severus a squashed mellow cherry with all its juices leaking out. The blood made them look swollen; moisture lightened the right corner.  

“Don’t you?”

“Get your things and get out, enough with that waste of time that you are. Your lessons are over.”

He strode to his bedroom and slammed the door close. Only when he heard the boy leaving, he let a long breath escape him.


“I have an idea,” said Potter as he brushed past Severus and sat on the carpet before the hearth.

“Although I was under the impression that your mental capacity of storing your happenings into memories hadn’t been affected, I was obviously wrong. Let me repeat this once more, hopefully in a clearer for your comprehension manner. The next time you will knock on my door uninvited I will request your expulsion.”

Potter nodded absently and took out a notebook. “Yes. So, I was thinking. Sir, sit down. I was thinking that I couldn’t concentrate because all I think about when you cast on me is to concentrate, and then I think of all the things I must not think of, trying to remind myself to not think of them. Does that make sense? Sir. Sit down.”

Like the fool that Severus felt, Severus kneeled on the carpet and looked at the notebook Potter was holding. He only managed a brief glance before Potter closed it.

“So I realised that I must think of something instead of thinking of nothing. You tell me to focus and clear my mind but I’m not Gandhi and I can’t think of nothing so I must think of something, and even you when you clear your mind you actually think of what you want Voldemort to see that you’re thinking, so you pretend to think of something, so you do think of something.”

Severus was aware of his head nodding and he pursued his lips, erasing half Potter’s sentences off the way to keep the conclusion.

“You must focus on something,” he said dumbly.

“Yes!” Potter grinned. “This is it. It’s Hermione’s. Arithmancy. Boring and full of numbers and stuff. So I have tried to memorise a page of random numbers and I want to try and recall them in the right order while you cast Legilimency on me and see what happens.”

He was torn between insisting on tossing Potter out and slapping himself for not having thought of this earlier. Severus didn’t speak for a long time. The contemplative silence of his made Potter slightly cringe, although his eyes kept looking expectantly. Pretending not to notice the part of his consciousness screaming that this was all a mistake, he took out his wand and struggled up to his feet.

“Very well.”

The I knew you’d agree beam on Potter’s face did not help Severus’ esteem, but he packed the realisation of his quickest surrender ever away and let Potter have it his way.

Severus cast the spell. As he thought about it, he couldn’t say why he was reluctant to try this. The little bugger’s expression was beyond ridiculousness as he focused his eyes on the tip of Severus’ wand and then he screwed them shut when the penetration began.

The invasion. And Severus found himself amused as he shrugged off the particular life saving correction and concentrated on a task that he could not quite succeed at. Three. One. Four. It was working. It was working because it was a cheap cheat that could not be accused as completely wrong, and only a Gryffindor could have thought of a noble way to deceive in an act doomed to fail due to idiocy.

Who’s idiocy, he couldn’t tell.

One. Five. Nine.

Potter’s idiocy.

He lowered his wand as the room around him returned to his vision range. “You utterly uneducated, illiterate, ignorant sod. Random numbers? This is Archimedes’s constant of Pi.”

He could as well have told him that in Japanese, because Potter bounced and grinned as he urged Severus to try again. “Go on! Why did you stop? I made it, admit it! I made it, right? I want to try again.”

They tried again. And it occurred to Severus that it was working better than his own delicate techniques which he had tested at length for the best part of his adult life and had preferred to follow due to their exquisite effectiveness. Potter was wrong about the paths Severus was using to fool the Dark Lord, and it would only be suicidal to let Voldemort dig into his mind long enough to read a whole mathematical constant. It was something Severus wouldn’t risk.

Something Potter was succeeding at.

Ah, but weren’t Potters always a step forward?

Only that Potter was actually three steps forward. Towards him. 

“Who’s Archimedes?” Hail the hero! Women of England were eating their hearts out and Potter was standing a breath away from a Death Eater struggling to buy time with small talk. Severus glared in contempt and inwardly shuddered the disturbance away.

Pretending not to having noticed Potter’s aspirations, he glared for another moment and then he strode to his cabinet. “He was an ancient Greek physicist. Care to toast?”

“To my successfulness?”

“To your unconventional failure. You do find new ways to amuse me, after all.”

Although the old ones worked better.

Damn.


Potter took the glass from Severus’ hand and sniffed at it before scrunching his face. Fighting the sudden impulse to scoff at him that it was elf wine, not elf piss, Severus promised himself to irritate the boy later.

They sat on the sofa and Potter opened the notebook again, making a face when he found something. “Yes, you’re right.” Of course he was. About what? “So what does that number do?”

“Many things, of which you are likely to appreciate none.”

Potter stuck his tongue out and Severus was startled into laughter. Some of his wine splotched his thigh and he tried not to think about the consequences of this new achievement that Potter what brought himself in. What would the new excuse be so Potter could come back?

Surely he’d think of something, and for the life of his Severus couldn’t make a sensible hypothesis of why he had allowed it to go this far since he had perfectly known from the start that it was all a façade.

On the other hand, he hadn’t done anything wrong.

He had helped a student.  

As soon as he decided this, his mind trailed to all the mean remarks he should throw at Potter to make even for this slip of character. Against his better judgment, he grunted his frustration off and let the sound of the woods being burned to ashes take hold of his reality.

One.

Two.

“You don’t even know that this happens, do you?”

Not even three seconds of delusional loneliness? The peculiar opinion that loneliness added to a man’s despair seemed surreal to Severus. Loneliness wasn’t harmful or pining nor was wearing a man down while sucking away his life like a Dementor would. Loneliness was fantastic.

Marvellous.

Absent.

“Happens what?”

“You have a muscle on the side of your neck that keeps throbbing when you try to relax. I think it’s a knot or something, it doesn’t look very normal.”

Severus never had anyone comment on his neck before. “It’s been there for years, I’ve learned to ignore it.”

Potter took another sip, seeming to getting used to the taste. What have I done? “I’m not sure, but if it’s a knot of some kind it can be untied, you know. You probably bent your head too much down when you sit on a desk. I tend to do it too.”

It occurred to him that the boy needed an immediate lesson on hiding his intentions. If he intended to show up like this in the line outside the Ministry hoping to be an Auror, with all of his sentiments shown on his face, he’d barely survive a week on duty and then he’d get himself killed by the first street junkie he’d interrogate. At this moment, Potter could just as well stand up and shout You have a knot! I volunteer!

“What are you snorting at?”

“Mind your business, Potter.”

Potter chewed at his lower lip for a brief moment. “Um. May I try something, sir?”

Here they were. “No.”

“One moment.”

“If you move from your seat I swear I'll hex you.”

“No, you won't.”

Smiling like the idiot that he was, Potter shifted closed and Severus found himself too startled to protest when two strong hands gripped his shoulders and turned him with his back on Potter. Shrugging off his terror, he attempted to stand when Potter repeated “Just one moment,” and Severus sighed in irritation and waited for the blasted moment to end.

A hundred points from Slytherin.

Fifty of them for being in an unsuitable situation with a student.

Another fifty for hissing.

“I know, I found it.”

“Be quick.”

Potter’s fingertips were warm and soothing as they moved in cycling motions, and Severus couldn’t remember ever being granted with the luxury of having someone do this to him. He was only vaguely aware of a confusing déjà vu as Potter continued, but he didn’t pay any mind to it because the boy’s palms dug into his shoulders and squeezed gently as the circulation returned to nerves that had been inactive for years.

Bliss dimension, thought Severus of adding to the mental list with the conditions Potter could bring him into, and was immediately stunned at the simplicity with which his body reacted to the touch. Whatever electrifying prickling he was expecting to experience under those hateful hands was forgotten forthwith, because the pressure was firm and disciplinarian, and Potter’s digits dug from just upon his shoulder blades to the skin behind his ears and caused the lightest of shivers on his arms. 

He was aware of someone grunting and he realised that it was he who had produced the traitorous sound. Certainly, Potter had found his calling. Two thumbs pressed on his nape and he figured that Potter had parted his hair for better access.

“So, what do you think?” Potter asked calmly, if not encouraged. His fingers brushed so softly against his skin that Severus had to suppress another humiliating shiver that had assuredly nothing to do with Potter himself.

Because he despised Potter.

Gravely. 

"Think?" If Severus had to pick his weakest moment, he would definitely chose this one, on which his voice broke to a huff because the most disgusting fingers in the world that belonged to the most disgusting person in the world had driven him in a state of ecstasy.

This was wrong.

“I believe my attempts at seduction become better and better,” Potter said closer to him than Severus would have liked.

“You still need work.”

Potter responded with a chuckle and directed the conversation elsewhere. “Have you corrected the latest tests?”

Oh, he had. “In between the largest disappointments of my life, yes, I unfortunately did that too.” He bent his head forward to expose his nape better. This was so good it just had to be a sin.

“How did I do?”

Afraid of moaning, he quickly forced his tongue into responding. Only it came out as a murmur. “Pathetic. Do you want your points taken now or in class?”

“You must give me a thousand points for this. Judging by the fact that you haven’t killed me yet I guess I must be quite good at it.”

Yes, do be amused, boy. You forget that you will be permanently forbidden from ever coming near me or my chambers again.

Right after you finish.

Unless you intend to do this again.

He had certainly not just thought that.

“You’d wish, Potter. Are there even any points left in Gryffindor for me to take? I head Longbottom produced a miracle while casting a charm again.”

“Are you joking? We are seventy points ahead. We’re going to win.” Potter stretched the skin he was scrubbing and pushed downwards.

Severus hummed in response.

“No, we are. And second comes Ravenclaw. You’re not below Hufflepuff, are you? You weren’t yesterday.”

“Hm.”

“You are?”

Severus’ nostrils flared and he closed his eyes. “I’ve no idea.”

“Well if you are I guess you deserve it. It’s just gross that Slytherins are treated with sympathy because everyone is afraid to treat the properly just because of their status. You punch a Slytherin and you’re a racist. A Slytherin punches you and it was your fault for provoking them. Doesn’t make sense. Or does it? You are a Slytherin after all but you’re not pure blood, so -”

“Do you ever shut up, Potter?”

“What? Oh.”

“Hm.”

As all his tension drifted away, he couldn’t help but bite his tongue to keep his nonsense from reeling out. Most likely I watched your mother do this to your father and fantasised of skinning his neck off and hanging him on a three below the lake did not feel exactly like a fitting comment.

If only Lily could see him now, he’d be damned for eternity for being close to her pure and beloved son. He. A murderer. Did Potter even know that officially? Or had Dumbledore managed to hush it up to announce it in another great happy event?

Potter reminded him of Lily sometimes. His eyes, of course, but his exceedingly unique personality resembled her own as well - if vividly - when he was angry or feeling lost. Lily had a sharp tongue too, as she had a passion for defending others.

Then, he reminded him of James. Like the arrogant bastard that he was, he had to win upon Lily’s perfect genetics with his own spoiled ones - and here he was. With the outcome of this tragedy rubbing a knot on his neck.

It was a good thing that he reminded Severus of James. It made the illusions go away.

So for you I don’t even exist as a real person. He didn’t have to.

It was safer this way.

You’re just using me to project them before you and act accordingly. That was untrue. Potter wasn’t Lily. No one was Lily. No one could ever take Lily’s place, no one could ever remind him of her that much.

Lily would have never tried to keep him in her life like Harry Potter was.

“Enough.”

“Are you going to say something rude again and send me away?”

Yes, I was planning to, thank you. “I…”

Goddammit. He tried to remind himself that this was Harry bloody Potter, the second generation of karma’s revenge against him for simply being. Somehow it didn’t help, and he couldn’t understand why he needed a reminder of that in the first place these days. “Potter.”

Potter’s hands steeled on his shoulders. 

The moment had suddenly got complicated. Severus suppressed a sudden impulse to aberration, willing himself against turning around and stating with his hands clasped on his lap that he was not homosexual and was not foreseeing any alternation occurring on that matter any time soon either.

His breath escaped him harsh. He had no reason to state the obvious, so he dropped it.

“Professor?” Apparently though Potter hadn’t.

“It’s late. You should go.”

“Okay.”

None of them got up. Potter’s hands started moving again, and the touches were so light and supple that Severus closed his eyes and instinctively pushed back. The fingers crept inside his hair and he thought of protesting as he tried to remember how many days ago he had washed it and if it felt as greasy as it certainly looked. The fact that it was Potter who was caressing his hair needed another moment to kick in, and when it did his mind screamed pathetically BAD IDEA, TOLD YOU SO right in his ear.

He made a mental note to agree to it in just a moment and wondered if it was actually gay to let an adolescent slide his fingers from top to the ends of his hair.

Well. It was not gay if it was a head massage.

Severus choked on his own spit so hard that his lungs almost exploded.

“Professor? Are you alright?”

Head massage, he tried to explain, but before it reached his tongue he changed it to “Yes, it’s late. Get lost.”

Chapter Text

“Calm yourself, Potter.” Potter raised his fist in the air in a show of victory and kept babbling his self applauding. “You're not the only student who was given an Outstanding grade in Potions.”

“Just so you know sir, if you’re trying to ruin my mood, you can’t,” said Potter in the middle of an epilepsy shock that looked suspiciously like dancing.

The test in Severus’ hands was covered in Potter’s hideous handwriting, which was impossible to read without narrowed eyes. However, all the instructions for the elixir to induce euphoria were put down in the right order, and Potter had even included some methods that Severus himself regarded as clever and rather rare for someone to think of.

Eyeing the boy skeptically, he gave him back the paper and Potter kissed it twice before sitting on the sofa. He held it before him with extended hands, tilting his head from side to side. “Do you think I should frame it? I have some empty space above my bed, it needs to be covered with something. Maybe instead of the Quidditch team photo I’ll hang this.”

“You have completely lost your mind, Potter.”

Potter's head jerked up. “Why not? It’s not as if I’m going to have an O in Potions ever again. I had given up hope for it last year, and guess why.”

Severus scowled but said nothing. Sitting straighter on his seat, he took a sip of soothing elf wine and let it burn its way to his insides as he waited for Potter to stop his childish celebrating. There was a nasty secret behind this, Severus knew it. The boy was a tragedy when it came to Potions, and Slughorn’s interest on Potter’s company was not enough to produce such an alternation to his grades. After all, the answers were right indeed, which only made the mystery more irritating.

The beast that gnawed Severus’ insides had nothing to do with the possibility of someone else teaching the boy what he couldn’t. His years in Hogwarts had proved him a talented teacher despite the student’s complaints. By their graduation they all hated him, but they all had learned. All the clever ones, at least.

The pureblood clever ones.

Who probably already knew the basics before they came to Hogwarts.

“Tell me something, Potter. If a student who has repeatedly proved himself helpless to a particular class takes a sudden upturn to it, and has the cheek to be happy about his fabricated grades, what do you think that I, as a decent man, should assume? Especially if this student is constantly pursuing his teachers?”

He watched in fascination as Potter’s face slowly fell and he suppressed a scowl. “Slughorn likes to talk to me about my parents,” he said strictly, although the fragility boiling under his controlled tone was beginning to crack. “The fact that I see him outside class doesn’t mean that he’s been favouring me or that he’s been letting me cheat. I don’t cheat. My grades in Defence are only getting lower and lower while in any other year I was doing just fine, so your theory is rubbish. Maybe you are the one who can’t keep my interest or maybe you just want to see me fail.”

The impulse to laugh at how he was, in fact, able to keep Potter’s interest without even trying, was hard to keep back. However he managed, and slapped Potter’s hand when it slid towards the bottle. “I will not make a drunk out of you yet. You have all the time in the world to become one once you finish school, if you ever finish it. Drop the pretence with me, Potter. You’re hiding something, and I’ll find what it is.”

Potter snorted. “You’ve been saying that since Christmas, are you going to figure it out yet or should we discuss the subject again next year?”

Little wretch. Child.  At the mention of the next year, Severus shrugged. The boy was still smiling, so Severus assumed that Dumbledore hadn’t slapped him with the big news yet. He took another; as much as he’d wish to have the chance to watch Potter’s face sink in terror as he’d be told the plans the deity called Albus Dumbledore had made and twinkle-signed for him, it was probably for the best that he didn't. 

The boy would come to him for consolation, because who else would know better than him to pick up the pieces of a broken soul and stick them back together? ...If only temporary - and experience had shown that he fixed better what it didn’t pain him to see broken.

Or breaking.

“You might as well spill it out. It is wiser to confess and apologise soon than keep up the tale and have to strip off it a few days before the term ends.  The Headmaster would show pity on you.”

On Severus he wouldn’t, though.

“Okay, I’ll tell you,” said Potter seriously. “But you’ll have to keep it a secret.”

He wouldn’t. But what could it be? “Go on.”

“I have actually created my own kind of Legilimency. So when I read a question on a test and I don’t know the answer, I remember that you do, so I just send my mind to look for you in the castle and while you don’t even know it I push into your thoughts and see all the boring potion details you have stored in there for no good reason and I copy them. But it’s a secret,” he added.

Severus blinked. “Five points from Gryffindor for your ridiculous sense of humour. And I assure you that my thoughts are not centred around potions.”

“No? And what do you think about, then?”

What kind of question was that? He allowed himself another gulp of wine before he responded. “Whatever a man thinks, Potter. Things to do, things to buy, things to report, things to teach. Things.”

Potter nodded, and it occurred to him that it was rare of Potter to give a quiet response. “And what do you think about when you’re alone?”

His heart froze. Potter though was relaxed.

“No one hears us. I can keep secrets, you know.”

He decided to not retort. Perhaps keeping his silence would be enough for Potter to understand that he was heading somewhere there was no chance in hell they were going. He will stop this. The reasoning mantra he kept repeating lost its meaning soon. He gave Potter the glare. Apparently, his silence was taken as vulnerability.

“You might think I’m mad… but when I think about… no. Forget it. I’m sorry professor, I... shouldn’t. Do you want me to leave? I’m sorry.” Regretting his stupidity, Potter stood.

“When you think about what?” Damn. Fuck. Obliviate.

Crucio, if necessary. 

“Nothing, forget it. I was being stupid.”

He was certainly not going to press this. He had already asked once. While he should none. None.

“It’s just… sometimes I have the impression… I have this impression. I don’t think I’m wrong.”

Thank Merlin for Potter not making sense. It was fabulous. Now he’d go away and they’d all live happily ever after.

“When I think about you, I can’t help but think that you must be thinking about me too. Sometimes you look at me… you give me that stare. But then again they’re not my eyes you're looking at.” He broke into a paining chuckle. “I’m sorry, I can’t do this. I’ve already embarrassed myself too much.”

The door closed behind the boy just in time for Severus to breathe. 


Severus couldn’t tell how many tests he had corrected when the knock came.

“Come in.”

“Sir.”

The little bugger looked up nervously and Severus was taken aback. He had to stop this. “Yes?”

“Are you busy?” Uncertainty settled around his features and Severus stepped aside. Potter threw his backpack on a chair and licked his lips.

“Well?”

“He’s in the room or Requirement. I saw him getting in there almost ten minutes ago. He’s up to something.”

Severus opened his mouth to tell him that it was not his business to spy on Draco. He meant to tell him that coming to his office uninvited was as annoying as visiting his chambers. His voice was caught. “Has he seen you?”

“No.” The boy had gone too far this time. Severus had agreed to help him. Agreed to overlook his dirty little secret. Agreed to teach him despite Dumbledore’s restrictions.

Dumbledore's reasonable worries. 

This was his own fault.

“Twenty points from Gryffindor for spying on students of my House. Dismissed.” As ironical as that was and as futile as it had become to take points from a boy who’d find cliché all the possible punishments he might receive, Severus tried. Eventually, Potter would learn to behave. Or at least to stop being irritating. Quite an optimist, Severus had become.

He occupied himself by pretending to search for something in his desk drawer until Potter left.

Only he didn’t. “Excuse me?” Merlin show mercy. “I said, Malfoy is in the room or Requirement. We’re losing time, what’s wrong with you?”

Severus sighed and closed the drawer with a bang. His head slightly bent over his desk-work, he chose to respond with honesty. “I advise you to stay out of this, or you’ll cause greater troubles to the Headmaster and yourself. What my students do is under my supervision. What you do is not, so stop informing me and stop stalking me. Is that clear?”

It clearly wasn’t. “He’s been spending every night in there since the term started. Isn’t that suspicious enough to you?”

And Potter had been spending every night since term started knocking on his door for company, but that was most assuredly not suspicious at all. “You are dismissed,” he said again.

“Does Dumbledore know?”

Severus inwardly promised himself that this would be the last time he’d talk to Potter outside class. Outwardly, he fumed. “Ask him. Now leave or you’ll have to apologise to your prefects for another twenty lost points.”

“I’ll tell them you were being a jerk like always. Or should I tell them that you’re covering up Malfoy’s dirty work?

Your opinion on the matter could not concern me less. You yet again speak of things you know nothing about. Just like your arrogant, foolish father. On second thought, “Yes, do that. And watch us all die in vain. I imagine you’ll be proud of your Gryffindor honesty then, for once.”

“I’m always proud of my honesty.”

What honesty? Professor I can’t sleep so let me stay? Was that how honesty was formed in Potter’s head? The shape’s edges were rather shaky. Or rather Slytherin-ish. “Once honesty is attained, vulnerability is next. People are never honest. Make the start and they’ll ruin you.”

“I don’t care. You’re changing the subject.” Damn himself for advising Potter. And damn Potter for not understanding.

“There is no subject. There is business, and those who force themselves into it and end up destroying it. Whatever you think that is what you have discovered there, I’m already aware of it. The Headmaster is too. You have no news to bring me. You just make a fool out of yourself. Has it not even occurred to you that I might already know where mister Malfoy is? Or are you so careless that you spied on him and then you came downright here for all the world to see that you are conveying to me what he does?”

Realisation hit home and Potter blushed. Severus went on. “Do you think my students don’t keep a close eye to you as well? Do you have any idea how many of my students’ parents were ranked in the Dark Lord’s cycle even before you were born? What it is that you think you might do, you, a sixteen year old student, that I haven’t thought of doing already? Perhaps the Headmaster is fine with you fishing secrets out of Horace’s alcohol stinking mouth, but you will not do anything more than what you’re ordered.” All in all, he decided that he was satisfied with himself. He took a deep breath. “This is bigger than you.”

Potter nodded, leaning back on the wall. His eyes narrowed. “Are these our tests?” he asked.

“No. Ravenclaw – Hufflepuff, second years.”

Potter nodded again. Then smiled that cheeky smile. “Have you passed anyone?”

“At least two of them,” he said quite amused. “But there are more to correct. I might pass more.”

“Classes are supposed to have thirty or forty students.”

“Yes,” Severus agreed.

Potter laughed.

Severus had long ago ceased to be startled by the sudden absence of tension between them. He should have known better. A traitorous aspect of his perception understood that Potter was still laughing. “I hate him,” Potter admitted after he had calmed down.

A brief protest that Draco didn’t deserve anyone’s hate was successfully swallowed down and he managed a straight face as he responded strictly. “Is that all?”

“Yeah, I’ll go. Are you sure Dumbledore knows?”

Draco hadn’t taken a shit Dumbledore didn’t know about this year. 

“He does.” But you shouldn’t.

Potter stared at him and nodded. He grabbed his backpack from the chair and opened the door. “See you tonight.”

Were they arranging dates too now? As soon as the door closed behind him, Severus rolled up his sleeve and with the tip of his wand pressing against his Dark mark he contacted Draco.

See you tonight.

He would most likely see Draco tonight. See him cry and shout and curse him for trying to be helpful. Or at least pretending to. Tears shed not as a sign of weakness but as a sign of a pure heart. For an instance, he was torn between admitting that he was getting accustomed to helping boys their mothers could do nothing to help anymore and damning it all and letting go.

Then again, Harry and Draco were nothing alike. And by Harry, he meant Potter. Cursing himself for this mental slip up he took a moment to study his mark and then rolled his sleeve back down. Harry Potter’s mysterious existence had been occupying the best part of his life, and he was only now vaguely reminded of a time when interacting with adolescents was only a necessary evil and most assuredly a torture.

Not that he was by any means enjoying Potter’s company. The boy was irritating, living his youthful present as darkly and randomly as he could. An emotional mess, he was, uneducated, grim, and lost somewhere between his past and future. As one grows weaker one is less susceptible to suffering. Potter was strong, although he could not tell where his strength was coming from. And he was also weak, because his strength was uninteresting to him, his magic untapped, his brain untrained.

Draco and Potter were alike. It was a wonder they hadn’t figured that out by their own already. The many layers of doubting how much Draco really wished to join the Dark Lord were rather blurry, and the only thing that mattered now was that, willingly or not, he had join him, and he could do nothing but obey him. Once ranked, what was the point of looking back anyway? What could Severus change for himself, let alone Draco? He could not help him. He could only manipulate him. For the greater good.

As a passing thought, he decided that Dumbledore was rubbing off on him. He shivered.

“Severus.”

“Ah, Draco.”

Weakness was good. It caused less pain because there was less to be hurt.

“Come, have a seat. Your mother was worrying herself sick again.”

Chapter Text

He couldn’t tell Snape the truth. Let alone Dumbledore. The first time Snape had seen the map on Harry’s hands had been a nightmare, and he wasn’t so sure that this time would go any better. If the Marauders’ spells on it chose the wrong moment to make fun of Snape's nose or hair, Snape would think that Harry wanted to mock him, and he wouldn’t listen.

Snape never listened.

He kept insisting on what he thought that was right until the world turned upside down. Harry was spying on Malfoy, but not out of stubbornness. Even Hermione refused to understand. "You're obsessed," she said a few days ago, and it wasn't the first time.

Under his duvet, he watched as Malfoy's tiny form faded into nothingness. What was in the room or Requirement? Or, what was for Malfoy there? He could be using the room for anything. He could be training himself to cast the unforgivable curses.

Harry rolled on his belly and propped himself up his elbows. Harry wondered if the castle could feel that it was being used against itself. Would it prevent Malfoy from doing whatever he was doing? Was he alone in there?

He checked the Slytherin common room on the map only to see the rest of the students sleeping on their beds. Trailing his finger over the dusty paper, he found Snape’s dot as well, sleeping in peace on his chambers. Snape had fallen asleep a couple of hours ago. Harry had resisted the urge to take advantage of his generosity and spared him the happiness of keeping him company. He supposed Snape'd be rather relieved.

Harry had spent the entire evening with Dumbledore, seeing old memories and discussing his understanding of them. Going to Snape for more torture would be idiotic. 

“Lumos.” He checked the clock on the bedside table. He really should sleep. And he would, in five minutes. “Come on,” Harry whispered. “Where are you?” He tapped his fingers nervously on the map. Malfoy had to be somewhere. He'd have to show up eventually. 

The Draco Malfoy dot popped up in a random corridor and headed down the dungeons. Harry pressed his lips to a think line. Disappointment washed over him as Malfoy went back to his bed and his dot stopped moving. He folded the map annoyed and put it under his pillow. He closed his eyes. He couldn’t sleep.

He envied the other boys, who slept easily. Their brains must be cleaner, Harry thought. The floorboards of their skulls well swept, and all the little monsters closed up in the trunk at the foot of their beds.

When he slid out of bed and wore his shoes, he wasn’t even ashamed. How could he sleep when he laid on bed awake and replayed all those worries? How could he sleep when there was a constant danger of Malfoy killing Dumbledore? Or harming Snape? Harry had promised himself he’d stop caring. Snape was his professor. Professor Snape, an aspect of his mind chanted. Not Severus or anything else. Severus, another aspect protested. He could not help himself anymore. There was no point in pretending.

What he was taught and knew too well, was that nothing solved insomnia like a glass of regret, depression and self-loathing. 

Except Snape.

The dungeons were freezing, and too late he realised that he should be wearing something warmer than pyjamas. 

Ignoring his better sense telling him that he should disappear and pretend he didn’t exist until Snape forgot he ever met him, he knocked on the door.

When a minute passed, he knocked again. And then he dropped his casualness and began a rhythmic knocking determined to get an answer.

He got one, and it wasn’t great. Snape opened the door and grabbed him by his shoulder, dragging him in and shaking him hard. “Have you completely lost your mind, you insufferable little wreck, you arrogant, insolent bugger!” Harry was torn between getting angry and suppressing a smile as Snape shook him. Snape’s hair was wild and he was also wearing a nightgown, one of those plain traditional ones professors often wore at some of the portraits by the kitchen. “You’re turning up every miserable moment of my life and eat away my days, my hours, stop laughing, Potter, and now you wake me up in the middle of the night as well!”

“I was –”

“I didn’t ask you! It’s two in the morning! Some of us have to wake up in a few hours, if we want to see a salary any time soon!”

“Alright,” Harry said. Snape’s face was pink, and Harry couldn’t tell if it was from sleeping or from being angry. Harry almost pitied him.

Snape let him go and Harry fought the urge to rub the sore spot on his shoulder. Snape was about to open the door again when Harry talked.

“Can I stay? You can go to sleep if you want. I won’t make noise, I promise. I can read a book or something. I couldn’t sleep up there. I won’t stay too long.” Since he came to Hogwarts for the first time, he was talking with Ron every night. Small talk about Quidditch or girls or Ron’s family issues were always helpful and were making him forget the things that were bothering him. And if he couldn’t forget, he could share. Ron wasn’t just a friendly ear. He was a friend.

Snape raised his hands as though to cosmic question his luck and left for his bedroom. “Make a sound and I’ll kill you,” he snarled before banging the door close.

Harry took off his shoes and made himself comfortable on the couch. Taking the Prince’s book out of his robe, he read.


Harry wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he yawned. The common room suddenly seemed a hundred miles away and he had the terrible suspicion that if he started walking now he’d never maintain that sleepiness again.

Battling between taking a nap on the couch and doing what was right, he decided on the latter. Pushing away the tempting comfort of his spot on the couch, he dragged himself to the door. To find it locked.

“Alohomora. Alohomora. Damn.”

Shrugging, he came to the conclusion that this wasn’t his fault after all. Opening the door to Snape’s bedroom, he cast Lumos and saw Snape sleeping on his belly on a large bed. He stepped closer and poked him with his wand between his shoulder blades. “Snape. Sir.”

Snape responded with a noncommittal grunt. “You’ve locked the door.”

Snape’s back continued lifting as he breathed rhythmically. “Snape. You’ve locked me in and if I stay here you’ll kill me in the morning.”

He sat on the bed and gritted his teeth. This would seem so convenient next morning. Well, if Snape wanted to lock him in, he certainly wasn’t going to sleep on the couch. He took off his robe and lied down next to Snape. The sheets smelled of Snape and of Spinner’s End. They were soft.

It was hard to ignore how much like assaulting Snape the whole scene looked like when he covered himself with the blanket and rolled on his side. Snape’s fingers were close to his own.

“I may be insomniac,” Harry whispered, “but I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?” 

Snape’s eyelids remained closed, and Harry closed his own too.


Harry woke up before Snape, and decided that this was most likely the miracle of the day.

The damp darkness of the room was accompanied by the smell of melted candles, and maybe some sort of curious fabric freshener. He took his time to let the place sink in; it was the room of a living person - the box in which a soul slept at nights and longed for at days. The carpet, as old as time, carried the usual red and dark green patterns all rugs and curtains seemed to have. Lines twisting like snake tails; stripes twirling round and round, becoming snails, becoming tears of rain and exotic elephants and clouds. Nothing had character in here, but Snape.

Some people suck the life out of places, some people give life to them; some others, plainly co-exist with space, without interfering with it, without leaving or taking bits of anything. 

Harry had managed to leave the bedroom without waking Snape, and spend the early morning hours studying the Prince's advices. It was then, that he decided, to always make notes on books, despite the Library's restrictions. A book is written once; an annotated book is written twice, and carries an extra mind on it. 

Sitting by the fireplace, he thought. He reached conclusions and dismissed them too. He took decisions only to dislike them moments later. At the sound of the shower's water running, he prepared himself and hid the Prince’s book just in time for Snape to show up. He stood up quickly and saw the man, now fully dressed, giving him a nasty look from the bedroom door. 

“Why didn’t you leave last night?”

“The door was locked.” 

“You should have woken me up.”

“I tried to. You wouldn’t even flinch.”

“Poor you,” Snape sneered. He unlocked the door. “Leave carefully, I don’t want anyone to know of this degradation. You have less than an hour for my class and I won’t accept excuses if you’re late.”

Harry grinned. “Yes sir!” He left before Snape could take points for mocking him.

As he ran back to the Gryffindor Tower, he realised that most students hadn’t woken up yet.

He buried the Prince’s book on his trunk and changed his clothes. He washed his face and brushed his teeth. He tried not to think of having to face the man so soon again as he combed his hair and failed miserably to make it look decent. The sun shone brilliantly when Ron stretched and pulled aside the bed’s curtains. Their eyes met and Harry’s heart skipped a bit. The colours of the morning merged into neon pink and peach as they penetrated the window.

“Good morning,” Harry tried.

Ron rolled aside and sat up. He didn’t take his eyes from Harry, but the suspicious look he was granting him with made Harry wish he hadn’t talked at all.

“Slept alright?” If you don’t want me to talk to you I’ll stop, he thought, but didn’t feel strong enough to say it out loud.

Ron didn’t respond. Harry sat with Hermione at the Great Hall and listened through all the details of how she was not going to stand Ron’s silliness and how Lavender was the most uninteresting girl in the world.

“I don’t understand why he likes her,” she said as she spread marmalade on her slice of bread. “I mean, has she ever read a book? I’ve never seen her in the library, Harry. Not once.”

“I don’t think that bothers him,” Harry pointed out.

“And why would it? He's not better, is he?” It was fun how she struggled to seem uninterested, although she was furrowing her brows whenever she looked at the side of the table Ron was sitting. Ron, for his part, was discussing something with Dean while they both laughed. Harry used to do that with Ron too.

“Then they’re good for each other.”

“Harry!”

Harry chuckled. “Sorry.”

“Oh! I almost forgot. Do you know Kevin Entwhistle?”

Harry shook his head and Hermione leaned closer. “Right behind you, Ravenclaw table. The blond guy sitting alone.”

Harry faked a stretching and took a quick glance. “Red shirt?”

“Yes. Him.” Hermione smiled cleverly. Harry thought that he looked good for Hermione. “I saw him yesterday morning while going to class. He was left behind by the rest of the boys and he didn’t notice I was looking at him. He was checking them out.”

Harry tried not to scrunch his face defensively. “So?”

“I think he might be, you know.”

Gay.

But even Hermione could not speak the word, could she? When had gay become more difficult than Voldemort?

“Have you ever spoken to him? He studies with me sometimes at the library.”

“Hermione, I didn’t even know his name,” he said. It was kind of her to try and give him a breath of fresh air, so he didn’t know why he was suddenly feeling trapped.

“You should meet him,” she decided. Harry had spoken to Ron this morning. Not that he'd gotten an answer, but dating a boy would be the cherry on top for Ron to completely hate him. He would be humiliated. The whole school would know. They’d all make fun of him.

Snape would make fun of him.

“Let’s go.”

When they reached the Defence class Harry regretted having stayed awake half the night. He was so exhausted and yet he felt like he was never going to sleep again. Snape opened the door and with a sharp look ordered the students in. This time he didn’t have to wonder about Snape’s bad temper. He flung himself into the seat next to Hermione and tried to avoid thinking. Thoughts lead to other thoughts, and thoughts led to actions. Actions were making him a fool, usually. 

“Before we start, I shall collect your essays,” Snape said coldly. Harry scowled as he was reminded of the essay he hadn’t finished. The scrolls soared into the air and landed in a neat pile on his desk.

Harry vaguely wondered why they didn’t offer coffee in Hogwarts before classes. Hermione had already organised her things and took out her book when Harry opened his bag boringly. Insomnia at nights and this hell during day. Why?

“Twenty four scrolls,” Snape said coldly. “It seems that someone was too busy to study.”

Harry licked his lips in a well warded despair. “Sir.”

Snape looked at him instantly. The I knew it that was hovering over Snape’s head should be visible to anyone, really.

“I didn’t have time to finish it. I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.”

“Well, well, well,” sneered Snape. “Mister Potter has provided us a reasoning excuse here. He didn’t have time. Because as it is known Potter has a different schedule from his classmates.” Harry took a deep breath and continued looking at him calmly, although his insides were boiling. Snape’s dark eyes were shining with something that once Harry was sure was hatred. He didn’t know how to call it now. More hatred, maybe.

“As I trust that you are all aware by now, one cannot succeed in my class if one is not submitting everything in time. That would be a T for you, I think.”

Hermione gulped and jabbed Harry’s leg below the desk. It was a warning, but Harry wasn’t going to talk back anyway.

Snape started a long monologue about the inferi and the defence against them. Harry could do little to pay attention, so he rested his cheek on his fist and watched Snape lazily. Snape didn’t look at him. He could hear other people’s quills scribbling down notes and he willed his hand to open his notebook as well. He was tired, sleepy, and a slight panic had begun to take shape inside him. He had slept. Why was he so tired?

His mind was attacked with the urge to run to Dumbledore and force him expel Malfoy. Or have him roll up his sleeves before breakfast at the Great Hall. Hermione would have to apologise, then. Ron too. Snape too. Hagrid too. He yawned in abandonment and smudged the notebook’s corner. Snape had stopped talking. Harry looked up.

“However nice of you it is to show up in my class, Potter, you seem to be too good for this. Is my teaching boring for you, perhaps?”

Harry pressed his lips together. Snape smirked. “What is the difference between inferi and zombies?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“You don’t know,” Snape repeated.

“He was just saying that!” complained Hermione in a whispering voice.

After all, Snape was still the same bastard. And he still had to attack him every time. It used to be frustrating. It still had to be. It shouldn’t feel amusing, or a regular part of the day. “Five points from Gryffindor, Potter. If you are to be yawning in my class I suggest you drop it.”

Don’t say it!

At least don’t smile while doing so.

“I’m so sorry, sir, you see, I had trouble getting comfortable in bed last night, so, you know. I couldn’t sleep well.”

Snape’s cold features weren’t enough to fool Harry. He saw the momentary panic in the black eyes. I won. “I don’t see how this concerns the class. Another five points.”

Chapter Text

“Ready?”

Potter let down his glass of water and nodded.

“Focus… Legilimens!”

“You should meet him,” said Hermione... Cold air pierced his skin as the Dementors reached him… Dumbledore smiled at him kindly…

Severus stopped and Potter dropped on his knees, his hands buried in his hair.

“You lost control,” Severus said.

“I lost control,” Potter repeated, angrily looking up from the floor. “I’ve been succeeding at it for the past two hours and you haven’t made a single remark, but now that I'm dizzy I lost control.”

“I can lie to you if you want me to,” Severus said as he dropped on the couch. “But it wouldn’t do any good to you. Your self-esteem would only grow worse.” Potter’s self-esteem couldn’t possibly fall lower. But it was not Severus’ business to know that.

Or to worry about it.

Still on the floor, Potter rested his back against the couch and nudged Severus’ knee. “Fuck off.”

Ah. “And that would be –”

“That would be none of Gryffindor points taken, because you’re not supposed to be with a student after midnight and it’d be suspicious.”

When had Potter become so cheeky? Perhaps a spanking was necessary after all. He shrugged off the terrifying thought and drank the rest of Potter’s abandoned water. “Do try and remind yourself tomorrow morning what you’ve just said. I’ll take these points the moment I’ll see you.”

Potter let a laughter escape between his panting. His shirt was damp. “You think I’m getting better?”

He knew he was. He was just fishing for compliments. “Your little trick seems to be working,” he admitted. Utterly unsatisfied for having to do so. Silently, Severus watched the fire crackling in the dim light of the room. He needed a bath. And privacy.

“Who taught you Legilimency?”

The people he hated. The interaction between them and him on a daily basis and the need to protect himself from the stupidity of the world. Dumbledore’s request to know everything and the Dark Lord’s madness to have it all. “I’m self-taught.”

Potter’s head turned and his eyes looked at him quizzically. “Really?”

“I had to. And you have to too.”

“You think Dumbledore doesn’t know? That I come here?” He brought the hem of his shirt up and wiped his jaw. Facial hair was not something Potter had a few months ago. A fade line was now beginning to take shape.

“He knows,” Severus assumed. “He loves the games people think they play behind his back. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you’re getting away. He’s not the Headmaster only for the sake of offering lemon drops.”

Potter’s head dropped on Severus’ knee and Severus had to keep himself from flinching. Loath though he was to admit it, it became harder and harder to protest against every line Potter was crossing.

He should have stopped this long ago. And he hadn’t. Crimes already done could only be accepted.

“When are we going to practice again?”

For there was not a crime, there was not a dodge, there was not a trick, there was not a swindle, there was not a vice which did not live by secrecy. Potter was all of that. He considered the question as Potter moved even closer until his body was pressed against his leg. He certainly didn’t think the boy needed a daily practice. Once a week was the best they could afford in secrecy.

Once again, he cursed himself for not informing Dumbledore since they began. It would be worse if he did now. “Let’s just be pleased that you succeeded today,” he said. A sixteen year old boy should think of more insignificant things than sealing his mind. What did other boys his age think?

Fucking, Severus supposed, although his own adolescence was too distant to be sure, and he certainly was not the average role model of how teenagers behaved.

On second thought, Potter had to be thinking of fucking as well.

Not when he was in this room, hopefully. If Merlin was merciful enough.

An optimistic voice echoed inside his mind that Potter had already forgotten the summer madness and had moved on. The head still resting on his knee told him otherwise.

The fact that his pillow smelled like him was another reminder of the man he once was and the depraved beast he had now become.

The years of bitterness and hatred told him that if he wanted to get rid of something he could do it easily. If Potter was still clinging to his life, it was because Severus had allowed it to happen.

I don’t want this.

He jerked his knee as though shooing away an annoying fly. “Go.” Potter stretched and stood.

“You sure?”

Severus glared at Potter, feeling lost.

Potter chuckled and shook his head. “Never mind. ’Night, sir.”


It had become a fixed attitude. A second nature, one would assume. Potter was finding his way to his chambers more and more often. There were no excuses or apologies. He’d knock on the door and Severus would open to meet thin air and feel the swift of fabric sliding past him and into his room.

The fabric of a cloak that once belonged to James Potter. James Potter, whose son was happily inviting himself over into his private space whenever he could. Controversies didn’t exist. Harry Potter had been the chosen one to mercilessly skin Severus from his right mind.

He surrendered, because fighting would only make this harder. He held the door open, again and again, waiting for the boy to throw off his cloak and give him a cheeky smile. Or a sad glare. Or both. Legilimency, he told himself strictly, was the reason the boy was here. The reason Potter’s scent was rubbing off on his carpet and his couch and his own clothes. It took a lifetime to perfect his attitude towards the evil, and evil had formed itself around him so slowly he had barely noticed it until he could breathe no more. Interesting how this particular evil looked nothing like the evil he’d known and fought and too long ago had adored. This was new, painfully new to him, and it came with the feel of soft grass and the warmth of the sun over his face and heart. It came with the scent he had chosen to name "Harry", although it would be wiser to name it danger, or sadness, or even loneliness or pitiful abjection.

He accepted all of it, and watched it grow around his lungs like a climbing plant with sharp spikes and poisonous roots. His hate was keeping him alive.

It had to be hate.

“I need another parchment.”

“You’ve filled the first one?”

“No. I’m going to rewrite it.”

“First drawer on the desk.”

Potter nodded and got up from the couch. He returned with two spare parchments and began writing his essay. “It’s going to be the best essay of the class, just so you know.”

“Pity I’m not going to grade it, then.” Severus turned a page on the book he was reading.

“No, I mean it. Just wait and you’ll see.”

“You may be the next Dostoyevsky for all I care. You should have turned it in twelve days ago. We are three chapters ahead of this already. I regard whatever you’re writing there already invalid.”

“Jerk.”

“Watch your tongue.”

“Yeah.”

“Insolent whelp.”

“I saw Hagrid today.”

For although there were other adults in Hogwarts absolutely willing to shoulder the Golden Boy’s angst for the time being, it was Severus who got lucky enough to actually have the honour. An unnecessary large amount of possible explanations came to his mind and he was momentarily stunned at the assumption that Hagrid’s hideous beast collection was probably less dangerous for the boy than Severus.

“He said I’m never out of the castle anymore. And that he thought I was angry with him. Because I stopped visiting him.”

“Fascinating,” sneered Severus.

There was a reason he disliked adolescents. There were full of misleading hormones, false assumptions, and wrong decisions.

Are your decisions better?

They most likely were.

He had made up for his errors. Most of them. There were some things he could not fix, and only now he realised that they could be left behind instead. He was surprised at how distant Lily’s memory had become. Potter was making him forget.

Her son.

Lily’s boy.

The creature born from her and his most hateful, worthless enemy. The proof that James had touched and kissed her and made love to her. The proof that James had managed to steal away from him the only person in the world that didn’t think low of him.

Welcome to the wonderful world of jealousy, he thought. For the price of admission, you get a splitting headache, a nearly irresistible urge to commit murder, and an inferiority complex. 

He fixed his eyes on Potter who was furrowing his brows as he was writing his essay, and as hard as Severus tried to see Lily or James sitting there, in the far end of the couch, for once, he couldn’t. The pleasure of seeing Lily in those eyes and James in the horrid behaviour and cheek, the pleasure of remembering through Harry Potter had been taken from him, because there were now new things to remember. It felt like losing interest in older memories meant losing the memories themselves, as if the things he’d think of Potter in the past were less real and important.

“Fuck.”

Severus turned his head to witness the bottle of blank ink spilling itself on the cushions of his couch. He gave Potter a look that hopefully promised death and stood. “Go on, Potter, destroy everything while you take advantage of my generosity, I don’t mind!”

“I know you don’t,” Potter said as he waved his wand over the mess. Severus rolled his eyes. “Do you even know how you were looking at me? You’ve been frowning and glaring at me for the best part of the last hour. It’s not my fault I got distracted.” He grinned.

And was denied an answer nevertheless.

Severus sat back down and decided that the moment his eyes would leave his book he’d burn them. He read a page. The contents of which had completely escaped him. Read it again. He felt Potter’s eyes boring into him with intense.

“What is it?” he snapped.

Potter shook his head. “Nothing you’d like to hear.”

“Then finish your work and get lost. It’s late.”

“It’s been later.”

Yes. Do mock me. I deserve all of it.

Therein lays the problem.


“There is that guy,” Harry started. “Kevin Entwhistle. Do you know him?”

Snape waved his wand and two glasses of water landed on the small table in front of the couch. “What about him?”

Harry threw his cloak aside and pulled off his sweater. “What do you know about him?”

Snape shoot him a quizzical look. “What do you want to know about him?”

“I’ve heard he’s gay.”

Snape raised his brow. “And you somehow assumed that I might be able to confirm that.” Harry opened his mouth to respond but closed it again as Snape stepped closer. “You might be surprised, but I do not gain any satisfaction by discussing sexuality issues with my students. More specifically, I resent it.”

Harry could tell his cheeks were flushing red and he dropped his gaze. “Right. Shall we start?”

“You came earlier. Sit down and wait.” Harry took out a random schoolbook and waited as Snape went over some exam papers. After a few minutes, silence annoyed him.

“You think I should talk to him? I know you don’t care and I’m irritating you and stuff, but what’s your opinion? What if he isn’t gay after all? I’d look stupid.”

“My opinion is,” said Snape without looking up, “that it would be unprofessional of me to have this conversation. Bother someone else with your affairs.”

Not likely. There was a certain amount of embarrassment he could endure yearly, and this year’s peak was already sadly close. Better embarrass himself where he was accustomed to being humiliated. “He doesn’t even play Quidditch. I can’t just go and bother him.”

“You can, just like you bother me constantly.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “It’s not the same.”

Snape didn’t say anything for a few moments. Then, he carefully released his breath. “And why is that?”

“I feel more comfortable around you.” The coy smile he offered was ignored.

Snape frowned. “Your comfort equals my disquiet, I think,” Snape said. His voice was suddenly a bit hoarse. You’re lying.

“It’s only with you that I feel myself.” The heaviness of the truth he blurted out seemed to click something inside him; unlocking a fear of judgment he was not aware of feeling; a mark of guilt and a burden of insecurity that were calming down only when he knew he’d see Snape.

“Spare me the sentimentalism or I might vomit,” Snape spat. “You are being attached to whomever you can. Hogwarts has seen to it, no one stays lonely for a long time in here.” Well. As close to a thank you as he could get.

Harry knew what Snape was talking about. He wasn’t sure if it was the castle that was doing it, or if it had nothing to do with magic, but it seemed that there was a place for everyone and that sooner or later everybody fit. Snape had once believed that his place was with the Death Eaters. Harry briefly wondered if things would have occurred differently if Snape had been sorted in another house. It occurred to him that at some point of his life, Snape had to be proud of being a Death Eater.

He watched the pale fingers as they moved over the papers. The quill elegantly clutched between them. The wrist covered with the long sleeve of the coat. Had he ever killed? Threatened? He unclenched his teeth and relaxed. He wouldn’t torture himself over this.

He considered Hermione’s suggestion and felt rather relieved he hadn’t accepted it. “Perhaps Kevin isn’t gay. Besides, I don’t think I like blonds.”

“Touché. Now let me concentrate.”

Harry snorted as he shook his head.

He considered practicing Quidditch alone right after, but the sun was still on the sky and Harry had trouble coming all the way down here without sweating. It was a particular hot day for that early in the year. The hearth was unlit for the first time since the beginning of the year, and even Snape had unbuttoned the first button of his coat. It would feel nice to ride his broom again without the pressure of the team.

He leaned over Snape’s lap to take his glass. Snape grunted and visibly held his breath until Harry sat back on his seat. It occurred to Harry that these moments were what was keeping him happy for the rest of the day. And the night.

“Are you clearing your mind?” asked Snape cautiously.

“I was actually thinking that this can’t be replaced.”

Snape blinked. “This?”

“This.” Harry waved his hand between them. “I don’t care to date someone. This is enough.”

And now Snape’s eyes were darting in panic between his own hands. Harry wondered if he had gone too far.

“Give me a minute to clear my mind.”

“You have it.” Snape cleared his throat and took out his wand. 

 

Chapter Text

The water hit his skin.

The warm droplets formed steam as he stood there without moving at all, the voices banging in his head. They said the same thing, over and over again, how much clearer could it be? It’s alright, Harry.

It wasn’t. He was supposed to be a good seeker. His skin was burning from the mellow droplets morphing into sharp little blades of fire. He closed his eyes and the hot steam enveloped his body. As he washed the shampoo suds off him, he let his mind melt into a puddle of nothingness that hid no concerns and no fears.

He thought of Ron, who had avoided him as they practiced, and never directly talked to him. He let the thought escape him and didn’t try to retreat it. He closed his eyes against the world and everything that troubled him. He opened his eyes to the bang of the door as the last person exited the shower.

No one risked staying alone with him in the showers anymore.

When he reached the Great Hall, the dinner had begun. Hermione wasn’t pleased. “Your hair is wet. You’re going to catch a cold.” She casted a drying spell on him and went on about her day. At first, Harry had been satisfied to see her on the Gryffindor table, but now she was suddenly eager to have a detailed conversation about Valentine’s Day and how Ron and Lavender were not being seen together in public lately. Harry was more than willing to listen and help, but he thought to himself that he felt rather uncomfortable discussing this and would happily avoid it.

Foregoing the possibility of the dungeons leaving a cynical mark on him, he smiled and reassured her concerns. As most of the students were beginning to finish up, smaller groups of people were being formed, not minding much if they were sitting at their house’s tables or not. When most of the Ravenclaw students were gone, Luna sat next to him.

“You look as sad as a dog with no home,” she told him, and Harry was taken aback by her blunt honesty.

“I’m just tired,” he assured her. Luna’s smile didn’t fade.

“Have you told him?” she asked Hermione. Hermione frowned just as Harry turned to look at her.

“Tell me what?”

Hermione took a deep breath. “I don’t even think it’s even important anymore.”

“Yes?” Harry asked impatiently.

“Do you remember Romilda Vane?”

Harry nodded.

“She used to have a crush on you. Actually, she and all her friends had a crush on you.” No news here. He glanced at the high table and saw Snape and McGonagall getting up. “A few months ago I’ve heard them saying something about making you fall in love with them, you know. I think they dropped their plans when… well. They dropped them. I caught Romilda in the bathroom yesterday with another girl and she was saying that she might… that she still has plans."

Harry gave her a “you’ve-got-to-be-joking-me” look. What was so important about that? Romilda hadn't talked to him in months.

Hermione dropped the subject immediately as she spotted professor McGonagall leaving the Hall and she hurried behind her. “Professor!”

McGonagall looked at her through her square spectacles and smiled when Hermione reached her. Harry brushed his fingers against the table.

Confused, he turned to Luna. “What doesn’t she tell me?”

“What’ll make you sadder,” she said casually.

Harry stared at her with a blank face. He didn’t have to say go on.

“Remember the rumour that you’ve got a Hippogriff tattooed on your chest? The new rumour has it that you don't like girls. Romilda wants to prove that you just haven’t met the right one yet,” said Luna serenely.

He stared at her, unable to deny the rumours, unable to think of a lie, incapable of anything but clenching his toes. 

“I think it’s interesting, though,” beamed Luna. “People never say anything for me, because they don’t like me enough. A roommate of mine asked me my name the other day.”

Harry nodded, lost in his thoughts. Luna peered at him and he sealed his mind defensively just like Snape was trying to teach him. Luna’s large eyes had always had something strange in them; a glimmer that often made people feel uncomfortable around her. If she wasn’t a mind reader, she was certainly clever. In her own way.

“This… rumour. How many people believe it?”

Luna touched his arm sympathetically. “A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on, Harry. Although the truth runs pretty fast too, Dad says.”

Harry grunted in agreement but didn’t respond. His mind was racing. Didn’t this mean that he had messed everything up already? He knew what people thought of... this kind of men. He could recall what aunt Petunia thought of them. His classmates weren’t reacting any better.

“I don’t understand why they'd think that,” Harry heard himself saying defensively. Luna shrugged lightly and for a moment Harry was sure that she knew everything.

“People that criticise us are the same people that don't know the price we paid,” she informed him.

He looked down at his hands, which he clenched and unclenched nervously, his face deepening to the red he could feel spreading over his skin. After a moment, he looked up at her again, still unsure of what to say.

“I preferred the tattoo rumour, I think.”

“Girls preferred it too,” she pointed out. “Ginny is dating Dean again,” she added.

If this was supposed to cause him jealousy, it didn’t. His memories of kissing Ginny had been gracefully packed away from his mind and he did not plan on picking at them anytime soon. It wasn’t the lack of any physical or emotional attraction that repulsed him so much as his own ingratitude towards her. 

“That’s nice. I mean, I’m glad she’s okay,” he said, which was not entirely a lie.

He needed Snape now. All this thing that was going on outside his chambers could only be described as Snape chose to name it: childish. Harry didn’t feel like being with people his age anymore. Here, he was exposed to a life he didn’t care to live. Not like that. Not in this kind of unfair secrecy.

“Hermione told me that she is indeed,” she said happily. “It felt nice that Hermione told me that. It was like having a friend, even for a while.”

Harry nodded nervously, trying not to look scared by the news. He felt embarrassment for the images inside his head. No matter how hard he had tried to dismiss them though, they were only growing stronger, and he was too weak to change or fight them. An aspect of his mind knew that he didn’t really want to. How did he even know he was gay? Why was he so damn sure?

“You think my clothes are ugly?” asked Luna after a moment.

Harry blinked his panic away and looked at her. She was wearing her common Ravenclaw robes, but underneath there was a pink shirt with an “ALIENS KIDNAPPED ME” logo.

“I don’t think they’re ugly,” he said carefully. “They're... interesting." 

Luna smiled at him in surprise. “You don’t think I should buy another shirt? I’ve been mocked a little for it today. Unfortunately though, nargles stole my wardrobe away last week. It’s the only one I have left.”

Harry shook his head disconcerted. “What? No, I – ” what the heck were they talking about? All her wardrobe had similar or even weirder shirts than this one. “Luna, it wouldn’t be you if you wore something else. It’s nice.”

She beamed as he had never seen her beaming before. “Well, thank you, Harry! I’ll be proud of them then.”

As she exited the Hall, Harry watched Dumbledore leaving from the back door and he furrowed his brows in confusion.

Then he smiled.


“They were the brightest students, Harry, the best of them!”

“Well, sir, I think you were inspiring to them too,” Harry said. As they walked further and further away from the castle, the forest came alive with the layers of sounds echoing in the cold morning air. Little frogs croaked under large, broad leaves. The webs were stringed with delicate drops of morning dew, glistening in the first shards of sunlight. While the students’ laughter and shouts were fading behind them, Slughorn and Harry enjoyed the nature.

“You’re right, I was. You see, my students always liked my company. Like you, now. But only the best of them joined the Slug Club in the end. I treated well all of them, but I had to be picky,” Slughorn said softly, looking over at a red singing bird. “The Club I created was an innovation, I dare say. Hogwarts rules were anachronistic, very old fashioned for my taste. Severus brought back the Ministry's old laws when I left. It was a pity.”

“I think the members of the Club felt honoured for being special to you anyway,” said Harry, reminding himself that he had to make Slughorn trust him. “Not all professors respect their students like you do. You see them for who they really are.”

Harry’s shoes were splotched as he accidentally stepped into a small puddle of mud.

“Be careful there,” said Slughorn. “Your mother was one of my favourite students, of course I must’ve told you that already. Brilliant, she was. And a bit audacious too, if you ask me.”

Harry smiled at the mental picture of his mother talking back to a professor. “She was in the Slug Club,” he said at once.

“If she wasn’t I’d close it down I think. Her talent in potions was unique. She and Severus were preoccupied, they’d always come up with extraordinary, unique ideas. Once, I thought I caught them cheating from each other. They told me they were just arguing over the name they’d give to their newest melting potion.”

Harry’s steps slowed. “I’ve heard she was friends with professor Snape."

“The best of friends,” Slughorn said keenly. “When Lily left the Club, Severus was lost. He didn’t know what to do with himself.”

Harry kicked a stick and shoved his hands in his pockets. It was weird, how sunny could be such a cold day. “Why did she leave?”

Slughorn looked ahead and his shoulders squared a little. After a moment, he sighed. “The dark times were beginning just in time for my pension, but I did have time to witness the very start of it. Many thought that Slytherins were not to be trusted. Stupid rumours, they were.”

Rumours, Harry thought. He remembered how his mother accused Snape of befriending Death Eaters in the memory he had seen last year. Perhaps she didn’t want to even see him anymore. Had she left the Club because he was there?

“How come they were such close though? I mean, they did have a fight at some point, I’ve heard.” He wondered if it was safe to ask Slughorn such questions. As much as a risk it might was, he couldn’t hold himself back.

Taking a walk with him was boring enough already. He might as well make it useful. They set off a lowlier pace.

“I believe they knew each other before Hogwarts, were neighbors, family friends, something like that – but how could I remember? It’s been years ago. Many years,” he added to Harry’s questioning look. It was as though an invisible hand had twisted Harry’s intensities and held them tight.

“So, you think they were…” he trailed off, unable to finish his thought. He felt his cheeks reddening. Snape had told him that they had never been together, but he didn’t know if he should believe him.

Slughorn laughed. “No, no, I don’t think so. You see – back then, it was already too defiant for a Slytherin to befriend a Gryffindor. Besides, everybody knew that Lily was in love with James Potter.”

In love, Harry thought. “I thought my father had fallen in love with her – actually that it took her some time to like him back.”

Slughorn patted his back and Harry tried not to flinch. “I don’t know the details, my boy. I’m sorry.”

“You taught Tom Riddle too,” Harry found the nerve to say at last.

Harry didn’t know what normal love felt like. He loved Hogwarts, which was a castle, and he loved Hermione and Neville and Luna, because they were his friends. He loved Ron and Ginny although he didn’t have the right to.

He didn’t know how falling in love with a girl was like. This was something Ron would feel familiar with, especially when he kissed Lavender on the mouth and when he snogged her in the corridors. Hermione probably knew too well what falling in love felt like as well, because if it wasn’t blunt jealousy what he felt for Ron’s affair, Harry didn’t know what it was.

What Harry felt, had nothing to do with all that. Snape had made him open up when he didn't want to let himself out. He had helped Harry to breathe when he was lost and confused and he had helped him see that it was possible to feel accepted again.

He shivered in anticipation for his next Occlumency lesson. It was still hard for him to accept these feelings as real, and when he was away from Snape he could easily convince himself that everything was merely in his imagination.

The way his heart was beating when he would eventually see Snape again always told him otherwise.

They returned to the castle just in time for Harry’s next class. Harry could barely concentrate, and after giving Dumbledore a not-too-detailed report about what Slughorn had told him, Dumbledore showed him another memory of Voldemort’s past. Harry spent his evening discussing with Dumbledore that memory, and digging deeper into the past of his parents’ murderer.

“I’ll find out,” Harry promised. “I think he trusts me.”

“He does.” Dumbledore smiled at that. “I don’t want you to forget your position either, though. Trust, is one thing. It is preferable though for students to maintain a respectful distance from their professors, as you know.”

Harry opened his mouth but chose not to respond. He knew. 

 

Chapter Text

“Again,” Potter said.

Severus lowered his wand. He cringed at the thought of having to do this again. He could feel an invisible whirlpool suck his vitality and slowly suffocating him with a firm hand squeezing his throat. A hand which most likely had to belong to justice.

“We’ll have a break. You may sit.”

Severus quickly disappeared from the boy’s sight to the safety of his bedroom and then his bathroom; he closed the door behind him and locked it. Opening the faucet, he let the cold water sooth his fingers, the red marks of his nails caused by clutching his wand barely being soothed. 

Exhaustion never struck him so profoundly. His head ached, his eyes burned, his arms and legs were sore. Exhaustion without reward was torture. Severus knew how to deal with tortures that involved a reasonable amount of death and unfairness. He didn’t know how to deal with this one. He splashed cold water on his face and felt his muscles twitch their tension in protest. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and wiped his face.

His eyelids were closed as he emptied his bladder and the only thing he could imagine was his bed waiting for him. And Potter waiting for their training to continue. And having too little time left to sleep well until morning.

He returned to his living room and Potter jumped up at once.

“Another twenty minutes,” said Severus. “And we'll call it a night."

Potter raised his wand at him and waited. His green eyes were fixed on him. Severus narrowed his eyes. “Legilimens!”

And into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Being into that abyss of sadness and abstraction again, Severus focused his stare on Potter until the room decomposed around him and he dove into the thoughts and the feelings that hit him with an abuse he didn’t want to suffer. Glimpses of Potter’s youthful heart smashed against him and he withdrew appalled.

“You’re not emptying yourself from emotion. Why must I repeat myself every time?”

Potter pulled his head up from the floor and stared at him “I am – I am trying –”

“Trying what?” he snarled. “To become an emotional mess? You’re close.” He offered his hand and Potter took it. It occurred to him that Potter was perfectly capable of standing up by himself. He made a mental note of rewashing his hand later. 

“It’s – were you seeing my thoughts? Because I think I managed to – I had control, right?”

He had, for the best part of it. It wasn’t his thoughts Severus was worrying about. “Your emotions betray you. You are weak, and therefore they take control of the situation when you cannot. Sharing emotions may cause greater danger than sharing thoughts.”

Potter was once again drenched in sweat, giving him that “I’ll-make-you-proud” look that Severus could only interpret as a joke. “Nice try,” Potter said. “Do you even know what emotions are?”

Severus curled his lip in nonchalance and aimed his wand. “Legilimens!

Emotions were a malicious curse. They could enslave one’s mind, betray one’s roots, dominate over everything a person was and turn them against their better sense for the sake of the heart. What Severus knew, was that such idiocy could only leave a heart crippled.

“Fuck!”

“Patience. Keep pushing. You’re letting me in.”

Emotions couldn’t be covered by single words. He didn’t believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." Maybe the best proof that the language was problematic was that it oversimplified feelings. It made them look harmless.

“Stop!” Potter fell forward on his hands and knees and Severus made a mental note of teaching him how to maintain his balance before storming over to a war.

“Are you bored, Potter?”

Potter’s glasses slipped down the bridge of his nose. “It’s not easy you know!”

“If it was you wouldn’t be here.”

Potter looked up and his eyes darted for a moment at Severus from head to toe. A look of embarrassment crossed his face and he froze in spot. Trying and failing to hide a cheeky grin, Potter got to his feet. 

Resisting the impulse to ask what had just happened, he glared. “You should try harder than this. Master yourself or let your emotions destroy you.”

Potter nodded, his features a mixture of shock and holding back laughter. “I’ll try harder. Come on.”

Potter’s eyes weren’t completely focused on him. Severus cast the spell and the first sentiment that hit him was awkwardness. He was aware of Potter’s heart pumping blood with all its might.

“Are you even aware of how easily you let me get in?” he snapped. He scowled in indignation at the boy’s irresponsibility. Potter gave him a look that suggested that he was trying to be serious about this. Severus doubted it. “You haven’t performed this poorly in months,” he snarled.

“Um. It’s not my fault sir – it’s – um – external. Factors. ” Potter's face was blank. 

Severus, however, has close to snapping. “Then maybe I should read your mind and see what kind of external factors these are.”

Potter nodded to himself once. “Concentrate!” They tried again and Severus felt no resistance when he casted. Potter’s mind was exposed; it had no strength nor belligerence against him. The barriers were barely perceptible before they collapsed to his magic. Severus should be sleeping.

“Pathetic.”

“Sorry.” Potter stumbled back and looked anywhere but at Severus.

“Am I giving up my nights for this, then? Or is it all an excuse for you? Immature though you may be –”

“Don’t start, I got it. I’m bollocks at it, I’ll try harder.”

For a long moment they stared at each other, and then Potter blinked. The corner of his mouth quirked and Severus wondered what could be the excitingly humorous thing that he was missing. Severus had little faith in fools, despite his life clinging to them.

“Alright?” he asked in a low voice.

“Yes,” Potter snapped, suddenly too serious. “Do it.”

He did it, and then he did it again.

“If you just let me do it my own way –”

“By using tricks.”

“By thinking of something intensely! As though your ways are any better, not that you’d ever let me succeed at something you hadn’t thought of – don’t even pretend it didn’t bother you, I saw you! I do it my way and it works, I do it your way and I fuck it up because your way just sucks!”

“Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.” Severus snarled.

“Oh come on!”

“You are not working hard enough! Your attention is easily distracted as though this is a game you can play whenever you see fit! Blushing and frowning won’t get you anywhere, I’m afraid,” he barked. “You may fail at everything you try and let all your attempts go wasted for all I care, you may even let the Dark Lord possess you and take you, but for the last time, you will not make a fool of me.”

There.

At this moment, Severus could safely admit that he was pleased with himself. His righteous sense of dignity watched from the far end of the room and slowly clapped its approval. He almost expected the words poise restored to hover above his head.

Potter rolled his eyes and with a fearless demonstration of swiftness closed the distance between them and tugged at Severus’ belt with his fingers. Before the sheer terror could successfully sink in, and as the blood was drenched from Severus’ face and heart in an attempt to block out the grip of panic, Potter grabbed his fly with his other hand and pulled the zip up.

“Don’t leave this open again if you want me to concentrate,” Potter said bitterly as he stepped back and started collecting his things from the couch. “See you tomorrow?”

Astonishment. No. Condemnation. Eternal. This had to be it. There he stood, Severus Snape, Death Eater, spy, professor, in his late thirties, in his right mind, in awe, and stared with giddiness at the sixteen year old brute who was constantly ridiculing him for his own sick satisfaction.

Points, his mind said.

“Points,” his mouth repeated.

“How many?” Potter asked.

Severus contemplated as the revulsion overtook him. Revulsion used to feel worse, his consciousness commented, and he mentally slapped it away as Potter looked at him in expectation.

“A hundred.”


“Oh. My. God. Oh my God, Harry. Why did you do this? How could you? So selfish, so – so -I can’t handle this right now.” Hermione covered her face with a hand and after releasing a breath she left the Great Hall. Harry ate silently.

“Is this your fault?” Dean barked once he saw him. “What did you do?”

“Snape caught me out of the dorm,” Harry said without looking up. “He was being a dick and I called him an arsehole.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Seriously?” He looked at the high table, where Harry supposed Snape was sitting and watching with great satisfaction. “What did he tell you? You shouldn’t have talked back. He probably expected you to do so he could take points.”

“I would be panicked too,” protested Neville. “Just imagine being alone with Snape in the night. I think I’d scream.” He shuddered visibly and Harry faked a sympathetic nod.

“I’ll take the points back,” Harry said at last. “We have the match right ahead anyway. I’ll catch the snitch.”

“You’d better do so,” said Seamus. “We don’t want Hufflepuff to get us, do we?”

“A hundred points,” repeated Neville, as though having trouble coming to terms with it. “Did he frighten you? Once he caught me being late for a class – it wasn't even his own class, Harry – and he gave me that look… I thought he was going to kill me. For days and days I kept thinking that he was going to get me.” Neville’s eyes had gone wild as he recounted his traumatic experience.

Harry knew exactly which look he was talking about..

Ron mumbled something on his plate and Harry looked up. He wasn’t sure if he had said it to Harry, and he didn’t dare ask. Ron looked at him for a second and then turned to Seamus. “How much time 'till the match?”

“Eight days exactly. It was supposed to be this Friday but they changed it.”

Hermione came back and collapsed next to him. Her eyes were red. “Do you know – do you even know,” she hissed, “how many papers, how many parchments, how many tasks it took me,” she took a deep breath, “to gain a hundred points for Gryffindor? Do you have the faintest idea, Harry Potter?”

“I'm sorry and I love you?” he said, and he didn’t complain when she lightly punched him on the arm.

“Professor Snape is smirking at us. Just look at him. Smirking. Just look at what you’ve done to your House,” Hermione said desperately, and Harry dared a glance at Snape. He was smirking. But not for the reasons Hermione thought. It occurred to him that she would think he was mad if he tried to explain it to her. It wasn't about points; it was about establishing the rules of who had control and how easily control could be taken over.

Harry wasn’t sure who had control at the moment.

“Is it funny for you?” she whined lowly. “Or do you think it's cool to insult a teacher?”

“I’ll fix it,” Harry assured her.

Hermione broke into a low laughter. “Just look how he’s looking at us,” she choked. “Not that he doesn’t have every right to do so. You called him an arsehole, Harry?”

Not really. Just kept gawking at his pants and then took the initiative to close his fly. “Yes. Because he was. He’d take the points anyway, come to think of it.”

That seemed to calm Hermione down a little. She gave him a last severe look. “Next time Harry, just don’t.”

Harry chuckled at his plate. “Yeah.”

Chapter Text

Harry spun around in midair.

Zacharias Smith gave a neat pass to Demelza and Ginny angrily swore behind him. Harry set off around the pitch for the fourth time already, scanning the skies for some sign of the golden snitch. There was no sight of it.

Bellow him, Ron shouted to McLaggen to move aside, and suddenly the Quaffle was in Ginny’s possession again.

“Summerby got the snitch! Hufflepuff wins!” the commentator shouted, and half the crowd cheered and clapped. Harry looked at Summerby a bit lost. The snitch was tightly clutched in his upraised hand.

They landed on the pitch and Harry kicked at the ground, tossing his broom aside. Summerby landed elegantly after a few moments and a group of younger Hufflepuff students came to hug him. A blond girl who couldn’t be older than thirteen touched the snitch and shrieked in excitement.

“Where is the Captain?” McGonagall barked as she came closer.

“Professor,” panted Ron as he pulled off his helmet.

“You did great,” she told him proudly. “I feel honoured to have known and supported this team.” 

“But we lost!” Ron exclaimed.

“Winning is not important. Playing fairly is,” she said. “For training hard and for having enjoyed the game, I will give fifteen points to Gryffindor.” Harry watched her dumbfounded and she didn’t forget to give him a look too.

“Congratulations, Potter,” she said honestly as she walked past him to talk to Hooch.

Hermione ran to him and hugged him tightly. Harry couldn’t help but think that she'd love Ron to see that. He felt a little used, but he made a mental note to tease her about it later. “It’s a miracle you didn’t end up in the Hospital wing again,” she said. “That Quaffle was crazy.”

“You weren’t concentrated,” Luna added as she approached them. Her lion hat blinked at him and growled. “I could see you were lost in your own dark thoughts.”

“Um.” More than often, Harry did not know how to respond to Luna. He looked up at the Slytherin seats but didn’t see Snape. Not many Slytherins cared to attend the matches they didn’t participate in. Snape was probably having classes now.

“How could you even train as a team if he won't talk to you?” Hermione asked, her eyes darting between Harry and Ron, who was now kissing Lavender.

“Wasn't that hard. Although he forgot himself a couple of times,” Harry added quickly. “Besides, we all know I'm a natural,” he joked.

“It’s very kind of you that you proposed to Ron to be Captain instead of you, Harry,” Luna said in a round voice.

“He needed it more than I did,” he responded. Also, he and Ron were still friends back then. 

Promising he’d meet them again after showering, he headed off to the boy’s bathroom. The hot water washed away the dirt and the mud, and he allowed himself to relax a little. 

Saying things out loud made them easier to accept. This Harry knew. Speaking of his troubles or visions or nightmares always made him feel better and solve out the problems. He felt a bit jealous of his friends’ ability to share theirs. When Hermione liked Krum, everyone knew it. No one cared.

Ron could kiss Lavender whenever he wanted and the professors barely took points anymore. Harry couldn’t speak of his secret. Hermione would think that he had lost his mind. A part of himself didn’t want to share it at all. He wanted to keep it as his most private truth.

Cursing himself for being unable to think of anything else, he didn’t notice the door behind him opening and closing. He had just been dressed.

Ron came in and gaped at Harry in awkwardness. “I was just leaving,” said Harry quickly.

“I was - no, you don't have to.” Ron asked.

“It's fine. I’m done.”

“You’re a good Seeker.”

Harry stood still, not knowing what to say. He couldn't remember the last time they had talked. “Thanks, Ron.”

“You saw Smith? The bastard was carrying the Quaffle around for ages up there. Hooch was so mad.”

Harry hadn’t noticed that. “I thought Smith was one of their best.”

Ron sat on the bench and opened his bag to take out clean clothes. “He’s mental. I’d have beaten him up if he had kept doing that.”

“What was he telling Ginny?” Harry asked.

Ron rolled his eyes. “He asked her if she was feeling tired. In the middle of the game. Can you even imagine? Approaching a player of the opposite team to ask that.”

Unsure, Harry sat on the bench too. “Perhaps he likes her.”

Ron made a pause. “Dunno.” He pulled off his shocks, but he didn’t make any other movement. He stared ahead in the wall, and Harry, sitting beside him, felt suddenly the silence growing again.

“I just don’t get it, Harry.” And Harry realised they weren’t talking of Quidditch anymore. “I warned you. I warned you and you broke her heart.”

Harry released his breath. “I know,” he admitted, the shame burning his face once again. "I'm sorry."

"No, you're not."

"I love Ginny," he pressed. "I never wanted to deceive her, I just didn’t know what to believe of myself. I was confused, I thought – I hoped that being with her would drive this thing away.”

“And why didn’t it?” Ron asked. He wasn’t exactly angry, but his voice was cold and bitter. Harry wondered if this was the only chance he’d ever have to fix things. “Why did you choose this instead of – instead of everything? Why choose this over me? Over her? What the hell happened to you?”

Harry had never chosen this; still, all his arguments melted under the possibility of Ron being absolutely right. “I don't know. I haven’t changed. I – this is hard for me too, you know.”

Ron closed his eyes and blurted out his next words fast. “Have you ever thought of me in that way? Because all these years, all these times you’ve seen me naked, for Merlin's sake, all these times, my brothers even…"

"Never," Harry said louder than intended. “You’ve been my best friend for six years. I think you would have figured it out by now if I fancied you.”

“And you never liked Ginny?”

“I did,” Harry said at once. “A lot. But – not like that, as it turned out.”

“And you like… men.”

Harry shook his head in a “sort-of” way. It was the truth, so why was he so afraid to admit it? “I don't know.”

“Are you planning on becoming a woman or anything gross?” Ron asked.

Harry didn’t allow himself to laugh. “Ron,” he said reassuringly.

Ron nodded. “I need to think about this,” he admitted, and Harry was more than happy to imagine that there was a possibility for their friendship. He couldn’t help but feel like he had betrayed Ron by being like this. 

That night, Harry was not so eager to descend to the dungeons. Running the risk of being late for his Occlumency Lesson, however, he forced himself to go. His way was blocked by a group of girls in front of the dormitory door; one of them thrust a red box into his hands. “Chocolate Cauldrons,” the girl said. “They’ve got firewhiskey in them. My gran sent them to me, but I don’t like them.”

“Oh – thanks, I guess,” he said.


Severus tried not to notice Potter staring up at him, eyes carefully darting between his text, the floor, and Severus. He mentally prepared himself for another silent torture caused by this boy as he moved on to the next demonstration of wand movement and the students repeated after him.

The boy’s insolence had stopped following him to class. Severus didn’t know if he should feel thankful for being granted the illusion of still having what little power he could over Potter as a professor.

There had to be a solution hiding somewhere near him, but it wasn’t obvious. His position in this school had been long ago attacked, and it wasn’t Potter who had completely broken it, but his own idiocy and unrealistic optimism. Why did he think that Potter could keep this up? The eyes peering at him during class would not be as suppressing if they didn’t demand an acknowledgment which would only weaken Severus’ resistance in this madness. Vivid though Potter’s emotional breakdown was, Severus had promised himself to turn a blind eye at it until there was no way around it anymore. He regarded his assistance precious, and thus he was not going to offer it unless asked. Politely.

Shutting doors and hiding was futile. Melting away and disappearing into a tiny puddle of nothingness was most likely futile too. The boy was tenacious. Well pleasured that the public displays of rage had ceased, the only thing that was left for Severus to get rid off was the private expressions of emotion and the primitive instincts that came with it.

For his part, instincts like murder.

For the boy’s part, well.

He decided to stall that particular train of thought just as Potter’s eyes fell back to his textbook. It wasn’t theatre. It was hypocrisy. The very act Potter always accused him of. Consoling himself that being nasty to his students was only natural failed to reassure the grip that painfully squeezed his stomach. But why complain about what couldn’t be altered? Potter had a crush on him. End of story. He could cry on Dumbledore’s shoulder and beg for Minerva’s assistance if he fancied, blaming them for not keeping the Golden Boy at a safe distance from his life and for letting the little brat bedraggle him. Facts however were not going to change.

As for his self resenting regarding Potter’s presence in his class, he had every right to. He had made a promise to himself, once, to never be around Potter’s son if it could be helped. On the contrary, the boy had defied his untold wish for peace of mind and had planted himself in Severus’ habits with unprecedented ease.

A flood of composure ran over him as he was reminded of the balance that he had maintained since they got back to school. Dealing with feelings that were not his own was something Severus was never asked to accomplish, and for a beginner he had to admit that his attitude was phenomenal. He was calming Potter. He was training him. Teaching him. Keeping him from committing suicide in a sudden nervous collapse during his insomniac nights.

Severus had done nothing wrong.

“Silence,” Severus warned as a general murmur had begun between the students. “Those who have finished may leave,” he drawled, impatient for the class to end. He felt quite certain that Potter had not the faintest idea of what he was doing to him. He mentally composed a speech filled with hatred directed especially for Potter, although he knew he’d never deliver it. I hate you, he began, the new mantra soothing his nerves down. I wholeheartedly hate you.

Severus damned himself for having a good side. Treating the boy well was an unexpected twist of which he had to often apologise to his mirror at nights. Giving him what he had hoped to find, offering him an extension of their obligational cohabitation, was an unforgivable mistake he could not see how to correct.

A twisted part of his mind was becoming anxious when the time was coming for Potter to visit, and he wished himself damnation for daring to be happy in this renewed version of not minding if what he was doing was dangerous.

Forbidden.

Oh fuck off. Slughorn had been inviting over his students since Severus was a student himself. He didn’t see why this was any different. Or suspicious. Traitorous, yes. His imaginary wiser self had worded the truth to Dumbledore countless times. He’d kneel before Dumbledore’s feet and express his grief for his own humility as Dumbledore accused him of misuse of the Hero’s trust and of taking advantage of a confused and irrational child. Severus had imagined his confession to be humble and honest.

In front of Dumbledore, he managed to still lie successfully, and packed away his regret for his slip of character for the time being. What for, he couldn’t tell. If only psychopaths were as sane as Potter, even in his current collapsing state. His sanity was diverted from a reality that could not stand him. The war, his being an orphan, the loss of his bastard godfather and a prophecy challenging his life were not enough to sooth his youthful desire for exploration. Severus was momentarily torn between applauding his strength of heart and pushing his limits until he eventually snapped.

Severus’ resentment to admit any of the protective desires toward Potter his attitude was insisting that he had developed only frustrated him more. There was venomous desires hiding behind those phenomenally innocent green eyes, and pretending otherwise was threatening to expose a tolerance on behaviors of which he did not approve. He reminded himself that he had privately assisted students before. Private lessons were not new to him. He had been doing this for the best part of the last two decades. Students had visited his office and his chambers numerous times. He had talked to them and he had helped them get through untold and often horrifying situations.

They were all Slytherins. Nevertheless, his students looked up to him and didn’t need to be told that his door was always open to them. It wasn’t different because Potter belonged in another house.

Is this your best argument? The little beast has already sexually attacked you twice.

Potter walked over to his desk and handed him a test for which he had been studying last night while sitting next to him. Severus’ heart stopped. The word “inappropriate” kicked him in the ribs from the inside and fortunately he didn’t have the energy required to squirm.

He nodded stupidly and Potter let his test on the desk, leaving hurriedly to catch up with his friends. He didn’t need to say anything, and Severus was glad for not having to retort to another cheeky or stupid comment.

They’d have all the night for that, and Severus vaguely regretted not having instantly believed Potter’s disclosure when the boy had foolishly opened his heart to him in an attempt to justify what Severus chose to call “doesn’t-count-as-a-kiss”. A fitting name, it was. If he had understood the importance of the information shared back in summer, he’d have obviously stayed away.

But you knew.

He didn’t. He thought it was a phase. He had decided to ignore it to spare himself the restless nights of terror and irony striking him back from a past long ago forgotten and lost in the abyss of mistakes impossible to undo.

Lily wouldn’t want this. Lily would hate to see him near her sweet son. Loath as he was to accept it, her sweet son had another opinion on the subject.

Well. Death was a note unsaid. Death was for the dead. Severus tried hard not to think whom life was for.

Chapter Text

“Harder.”

Severus focused on Potter’s eyes and hardened his stare. A tremor of magic shifted around his head and his vision darkened just as a flash of Petunia's figure passed in front of his eyes. It faded out quickly; the barriers were solid again. Doing this without wands had been a bad idea, but necessary all the same. The close distance they had adopted left little to do with his hands, so Severus clasped them together behind his back and used his will to break in. The intensity of their practice caused Potter’s eyes to water; thankfully, it was caused by lack of blinking and not some dreadful new sentiment of injustice.

What bothered Severus, was that the boy was making it. He imagined the day Potter would master Occlumency and Severus would have no one to specifically applaud him for it. He’d lost his chance to be given congratulations from the school staff when he decided to keep this a secret. An apprehensively urge to struck Potter possessed him. This was the performance he should have had from the beginning. This was what real focusing was.

A hand rested against his chest and Potter bent his head. “This makes me dizzy.”

“It requires a strong mind, I’m afraid. Those who are not as lucky must work.”

“Right.”

“You'd wish to stop?”

“No.” Potter looked up and Severus bore in.

Almost compulsively, Severus avoided the feelings that crushed against him every time Potter’s resistance weakened momentarily. He took the path of memories, poorly sketched into his mind and blurred by the passing of time. Childhood, he could deal with. Tom Riddle, easily.

Anything else was not acceptable.

He took the risk of shifting his eyes to Potter’s fixed jaw and the connection was lost. “You’re tensing all your muscles. Push me out without suffering next time,” Severus said dismissively as he walked passed him and collapsed on the sofa. Potter, of course, followed.

“You read minds like that all the time?”

“No.” Severus didn’t hate his life this much. People's minds was something Severus was not interested in. What people decided to spill out, was hopefully enough.

“Legilimency is not a mind reading spell. The mind has many layers, I’ve told you. Every thought of yours creates a dimension of its own. There is no fluency that can be read or be shown in there.” He pointed at Potter’s head. “Merely interpretations of complex nerve actions.”

“Yes but, do you read your students’ minds?”

All in all, the defiance Potter showed to education was phenomenal.

“No. This cannot be done.”

Potter seemed to consider that. The lack of trust he had developed over the last years for older people was not unexpected, and yet Potter reserved what little faith he had left to put it on Severus. The latest adult promising to look after him in a long list of people who were now dead. Severus couldn’t bring himself to shudder at the thought that he could be next. He spared a passing thought of how mistaken he had been to insist that Potter was arrogant. What he was, was far from that. Potter was clever.

Which was worse.

“But, I don’t understand. Trelawney reads people’s intentions too. Isn’t that a form of Legilimency? Because whatever she does, it works.”

“Does it?"

"Sometimes."

"Divination is not a respectful profession, let alone talent.” Sibyl was unlucky; that was her only ability as far as Severus was concerned. Prophecies weren’t made to be fulfilled. What people tended to do, when explaining their actions as ones of fate, was purely justification of deeds they could not stand to believe as their own.

“Are you friends?” Potter asked. He opened his bag to get out his notebook.

“Homework at midnight. Such a charismatic student you are.”

“My day was a bit busy in case you missed it. Quidditch, you know?”

Severus smirked. “Ah, yes. Huflepuff won, I’ve heard.”

Potter scrunched his face irritatingly, but didn’t respond. Severus decided to push it a little, if only for his own amusement, but Potter stopped him. “You think people would hate me if they knew?”

“Knew what?” choked Severus. A rush of panic struck him. Hopefully not quite visibly.

“That I’m –” Potter took a deep breath, and went on confidently, “gay.”

"Afraid of losing popularity, aren't we?” Severus responded after a pause.

“I don’t think I can keep it a secret for much longer. It’s suffocating me. When I’m out there I feel like I can’t even breathe sometimes.”

Severus watched as Potter’s features were pulled in a fixed expression. “You’re here now.”

What?!

Very well. Do make him feel safe with you.

Or even worse, comfortable.

Potter fished a box of something out of his bag and opened it. It contained chocolates, and Potter shoved one in his mouth hungrily. Did it take so little for Severus to calm him down these days?

“You know,” Potter said, “I’ve really tried to... stay away. I mean, I know it's bothering you. My being here. But I think deep down you might like it too. You're.. stern. You wouldn't let me be here if you weren't approving of it, right?”

Severus eyed him dangerously but Potter’s grin only widened. The hell with it. Snape reached out and took a chocolate. It had firewhiskey in it, and for the life of his he couldn’t remember when was the last time he tasted chocolate.

“I’m obliged to do so.”

Potter snorted, another chocolate on his hand. “Not anymore.”

Point taken. Brilliant.

The box slid off Potter’s lap to the cushions and Severus reached for another chocolate too. “I could safely say,” Severus drawled, “that your company is as nonchalant as people say.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “You could just admit it. You like me. I can tell. People say I'm boring?”

Severus would have responded if a drowsiness hadn’t struck him so profoundly. He blinked his eyes into focus and rested back in the cushions of the couch, deciding to stay there until he felt better.

“I'm not boring. Romilda Vane wants me.”

“Vane?” 

“Yes. Everyone knows it. She always follows me around.”

“Hm. Could it be because of your name or because of your wealth?”

“It’s because she likes me. It can happen, you know.”

The world had many sad people, undoubtedly. “You don't stand a chance."

“Why not?”

“You are nothing but another Potter who believes the world is entitled to him. The girl has brains, she’s not for you.”

“I should ask her out.”

Severus grunted. “It is forbidden for students to date, as you know. This is a school and not a beer house, I am afraid. Romilda Vane takes her education seriously, unlike you.”

“She’s beautiful,” Potter mumbled. “That’s all I’m saying. I never noticed before. I never… noticed.”

She was indeed, possibly the prettiest of her class. For someone as vain as Potter, it wasn’t a wonder that it was the only interesting thing on the girl that had caught his eye.

“Please, Potter. Do you think you're in love with her? Or is she just another possible goal for you? A challenge, perhaps? An achievement to brag about to your filthy friends? Let me tell you, boy, I will not allow you to deceive this girl.”

“You won’t tell me what to do.” Potter exclaimed.

Severus grabbed him and slapped him hard.

“What the-” Potter covered his cheek with a hand immediately and rubbed it.

I want Romilda Vane,” he said dangerously. “And you’ll stay away from her.”

“You? You are a professor. You... can't."

“I don’t care.” Potter was going to stay out of it or he’d pay. “Potters. Always convinced that they deserve anything they want. Full of themselves, thinking life owes them. What is your plan, then? Are you going to pretend, convince her that you’re something better than you are? Isn’t this what Potters do? Alluring girls. Taking advantage of them."

"Have you lost your mind, Snape?"

"I am responsible for the safety of my students. If I see you around her I'll ruin you."

“I will talk to her,” Potter said. "I will ask her out. There is nothing you can do."

“I’ll be her mentor,” Severus decided, plans of confessing his love already taking form inside his head. “She has much to learn from me. You have nothing to give her.”

“You’re hopeless,” breathed Potter, a foolish grin on his face as he made himself comfortable on the couch. “I’m the Chosen One.”

Severus ignored him. At last, he had met a woman of elegance. A woman who knew how to charm a man.

“Hey. I’m straight.” Potter broke into a giggle that ceased suddenly a few seconds later, and Severus couldn’t help but wonder if he was drunk, “Thank God I’m straight.”

“Talk to her, and I might make an announcement in the Great Hall tomorrow morning. About a student named Kevin, perhaps. You filthy poof.”

“No. You can’t.”

Severus thought hard about this. If he was to befriend the girl it would have to be done carefully. He couldn’t afford more mistakes in his career. Let Potter believe that he was free to do what he wanted. He would make his own plan, and this time, he would make sure to let the girl know that Potters were not to be trusted. “She has a will of her own. She’ll choose.”

“But what if she chooses none of us?” Potter asked.

Severus rolled his head to look at Potter’s reddened face. Their eyes met. “And what if she chooses both?”

“I saw her the other day – she was dancing in the middle of the common room – she almost crashed on me by accident,” Potter said sheepishly. “What do you mean both?”

“You will not turn her against me. Not this time. And you know very well what I mean. My office has already turned into a little nest for you these days – why not open it for her too?”

Potter sighed. “I dunno.”

“She does not care,” he said. “It’s your name that does it. Your fame. Do a favour to yourself and stay away.”

Potter shook his head. “I don’t want to.”

Almost asleep, Severus adjusted himself and let his hand rest on his crotch. His fingers brushed his trapped cock softly. “I’d give her everything,” he decided. “And you dare believe you deserve such an angel.”

“You think she’d like to marry me?” Potter asked in a hushed voice. “I’d like to marry her.”

“I'd like to fuck her,” insisted Severus. “And then marry her.”

“I don’t want you around once she says yes. I don’t trust you.” Potter lifted his head from the cushions, but abandoned whatever he was attempting to do and threw it back again. “Beautiful.”

“Your damned father did the same mistake. He’s dead,” Severus recalled. “If you happen to repeat his faults I will personally murder you.”

“It’s not a mistake, it’s the rightest thing,” Harry corrected.

“I’ll have to be careful.” Severus blinked into focus, but lost his concentration again. “I’ll keep her for detention. Find some time alone. Then we’ll see.”

“You think that’s fair? I love her. You don’t. You can’t love.” 

“Can’t I?”

“Her hair is beautiful,” Harry said. “I think I love her as much as I love you.”

Severus sighed and he looked away. “I think I love her that much too.”

Chapter Text

Severus woke up to the assumption that he was losing his mind.

After contemplating the possibility of arranging a visit to St. Mungo to get mentally tested, he covered himself with his blanket and enclosed his thoughts into his execrable meditation. Absolutely certain that some kind of psychosis was beginning to take form inside him, he was relieved at the idea that it had to be a medical problem and not yet another dark curse meant to end him. It explained a lot, undoubtedly; the tension he experienced when around Potter was one of the terrors he had now solved.

To his unfortunate luck, however, his illness was now expanding to younger ages too. His mind ran through his family medical history, and after some time he chose to blame his father’s alcoholism for the doom life had thrown upon him. As he went through his morning routine, he felt torn between accepting the proper medicine proudly or letting the doctors feed it to him.

He recalled the events of the last night with disbelief: confessing to a student that he was planning to assault another student. A fourteen year old one. Then dismissing Potter and immediately locking the door behind him, waiting for the boy to leave so he can jerk off over sexual fantasies concerning a little girl. A girl which he had never liked or even noticed before.

As he thought about it, he felt the urge to argue that even if he was forced, he wouldn’t have sex with her nor would he see her sexually. Embarrassment washed over him and he made a silent promise to never stand near children again. What was wrong with him?

Unable to find a solution to his sorry situation, he dressed himself and prepared his mind for the torture of teaching that was awaiting for him. He waved his wand to move aside the garbage from the floor when he noticed the box of yesterday’s chocolates thrown between two pillows. Sitting on the couch, he took one between his fingers and sniffed at it cautiously.

Potter was dead.

Bursting into a paranoid laughter, he tossed the box in the hearth and watched it burn just as he’d burn Potter’s empty thick head once he saw him. It was unintentional, of course – who could blame Saint Potter anyway? But teaching Potter the delicate art of protecting oneself from enemies, reaching a level where his mind’s barriers could not be broken, and falling into a trap involving love potion?

Potter was dead. He was stupid, immature, impossible, and dead.

Severus would see to it personally. And Dark Lords be damned. As he stormed through the corridors, it occurred to him that regarding Gryffindor the very temple of hypocrisy was showing little of how vicious and evil those little devils could be. If a student of his own House had poured a potion down one’s throat, Severus would be accused of pushing the pupils to dark magic. The staff would give him the stare for a week and Minerva would make a public point of the school’s morals and traditions.

Fuck Minerva, then. Her House was dangerous. When a Gryffindor went off wandering to the dark side there was always comprehension. It was either the poor kid, or the misled prodigal son. For Slytherins there was no excuse; Slytherins were always known as manipulative liars. For them, life was a constant attempt to prove themselves good.

Seeing a student with Gryffindor robes coming out down the stairs, he stopped. “You. Find me Romilda Vane. Tell her that she has fifteen minutes to present herself at the Headmaster’s office and confess her illegal actions against a student – she knows whom,” he snarled at the slightly questioning look. “The Headmaster does not expect her so inform her that should she lie about the reason of her visit I will know, and I will expel her.”

The student paled, and Severus was glad that he still could terrorise the students into doing what he ordered. He had power. At least over some of them.

“Yes sir!”

Utterly horrified, Severus kept striding the stairs and corridors until he reached the door he was looking for. He slammed it open and was aware of a crowd of stupid faces looking up at him. Minerva looked surprised too.

Scanning the class quickly, he located Potter and pursed his lips. “May I borrow Potter for a moment?” he asked casually, and was aware of yelps of shock coming from the back of the class.

“Yes, of course,” said Minerva, giving him a look that communicated all the questions he’d have to bear afterwards. Potter exited the class without looking at him. The door was slammed close again and Severus walked over to an empty classroom. He pointed in.

Locking the door behind them and casting a soundproof spell, he grabbed Potter by the collar and pushed him against the wall. “Why must you cause me troubles?” he hissed. He clenched his fist to stop it from punching Potter’s face.

“I – I didn’t know, I swear, I woke up and –”

“You didn’t know because you are shortsighted and utterly stupid!” he barked. “What have I been teaching you the whole year, huh? Why am I wasting my time on you if you don’t care to think? Is your brain completely damaged, Potter? Has the Killing Curse broken your skull?”

Driven by impulse, Severus dug his nails on Potter’s throat. “Tell me what would have happened if you offered me a chocolate before I took it on my own. Hasn’t your sweet Horace told you the instructions? I believe you know.”

Potter gaped, his enragement lost somewhere between controlling himself and letting embarrassment be obvious on his face.

“Well, tell me, Potter!”

Potter looked down, then up to Severus. “You would have fallen for me for a while, because I’d have given the love potion to you.”

In other words, not a goddamned big deal.

The point Severus was trying to make was slipping further away and Potter didn’t seem to catch the severity of it. “I would have thrown myself on you,” Severus said deranged. “And I would have to resign and leave my life behind forever. Because of you.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose! Why do you have to blame me for everything? And get your hands off me,” he spat while pushing Severus back. Severus stepped away quickly.

“Miss Vane is already explaining herself to the Headmaster,” he informed Potter. “I’m not blaming you for drinking the potion. I am blaming you for accepting the gift in the first place. Fame, you silly boy, comes with risk. Proud though you may be of it, if you’re not careful enough it might just as well kill you.”

Potter’s stunned expression was exactly what he was aiming for. Inwardly, he congratulated himself for making an arrogant Potter eventually shut up. Outwardly, he smirked.

“You sent her to Dumbledore?” Potter’s disbelief wasn’t exactly what he desired to see at the moment. Terror and regret would make a much better image. Tears of apology and of pain for lack of thinking.

“Indeed, Potter. It seems that not all Gryffindors can avoid the school rules and remain unpunished for it.”

“So you’re telling me that she went to Dumbledore and said that professor Snape wanted her to be punished for slipping me a love potion.”

“Precisely.”

“But the potion was given to me. How are you going to justify that you knew?”

Severus stared speechless and was in awe. Potter had not just outsmarted him. He had done it by pointing out the obvious. A dim aspect of his consciousness woken up from a deep restless sleep and began to work furiously, investigating the right answer to this new hell. How was he supposed to know what the girl did? And why would he care?

He had dug his grave and was happily waiting to be thrown in. He was stupid. He was startled by his own idiocy. Leaving Potter standing there, he marched off to Dumbledore’s office and found Romilda Vane wiping her eyes with a napkin. Dumbledore dismissed her and Severus took her seat on what he chose to call in the dock. A new death penalty created by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. May the Lord, named Albus Dumbledore, show mercy on him.

Dumbledore greeted him and Severus waited for his crucifixion. Dumbledore toyed with his wand and began the game where he smiled until Severus eventually snapped. Persistent though he was to push the limits on his behalf, Severus was weak at heart when it occurred to patience, and he’d damn himself before he prolonged this hell any longer.

“Potter has been visiting me in my chambers nearly nightly since the term’s start. I’m teaching him how to Occlude his mind. I hid it from you because you wouldn’t approve.”

There. Now he was a free man.

Well. Free of guilt.

As a citizen he severely doubted the future of his freedom.

“Occlumency,” Dumbledore said, surprised. The poker face stilling his features reminded Severus that patience was made for these moments. “Is he making progress?”

“Yes. He’s fighting it without a wand now.”

Dumbledore pointed his wand at Severus for an instance and Severus froze at spot, awaiting for a curse. An unforgivable one, definitely. Dumbledore shifted his wand again between his fingers as he was toying with it, and Severus was left under the impression that he was being mocked.

“I was aware that he hadn’t been sleeping,” Dumbledore said calmly.

“His sleep has been problematic for a long time. I’m not at fault for it.”

“Aren’t you?” Dumbledore grinned and Severus’ vital instinct warned him to run. His civilised self, however, forced him to steel his control for the task of accepting all the accusations.

Deep down, he knew he deserved it.

“The nature of your relationship is professional.”

Unlikely. But it wasn’t a question. “Absolutely.”

“Hm. What happened last night?”

Severus went on recounting the events of the previous night. He carefully left out his own arousal and whatever ungodly he had talked about with Potter. All in all, his story had gaping holes screaming for attention, but Dumbledore didn’t poke at them.

“…He left before midnight. I didn’t know I had been poisoned until today. It wasn’t Amortentia, so I suspect it had to be from Zonko’s. As you imagine, I don’t want to see the girl in my class ever again.”

Dumbledore clasped his hands on the table. “That can be arranged. Besides, she only knows about Harry.”

Severus nodded. A minute passed in silence and this time Severus failed to mind his tone. “Do you want me to keep him away?” The fear that croaked in his voice was a sinful sign of being human, he told himself. He didn’t believe it.

Dumbledore let out a snort and Severus was close to shoving his reddish pet bird up his arse for not making an effort to treat Severus as he should. “It is to be expected, my boy. Lily herself was willing to stay away from her own son, if it could save him. How can I trust you being close with the boy when your duty is to surrender to Voldemort and kiss his feet? It’s a risk I cannot take.” Severus wanted to explain, but Dumbledore raised up a finger. “What is surprising, however, is that you don’t want to keep away from him.”

Severus gaped at the profound expression of words he could not honestly disagree with. He wished Potter was here, so he could make this his fault somehow, for he was exposed to a treacherous trap in which he could merely play along. He did want to be near Potter. Denying it was an act in vain. It did not work. Whatever he did to push Potter away had only brought him closer.

“I’m teaching him,” he said stupidly.

“And he’s making progress,” Dumbledore said, the energy back on his face. “So, from now on, I believe I can take care of it myself.”

Severus was out of it. He told himself he should be glad. His conscience argued that this conversation had occurred before, and it hadn’t worked. “No.”

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.

“I’d sooner die than hurt him. I’ve done nothing against him nor have I taken advantage of him.”

He made sure to stress out his last words. Fawkes spread his wings and flew to the other side of the room. “I trust you with my life. If you hurt him, it’ll be unintentionally, I am sure. What would young Draco think if he accidentally saw him coming out of your rooms? I would think he’d inform his parents of you assisting Harry. And I also believe Voldemort would kill you for treachery.”

And I’d be useless to you then, wouldn’t I?

“Headmaster,” he started, “give me a chance and I can do this right. He’s being careful.”

“I trust you,” repeated Dumbledore.

“Well you don’t trust me enough!” snapped Severus. And then preferred having bitten his tongue instead.

Severus counted to one hundred and he hadn’t calmed when Dumbledore spoke. “It must be important to you, then. You may assist him once a week. Saturdays, let’s say. Never after midnight.”

Why was he doing this again?

He was suddenly attacked by a voice screaming take your privacy back and go and another one viciously repeating the word “alcohol”.

“Oh, and something else. Do read the Witch Weekly tomorrow.”

“Why? What is it?” His stomach dropped at the thought of another attack he should have participated to but never did. He’d have to somehow explain it to the Dark Lord.

“Harry made some revelations this morning.”


It was all over the front paper: THE BOY WHO LIVED: WANDS OR CAULDRONS?

Proud and impudent, Harry Potter could not bear to remain in the closet after so many years of secrecy and fake relationships made to revive his venerable social image. Yesterday morning, in front of his innocent and modest classmates, Harry Potter confessed, between heartbreaking sobs, that he has been suffering from the mental illness every man fears and every woman is frustrated to meet: homosexuality.

Vincent Crabbe, one of Harry Potter’s closest friends, admits that he was suspecting it for a long time. At the question, “Is our global star really gay?” he responds: “He never looked normal anyway, did he?”

Hermione Granger, his long-term relationship, refused to express her sorrow, although the betrayal was easy to be seen in her red, swollen eyes.

Severus cringed visibly at the paper and rolled it. “Between heartbreaking sobs,” he muttered as he gave it back to Minerva. Minerva smiled at him in a circumspect way only she knew how to master.

She glanced at the Gryffindor table and then back to her steak. Potter was laughing about something with Granger. “Do we know what actually happened?” Severus asked, and immediately regretted it. Curiosity towards the boy’s life was not acceptable. He vaguely wondered when he’d stop trying to convince himself that Potter was a stranger to him.

He is.

“During breakfast, I believe he was discussing something of personal nature with Hermione Granger. Another student heard them, asked if he had heard right, and then the whole table was talking about it,” she said irritatingly. Apparently she did not approve of her students being the little snoopers that they were. “Harry made them stop by telling them that he was, in fact, gay, and that they could stop talking to him for all he cared.”

Severus bit back a snort as he remembered his place in the world. At last, Potter was learning. “And you were so touched by his bravery that you gave, how many exactly, points to him?”

“Points?” she asked in a faked shock Severus knew too well. “About that? Absolutely none, of course. He earned his points later in my class.”

Ah. Little windows for Potter to fly out of when all the doors were locked. This was what Severus loved. This talent of always winning without even wishing to do so. Potter had fallen into a cauldron with Felix Felisis long before he stepped foot in Hogwarts, and was now enjoying his shining fate. Severus made a mental note to investigate the unluckiness of people stuck with lucky little bastards.

Potter didn’t look at him as Severus observed his new lightness at the weight having been lifted off his shoulders. A person without secrets looked always happier; healthier. A stabbing sensation wormed its way further into Severus as he watched with narrowed eyes the whole world around Potter still existing and going on, and Potter at last moving along with it. The greatest secrets were always hidden in the most unlikely places. Severus didn’t hold the dirty secret anymore. Potter’s need for someone who “understood” had solved itself out. All for the best.

The gaping hole that had been ripped open in Severus’ chest feared of what this new twist might bring. The part of him that was ready for this and had been warning him all along inwardly celebrated his need for peace eventually fulfilled. Clinging desperately to reason, Severus ignored his sudden anger and settled down to be happy with the boy’s decision to be the part of the world that was missing. His existence was now worthy. And Potter’s decision to cease quailing had been put into action at best moment. The news of decreasing their meetings to weekly had come easier and Potter had little time to think about it.

Severus hoped so.

The pitiful wreck that Severus’ own existence was could not comprehend why he had to be the first to know. He opened his eyes and watched his plate in disbelief. Out of his chambers few things seemed real. Eating a mouthful of what tasted like ash, he settled to go on with whatever life brought him and forget the little oasis in the desert that had been shoved into his hands forcefully. Oasis? No. Prison.

“He’s a clever boy,” Minerva stated, and Severus was startled at the conversation still going on. “I wonder why you can’t see that.”

But he could, and cleverness was what he feared the most in Potter. Cheek. Desire to be himself in ways no polite human being expressed without permission. An innocent happiness when getting pleasure from simple things. An innocent happiness that did not match Potter’s dark thoughts. Towards him.

Damn.

Trying not to make his calming breath obvious, his eyes averted from Minerva and he abruptly abandoned his dinner. Gathering his things, he excused himself and set off to a quick pace as he strode to his chambers. His living room was cold when he reached it, and he didn’t bother lighting the hearth as no one would visit tonight. Changing into his bedclothes he locked his door and collapsed on the bed, contemplating about a particular bottle of scotch awaiting for consumption back home. He supposed he should feel some gratitude that he’d at last sleep early. His thoughts trailed off to the other boy that needed his help and he pondered this new misery of being unable to occupy himself with anything but the adolescence of which he had graduated ages ago.

His mark irked and he rubbed his left arm absently. If he had been conscious enough to hate himself for it, he would have done it when Potter attacked him the summer. He would have slammed the boy against a wall and beat him until he begged for forgiveness for his terrible action. The blurry images of his memory didn’t thoroughly satisfied him though, and the parts he was missing were enough for him to not completely know how it had happened.

Not that it mattered.

Or that he was going to think about it now.

Potter was free, Severus ought to sleep, and life went on.

Congratulations to one Albus Dumbledore, moral enough to save the day.

Chapter Text

He didn’t know how much more he could tolerate. He dragged the boy who stumbled behind him and mumbled nonsense with trembling lips.

“Shut up,” Severus hissed.

A sob was sucked hard and Draco snapped. “Kill— killed — them… You… killed…”

He spun around and struck the boy hard. “Shut up. Nothing happened, you understand? Nothing. Move on.”

The whining protests didn’t cease. All too quickly the mere itching in Severus’ lungs escalated to pain, and he strode at the corridors with heavy steps. The dungeons were empty and silent after midnight, and he released Draco from his grip with disgust. “You shamed your father. Next time do as you’re told.”

“I – I – I couldn’t, I –”

Severus pushed him against the wall hard. “You could. You didn’t want to. You showed weakness.”

“HOW COULD YOU?!” Draco screamed, the back of his head pressing on the wall. He closed his eyes shut. “I don’t want to – I… I don’t…” Tears ran down his cheeks and Severus had to steel himself against flinching away.

“You don’t want to?” he whispered in Draco’s ear. “No one asked your opinion, Draco.” Another choked sob and Severus had to grab the boy’s shoulders to keep him from sliding down the wall.

“What did you tell him when he asked for you?” he asked as his own panting subsided.

“Nothing.”

“We cannot afford mistakes, Draco, if you tell me your plan –”

“No! He… doesn’t want anyone to know.”

Draco averted his gaze; he was lying then. “Tell me your plan and I’ll help you. Tell me and I’ll make it happen. Do you want him to see you break? Do you want him to kill your father?”

“No!”

“Then tell me. You need to have an abettor in this, you can’t play it out it without a back up plan in your mind. Think! What if you fail?”

“I –”

“What if you fail, Draco? Do you want to see your mother dead? He’ll show no mercy, I am sure.”

Draco’s features twitched before he broke into another whimper. Snot and tears ran down his face. Severus held his breath and kept down the nauseating sentiment that threatened to rip his insides in two.

“There is that room,” he croaked. His voice broke. “That room, you know, it appears when – pops up and is – helpful – there’s a cabinet – it’s – it’s broken but if I can fix it – if I can fix this it – have you seen… Borgin and Burkes’ Cabinet?”

Severus nodded stupidly as his mind worked over the information. “It has a twin.”

“Yes. It’s – it’s a good plan. My plan. I don’t want you in it. You must let me do it myself.”

Severus nodded, but didn’t release him. “When is it going to happen?”

“That’s not your concern!”

That was enough for now. “Go wash yourself before anyone sees you. Quick.” He stepped back and Draco fled to the Slytherin’s common room.

Severus was aware of his heart being close to exploding as he arrived to his chambers and let his cloak fall down. He closed his eyes and the world started spinning. He opened them again and thought that the world wasn’t a place he liked to see. There were few things worth living for, a fewest things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for. The intensity of what he had done sank into his bones and made his head throb by a doubling pain. His conscience was divided in two and his arm burned.

Severus imagined the headlines, Death Eaters eradicate Muggle village, and exhausted, kneeled on his carpet. Through the mark, he could sense the Dark Lord’s pride. He could barely focus his vision; when he did so, he saw a head hovering at the far end of the room. He gave a nonchalant grunt and willed the image away by shutting his eyes.

When he opened them again he saw blur. Potter’s flying head approached him in silence. He dropped on the floor in front of him and took off the cloak. He gaped.

It occurred to Severus that he should say something. A dim part of his mind screamed that Potter had no business being here. A much more painful part wallowed in embarrassment for the state that Potter was seeing him in. “Is that blood?” Potter whispered.

Once, Tom Riddle decided to have it all, and the world had never been the same since. How long would it take for the world to get back the humane emotions that were slowly growing before the war? How long would it take the calloused hearts of men before the scars of hatred and cruelty could be removed?

People were reading of killing in the papers. They were reading about it and they rejoicing  in it – taking pleasure from the importance going on around them. They were being fed on flesh and blood. How many upright, honourable young boys were to be charged with murder, some saved and some to be sent to their death? When would the war end? Severus wouldn’t likely live to see it.

Boys like Draco, they were brought up in it. The tales of death were in their homes, their playgrounds, their common rooms; they were not in the newspapers that they read; they were a part of the common frenzy – but what was a life? It was nothing. It was the least sacred thing in existence and his boys, his own students, were to be trained to this cruelty.

“Get that off,” snapped Potter, and Severus was startled.

“What are you doing here?” he croaked. “Leave.” The bitterness he’d prefer was absent from his voice. If he was to argue with Potter, he needed strength. He didn’t have it. “Leave.”

He was aware of fingers quickly unbuttoning his coat and he half raised his arms so Potter could take it off. Severus was a coward. Until he had the courage to recognise cruelty for what it was, he was a scum. He could not have peace among men whose hearts delighted in killing any living creature. He was one of them nevertheless.

His shirt was ripped open too and Potter stopped. Severus looked down at his torso and it occurred to him that Potter was expecting to see him wounded. The wild eyes peering at him communicated that the right realisation had just sank in. Welcome to reality. I’m a murderer. 

He didn’t dare to talk. Potter stood up, too quickly perhaps, and Severus failed to focus his eyes on Potter’s feet. The boy stepped back, and then Severus was left alone.


“You need to go to the hospital wing. There may be a certain amount of scarring, but if you take dittany immediately we might avoid even that... Come…” Draco attached himself to Severus and limbed his way to the door. “And you, Potter… You wait here for me.”

As he led Draco to the hospital wig he considered his options between killing the brat and locking him in a torture chamber until he confessed how he knew his spell. He recalled  hearing that Potter was succeeding in Potions, and being suspicious but still doing nothing to investigate it any further. His irritation soared to agony as Draco swore and panted more than necessary.

“I want him expelled! He tried to slaughter me, the filthy mudblood lover! My father is going to –”

“Your father is going to be lucky if he gets out of prison in one piece,” Severus barked as he shoved Draco in the infirmary and informed Poppy of what had happened. She nodded and soothed Draco, who insisted that a most likely nonexistent pain was tearing him apart. Severus made an effort to not roll his eyes and left to face the second part of this nightmare.

He swallowed back a venomous wave of self-loath and ignored the still audible cries of Draco that sickened him to a point that he toyed with the idea of quitting. He would have taken great pleasure in leaving this place forever. Perhaps starting a life of his own — although he wouldn’t know what to do with it. And who’d care? Destroy it. That’s what he’d do.

He didn’t have to go away to do that.

Approximately, there had been four or five situations in his life which he had come to the conclusion that he could not handle. Regret, he recalled, was something he was not willing to endure. Not because he watched Draco slip away from him to a life that stole away the best of Severus and not because he’d have to watch taking away Draco’s innocence too. Thoughts in vain. Stupid thoughts.

Deciding against self-redemption, he allowed the acid burn his mouth and transform into ashes all the things he desired to say and he never would.

Instead, “Go.” The Myrtle jumped into a stall and a splashing sound indicated that she had wormed her way into the toilet to occupy herself with another place in the castle.

“I didn’t mean it to happen,” said Potter at once. “I didn’t know what that spell did.”

A chill ran through Severus and he was momentarily aghast. Well. A Potter who didn’t attempt murder before graduation is not a Potter. “Apparently I underestimated you, Potter,” he said quietly. “Who would have thought you knew such Dark Magic? Who taught you that spell?”

He didn’t expect the truth. All the same, either Black had spilled it out, or Potter had stolen from him again. “I — read about it somewhere.”

“Where?”

“It was — a library book,” Potter fought to catch his breath and Severus wanted nothing more than beat him into obedience. Or beg for the problems to disappear. “I can’t remember what it was call —”

“Liar,” Severus hissed. It took barely a moment to push himself into Potter’s mind and follow the path of his anxiety to find what he was hiding. Moments before success, Potter pushed him out and the room was solid around them again.

“Where, Potter?”

Potter darted his eyes from Severus to the bloodied floor and back. Against all reason, Severus was loath to believe this was really happening. Narcissa would have his head. Dumbledore would have a nasty comment at the tip of his tongue too. May he bite it and may he choke.

“It was written in a potions book I’ve had found a couple of years ago,” Potter said too quickly. “I tried to find it again a few months ago but I couldn’t. I suppose someone took it.”

“Someone,” he said lowly. “Not you.”

“No. Sir.”

Courtesy at the most bizarre of the situations. Bravo.

The urge to feel remorseful had most assuredly not attacked Potter yet. The splitting headache that Severus had developed over the last hour was only a mere irritation at what Potter was doing to him.

“Should you know who has that book… you are to inform me instantly.” Or else, he wanted to add. But couldn’t thing of a threat or a blackmail that could disturb Potter’s paradise of freedom. Damn. He needed alcohol. He needed not adolescents. Developing a fetish for protecting little boys was not in his to do list.

“Yes sir. I don’t know who has it, sir.”

Liar? No. Trickster.

“I believe you’ll find out, then. And I expect you to bring it to me.”

In other words, I give you a few days to confess.

Potter fled and Severus was left stepping in a puddle of water and blood. Ah, but it’s pure, a voice mocked inside his head and Severus shut it forcefully. Cleaning up the mess, he thought of the foolish belief that life hinged on the moment, that everything changed in the blink of an eye. Severus knew the truth of that as well as anybody. It was in those moments that he struck, after all, snatching people's lives away. He'd always known that it was only a matter of time before one of those moments worked against him.

Not that he ever questioned authority. Whether it was called Voldemort or Dumbledore, or Fate, he was always hunched and kneeling before it. It was duty. It was a theatrical play he’d either participate in or die. When he was a teenager, he had accepted his own story. Once upon a time, there was a boy, and he had to risk everything to keep what he loved. But really, the story was: Once upon a time, there was a boy, and his fear ate him alive.

As a man, this fear was absent. Killed. Vanished. He saw himself in Potter’s eyes and could not understand it. He saw himself in Draco’s eyes and felt disgust. Whenever his environment had failed to support or save him, he had clutched at himself, and thus, he had survived. A part of himself damned the protective instinct he had developed for Potter and was failing to honestly develop for Draco. And while he cared for Draco too, there was a line somewhere there that was making all the difference. He couldn’t point his finger at it.

The Myrtle was back again, and she fluttered her eyes at him smiling. “Are you not going to use the loo?” she said glumly. “I wanted to see you.”

“Do you call this flirting?” he spat absently. He waved his wand towards the floating ghost and the wall dried off the water.

“I’m not flirting you, I know,” she said.

“Know what?” Another wave of his wand and the faucet was repaired. 

“Some time after I died, there were another two boys that locked the bathroom door and told me to leave them alone. I know what they did,” she said sullenly, and then grinned. “I watched them.”

Severus creased an eyebrow and fought a sudden impulse to conjure the castle from all ghosts.

“Did you do the same with Harry?”

“Myrtle,” he said carefully. “Have you ever smelled incense?”

At the loud gasp of terror Severus smirked.

Chapter Text

Dumbledore sighed. “Well done, Severus.”

“I will be suspected.”

The newspaper laid open on the table; a moving picture demonstrated how the infamous corner of Borgin and Burke’s was mysteriously burned to ashes last night. Under the picture, the caption claimed: “Cause, undetermined. Presumably accidental.

“Why would they?”

“Why wouldn’t they?” Severus asked. “The Malfoys must have been aware of Draco’s plan. Bellatrix never trusted me.” He rolled the Prophet and absently let it unfold again. “There were no witnesses, however, and the cabinet’s twin is completely destroyed.”

Dumbledore trailed his lips with a long finger. “Young Malfoy will have other things to take care for now. If your Lords asks you, we’ll see.”

“If my Lord asks me, we won’t have time to see, I think.” Cradling his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees, Severus tried to focus after twenty eight hours of sleep deprivation. “You should leave the castle for your safety before the term ends.”

“There is no need to rush, Severus.”

“No need to rush? They want you dead. He told me he believes Draco to be a waste of time. You didn't think that he relies on a teenager for this, did you? I’m next.”

Dumbledore fell into skeptical silence; they had discussed this before. “I want you to postpone their plans until summer.”

“And then?”

“Then, I have a plan of my own,” Dumbledore responded simply, and the boiling rage that had been melting Severus’ brain for the last hour almost snapped. Inwardly, he was a mess. Outwardly, he was expected to still be Severus Snape.

“A plan, which I suppose I’m not trustworthy enough to know.”

Dumbledore seemed to be aware of Severus’ state of mind, but didn’t glance at him for more than a second. “In time. Has Harry agreed to his new schedule?”

“I’m following orders I know nothing about and I’m expected to agree to plans I’m not aware of? I believe I deserve to know.”

“In time.”

Severus swallowed the bitter bile of threats he wouldn’t make and surrendered. “I haven’t seen Harry but in class this month. He came to my office for his lesson a few weeks ago but when he realised that he’d only train for an hour per week he stopped coming.”

“And he didn’t tell you why?”

“No.” He didn’t have to. “Besides, he has a life now.”

Dumbledore chuckled. “Yes, although some of his friends are still struggling with the new reality. They’ll accept it, let’s hope. Eventually, he will be proud.”

“I imagine this comes easily from someone who never attempted so.”

“If I revealed myself when he did, he’d feel less alone in this — but then the owls would begin to come and the parents would accuse me of molesting their children and turning them gay. I have a school to rule, you see.”

Severus nodded.

“Harry is going to be fine. You don’t need to worry.”

“I don't.”

“Harry brought me what I needed. I suspect he used Felix Felicis to access it, and Hagrid had a rather funny story to tell me about it.”

Severus creased his brow in expectation but decided against interrupting him.

“This memory… confirms my greatest theory, the one I’ve been working on the past years – but also proves that there is so much to be done. The significance of it… it explains everything.”

“You care on expanding on that or are you just informing me of your delight?”

“I am going on a trip soon and I’ll take Harry with me. I want you to protect the school and be very careful while I’m gone.”

Severus was a spy. For whichever side it may be, he was still a spy and used to secretly gather information. If the Dark Lord had anything to save him from dying, it had to be Horcruxes. And if Marvolo’ ring was a Horcrux and it was now destroyed, that only meant that there were more Horcruxes. In how many pieces could a human being split its soul? And would it still be a human being afterwards? If living without a soul was possible, were they still talking about humans – or was the Dark Lord an entirely different creature?

Questions he could not ask. He was expected to suspect nothing about all this. The very mention of a Horcrux in this room could mean his death. “As you wish.”


Whatever Dumbledore and Potter’s adventure was, it ended ingloriously, with Dumbledore panting his lungs out and Potter banging at Severus’ door to wake him up and have him help them. He had no choice but comply, for habit was a better master than duty and Severus couldn’t tell whose arse he was currently licking. Duty, he remembered, once meant thinking for himself. Now it was lost somewhere between thinking to himself and thinking for others.

So he followed Potter to the Astronomy Tower and managed not to scowl at Dumbledore’s poisoned form hunched over the floor. He did scowl when Potter avoided his stare, determined to convince him that there had never been anything more between them. He did scowl when it occurred to him that this used to happen the other way around, and that there had most certainly been absolutely nothing more. They helped Dumbledore to a sitting position and Severus hurried to take him to his chambers, if only to avoid the tremendous ghosts and the possible wandering students. Dumbledore chuckled all along, humouring with fantasies of his future funeral and complaining that he did not need any help, he could walk perfectly well, thank you very much.

Severus didn’t speak to Potter as he closed the door to his face and Dumbledore collapsed again. He didn’t speak to Dumbledore either as he gave him a strengthening potion and a healing one. He didn’t ask where they were and what they had been doing. He casted several spells to check Dumbledore’s blood pressure and fever and went through his books to see what else he could do. Dumbledore only bothered to inform him that the cause of his fever was poison half an hour later. Severus swore and fumed, but what did it matter?

The morning came and Severus hadn’t slept. Once the sun arose, Potter stormed in uninvited and demanded to see Dumbledore. Severus waited outside, for he was not as mature or wise to swallow down crucial war information as a sixteen year old was. Dumbledore managed to walk steadily and stated that he wished to be left alone so he could prepare himself for breakfast. When Severus saw him again in the Great Hall, his face betrayed nothing.

Dumbledore seated himself in the centre of the head table and Severus decided to let McGonagall take his usual seat next to him. Having lost his appetite himself, he poked hatefully at his pancakes and glanced at the Slytherin table regularly.

Focusing on the upcoming N.E.W.T.s and O.W.L.s he ought to prepare, Severus blocked out both Dumbledore and Potter and occupied his mind with the simple tasks he was allowed access to: Teaching. Scheduling examinations. Keeping away from Golden Hero.

But really, how useful he was. Blessed.

His first class of the day was first-years. He had a headache by his third class, and when the sixth years came in he managed to successfully not look at Potter and not be intrigued by his insolence and fight back. He took the points he should when Potter whispered to his friends and failed to remind the Gryffindors of how disgusting they were before the bell rang.

When his mark burned his arm, and his veins throbbed from wrist to shoulder, he hadn’t thought yet of how to postpone Dumbledore’s murder without being suspicious. He didn’t understand why Dumbledore remained here, while knowing how easy it’d be for Severus to kill him, and thus obvious for the Dark Lord to ask him to. Severus dreaded the next Death Eater meeting and dreaded the Malfoys too, and Draco had yet to blame him for the twin cabinets and the fire. All in all, Severus knew nothing.

Nothing of what the Mafoys thought, or his master, or his other master. Or Potter.

Well.

Unopened gifts contained hope.

Severus clung to it.

Dumbledore’s invitation for tea that afternoon could just as well be an invitation to limbo for eternal whipping under the commands of justice. He declined the tea but went to Dumbledore’s office anyway to hear what Dumbledore really wanted to say.

“My plan,” Dumbledore started, but he explained only Severus’ part in it.

When the detailed description was finished, and Dumbledore pointed out that he was planning to inform Harry soon too, Severus only hoped he would have the chance to see the boy’s face while doing so.


He did have the chance to watch Potter’s face through it, and the consolation was Severus’ to seek. He didn’t remember having agreed to this.

“I seem to remember telling you that I will reveal everything to you when the time comes, Harry.”

Potter glanced at Severus for a backing he wouldn’t give. He turned to Dumbledore. “But apparently that time hasn’t come and yet you still expect me to act like a coward and go hide somewhere. I don’t want that, sir. With all respect. I want to fight. I don’t like this.”

“You will fight, Harry. You are already doing so. You will only hide to protect yourself until the time comes.”

“No. I don’t even know where — this place is. I don’t get it. I want to stay here.”

“A safe house. The location will be shifting - as long as you stay in it it will be taking you with it. I wouldn't have chosen this, Harry, but you will soon be of age and your aunt’s house will fail to protect you.”

“Hogwarts, then.”

“Hogwarts is not safe anymore.”

“Then nothing is!”

“We will escort your family to a safe location. Your aunt’s house should be emptied before your birthday, for their own sake.”

Potter didn't like it. And Severus found himself being less amused than he’d thought.

“Why not Grimmauld’s Place?”

“The Order will need to focus on —”

“On not protecting me. You don't want me there so they can work on their plans without worrying about my safety. I want to be in the Order, sir — I want to be useful. I have to be useful. I’ve trained.”

Severus’ mind drifted to his past conversation with Dumbledore and searched for the parts that had been missing. Or the retouched ones. He could clearly recall this urgency for Potter to hide in a safe house for the summer as well as Dumbledore’s dilemma between taking Potter with him in his mysterious haunting and leaving him out of it for the time being.

And to summarise the conviction that Dumbledore’s invitation for tea had been, the Dark Lord’s to do list concluded to put down Dumbledore, to break out a war, and kill Potter before Potter killed him. In that order. Dumbledore’s own agenda was to discover whatever he was looking for, presumably Horcruxes, make sure Potter would complete the mission should he fail, and protect Hogwarts at all costs.

“What about Hermione and – what about my friends, sir? Are they not going to be in danger too? Why can’t I fight? Why keep me away? I don’t understand.”

It was impossible to understand Dumbledore’s motives. The boy should have known better.

“You will.”

“In time,” added Potter, bitterly.

Severus’ agenda, on the other hand, was simpler. All he had to do was to blissfully await for orders to finish Draco’s job, and then decide whether he’d refuse and have the Dark Lord kill him for treachery, or drop his cover, become useless, and get killed anyway.

He could always finish the job, of course.

Severus remained silent as Dumbledore kept explaining only the necessary fragments of this schedule to Potter.

“You will not be alone. Severus will teach you.”

Severus will teach no one, he thought. Severus will be left alone.

“Will you not, Severus?”

Severus mentally rose his middle finger to the man, and was positively sure that Dumbledore was wholly aware of it. He nodded.

This was not something he could not recall being mentioned. And while Potter had found the strength to leave him alone for the last month, it was stunningly cruel of Dumbledore to leave this little detail out until the last moment. Severus listened in awe to his afflicter.

“Sir, with all respect,” Potter said from the chair across him, “If what you say is true and a war is going to break out soon, I don’t think I can stay out of it. I refuse. Voldemort has been hunting me all my life, and now you want me to hide?”

It was curious, indeed. Severus himself could not assume much of it and it only seemed foolish to postpone a battle long ago reserved between the two. If the boy was to get himself killed, better do it fast. What good could it make to buy Potter some time in exile? The sooner it happened, the better.

“Harry...”

Potter was frightened, Severus thought. Frightened by the idea of war, the possibility of dying and the duty of killing. It occurred to him that Potter was too young for this, and yet his foolish bravery was insisting to offer himself in a sacrifice for the greater good of a world that hated him.

“Why not now? If we let him begin a war people will die. So why not now? People will die.” Frightened and desperate.

And he did have a point so to speak. Severus arched a brow at Dumbledore, meaning that he would demand an honest explanation later. He received an imperceptible nod that only assured him that he’d be fed rubbish once again. If Dumbledore wanted him to do this, he’d have to confess first.

Under torture most likely.

“Now, as spectacular as it would be to blow up the school this very evening, I am afraid that I have not completed my mission yet, and thus you cannot be exposed to Voldemort.”

Bollocks.

“Now, the details.”

The details of the great safe house he was going to lock Potter in for the summer did not interest Severus, and he doubted that Potter was listening either.

Severus, for his part, had yet to find why he was pinned on this blasted chair witnessing the light leaving Potter’s eyes as he was slowly accepting his doom.

“And Severus will visit you whenever he can,” Dumbledore said at last. Potter left, and Severus didn’t need to be told to stay for just a word.


"So the boy… the boy must die?" asked Severus.

"And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential."

He didn’t want Severus to train him. He wanted to use him as a feint, to keep Potter away so he would not die accidentally by some random Death Eater with a false temper. The boy was carrying a part of the Dark Lord’s soul. A Horcrux. It all made sense. A thread of spikes clutched around his heart and he had to suppress a choking sound that was either laughter or an Unforgivable. "I thought… all these years… that we were protecting him for her. For Lily."

Dumbledore tried to explain, going through all the details that were always there, all the hints that Severus should have seen but hadn’t, all the mistakes that had been done and couldn’t be taken back, all the truths that were just before his eyes but was refusing to see because he had never imagined that betrayal would come from the hand that was feeding him. He had the right to know. All these years, he had the right to know.

A pathetic voice inside him insisted that Potter couldn’t die. Shouldn’t. And let the world be damned.

Dumbledore looked at him. Severus’s stomach had turned to ice, a vice grip around it causing an ache that spread inside him like a poison.

"You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?...” He had taught Potter to seal his mind. He had put effort to it. It took almost a year to perfect it. “You have used me… I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to keep him safe.”

A faint part of himself burst into laughing at the unfairness of the fact that the only person that had ever liked him unconditionally and kept coming back to him despite his abuse and rejection was now going to die, and he’d have to personally see to it.

“Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter…” His words trailed off as he recalled Potter’s trust to this man, and his trust to Severus. He would have to lie to Potter. To set up another farce, this time under the excuse of “training” while they’d wait for Potter to die.

“But this is touching, Severus. Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”

When Lily died, Severus swore to protect Harry. How could Dumbledore even ask? How could he question it? He wasn’t going to hand Dumbledore yet another weapon against him. Against Potter. Dumbledore’s eyes glimmered as though he had hit a raw nerve on Severus and was waiting for the outcome.

“For him?” Severus said, not even knowing what the truth was anymore. Needing to distract Dumbledore, he drew out his wand and prayed for this to be enough. “Expecto Patronum!

From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe. She bounced on the desk and Severus felt the warmth of her protection guarding him against the pain in his chest. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Severus, tears running down his face.

“After all this time?”

Dumbledore’s words echoed in his mind. Could he really care for Harry Potter after all this time that he cared for Lily? Was it possible?

The moment he saw Potter coming into the Great Hall, eleven years old, stupid, thin, short as an elf, dumbstruck, surrounded by other idiots, he knew he’d give his life to protect him if that was necessary. He knew he wouldn’t hesitate. It was for Lily, and he had loved Lily with all his heart, but when he kept saving Potter’s life again and again he was saving the life of someone whose heart was still beating.

He hadn’t started to care for Potter now.

He always cared.

“Always,” said Severus.  

Chapter Text

There was no trouble in this world so serious that it couldn’t be cured with a glass of firewhiskey.

The flames in the hearth bowed and arched as they burned the woods away. So eager they seemed, that if ran rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, they would become, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees.

Words and phrases salved in Severus’ mind to be retrieved and studied later made their appearance in demand as the first bottle was emptied. Nonsense like “I will not reveal my secret keeper, but you have to trust me, Severus; your floor network shall transfer you back and forth, but only you; it will take you to the safe house whenever you can” and “be careful, my boy. We cannot afford lose you. You need to remain near Voldemort until the end.”

This was a novelty, really. A revolution. A sad turn of events in which he’ have to die outside his own terms and be ready to commit murder whenever his loyalty was questioned. The Order would turn against him. A faint picture of Molly raising her wand against him attacked his mind and he raised his glass in awe to all the things he would never do and all the people he would never be able to look in the eye again.

His sudden urge to sneak in the Tower and abduct Potter for all the damns he would give to Dumbledore and his wisdom was replaced by the reasonable subtitute of summoning another bottle. Which was a complete failure, for his eye focus failed to direct the bottle towards him, having it crash against the wall instead.

Here it was, the last day of classes, and modesty be damned. The little bastard would have to die. He would never be an Auror, thank God for that. He would never see adulthood. Not that seeing adulthood was ever promised to be a bright moment for Potter.

Well. He’d never take it up the arse, then. It occurred to Severus that two of the three men that dominated his life were bent, and silently prayed for the Dark Lord to make the difference. It wouldn’t do to kill Potter and then dance around his corpse in pink petticoat and tights. Although it would be a reasonable excuse for Severus to drop the Death Eaters. Lucius would understand.

Downing another glass filled of something that he couldn’t recall summoning, he thought of Potter’s effrontery to abandon effort just when they were getting better at it. He was probably determined to prove Severus rubbish at teaching, and had the nerve to again bring up emotions that Severus had no wish to know of. Rage was allowed. Anger was fine. Whatever else was not.

The boy deserved to be sodomised for his audacity.

On second thought, no.

Better no.

Severus shook his head.

Was he bitter?

Absolutely.

Hurt?

Well. Everybody felt a part of their heart break at rejection. It was natural. To him, rejection started so much more. The part of himself he once hated, the part of himself that was once his whole self and nothing less, it was now the one that kept him going, silently pushing him from the background to not give up. The part of himself he would never let the world dirty; the part of himself no one would ever understand enough to respect wholly. Lily. His wholehearted dedication to her memory. His promise to do anything possible to balance his evils. It drove him, fed him, made him survive. But what would happen if the Dark Lord insisted for Severus to kill Dumbledore? Dumbledore would flee. For how long? Who would guard the school? Another glass. Fuck the glass. Bottle. 

Dumbledore wouldn’t flee. There would be no excuse for Severus not to do it. Damn. He was a dead man.

Playing in a three-bullet Russian roulette.

Somehow, he had the assuredness that all of them would hit him.

He sighed heavily. Dumbledore’s ideals for love and gratitude were not helping. 

Love was making the world go round? Not at all.

Whiskey made it go round twice as fast.

He drank generously, fearing of the moment it might stop.


The blissful silence of the room was interrupted by a continuous thudding against wood. Severus closed his eyes and prayed for it to go away, crossing his fingers for it to be caused by ghosts. At the reminder that ghosts didn’t knock on doors, it occurred to him that to get pissed and be left alone was apparently a vain wish. He put an effort to steady himself before unlocking the door, and shook his head into sobriety.

Potter stormed in in excitement. “I thought you were asleep.”

He should be asleep. And he should also not answer this. “What do you want?”

“Last day of classes. We’ve had a party in the common room. Everyone’s dropped asleep by now.”

Severus searched between Potter’s words to find an actual explanation of why Potter was there and failed. “And?” Be sharper. You’re failing.

“So, you know. I figured Dumbledore wouldn’t mind. Since we’re going to be together the whole summer anyway.”

This was exactly the misery Severus had been trying to forget. Alcohol worked better than Obliviation, and had proved itself much safer too. Coming in terms with himself had been going great. The process now seemed to drift away and into a mystical puddle made of all of his abandoned intentions and promises. “Has it occurred to you that I might mind?”

Potter smiled cheekily as he sat on his usual spot on the couch. “You don’t. Is that firewhiskey?” He poured himself a glass and tasted it. Severus sat back down, reminding himself that if he was to endure this again he’d have to at least make the rules. He snatched the bottle away and gave Potter a warning look. “If you want me to let you stay you will behave. This time, I mean it.”

He meant it all the past times too, but he was ignored just as he imagined that he was going to be ignored tonight. What did it matter? The last of Potters would soon be dead.

“You should have seen Ron. He wanted to talk to me but he was too embarrassed to do it alone. He told Hermione to tell me to go and talk to him.” Potter shook his head, an honest smile on his face as he took the bottle back from Severus.

“Fascinating, I think.”

“It is. I thought he was never going to talk to me again. Ginny told me she forgives me too. I suppose they didn’t know what to say to their family for not talking to me anyway. Things have calmed down a lot now. God, this thing sucks.”

Severus decided against sighing. “It’s alcohol. Therefore is good.” To make his point more obvious, he emptied his glass and let the warm liquid burn his throat. Oblivion wouldn’t come tonight, after all. If ever.

“Why don’t you arrange Slytherin parties too? You know, try and have fun, or something. All the houses do it.” Potter shrugged and Severus tried to remember when was the last time the boy was babbling that much. Or grinning that widely.

“We have parties. We just don’t prance about it publicly. Slytherins, unlike you, have dignity.” It hadn’t been so long since the last time Potter had been in this room anyway. It seemed insignificant now. Severus adjusted to what he had become used to. Company, he almost called it.

“Is this your way of partying?” Potter pointed at the bottle and Severus had to suppress a sudden urge to hug it protectively. “Getting pissed in the dark every time you hate your life for some reason? Severus Snape. The party animal.”

Potter snorted and Severus fixed his jaw. “I don’t suppose your Gryffindor party contained alcohol, did it?”

Potter’s blushing face suggested that it did. “That would be prohibited, professor,” he said innocently.

Severus scoffed. “Liar.” Taking points would only embarrass him further when Minerva would give them back in dozens. He admired the darkness of his chambers. If Potter was bothered by it, Potter was free to go.

“Simply liar? Where did the insolent little wrench go? You’re losing your touch, Snape. You need to see me more often, I think.”

More often? The only place in Severus’ life Potter didn’t occupy anymore was his dreams. Then again…

Stop.

“Shut up, Potter. Alcohol makes you behave like a total idiot.”

Despite Severus’ excellent performance, Potter laughed. “That’s what I meant.”

“Don’t you have things to do before we lock you up in paradise?” Severus asked after a long moment. It was a hot night, but he didn’t feel like soothing the hearth. The sparks stuck on the wood before burning out, tiny acclamations that died over and over again to be greeted by stronger ones. 

“Not much. I still have to see Luna tomorrow, she has to give me an issue of the magazine her father publishes, but there’s no rush. Besides, I thought you’d be lonely.”

Severus snorted around a satisfying gulp of firewhiskey. He had never been lonely. He had been in a room – he had felt suicidal. He had been depressed. He had felt awful – awful beyond all – but he never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering him, or that any number of people could enter that room.

“I’m not you,” he spat and immediately regretted the bluntness of his impulse to defend himself.

Potter didn’t respond.

Loneliness was something Severus had never been bothered by, because he had always had this terrible itch for solitude. He had never thought to go out and have the widely suggested fun. It wouldn’t help. He mentally watched the typical crowd, getting excited about it being Friday night, asking each other “what are you going to do? Where are you going to go?” and Severus felt nauseated at their lack of purpose. There was nothing out there. It was stupidity.

Stupid people mingling with stupid people. Satisfying themselves with stupidity. And that was all. He had never been lonely. He liked himself. He was the best form of entertainment he had.

“Cheers,” Severus drawled.

Their glasses clunk and Potter casted a Lumos. “If you were more unhappy I think you’d become a ghost.” His face scrunched up.

“Then let me be.”

Potter’s face lit up mischievously and he let his drink on the table. “You know what, I’m not going to silently sit in the dark because you’re being weird. I’m not going to smell fresh air for the next three months and I might die anytime soon anyway. We’re getting out.”

The astonishment of the truth Potter had unwittingly blurted out hit Severus first and he was unable to comprehend the rest of the sentence. Giving himself a second chance by replaying it inside his head, “You’ve lost your mind, haven’t you?”

“Don’t start grumbling now. Come on, get up.” Potter wore his cloak, excited about his plan. As it usually happened, Severus despised plans. A bodiless head floated around the room as Potter grabbed Severus’ hand and Severus found himself being pulled up. “If you think I’m going to agree to this idiocy you’re a fool.”

“Fools win.”

“I’ve agreed with the Headmaster that this lunacy will stop. I only let you in tonight because it’s the last day and –”

“Exactly. So it doesn’t matter what you do.”

It did. Matter. The hand that tugged on his sleeve was suddenly too pretentious. Severus shook it away. “If you wish to stay, stay. I’m not going anywhere.” Why did he have to apologise for the simplest things? Why was his dominance constantly ridiculed?

“Right. Now stop yammering and be quiet. I know how to get out.”

Harry Potter. Ruthless. Unprincipled. Determined to get them both killed.

“They’ll see us, you moron! Do you forget my position or do you confuse me for your mindless rule breaking friends? Have you forgot that the castle is not inhabited by your astonishing person only?” May I drink my alcohol alone please?

“No. Bent down.”

The world blurred a little as the thin fabric of the cloak covered him and he was immediately frozen in astonishment. Potter’s elbow poked at his ribs. “Now, we have to be a little close. I know you don’t like that but you’ll have to bear it. Bent a little because your feet are still visible.”

Severus complied, silently damning himself for doing so. The scent of the Potter family was suddenly all around him, and he questioned his having agreed to this while Potter led him to the corridor just as he remembered that he had not actually agreed. The ludicrous contraption was all but comfortable, and Severus inwardly appreciated the many levels of irony that had brought him under this very cloak. Sweet blasphemy, he thought to himself, taking a moment to relish into the fantasy of James Potter watching them from the world of the dead with utter sorrow.

“Careful, damn you!”

“Sorry.”

“I swear, Potter, if you step on my foot one more time I’ll –”

“Shush!” Potter’s hand came up to his own mouth and covered it as Peeves floated past them.

Severus kept his breath. Peeves looked at where they stood suspiciously. Potter looked up at Severus steadily. Severus wholeheartedly hoped that his own stare communicated I’m going to kill you. Before he had enough time to make his untold threat clear, Peeves dived on the wall behind them, passing through them. The warmth of the living was something a cloak could not hide.

“STUDENTS OUT OF THEIR BEDS! STUDENTS OUT OF THEIR BEDS! THEY’RE HERE! STUDENTS OUT OF THEIR BEDS!” Peeves yelled, excitingly jumping around in the air.

This was it, then. A very sorry end for the great Potions Master Severus Snape. And not even a Potions Master anymore. He closed his eyes awaiting for his fate. Potter tugged at his shirt. “Run! Quickly!”

Unable to protest, in terms with the new coming reality of unemployment, he followed. What was he going to tell Dumbledore? How was he going to explain this?

All I wanted was to drink.

Or, I was drunk.

Potter grunted as he pushed the Entrance Hall gate and it remained shut. He did it again, grunting furiously, and Severus had to steel himself for the task of blocking out the annoying friction and the back of Potter’s head hitting his chin again and again. “You’re a teacher, I suppose you know the spell,” whispered Potter angrily, and Severus cursed. He was about to announce that he would not reveal the staff’s locking spells for the sake of Potter’s entertainment just as Peeve’s voice seemed to be getting closer to them again.

“STUDENTS OUT OF THEIR BEDS! STUDENTS OUT OF THEIR BEDS!”

Oh for fuck’s sake. He cast the spell and recast it to lock the door just as they stepped out. Yanking the cloak off his head Severus panted hard, leaning back on the door. “You,” he said coolly, “You don’t say a word.”

“Can’t he see us now?” Potter asked, already moving further to the yard.

“He haunts the castle, he can’t get out,” Severus said, although Potter should know this. Not that it meant anything. The castle had windows. Anyone could see them. This was suicide. “Are you satisfied, now?”

“Aren’t you? Look at the sky.” Potter spread his arms and made a cycle around himself, his head dropped back.

“The sky,” Severus sneered. “I’m risking my position so you can look at the sky, as though you don’t live on a goddamn tower!” He released a sharp breath and his eyes darted around to make sure that no one was watching them.

Potter picked up his cloak from the ground and Severus watched him deranged. “Just look at the sky.”

Severus glared at Potter hard before he gave up. He looked up.  

A sudden bitter cold wind howled unchecked across the landscape, and Severus recalled that he hated nights like this; caught between darkness and light; hovering endlessly on the brink of secret magic. The beauty Potter saw was invisible to him. A half-lit world full of half-kept promises offered him nothing but unwanted memories. Unable to protest, he kept to himself the useless arguments and watched the sky instead. Letting Potter’s foolish romanticism remind him of all the silliness of a world he had rejected.

“It’s black. It has stars. And you are following me back inside, where you will be escorted to your Head of House and tell her in detail how you and your classmates obtained and consumed alcohol during your so called party. You will apologise to her for breaking the rules made for your own safety and you will apologise to me too for your unspoken behaviour.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “No. Come on.”

They set off a low pace of Potter gambolling ahead stupidly while singing “a song Hagrid likes” and Severus checking for enemies and following behind him. A very suspicious threat behind a tree ended up being a rabbit, but Severus hexed it unconscious anyway. Severus listened carefully in the quietness  of the dark forest. An owl hooted in distance and the woods resembled dusky shadows, shifting and breathing under an observing eye. The more they kept walking, the more Severus believed that this was madness.

“Enough, Potter! And stay close!”

Potter stopped and looked back. “Do you ever have fun?”

“Do you ever think? The creatures of the night –”

“If the creatures of the night were dangerous in Hogwarts Hagrid would be already dead. Lower your wand.”

Severus didn’t lower it and Potter kept disappearing as they walked. “Even Hermione has calmed down a bit. You should do it too. You can’t think of your enemies all the time, you’ll go mad.”

He had already gone mad. And if he didn’t think of his enemies, his enemies would think of him first. “I don’t see any fun in this, Potter. Perhaps you should have sneaked out with your wicked friends instead.”

“Perhaps,” agreed Potter. Rather unconvincingly. When the lake appeared in sight, Potter started running.

“Potter!” he shouted. And then he was reminded of the absurdity of yelling Potter’s name while wanting this to remain a secret. Severus widened his steps and a sheer terror attacked him at the possibility of losing Potter out here in the night. A mental image of Dumbledore’s lips slowly mouthing “jail” landed on his mind and he ran too. “Potter!”

He found him laying spread eagled by the lake, panting hard and raising a foot up to unlace a shoe. Severus panted too, his chest aching as he loomed over Potter. The boy looked ridiculous. “Do that again and I’ll Petrify you.”

Potter threw his shoes and shocks aside and chuckled, his eyes darting between Severus and the sky. “I love life,” he stated louder than necessary. Severus lacked a bitter comment so he just stared. His heart still ached from running, and he suddenly felt old.

The reflection of the moon was seen on the surface of the lake, clear as crystal, pure as a virgin blanket of snow. Dark-grey clouds loomed over the moon ominously and the lake was perished and brought to despair and darkness once again.

The shrill cries of an animal broke the silence. Sharp, high-pitched sounds pierced through the night, but failed to disturb the peace. It occurred to Severus that they were part of it. On a distant tree, a night-jar made its “tok-tok” sound.

“I love life!” Potter shouted again, and broke into a laughter as he rolled to his stomach. “Gods, I’m happy.”

Severus’s heart tightened. “You’re drunk, and you’re stupid. Don’t confuse it with happiness.”

“I’m drunk, I’m stupid, I’m happy, I love you,” Potter said cheerfully.

Touching, he meant to say. His tongue being a dry sponge did not help. “Do you know what kind of creatures inhabit these grounds in the night? Anything might happen. Anything.”

“I bet you didn’t even know you could have fun,” Potter said tenaciously as he rolled back to his back.

“What makes you think I’m having fun?” Severus asked cautiously. He was most certainly not having fun.

Potter grunted as he struggled back to his feet. “You think the water is cold?” he pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside, beginning to unzip his jeans.

“Don’t even think of it!” spat Severus. “Unless you want your head bitten off by hungry mermaids or Merlin knows what else swims in there I suggest you wear your clothes back on and follow me back to the –”

Potter landed face-first, his splattering almost completely drown out by Severus’ curses. Potter completely disappeared from sight and Severus held his breath until Potter came up for air and gasped. He couldn’t keep that smile off his face, and his amusement definitely didn’t waver at Severus’ outrage. Potter shook the water off his hair. “It’s not even deep!” he said loudly. “Come on!”

Severus could almost feel Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes burning his nape along with Draco’s questioning ones. He dimly wondered what kind of excuse would satisfy the Dark Lord.

Severus stepped closer and the water reached his shoes. “This is dangerous!” he said, hoping against hope to be obeyed.

Potter stood up, his torso wet and shining in the dim light of the night, wearing nothing but his boxers. “Oh my god, danger behind you!” screamed Potter as he raised a hand to point something behind Severus’ head. Severus turned around abruptly, wand in hand, and saw nothing. Potter laughed and dove in again.

“You little beast! Is this how you were planning to introduce me to fun?” he asked, even though Potter couldn’t hear him. One. Two.

Three.

Potter came up for another breath and narrowed his eyes. It occurred to Severus that he couldn’t see much without glasses. Severus’ feet had stuck into mud. “I can think of other ways,” said Potter calmly.

Severus felt his nails digging into his palms. “For the last time. Get. Out!”

He didn’t. There was a strange feeling in the pit of Severus’ stomach, and he was suddenly aware of the pitiful options remaining. It was a matter of self-importance, but Potter couldn’t defy him forever. He’d learn this lesson either he wanted it or not. Footing off his shoes, he bent down to yank his shocks off and then his coat and shirt. Tossing his belt aside, he decided against taking off his trousers.

His toes curled in the soft mud; Potter picked up that annoying song again and sang it loudly. Severus stepped in the water carefully and winced at the cold. “This is unthinkable,” he muttered. The strain in his legs increased and he pushed the water in embarrassment for his sorry situation. Again.

For all his situations that included Potter were sorry.

The water came up to just below his belly and his wet trousers stuck to his body. Potter looked up at him suspiciously. “Is that a scowl?”

It was. And Potter was apparently blind. “No. It’s a wide smile of satisfaction.”

Potter came closer and rose. For someone graduating from adolescence, development had definitely skipped him. Potter was doomed to be short. Of course, he was doomed to be worse things too.

Severus gripped Potter’s arm but Potter resisted. “Don’t be like that, I’m having fun.”

“What you’re having,” snarled Severus, “is detention for the entire next year. Out!” he tightened his grip and Potter pushed against his chest trying to be released. The water splashed around them as they both struggled against each other. There was a moment of pure anger: Severus pulled at Potter viciously. Their feet slid together as Potter planted his own in the mud stubbornly. Severus tried to stand straight, his lips tightly closed around swears he could not address to a student. The air was knocked out of him as an elbow landed on his abdomen and a knee hit his shank.

The pain had him wince, while Potter thrashed out of his grip electrified.

“You will not get away with this, Potter!” Severus barked, and the boy was cut short by Severus’ hand wrapping itself around his middle and stilling him. His own panting breath was suddenly the only sound Severus could hear. He was aware of baring his teeth in rage. Potter’s breath hit his chin. He hadn’t thought of which remark to make first when he parted his mouth. A tongue attacked him before he could speak. It was warm. It tasted him gracefully in a demanding way of kissing Severus wasn’t aware off. The kiss ended as abruptly as it started, and Potter pushed at the hand around his waist. Severus pulled away as though he had been burned.

Fanart by majmunka

Swimming again, Potter let his head fall back on the water and watched the sky. “I’m going to miss Hogwarts,” he said quietly. “I don’t want to be alone.”

Severus at last swallowed the bile of ash that had stuck on the back of his throat. “Perhaps you should,” he croaked as he turned around to walk off the lake.

Away from potters influence, he casted a drying spell on his trousers that barely managed to leave them damp and he seated himself on the grass. He looked at the goddamned horizon with the moon and the stars and the rest of the useless beauties that Potter had suddenly discovered and scoffed.

His lips tasted of wetness. He forbade himself darting his tongue out to taste it more than once. The hidden owl hooted again, loudly and sharply. Nature was never worth admiration for Severus. Praising the power of the shining light and the love behind the stars was meant to be done by stupid Muggles being in love with people they barely knew. Severus had never been sentimental. He was quite the opposite; a sentimental person thought things would last – the romantic had the desperately reasoned confidence that they wouldn’t.

Potter followed him and sat on the ground next to him, hugging his knees to his chest. He dried himself off with his shirt and didn’t bother clothing himself.

“What was that?” Severus asked calmly, his eyes still on the lake.

“What was what?”

Severus didn’t have the strength to argue. He avoided to look at Potter even as he jumped back to the water, and Severus laid back to the grass in the exact same spot Lily used to sit, and James used to sit, and even Lucius and Pettigrew and Tom Riddle himself had sat at some point of their lives.

He counted the stars quite proud of himself for being able to see them without hideous devices of glass glued on his face. He listened to Potter’s woohoo’s and to the crazy owl and to his own breath that didn’t seem to have calmed down.

For the best part of the last century, Hogwarts had been home for countless people who didn’t have any chance in finding home anywhere else. Hogwarts was a sanctuary. Whoever knew how to speak to it, whoever knew how to listen to it, could learn the truth. Hogwarts did not preach learning and precepts. It preached the ancient, unconditional law of life.

The war would destroy that law. And the Dark Lord would eventually destroy Hogwarts. Severus had learnt that if one had to leave a place that he had lived in and loved, it should be done in any way except a slow one. Leave it the fastest way one can. This happened to be equally true for both places and people, but Severus didn’t want to think that. He often turned back and believed that an hour he remembered was a better hour because it was dead. Passed years seemed safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lived in a cloud, dark and shaky.

Hogwarts wasn’t simply a home. And home was never a place for Severus. Home, for Severus, used to be Lily.

He had never been this close to Lily.

No.

Lily had never been this close to him.

The emptiness he felt at her memory was crushing. He searched for his wholehearted affection and failed to find it. He knew he loved her, but the simplicity of the truth, the fact that she was dead, hit him with no pain and no affliction. It came to him as natural.

“Are you trying to catch a cold?” Potter asked as he approached him again, putting on his glasses. “The water is perfect. I’m going back in. Come.”

Ah.

At least that hadn’t changed.

To Severus, home was always a person.

End of Part Two

 

 

 

Artwork by majmunka

Chapter Text

The Portkey dragged them violently from the void and they landed on a soft carpet. Trapped beneath him, the boy grinned at him stupidly.

Severus scowled in disgust, rose to his feet, and after a long fumbling moment Potter stood too. A long fumbling moment which would be needless had Potter balanced himself before traveling. Merlin forbid. Packing the horrifying feeling that had to be repulsion away, Severus took an observing look around at the famous and great safe house Dumbledore had prepared them for.

The famous and great safe house was a hole.

Except for a large window that was facing a flourished hill that looked suspiciously like not being part of Britain, the place lacked exit doors and light sources. Even its absence of  muggle electricity could have been overlooked if there were any torches in sight. There was nothing though, and Potter shrugged his shoulders at the realisation. Suppressing a violent urge toward fleeing, Severus gritted his teeth.

“Your magic is undetectable here. You can cast some simple spells for your comfort but don’t cross the lines if it isn’t absolutely necessary. While under supervision, you can use your magic freely. Alone, be careful.”

“Yeah,” Potter said.

“You are not to exit the wards and you may not use your owl to contact anyone. Some of your days here will come and go lonely but you will not panic yourself even if no one appears for days. You will wait.”

“I’ve already heard this, Professor.” Severus watched warily as the boy kicked the foot of the bed absently and then bent down to fix his untied shoelaces. Severus placed some of his own sealing spells in the cell… room and an undetectable tracking spell on Potter before sitting on the bed. The room had no sofa or other chairs.

Potter sighed and bit his lip, chewing on that spot that was beginning to redden again. It was a childish habit, he thought, and didn’t match the grim expression that haunted the features on Potter’s face; an aged heartache over the light of discomposed youth. Severus distracted himself by placing his wand on the night table and curiously opening the drawers to find them empty too.

“It might now seem hard to cope with, but don’t let this throw you out of balance. Your emotional strength is the only weapon you can manipulate and guide strictly by yourself. It is unwise to expose it to sorrow that will undoubtedly weaken it until it breaks. When the war begins nothing is going to be easy, Potter,” he said at last. “But,” Severus took a calming breath to dismiss his own worries, “you must manage.”

Older men declared war. But it was youth that should fight and die.

Potter gave a weak chuckle. “Nice speech, Professor. But this is hell.”

Severus gave a snort too, rubbing his eyes. “It is certainly part of it.”

“I’ve been in hell before. I think I’ll survive.”

Severus grunted in amused agreement.

“How long are you going to stay?” Potter asked casually, attempting to push open the window. After a few tugs and pushes, Severus noticed through that it was nailed shut, the plaster keeping the glass in place. “How — does — that thing — open?” the boy grunted as he pushed upwards again and again with all his weight and huffed in frustration when the window remained unaffected. He struggled for some more and Severus smirked as Potter bent down to attempt lifting the window frame upwards. “Hedwig — ah — has to — fly —dammit, fuck!”

Raising his hand, Severus cast a wandless spell that forced the nails pop out. Potter stared dumbly as the window swiftly reeled aside on its own. He turned to Severus and then scratched his head in awkwardness, a crooked smile on his face. “Oh. Thanks, I guess.” He only then seemed to notice the bed Severus was sitting on. “Wow, I have a double bed. I’m going to sleep here?”

Small pleasures after a life spent in a cupboard, Severus thought sourly. He was aware of the outcome the particular remark would have, and wondered why he hadn’t said it out loud. Mentally cursing himself for his new developing weaknesses, he faintly recalled a time when insulting the boy had been enjoyable.

Rubbish.

“Unless you prefer the floor.” The heat that rose on Potter’s face was not an expected reaction and Severus had to mentally repeat to himself how much of a kind, decent and thoughtful man he was, and how pity it would be to ruin it all on the spur of the moment by slapping the boy and making a dramatic exit from the Wizarding world once and for all. His sudden urge to aberration was replaced by a less sudden insistence on patience.

“I am going to stay in this” shithole “house until you unpack,” Severus informed him, redirecting the subject. “The Headmaster wishes me to confirm that you have settled down successfully and that the wards have been activated. Then I will depart to take care of the other fascinating obligations that await for my presence to torture.”

The next hour passed with an exhausting course through the most complicated curses Severus knew, which he casted at the wards to test their efficacy and to increase the strength of autonomous magic resistance of the walls. The only two doors in the room, as Severus soon figured, led to the bathroom and to a small kitchen that lacked lighting as well.

Potter opened his trunk and delved into it to take out something, but he changed his mind a second after and he quickly glanced at Severus before closing his trunk and blushing. Merlin knew what kind of nasty mischief the boy was trying to cover up this time, and Severus sighed in relief at his successfully not giving a damn about it.

Sitting on the bed, Potter absently passed a hand over his face and rubbed the scar on his forehead with his index finger.

“Does it hurt?” Severus asked in what he attempted to be a stern but indifferent tone.

“Not much, it’s more of a habit to touch it anymore. Just to check.” A breathy snort escaped him. “I was just wondering how long I’ll have to be dumped in here before I completely lose it. It can’t take too long, I suppose. I had imaginary friends when I was little.” The faint smile that momentarily appeared on his face did not make his words any lighter.

“I will visit. The Headmaster will try to as well.”

“And what if I want to contact you? What if something happens? Assume I accidentally set fire on something and I just sit here and wait for someone to come and save me before I burn myself up. At first you tell me that I have to get trained so I’ll be strong and stuff and then you leave me helpless in a prison I can’t escape. Should I thank you for it? Because I fucking hate it!”

He agreed with every word Potter spat, and made a mental note to repeat them to the loving and caring Headmaster as well. “For your information, Potter, you would be staying in Grimmauld Place now if your obnoxious friends weren’t aware of the place’s mere existence. This prison as you call it is yours to blame — yours and the Order’s unbelievable decisions’, because for once in their miserable lives they couldn’t keep their mouths shut—”

“Oh don’t start—”

“…and had to show off their Gryffindor nobility and have their trust based upon affection instead of critical thinking. Half the Gryffindors know about Grimmauld’s location, Potter. The Order regarded it helpful to spread the news, isn’t it clever? What do you think?”

Potter shrugged his shoulders, kicking away a tension that only bounced to land on his face. “Only the Weasleys know, actually.”

For fuck’s sake. “The Weasleys are half the Gryffindors, Potter!”

Potter lied down and pulled the covers up his head. “Fine,” he said, his voice muffled.

Fine? “I suppose you only blame me of your current situation, then. As short—sighted and –”

A black haired head appeared as Potter shifted the blanket and took off his glasses. “I’m not going to fight with you right now. Shut up.” And after a moment, “Sorry.”

It was a curious wonder that Severus was stung with; unexplained and yet indecent, somehow surreal and touchable before his eyes. He was unsure. Unsure of if it was possible for Potter to offer an honest apology for not fighting, for not pushing back at Severus when he was expected to, for taking the abuse obediently but not being wounded by it. An apology for dropping character.

And as insane as it was, Severus chose to accept it silently, wholly aware of the hole in the boy’s heart and the larger hole that was forming yet again between them. They were awaiting a fight, a struggle of souls and wands and tongues spitting swears and curses and bitter words that memory could not simply wipe away. That would be desirable. That would be expected.

Severus watched the boy slowly drifting to asleep. When a fight wasn’t there to fulfil that gap, Severus was helpless, for he couldn’t imagine of any other way to clog it.


“Another day and I’d have gone mad,” said Potter.

“I was busy. Has your scar hurt?” Severus left aside the books he had brought along and damned his luck when it occurred to him that Potter was angry. He was not the right person for Potter to be angry at. He’d have to take it either way.

“Take me to Dumbledore. Now.”

If only he could. “Potter.”

“Now! I’ve been three days here, alone! With no one to talk to! With nothing to do! Don’t you see that this is just fucking cruel? I can’t do this, I’m going crazy! I’m just - losing it. I can’t do this.”

He knew. But there was nothing he could do about it. Almost nothing. “I am willing to teach you.”

“Teach me what?”

“Everything.”

Ah. That look of awe towards him. Of trust. How ridiculous it was, honestly. “You mean Dark Magic,” Potter said incredulously. How green.

Stop.

“Dark Magic, white magic, mind control, even how to cast a spell and produce another within it. I can teach you spells no living person knows. I can open a door for you that hasn’t been opened to anyone your age, ever.”

Potter swallowed, sitting down in disbelief. “I don’t think I want to learn dark magic, sir. Can’t we… avoid it?”

He wasn’t planning on teaching him any of it anyway. All he needed to do was make him believe that was he was trusted with essential form of magic and then he’d teach him just some seventh year spells and tricks.

All he needed was time.

“Of course.”


“Are you leaving?”

Outside it had gone dark ; the hill was bathed in deep blackness, pale and cold and silvery from the strands of the struggling moonlight. Everything could be seen quite plainly, resembling the daytime but with the colours missing, like a sketch unfinished and quite hurried or like a delusion charm that wrapped itself around a dungeon to make it look like a countryside estate.

“Yes, we are done for now. Read the books I brought you, you might find them quite useful in combination with the basic theory of the spells. If you have difficulty understanding something, make a note and we’ll look at it together. Don’t write directly on the books.”

“Got it.”

Severus usually refused to accept uninvited guests in his home, and as this was known, it was a rare phenomenon to be taken aback by unexpected visits. Still, one never knew when that filthy rat named Peter Pettigrew would knock on his door for favours, and it would be suspicious to find the house empty. If Severus wasn’t there, there would be questions.

“You congratulated me twice today. And I did well at everything you taught me,” said Potter with narrowed eyes. It wasn’t a simple matter of fact statement, Severus knew, and he refused to acknowledge any hint of where his words were headed until spoken out loud.

He took out the Portkey to activate it, still not entirely trusting the Floo of this place. As he pointed his wand at it and gave Potter a last look of curiosity, he realised that he was being watched closely by the boy. 

Then, as the conclusion had been made, Potter laughed. “It wasn’t dark magic, was it? You didn't teach me anything.” Potter slumped back to his bed and looked at the ceiling. “Dumbledore didn’t tell me the truth. Neither did you. Again. It’s all rubbish.”

Fair point, but this was out of his reach to discuss. Potter of course, wasn’t aware of it.

It was that brief moment, as Severus watched the boy rubbing his face in a naïve abandonment for all his trusting role models, that he believed that Potter should have never been born. None of this was worth it, and nothing would get better for Potter during or after the war. Best case scenario, he would avoid getting killed and he would be watched cautiously for the rest of his life as the Dark Lord’s potential revival. The Ministry would close all career doors, the Aurors would keep a close eye on his actions and half the Wizarding world would accuse him for war deaths and all the misfortunes they’d be unable to shoulder elsewhere.

“And you’re not going to tell me what’s he hiding from me, are you?” The wide grin on his face wasn’t fooling anyone.

“He hides nothing, as far as I’m aware.”

Potter chuckled. “You’re a spy, Snape. You’re supposed to be a better liar than that.”

Severus narrowed his eyes at the Portkey on the night table, as though trying to blame it for all that has happened. An object would be a better target than the boy at the moment. A cold hand curled around his own, and Severus found himself too panicked to step back. Too startled. Slow.

He met Potter’s eyes who stared right through him, piercing something inside him that had been assuredly numb for the best part of his life and had no good reason to be resurrected now. “Will you lie down for a moment? Nothing creepy, I promise.”

This is unthinkable, Potter.

Ten points from Gryffindor.

Insolent little freak! I refuse to believe you even spoke such an unethical suggestion to me, of all people. You should be ashamed of yourself.

All these things had been told before, and it only seemed futile to repeat them. “I cannot.”

I do not want to.

“One moment.”

No.

Snorting, Severus saw himself from a safe distance sitting down and letting Potter pull him back on the bed. When Potter came closer and brought his arms around  him, Severus was too tired to push him off. Too tired of pushing him off. He reminded himself that it was only pity the reason he was allowing this to happen, and somehow the hole in his stomach only throbbed at the realisation. A hand came up and he reckoned that it was his own; he looked at it as though doubting its true intentions and then saw it descend to push the fringe from Potter’s fore head softly. I cannot. Potter pressed his body against his for dear life; Severus almost thought that he was breathing for both of them.

“Stay here tonight.”

It was impossible. Atrocious. “Fool.”

Potter’s hair was soft and shaggy, and no one in their right minds would be able to avoid the profound ugliness of this unruly hell of a head. They shared the same hair colour, Severus thought, although Potter’s was healthier, younger and thicker. He threaded his fingers through it and remembered how it felt when Potter did it to him.

Potter’s face was buried in his sternum, his breaths long and deep and unmistakably shaky. “Stay until I sleep. Please.”

“You’re insomniac, Potter,” Severus drawled.

Potter clutched his arm lightly and snorted. “Not anymore.”

It was a lie, and from now on no one would hear the boy’s scream-filled nightmares. “Hm. And what changed?”

Severus felt the thin chest heave against his own; he could almost hear the struggle inside. “What didn’t? Oh, I know. I’m still considered a child that isn’t ready to know a damn thing about all this. Time will come after a thousand years or so though and then you’ll tell me everything so I’m not to complain, it’d be selfish.”

Despite himself, Severus laughed.

Memories of love never pass, and this thought struck Severus as a bolt. They linger, guide, and influence long after the source of stimulation has faded. There was nothing new in this; every person who had been moved by genuine affection knew that it left enduring traces upon the human heart.

The memories of love worked in a different way. When Lily died, the major force of love had spent itself and passed away like a fire that had burned itself out, but it left behind indelible marks as evidence that it came and left. Passed that way. Passed through him. Its departure was the departure of the capacity to feel.

“Stay,” repeated Potter.  

He dropped his jaw to explain, a million words of denial on the tip of his tongue. He should leave. For all he knew Dumbledore could be watching them now. He barely recalled a time when he needn’t someone watching him to maintain his modesty, and he cringed as he carefully packed the thought away to resurrect it when the company of whiskey would be available. He could not explain. But explanation by the tongue made most things clearer, and he knew that what was left unexplained would just wait to attack him behind the corner later. There was no sickness greater than the sickness of the heart; self-loathing aside.

Severus stayed.

Chapter Text

A punch landed on Severus’ nose, and Severus grunted in shock as he dodged another and pulled himself up to a sitting position. He pushed Potter off him and watched as the boy rolled on his belly, covered his face with an elbow and grunted.

Severus reached out to poke him in the ribs, his other hand still covering his attacked nose. “Potter.”

Potter hummed in acknowledgment.

“Potter. Wake up.”

“M’ awake,” Potter complained as he yawned and stretched. He blindly raised a hand to drag Severus back down on the bed by his robes, but instead caught hold of his hair. Severus hissed in pain as the back of his head was forced back on the pillows, and he untangled the fingers off him with disgust, scowling at the ceiling. As soon as he lied down again, a leg was draped over his own and a giddy face found its way to his neck. His heart beating in panic, Severus pushed Potter away and got up. 

“What time is it?” asked Potter.

“Early morning. I’m leaving. Is there anything you need?”

Potter chuckled on his pillow. “Yeah.”

“Good morning, Potter,” Severs growled.


“Again. Focus.”

Harry nodded.

He felt Snape pushing into his mind, his deep dark eyes locked with his own as he consumed his magic against Harry. “Fight it.”

“I don’t even know what I’m fighting,” complained Harry in a low tone. This was more confusing than Legilimency was and he felt slightly off guard.

“Then you don’t know yourself.”

What made you think I know myself in the first place? Harry searched through his own thoughts for the implanted one and failed miserably to put his finger at it. “I’m not really hungry?” he said testily.

Snape smirked. “Again.”

Harry sighed and rolled his eyes, breaking the eye contact. A cold hand grasped his chin and Snape met his eyes once more with an intensity no human being should have.

“I don’t know what it is, I quit. Spill the beans.” He gave a cheeky grin and waited for the revelation.

Apparently Snape wasn’t going to make it so easy for him though. He smirked. “Tell me what you were thinking of. In detail.”

Harry felt his heart lose a beat. Why did the man have to torture him all the time? “Um. That I was hungry. That I’ve an itch on my nose.” That you’re fucking beautiful, “That the room should be better off painted red. Like the Gryffindor common room or Slughorn’s library, for example. The walls here are kind of sad. They remind me of my Aunt’s decoration habits. Gross. Oh, and that if I ever get out of here again I’ll go blind, I mean, it’s too dark in here, I’m kind of getting used to it. And that I-” he swallowed, thinking better than to say that he hadn’t seen Snape wearing a casual shirt since last summer and he was thrilled to see him like that again. “That is all.”

Snape raised a brow. “That is all.”

“Yeah.”

Could it be this? He was pretty sure that this particular thought was his own. He felt the humiliation coming as he risked a hint. He didn’t want to lose. “And your shirt.”

“My shirt.” Snape was doing it again. That expression between panic and bursting into laughter, that only existed to serve his interaction with dumb Harry James Potter and his pathetic attempts at flirtation.

Harry returned the stare steadily as he silently accepted the fact that he had made himself twice the fool and he could do nothing about it. Well. Might as well see where it’d get him. “Yes. It’s a bit tighter on you than last summer. You must have gained some weight. It suits you. And you haven’t buttoned it all the way up. I think you did that on purpose.”

Snape frowned and Harry grinned. On that, at least, he could win. He watched Snape trying to put his shock under control. On second thought, not shock. Embarrassment. Offence. Some kind of bizarre surprise at Harry’s insolence. Or honesty. “Is that how you’re planning to defeat the Dark Lord, Potter?”

Harry shrugged his shoulders teasingly. “You never know. He might be charmed.”

“Tch.” Snape rolled his eyes and summoned two glasses of water.

Harry emptied his and put it aside. “So. What was it?”

“The colour red,” Snape said.

Harry frowned. “But I wasn’t thinking of the colour red.”

“You thought the room should be painted red, which would by the way be dizzying and dreadfully kitsch. The idea of painting was a subconscious interpretation of yours for your thinking of the colour red; I made you think of it, however.” Snape let his own glass on the table and the corner of his lips crooked upwards.

Harry couldn’t help but wonder if this was something that had happened to him before. How could he be sure that everything he thought was deriving from his own soul? Perhaps he was being controlled like that since he was born. He’d have no way of knowing.

“The train of thought was mine,” he confirmed.

“Yes. You could have thought of anything at that moment, but it would include red either you wanted it or not. The rest of it was you.”

At least he wasn’t under Imperio. It was something.

“Again?”

Harry nodded. He lifted his head and didn’t have time to respond because Snape had already started. He tried to relax. That shirt was really nice. Harry thought of himself as lucky to have seen Snape in white. He supposed few people had that opportunity. It made him look healthier, more normal, and Harry had the impression that when he stood his nipples were almost visible underneath.

“Focus, Potter.”

Harry blinked into focus.

It occurred to him that Snape was having way too much fun during this than he should. Of course, Harry could have always declined to learn this particular aspect of mind control. The silence between them though was growing too heavy to bear, and in a moment of despair he decided to offer his dignity for the sake of training.

“You didn’t find it. I’m in.”

Already? “What? How?” Harry frowned, trying to recall everything he had thought during the last minute. “What is it?”

Snape stretched his legs and crossed his arms over his chest. “You tell me.”

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Harry made a mental note to build himself a statue the day he’d prove himself to be actually intelligent to the man. “Um. Nipples?”

He wished he could dissolve. Snape was momentarily stunned with an expression of utter disbelief slapped over his face and wrinkles of surprise appeared on his forehead. It lasted a second, and then the astonishment was replaced with revulsion to dismay. “No, Potter. Try again.”

Harry snorted, covering his face with a hand. He allowed himself a moment of laughter and then he looked at Snape through parted fingers. “White?”

“White,” agreed Snape, his features screaming NOT FUCKING NIPPLES.

“So I won then,” said Harry and jumped up. “I found it. White.”

Snape barely nodded in agreement, muttering something under his breath before summoning the sandwiches from the kitchen.   

After they ate, Harry knew Snape would leave. His chest tightened at the thought of having to spend the rest of the day alone trapped inside these walls. And probably the next one too. And the next one. “Would you send a letter to Hermione if I gave it to you?” he asked cautiously, occupying himself with cleaning the bed from bread crumbs.

“I will have to ask the Headmaster for permission,” answered Snape.

“Thanks.”

Harry felt the hair on his nape stand up as he cleaned the bedclothes and took the dishes to the kitchen. Snape followed. “I take it that you have written exclusively to her, then.”

He had written to Ron too. In fact, he had been writing to Ron even when he was at the dormitory and Ron was sleeping only a bed away from him. But they were letters he knew he’d never show and he didn’t have the right to compose in the first place. The worst part of it was that he knew he’d have Ron’s forgiveness if he begged bad enough, and the temptation became too much sometimes. As much as he craved to take the advantage, he had decided long ago to accept things as they were. A fitting punishment, it was.

“I’ve no one else to write to,” he said simply.

“Mister Weasley?”

Harry chewed on his lip and leaned back on the counter. He took a deep breath. Then shook his head. “Just Hermione.”

The dishes cleaned themselves under the hot flowing water. The sound of the faucet whooshing soothed some part of his brain that screamed for attention on the subject. It occurred to him that not talking about it was probably for the best. Scratching old wounds was dangerous, but poking on recent ones was definitely just painful.

Snape seemed to understand. “I see.”

Harry snorted. “So. Is Malfoy still trying to, you know.”

“He had thought of a plan that was actually reasonable. A pair of connected vanishing cabinets. It would have succeeded. He entrusted me with it, of course. Mysteriously, the shop of Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley caught fire sometime after, causing the one of the twin cabinets to burn to ashes. Draco’s plan was canceled.”

“And now?”.

“Now Draco is home for the summer. The Dark Lord isn’t happy. The Malfoys have failed him numerous times, with this one being the worst. I suspect he will assign the job to someone else.”

“To whom?”

“That is unknown.”

“To you.”

“Potter.”

Harry sighed, suddenly too exhausted to fight. He shook his head and let his breath come out in a snort. “I don’t know how you do it. How you can look him in the eye and although you know everything he has done and is going to do, still obey him instead of raising your wand and killing him.”

“Are you referring to the Dark Lord or Dumbledore?” asked Snape.

Harry looked at him dumbstruck for a moment, and then he laughed. “Both.”

“Duty.”

“If he asks you… If he asks you to kill Dumbledore, you’re dead. He’ll kill you.”

“If I refuse to do it, yes.”

“But-”

“And I also refuse to discuss this with you. Drink your tea, Potter.”

Chapter Text

Harry delved into his trunk and pulled out his copy of Advanced Potion-Making before getting into bed. There, he turned its pages, reading random paragraphs, until he finally found an angular note of the Prince. It was written in a handwriting that wasn’t as delicate as the rest of his notes, and Harry wondered if he had been hurried to write it down as not to forget it.

Where the book said, Alchemy is the art of perfecting, but historically is typically known for the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone, the Prince had added, Wrong. The original definition of alchemy is to use "magick" to make cheap metals into gold. 

At the mention of the Philosopher’s stone Harry’s blood ran cold; he couldn’t help but wonder if this book had anything to do with Voldemort. What if this was an implanted thought too? Perhaps he didn’t even like the book, but he thought he did because someone wanted him to carry it with him all the time. He closed it and held it to his chest.

It was confusing, but this book had somehow been a friend to him when people failed. The thought of dark magic being involved was just unnerving. Aware that what intrigued him most about it was this very mystery, he wondered again about its origin. It looked so old his owner could have easily been his grandfather. His illusions for a beautiful prince hiding behind the book weren’t affected in the slightest by the realisation.

Harry placed the book on the night table, turned off the lamp, and rolled over.

It would be interesting to try and force a thought of his own in Snape’s mind, he thought as he covered himself with the blanket. A happy one, to raise the difficulty level. Something fresh and colourful, if only to gauge the man’s reaction. His lips would curl in disgust, granted. He was probably the only living person that would be disgusted by being happy.

There was no point in denying that Harry cared, one way or another. He had all the time to deal with it and accept it. Only Snape wasn’t accepting it just as well. Maybe mind control could fix that. Like me back. Like me back. Like me back. He’d have to try. And if he failed… well. Chances had it likely that Harry wouldn’t live to see the end of the year. His stomach tightened at the reminder and he clutched at the worn pillow to keep himself from falling apart. His name is Severus, an untamed part of his mind insisted, refusing to follow the stream of consciousness to the upcoming war. Was anyone else calling him Severus except Dumbledore or Voldemort?

It was a nice name. Rare. Not that Sirius or Remus were common, but this was different. It felt different.

“Severus,” he tried it out and his voice was muffled into the pillow. He chuckled at his own misery.

His eyes slowly closing, he let his demons take him in another restless, alerted sleep.

Sometimes, surrender was right.


Harry woke up by a strong hand grabbing his ear and twisting it. He shouted, kicking at the covers in panic as he reached for his wand and glasses. The wand wasn’t there. It occurred to him that it was Snape who was twisting his ear; he wore his glasses quickly then yanked at the man’s hand.

“Snape!”

Snape’s upper lip trembled, his eyes wide in wrath as he barred his teeth and almost covered Harry’s body with his own. “Explain. Now.”

“What are you doing?” He tried to pull Snape’s index finger backwards to get him off him but Snape’s hand was curled in a tight fist around his ear. “You’re hurting me!”

“Explain yourself, Potter!”

“What are you talking about? Stop it!”

Snape pushed him back and Harry shifted away frightened. He rubbed his ear to bring the circulation back. His fear was quickly replaced by anger. “What the fuck was that?” he shouted.

Snape pursued his lips and towered over the bed with the Advanced Potion-Making book in his hand. He threw it on Harry’s lap with force. “Congratulations. You are a true Gryffindor, after all.”

Harry gaped, snatching the book and hugging it protectively. Fully awake now, he jumped up. “You had no right!”

“I had no right? I have no right, Potter? I’ve got to hand it to you, this was beyond suspicion. Well done. On second thought, this isn’t even about Houses. You are a disgrace to Hogwarts itself.”

“And this comes from a Slytherin who was befriending murderers at my age!”

Snape half-raised a hand to slap him and then clutched it, willing it back down. “Hold your tongue, you reckless little sod.”

“Or what?”

“Where did you find this?” Snape asked. “Is this how you managed to impress Slughorn? Oh, let me guess, Dumbledore gave it to you, and of course he doesn’t mind you having it. You even have a note from him explaining it all and clarifying that I’m  not to object. Is that right?”

“Dumbledore had nothing to do with it. What’s your problem? I never cheated!” Harry glanced at his wand on the floor and slowly stepped backwards it.

“Don’t even think of it,” drawled Snape. “Explain.”

Snape’s pale face and deranged expression could only mean one thing: the Prince didn’t exist. He was probably just another cursed object, as Harry feared. He could only imagine in what kind of trouble he had dragged himself into this time. And now Snape was going to take the book away from him.

Not important, he reminded himself. Just a book of a class he didn’t even particularly like.

Harry handed over the book on. Snape took it, but Harry didn’t let go. “Slughorn loaned it to me for the first week of the year because I hadn’t bought a copy of mine yet. When I got a new book I swapped the front covers and returned to him the new one instead of this. The instructions in it helped me succeed in Potions like I’ve never had. I decided to keep it.”

Snape tugged at the book. Harry kept holding it. “You improved your grades with impudent methods and presumed upon the school’s property. Then you cursed Malfoy and almost killed him. He could have bled to his death because of your arrogance and yet you kept the book all the same.”

Snape looked like he had swallowed the sourest lemon on earth; Harry felt his cheeks burn. Feeling the need to defend the himself, he quickly objected, “I didn't know what it did. The spell. I didn't think it’d be dangerous. I wanted to tell someone but I… didn’t.”

“Because you wanted to keep cheating.”

“I never cheated! It did. Help me. I didn’t think it’d be dark magic. I never tried that spell again. It was just help—”

“Liar.”

“You know what, the Prince was proved to be a better teacher than you’ll ever be. Maybe you should take a few lessons yourself.”

He expected Snape to be pissed off at this. To yell. To even grab him by the ear again and slam him back to the bed. Which on second thought wouldn’t be that bad a turn of events. What he didn’t expect, however, was the deep hoarse laughter that rushed out of Snape’s throat, raw and absolutely paranoid. Harry stared.

The book slipped from Snape’s fingers and Harry kept it to his chest, not knowing what to do. Snape’s laughter filled the room and Harry awkwardly waited for him to stop. When he did, his anger had subsided to something Harry couldn’t quite name. There was amusement in his eyes. He extended a hand.

“Give that back, Potter.”

Back? Back. Oh. Back.

“You… you.”

“Next time steal a vocabulary book. It might turn out quite useful too. Well?”

Harry felt his fingers go numb around the hardcover of the book. He gave it to Snape who threw a brief look at it and shoved it into his robes.

“You,” repeated Harry, suddenly feeling helpless.

“Yes, Potter. I am the Half-Blood Prince.”

It took a moment to connect the puzzle pieces. When he did, he felt dizzy. He smiled in sympathy to himself and looked at the black eyes that watched him curiously right back.

This was fucked.


The levels or of irony were too many to count. It occurred to Severus that they were thoroughly placed one upon another in refined layers. This was premeditated. It had to be. “You improved your grades with impudent methods and presumed upon the school’s property,” he heard himself saying to the boy. “He could have bled to his death because of your arrogance and yet you kept the book all the same.”

Arrogance seemed to be the only thing Gryffindor ever produced. There were no Gryffindor virtues. The whole scam about the Gryffindors’ nobility was so easy to take apart that he never even bothered anymore. Potter was the proof that manners weren’t a matter of education but a matter of personality. He was born insolent. Insolent like his father. Insolent and naughty, like Black and Lupin and Pettigrew and like all the kind and loving Gryffindors turned out to be in the end.

“I never cheated! It did. Help me.” Has it, Severus thought. He was suddenly interested in Potter’s explanation, however daft.

…And daft it was.

“You know what, the Prince was proved to be a better teacher than you’ll ever be. Maybe you should take a few lessons yourself.”

He silently swore that if Potter said once more the word Prince with that unmistakable red spreading over his cheeks Severus would personally see to make that blush permanent. In the form of a bruise, perhaps. He let his laughter posses him, too late to hide it. Was young and innocent Potter fond of a strange prince? What kind of twisted fate was that? Why me? He heard his conscience complain.

Harry Potter, the saviour of the Wizarding world, holy martyr, powerful since birth, humble warrior, underprivileged hero, had a crush on Severus Snape and then he had a crush on his book.

He shook his head, reviewing the situation. Potter had a crush on him and then he had a crush on him. Twice. Oh, the destiny. Damn.

“Give that back, Potter.”

And Potter hadn’t known. As cruel as it was, it was equally satisfying to see the Chosen One fall lower and lower as his emotional health revolved around his interest for a man he ought to hate.

Potter’s eyes widened, darting from him to the book and back. “You… you.”

Ah. And the boy was appreciating the plot twist too. “Next time steal a vocabulary book. It might turn out quite useful too. Well?”

“You,” Potter said again, his voice cracking.

Spare me the melodramatics, he thought of saying. But lest Potter had any remaining doubts,  “Yes, Potter. I am the Half-Blood Prince.”

And Potter broke into a crooked smile too, the one people have just before they crack up. Irony. A hard lesson.

Potter slumped back on the bed and frowned. “How?”

Giving up on making sense of any of this, Severus sat beside him and flipped the book to the first page. “It used to be my mother’s book,” he explained, not knowing why he bothered to. “Her name was Eileen Prince. She had written it here,” he patted his index finger on the page. “This book belongs to Prince. I enriched it.” He smiled at the memory; he had never been proud of being half-blood. But the fact that Slughorn was forced to see it on his book every time he congratulated him for a Potion was making him be. It was the closest thing to rubbing the truth to Slughron’s fat face that he ever managed. Slughorn never believed purebloods to be equal to the rest of the students.

“You are half-blood,” recalled Potter, frowning. “Your father.”

“Yes.”

Potter chuckled. “Why didn’t it cross my mind? It’s obvious. It was obvious. The handwriting. God, I’m stupid.”

“You are not stupid. You are short sighted and incredibly naive.”

Potter snorted. “Yeah. Thanks, I guess. You’ve invented all these spells yourself?”

“You never attempted casting any of them. Have you?”

Potter frowned. Oh joy. He had. Dumbledore would be thrilled.

“Yeah. Not all of them, though. I’ve no idea what most of them do. I — tried a few, but after Malfoy I stopped. I’m sorry, just…” His eyes were stuck on the pages, turning them slowly as he struggled to connect the content of them with Severus. He mentally applauded himself for this new crossed line. May Potter break them all.

Then again, may he not. 

“You are the Prince,” Potter mumbled after a minute. He looked up in disbelief. Then laughed and fell back on the pillows, his eyes on the ceiling. “Wow.”

 

Chapter Text

Hello Prince, Harry almost sneered when Snape flood in. Instead, he nodded. “Hey.”

Snape threw him a book. “Potions. A normal copy.”

Harry grunted. “I want to speak with Dumbledore.”

Snape snorted. “Then want so.”

“No. I mean it. You’ll take me out of here. You or him, I don’t care, just do it. Just let me go.”

“And go where, Potter? The Dark Lord will find you wherever you go. Cease being ridiculous.” Snape looked around as though searching for something indistinct, and finally sat on the bed and rubbed his eyes. These days he seemed more tired than ever, Harry thought.

Harry stood. He willed his temper down but his heartbeat thumped in frustration as soon as he thought of Dumbledore again. “Then I’ll fight him. I’ll kill him. I’m not afraid of him and if you are then you should be ashamed, Professor.”

Despite Harry’s strict tone, Snape laughed. He looked up at Harry and his eyes glittered with that sick amusement that had no place being there but always was anyway. “Pull yourself together Harry, for fuck’s sake. If anything, study.”

Harry thought of shouting. He thought of punching and attacking. But after a moment of silent contemplation, he allowed himself a deep exhale and sat next to Snape.

Snape raised an eyebrow.

“You know, I hate Potions,” Harry admitted with an almost whispered chuckle. Snape’s eyes bore into his, and for a moment, Harry thought that his mind was completely open, unguarded for anyone to feel and see and touch his feelings and thoughts. He felt a shiver running down his spine and he clenched his fists to keep them still.

“Perhaps I hate them too,” Snape said.

“And you called me Harry,” Harry said.

“What?”

“You called me Harry. Before.”

“I did not.” Snape walked towards Harry’s trunk and summoned a couple of books.

“You did.”

“I did not.”

“You did. And you know it.”

“Enough.”

Harry smiled. “Not nearly enough, actually.”

Snape’s wide open in shock eyes were what made Harry cheerful for the rest of the day.


Severus allowed himself a sinister grin and clapped his hands slowly in wonder. Potter took a deep breath and steeled himself for the task. “At least I am trying. You should be thankful I even do that.”

He was thankful. Without these tricks for the time to pass by, the boy would be doomed. These days, Severus was nothing more than Potter’s entertainer. He regarded it quite amusing nevertheless. “I do not see trying. I see failing.”

“Cute,” Potter said. He sighed into his hands and nodded. “I’m ready.”

Their eyes met and Severus bore in. The green depth was easy to penetrate, and the surface of Potter’s repeatedly abused soul was torn and damaged to extents Severus had rarely seen before. Death Eaters weren’t happier cases, of course, but this was different.

A damned voice in the far end of his mind objected that a dangerous interpretation could be that he gave a damn.

He did not.

Blue, Severus thought. He pushed carefully into Potter’s mind and planted the thought as easily as ever. “I’m in.”

“You’re not. I wasn’t thinking of anything.” Potter stared dumbfounded and Severus drew his stare away. He needed to take a piss and sleep, he decided. Potter was eating away his time like a worm ate its dirt; he could barely recall a time when the boy wasn’t his task to look after and his nights were filled with calmness and quietness.

His past life now resembled loneliness, and Potter was to blame for it. Potter was to blame for everything, come to think of it. He was a parasite that had hooked its sorry existence on his neck and now Severus was forced to carry it along whenever he went.

The memory of his once better self applauded him from the safe distance of time and calmly suggested suicide.

“Death Eaters?”

Had that passed through? He had been careful. “I’m afraid not.”

“Death Eaters. I wasn’t thinking of anything else, really.” His eyes widened. “Oh, black? The colour?”

“Blue,” Severus corrected. “The colour.”

“I wasn’t thinking of blue.”

He had got used to Potter. Used to being attractive to someone. Used to talk with someone without manoeuvring everything around lies.

Well. Lies did what lies do. They saved Severus’ life. Only now they were merely saving his dignity, and he realised that even that didn’t work as it used to.

“You were.”

Potter absently scratched that horrendous scar on his forehead. “Yes,” he mumbled. “Maybe I did.”

Of course. “And what else?”

Potter blinked. “There was more?”

Severus nodded. There wasn’t, but he wanted to know. The emotions raged through him once more and he regretted dissolving his hate for the world, himself, and the boy sitting across him and looking at him with something that had no right to resemble trust that fucking much.

“There was nothing I was thinking about that you’d like to know, sir.”

The apology crossing his face was so unconvincing that was already fading to a shy smirk.

Damn.

Severus stormed to the safety of the kitchen and closed the door to his fate for the sake of a cup of tea. A million words were stuck among his lips and for a moment he was disoriented. “I’m gay,” Potter’s voice echoed in his head and he wondered why he had ever allowed such conversation to happen. It occurred to him that he should have seen this coming some time ago.

Stupid.

Utterly stupid.

“I want tea too,” Potter yelled from the outside of the door.

I don’t care what you want. Leave. Disappear. Dissolve.

“Mint or lemon?” Fight or flight?

“Lemon.”

“What about you?” Potter asked. “You never liked a man?”

He was suddenly aware of that vein on his neck throbbing again. Well. He’d sooner cut off his own head than let Potter touch him. Flight.

He never liked a man. He never liked a boy. He only liked Lily. End of story.

The door opened and Potter extended his hand to take his cup.

He’d rot in hell, but he was curious.

He held Potter’s cup but didn’t give it. Yet. “What were you thinking about?”

Potter chuckled. “Not blue,” he assured him. “And not you.”

It was that kind of moment, at which it was best to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.

“Ah. A first one.” Severus couldn’t bring himself to look at him. He smirked at the cup and their fingers brushed as Potter took it.

“Hm. And what are you thinking about, Professor?”

Indeed.

Chapter Text

“It’s my birthday,” Potter said. “I’m seventeen. Of age and all. I can use magic whenever I want now, can’t I?”

“The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, are the ones worth celebrating.”

Potter rolled his eyes. “In other words, ‘happy birthday, Harry.’”

“In other words, have you been training?”

“I can’t focus. It’s so boring here. Drives me crazy. Where were you?”

“Tch.” Severus listened as he let the boy go through the details of his first birthday chocolate cake, and every word he uttered added another burden to the tragedy that Severus’ job was. He vaguely recalled a time when Potter would avoid talking to him outside class at all costs, and was terrified at the realisation that he did not mind the brat anymore.

A habit, he named it.

A habit he should kill.

The boy would soon be dead anyway, he remembered. He decided on ignoring that fact until time came. Worrying too much would tear him apart and make him useless. Worrying too much was wrong.

He was following orders that could not be ignored. The boy did not matter. The war did.

“Take out your wand and clear your mind.”

Potter looked up. “What? Today? What for?” He looked at Severus with narrowed eyes as though trying to determine a hidden truth behind his intentions. The hilarity of his panicked face caused laughter to escape Severus, and he shook his head dismissively as he sat on the bed.

Potter crawled on the bed too and sat cross–legged across him on the mattress.

“Legilimency isn’t something one can always master just because one succeeded once. It needs vigilance. Hard work. Training,” he added.

“I’m not going to train today,” Potter stated with a steady voice. Severus stared. Potter let out a sigh. He chewed on his thumb and looked away.

Don’t say it.

Don’t.

You will regret it.

“Happy birthday.” As soon as he said it, he realised it was too late to take it back. He decided that venom could make up for it. “Although you still look like a fourteen year old.”

“Oh, sod off.” Potter shrugged and came closer. Too close. Severus should have better instincts when it came to dodging attacks, he thought as Potter’s arms clutched tightly around his neck and Potter’s face was buried into Severus’ neck. Severus raised his arms as to not touch him, his mind running through the ways he could get the little bastard off his lap without any further physical contact.

Maybe a curse.

“What in Merlin’s name are you doing now?”

A chuckle warmed his neck and a hushed voice whispered, “Hugging you.”

His heart was protesting loudly at the assault. His temper throbbed and his tongue was nothing but a sponge. Despite himself, he watched as finally his arms curled around the boy who looked nothing like a fourteen year old and sighed. “This is not to be misunderstood,” he clarified. The line of misunderstanding had been crossed ages ago, and the hypocrisy of his weakness sickened him.

Sickness. That's what it was. Depravity. 

Seventeen years of mourning and spying and pretending and teaching tightened around him and it occurred to him that time does not like to be embraced by mortal beings. The simple pleasure of human contact, sobriety, and peace attacked him like tingly demons that desired his death. He wished for a moment of freedom, a moment to truly satisfy himself with what he had, but he knew he couldn’t, because whatever he ever loved was doomed to end with death and haunt him with another death and then another.

Caring was wrong. He could not tell why he had to remind himself that so often.

Another heart’s beating vibrated against his chest and that circular emotion that surrounded him was suddenly not a hug.

It was a noose.

“I want to kiss you,” Potter said.


Severus pushed Potter away in terror. There had to be a way to move past this point. He was stuck in hell. With James Potter’s son. Gay son. Too gay. Too close. Severus sighed off his panic and stood up ready for the fight that was assuredly on the way and coming.

Why couldn’t the boy keep his mouth shut for once?

“Sorry,” Potter said. “Forget –”

“As you can see,” Severus hissed, “I do forget. And you keep on reminding me that I should have never forgotten, that I should have opted out of this… thing months ago!”

“Well sorry for being honest then! As though you don’t know that I think of it. What changed now? That I told you? I’ve told you before.”

“Yes.” And he had hoped he had heard wrong. Hoped that Potter was confused. Wrong. Lying.

“Hypocrite.” The little idiot. What did he think he was doing? Didn’t he know that he was playing with fire? Didn’t he know that he had no right –

“We’ve had this ridiculous conversation before and let me assure you, you will fish nothing new out of it. If you are to start this again I’m leaving.”

“Coward.”

He wouldn’t slap him. He would leave.

“Where are you going? Severus!” Fingers clutched around his arms and Severus looked at the little devil that Potter was with disbelief. If he was keeping all his anxiety buried waiting for a big panic attack to burn it all down, apparently this was the right time to have it.

“Don’t. Push me away. ‘Cause I won’t go. Not like that. You can’t go mad over the fact that I like you. I’m not ashamed of it. But I can’t lie to you anymore.”

You can and you will.

Please. 

Severus pushed Potter’s hand away violently. Fuck Voldemort. He would kill the boy himself. “What do you want, Potter? You want me to confess my endless love to you? Drop on my knees and kiss your feet to express my wholehearted affection? Cry on your shoulder for the unfairness that life is? You’re seeking the wrongs person, boy. Go find yourself another queer little Gryffindor and unify with him if that’s what you wish. I’ve nothing of the kind to offer to you. I’m your professor.”

“You –”

“None of it. Every time you throw yourself on me you’re only embarrassing yourself further. Have some dignity and keep this idiocy to yourself.”

For your sake.

For mine.

Both, likely.

“You expect me to believe that you abandoned your whole life to be here with me because you had to. You think I'm so stupid I won’t see that you chose this. Or are you lying to yourself too? You’re flattered.”

“It’s duty, you moron!"

“It’s weakness! Unless... I don't know, sometimes I think it's only because you can’t get over your remorse. For what you did. You'd still be a Death Eater anyway, wouldn't you?

“You are a child, Potter. I regret wasting my time on you.” He turned to leave, but Potter stumbled behind him and he was soon in front of him again. There was rage flickering in his eyes.

“Duty for what? You think it’s going to change anything? Take it back, fix it? Nothing will make it better, and nothing will bring you closer to her because she doesn’t exist anymore.”

Merlin had mercifully ordered that the human brain worked slowly; first the blow, then the bruise. And there was only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one had refused to prepare. There was a feeling of disbelief that came over him, that took over, and he went through the motions. He did what he was supposed to do, which was to listen, but in fact he was not there at all.

“You think I don’t miss my parents?” A bitter chuckle escaped Potter’s throat and he raised his eyes. “I miss them every damn day, and I don’t ever remember their faces. I can’t wallow on it. It’d be useless. It’d be stupid. I’ll never be happy for not having them in my life, but either way I have to move on.”

There was some emotion between them that made the air thick, and Severus could only name it honesty, but he was sure that honesty was not a sentiment.

“I have moved on, Potter.” This was the truth at the core of his existence: this yawning emptiness, scantily clad in rage. It had been there all along, even before Lily died. Anger was useful only to a certain point, and pouring it now upon Potter would be careless. All the better.

“You should be thanking me on your knees for everything I’ve done to save your skin all these years. For blindly risking my life for you, doing all I can to keep you sound and safe. I’m not weak, Potter. I’m responsible. I do what I must while you play the little fairy queen with your friends and make up ridiculous fantasies to fill your empty days.”

But Potter laughed.“You do what you must to clean your soul from guilt. You know, if you want to protect me out of duty I don’t care. But I won’t have you protecting me out of remorse for my mother. That’s sick.”

“You believe you know it all –”

“That’s what you said to Dumbledore! He asked you if it was remorse, and then you agreed to protect me for her sake! I know what I saw Snape!”

“Careful, boy."

“No! Does anyone know who you even are? Because I'm stuck with you in this prison and I've no idea."

“Why do you care?”


Harry blinked, the silence of the room ringing into his ears after the intense shouting. Why did he?

“What do you think of Voldemort? What do you really think, do you ever admire him?" 

“End of discussion.”

The boy went on, but Snape didn’t answer, and instead he merely walked to the fireplace and reached for the powder. The jar was violently snatched from his fist and thrown to the wall.  

“Fucking listen to me goddamn you! I love you!”

Harry’s breath came out forcefully, and his face was damp from the sweat. With a grimace of disgust Snape grabbed Harry’s shoulders and pushed him back. His teeth bared, he hissed so close to Harry’s mouth that his breath tickled his skin.

“Do so for all I care. I will not witness my life being destroyed just because of this madness. You will stop bringing it up and you'll give up on any ridiculous hopes that concern me or I’ll obliviate you. This absurd obsession with my person will cease. I never wished you to be in my life. This is beyond right or wrong, this is beyond any sense Potter!”

Harry snorted. Indeed, they had done this before. “Are you through?”

Snape let go of his shoulders and looked at him from his full height. “I am, mister Potter.”

And then Harry was pressed against the wall with a strong grip against his throat and was kissed passionately, with a trembling rage that made his head dizzy and his heart jump. Their lips crushed together and Harry moaned in shock.

Snape pushed back as savagely as he had pulled close. He looked away, hiding the pained expression Harry had seen so many times before. Harry didn’t dare to talk; he waited for Snape to begin. To leave. Or to stay.

One could always hope, after all.

But Snape never said a thing.

He didn’t have to.  Harry realised he wasn’t the only one trembling.


Potter stepped closer and with the softest of touches began unbuttoning Severus’ shirt. Severus watched, petrified, unable to think of a protest.

He was not homosexual. Had never been. Child molesters disgusted him. Whatever the boy was doing to him, it had to be Dark Magic. In that moment, Severus truly believed it, that the creature before him was a demon, sent to destroy him.

Potter looked at him with eyes insecure, as though waiting for permission. He snaked his hands under Severus’ shirt and his palms pressed against his skin. Severus shivered in something that could not be anticipation, and only when Potter’ hands rose to his shoulders in an attempt to take the shirt off Severus’ mind snapped into reality.

“Tch.” Flinching away, he let the disgust wash over him along with dread, and he departed.

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Potter said.

“I’m busy today. This is from Dumbledore. He’ll visit soon, I suspect.” He handed him over the letter and disappeared to the kitchen. Potter followed.

“What does he mean?”

Severus arched an eyebrow before he withdrew his eyes and occupied himself by searching for a cup. Too late he realised that he didn’t want tea. “I don’t read your mail, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“He says that I’m not going back this year. What does he mean? Because I’m not staying in here for a year. I’m not. What does he mean?”

Severus brew his tea silently. What did Dumbledore mean? Most likely nothing as noble as the current kidnaping. Most likely something Severus had no wish to know or participate in, but would have to do both. The Dark Lord had little patience left. He wanted the old man dead. Dumbledore toyed with the idea of facing the threat by meeting the Dark Lord all by himself. It was startling how it had never occurred to the slimy bastard to think of a plan that would offer a chance for Severus to get out of alive. Karma was a whore.

“Severus.”

A wet whore. “Severus,” he mimicked. A venomous monster jumped in protest inside his stomach, ready to rip his skin with its teeth and slowly crawl out. What could he say? When exactly did it become “Severus” to you, pray tell? When did I give you the right to call me that? “It’s professor Snape to you.”

“What does he mean?”

“I don’t know.”

He was aware of the boy fuming in an attempt to keep his rage down. “Fuck you.”

And it somehow had to be Severus’ fault again. Had he not sworn to never start a fight, or any conversation with the boy for that matter, he would be furious. But as things were, he avoided Potter’s gaze for the best part of their time together, made a cup of tea he was not going to drink, and patiently waited for Potter to go away from the kitchen’s doorstep so he could pass and leave. His work here was done.

“I’m not a child. You tell him that. And I’m not his slave either. I’m going to fight that war either he wants it or not. It’s my war to fight. Not his. Everybody knew that since I was a baby. I’ve only followed his plan because I chose to — if I change my mind, he can’t stop me. And I’m probably already changing my mind.”

“Write him a letter and let him know.”

What Dumbledore had decided, Dumbledore would do. Potter’s protests would only make the coercion more obvious.

“Do you agree with him? Do you think it’s fine for me to be here at all? Because of him and because of you I behave like a coward. That’s not me. I don’t want to hide.”

Unfortunately for Potter, Horcruxes didn’t walk around in London, and Horcruxes didn’t fight in battles and wars either. The pawn that Potter had the luck to have become would be safely secured until the moment of destruction.

“Tell him.” Why did he bother with tea? Why ignore the luxury that whiskey offered? He made a mental note to express his love to his most precious bottle as soon as he returned home.

The problem was, oblivion was becoming harder to achieve.

“I know you’re both hiding things for me,” Potter said, struggling with his own voice. “There’s no reason to.”

Despite himself, Severus laughed. It occurred to him that the hoarse laughter that escaped his throat was far too anticlimactic for Harry’s drama and it only added to the tragedy he was going to face along with his demons once Severus was gone for the day. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. They were all fucked, and for more than one reason.

And now he was doing it again. Calling him Harry inside his head. A distant part of his consciousness protested that this turn of events was so pathetically twisted that it had to be Dumbledore’s plan. Who else, but Dumbledore, would have thought of something so shockingly wrong and allow it happen?

Stay away from the boy. Yes, stay away from the boy, but please do check on him twice a day. For a year. But stay away.

“The truth is,” Severus said, “that we’re doomed.”


“You know, if you wanted to pretend that it never happened, you should at least behave like you always do, not run and hide.”

Bugger. Why didn’t his life just let him be? “Like I always do?”

“You know,” Potter said. “Stay here for more than two minutes per day and such.”

Severus tossed him the book he had left on the wooden chair he’d brought earlier that week and seated himself. He was suddenly questioning all the possible reasons this shithole had no chairs in the first place, and found himself fuming in suspiciousness. Conspiracy theories were hardly helping.

“We’ve finished your training. That was the only reason I was staying more.”

“You mean we dropped it.”

I mean you should drop it. “I’m drinking my tea with you now,” he drawled warningly. “Push me and this might change.”

Harry sighed and made a face at his own cup of tea. “Why tea on summer?” he asked after a minute.

Yes, why not whiskey, Severus silently agreed.

“Why not lemon juice or something? You should bring lemon juice.”

“Mm.”

“And cookies. I miss cookies.”

“Dogs miss cookies. Not human beings.”

“I hate dogs,” Potter reminded him and grinned testily.

Severus couldn’t help but smile too. Soon, he broke into a low laughter. After a few seconds it was gone. He covered his eyes with a hand and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Merlin,” he murmured.

Harry bit his lip in apology. Then laughed again. “Sorry,” he said, not looking sorry at all. “I know.”

“You don’t,” Severus protested. You’re going to be the end of me. “You’re going to be the end of me.”

“That chair is going to be the end of you! What is it for, mummies? You look like a wooden sculpture sitting there, or, or like a Dracula who just woke up from his coffin.”

Severus looked at him between his parted fingers. “You will be pleased to know that this chair is an antique.”

“This? This is the most regular chair I’ve ever seen.”

“You have no sense of elegance. Stop talking.” The tension drifted away so slowly that Severus couldn’t exactly tell when it was completely gone. All he knew, was that he was sad it did.

Almost.


Severus walked in to find Potter standing next to the bed, with the bed sheet covering him from head to toes. “Hullo, Professor.”

“What on earth are you doing now?”

Potter grinned. “Becoming a ghost. You think it suits me?” Raising his hands, Potter approached him slowly as he made a boo sound that was solely capable of causing pity rather than laughter.

Severus scoffed. “Very mature of you. Years of teaching have certainly not been wasted.”

Potter stopped and dropped the sheet aside. “I was just changing the sheets. You’re no fun at all.”

“I’m not,” Severus agreed quite proudly. “And what happened to my chair?” he looked at his recently bought antique in terror as he could barely recognise it anymore. He was positively sure that the last time he’d seen it, it was respectfully dark brown. All of it. He was also sure that he had not requested it painted in the colours of the rainbow.

“It was boring. I fixed it.”

“You destroyed a rare piece of the eighteenth century,” Severus complained as he charmed it back to normal. Potter stumbled over the wrinkled sheet on the floor and kicked it aside. “This might strike you as new, but you can use magic,” Severus offered.

“I’m imprisoned in here with nothing to do all day. I don’t want to use magic.”

It was never too late to be wise. Or to be ridiculed. Severus couldn’t tell when he found himself tiptoeing on that double edged sword, and for the life of his he couldn’t figure why he wasn’t quitting. But if I quit, I’ll fall.

“Did you bring lemon juice?”

He was being toyed with. At some point of this travesty he had become the marionette of a sentiment that felt suspiciously like intimacy, and led him to the sinful behaviour of kindness that was now eating away the best of him. What was being left behind, was a friendly caricature that reminded him of the weaknesses emotions carried along and once again the reason Severus had cursed them to damnation a lifetime ago.

On second thought, “Yes.” He tossed him the bottle and Potter drank from it shamelessly.

“Any chance of using a glass, perhaps?”

Potter licked his lips and shook his head. “Nah.”

He couldn’t fall, for his falling wouldn’t be as soft as a snowflake’s or safe as a bird’s. He would crash to the ground with all the hatred and the damnation he deserved. He would lie down there, on his broken, bloodied back, and he’d look up, and would get lost up there, watching the faces of the dead hating him and pointing their fingers.

I’ve already fallen. Upward. Into the abyss above me. Forgive me, Lily.

He felt sorry for himself. His decent self suggested that common sense was something one could not run away from. It’d occur to him sooner or later, and then he’d face the consequences of his faux pas. His blatant self merely yanked the bottle from the boy’s hand and headed to the kitchen. 

He was aware of the parasitic creature following behind him and was vaguely reminded to not close the door at its face.

“Give it back,” Potter complained.

He should not fear. Fear was a mind-killer. He was most certainly not afraid of Potter. Except when he was near the boy. Self control. He used to have that. He took a glass from the cupboard and poured himself juice. He drank. His palate was dry today. The sponge that his tongue was had stuck on it with menace. He filled a second glass and handed it to Potter.

“Thanks. You okay?”

Severus nodded.

Fear was the little-death that brought total obliteration. He would face his fear for he had faced worse. He was terrified of the Dark Lord. Once, he was terrified of Albus Dumbledore. He would permit it to pass over him and through him. And when it has gone past he would turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear had gone there would be nothing.

But the boy in a coffin. Dead from the Dark Lord’s hand. Murdered like his parents.

Like he should’ve been seventeen years ago.

And Severus would remain.

Damn. He was losing his mind.

“I’ve been sweating all night,” Potter informed him with a look that suggested that this was some very interesting piece information. “It’s officially summer.”

Fascinating. My whole person is moved. Potter was sweating all night and I’m bringing him juice because he asked me to.

“Professor.” The worry was hard to hide as the green eyes narrowed.

Severus blinked. He should be thankful they didn’t have enough time left to make this more complicated. A ticking bomb echoed in his ears like a lullaby that presaged Harry’s death.

The too young that pierced his stomach was almost unbearable. He was going to throw up.

Potter blushed and then his face went blank. “If it’s because of what happened… I’m sorry. I won’t provoke you again.”

You are not capable of provoking.

Goddammit. Severus punched the cupboard with all his might and bared his teeth. He was becoming a monster. He shot Potter a stern look that hopefully killed all reveries. The flash of anger into those eyes was the last thing he was going to deal with. He would give anything to be able to slap him. Hard. When had the bugger become so bloody honest?

Provoke,” Severus sneered. “Let me assure you, should I ever feel provoked, it’d be by someone a little more interesting.”

“I’m afraid that this line won’t work until you truly obliviate me, Severus.”

Receiving this kind of abuse wasn’t optional. Severus had earned it. He was supposed to say something after this. But Severus’ self-esteem was greatly reduced the last days. He was now wondering if molestation was working the other way around.

He decided against pushing back. His decency shuddered in defeat and joked him in the form of leaving him defenceless, gaping at Potter like a fool.

His unwilling surrender made him dizzy. Potter hugged him, and all Severus could do was rest his chin on the boy’s head.

Chapter Text

“It’s the perfect plan,” Dumbledore said.

Potter attempted a polite smile, which was only delivered as a pained grimace. He clenched his fists together, his elbows resting on his knees. Dumbledore sat beside him on the bed. Severus waited.

“Why don’t you tell me how you two get by, then?” Dumbledore smiled too, in a way only Severus knew, and the warning that crept behind the loving eyes was enough for the guilt to nest around Severus to boil and tighten painfully. Potter eyed him too, unsure of what to say. He stared hastily at his own hands and then back to Severus. To his intense embarrassment, Severus felt the need to protest.

I cannot help you.

“All is well,” Severus said at last.

“No. Nothing is. Sir — I’m going to Hogwarts. Whatever it is that you’re going to say, you can’t keep me here.”

Dumbledore laughed. “Stay here? No, of course not, my boy. I regret all that you’ve been through, this Summer… Disconnected from your friends, your family, must have been hard.”

“My friends are my family.”

“And my only interest was to protect you.”

“Then why didn't you just let me go back to my family? Didn’t you always say my mom’s protection spells were enough?”

“I have, Harry. And I have been wrong. You were never meant to know so much about Severus. By using his Pensieve, you became a vulnerable book to Voldemort. A book  he could read anytime he controls your mind. A book filled with information that could make him want to kill Severus.”

Potter’s eyes darted between the two of them in panic. “I know that. Why are you telling me that again?”

“Wars must end,” Dumbledore said in that wise tone that often caused his listeners the desire to punch him in the face. “But for wars to end, wars must begin. We can only prepare, Harry.”

Severus watched as Harry waved a hand through his hair and scratched his scar. “So what do we have to do?”

“I am planning to travel soon. In search of what must be found. Severus will be in charge  of Hogwarts while I’m away.”

Hosanna. At last, the inclusive plotting he never asked for.

“So, is that it? You’ve kept me here, teaching me Legilimency all summer, just so I can just go back to classes while you go away and do all the work by yourself?”

“Potter.” It was an impulse that made Severus interrupt them, but he had nothing to add to justify it.

“Severus taught you Legilimency?”

“I only showed him the very basics," he said fast. "No need to fret.”

And Harry stared. At him. Realising Severus had been lying to him all summer. Realising Dumbledore had never asked him to teach Harry anything but Occlumency in the first place. Realising Dumbledore didn’t even know Severus’s clever trick of making Harry feel like he wasn’t entirely wasting his time in here.

Dumbledore stared too. Severus waited. Wasn’t this all tremendous?

“Excuse me,” said Harry, choking on what sounded like disgust. Once the bathroom door was closed behind him, Severus turned to Dumbledore.

“Is that your final plan?” he sneered.

Dumbledore nodded kindly. “We have plenty time to discuss the arrangements. I’ve spoken to Minerva — she’s the only one who knows, so far.”

He momentarily closed his eyes in concentration. “The Dark Lord — he gave me a month. He’s tired of waiting. He wants me to murder you and you want to leave Hogwarts.”

“I am in search of something important, Severus.”

Severus nodded. The Horcruxes. If only he could tell Dumbledore he had figured it out. If only Dumbledore had told him everything instead of letting him figure them out anyway.

“How’s Harry?”

Severus furrowed his brows in confusion. “Well. You can imagine.”

“I can imagine, yes,” Dumbledore said lowly. “You’re going to be Headmaster.”

He was aware of nodding his head again but couldn’t exactly recall deciding to do so. Sleep deprivation had usually little effect on him through the years. Looking after Potter wasn’t exactly as easy.

“Good news come unexpected, don’t they?” chanted Dumbledore, and Severus bit back a bitter remark of how news coming from Dumbledore’s mouth were usually well dressed orders one would be suicidal to ignore.

The few colleagues who tolerated him would be once again suspicious of him. And Voldemort would expect him to rule Hogwarts by his word.

“Second thoughts?”

“None. Tell me what I have to do.”


Severus entered the hearth only because he was obliged to do so. Were he a free man, he would go straight home and sleep. That was what a man should do at 4 am, after a cruelly prolonged Death Eater meeting. After witnessing Dolohov confess his rape attempts in between sips of wine. After having the Dark Lord pat his head in sympathy for pretending to be on Dumbledore’s side.

Or in warning for the moment he’d decide to stop doing so.

He was aware of his clothes smelling of cigar and mint; that soothing smell that clung onto him every time he departed from Lucius’ Manor. In the darkness of the room, he was barely aware of a hushed voice talking to him as he sat himself on the bed only too late to recall there was a chair for that.

“Sir?”

Severus inhaled slowly. He needed to be alone. Why had he come here at all? A vague part of him reminded him that Harry would be worrying himself sick if no one appeared for a day. He always faced death unaffected. He always dealt with it later.

That later was now. Potter was kicking the sheets away and a hand gripped his shoulder. Severus yanked it away.

“Severus? What’s going on?”

The words didn’t come right away. Severus’ face tightened up and he willed himself to relax. He was here to inform the boy that everything was alright. He would then go back to Spinner’s End and throw up the gallons of alcohol he had engulfed. The tiny devil on his shoulder whispered boldly to his ear that this explanation didn’t match with his bringing a bottle tonight with him. Here.

This was the last place on earth where alcohol should be accessible from. He tried to remember that.

“You’re furious.” It was the voice of a worried just who had just woken up; that too familiar sleepy voice that did nothing to make this night better.

Furious was far from what he was. He was scared. Appalled. Upset.

Amazed at the steadiness of Potter’s hands as they pulled his cloak from his shoulders and tossed it aside.

“Have you told Dumbledore?”

Severus nodded his head in what he believed to be an affirmative fashion and closed his eyes. He rested his forehead on his hands and demanded away the upcoming headache. 

Harry’s hands warmed his shoulders as they rubbed off his tension. He was aware of the bottle resting against his thigh being picked up and he flinched in protest.

“You don’t need this.”

“You’re not to drink,” Severus warned. His voice was hoarse. He wanted it back. Now.

“I won’t drink it," Harry promised. “I’m just putting it aside.”

He didn’t have a mind to protest. He could think of no good reason alcohol was denied from him. He felt like being punished.

The grip on his shoulders hardened and two rough thumbs pushed into his flesh. It occurred to him that the deplorable sound he heard was his own moaning. He exhaled sharply. His shirt was soaked in his own sweat and it stuck on him like a second skin. He needed to take a shower.

Harry pulled him back and he found himself resting on the soft pillows. He lied on the bed too, his forehead against Severus’s. It occurred to him that he was clenching his teeth. A muscle throbbed on the side of his jaw.

“It’s okay. Just close your eyes.” whispered Harry.

Severus chose to not answer. He’d sooner top himself than have the little wrench advise him. Or sooth him.

He didn’t do soothing. He refused to receive it too.

Time healed all wounds, people said. Severus did not agree. The wounds remained. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covered them with scar tissue and the pain lessened. But deep down, it remained.

His pain for Lily’s death only came after she was gone. The current pain for Harry was something he could not explain. The boy was alive. For now.

A hand covered his clenched fist and forced it to loosen. He needed alcohol.

“Tomorrow,” Harry said.

Had he said that aloud?

He slept.


Severus was awaken by the tapping sunlight. He moaned and wondered how long he’d been sleeping. He blinked, shut his eyes, and blinked again. He yawned. A constant pressure on his conscience of something he should be aware of was forbidding him to go back to sleep. Soft raven hair brushed his lips and he grunted.

Some people wake up drowsy. Some people wake up energised. Severus had just woken up dead. He untangled himself from the equally dead octopus that happened to be Harry Potter and took a moment to look at him.

Eyelids closed against the light; breathing deep and relaxed. The muscles on his face and body were at peace. Not a twitch, not a spasm, only his chest rising and falling with every intake of air. Severus felt jealousy at his oblivion. He searched for innocence, but even in this relaxed state Severus knew that the white eyelids hid sinister eyes.

Somehow, he had fallen for this boy. And someday he’d touch him with his fingers. And he’d burn holes in his skin with his own mouth. And it’d hurt when he’d look at him. And it’d hurt when he wouldn’t. And it’d feel like someone had cut him open with a jagged piece of glass.

The sharp pain of the bleeding was almost real, already.

Too soon.

Too late.

He placed a hand on Harry’s chest. He shook him lightly. “Harry.”

Severus was happy in his sleep. He woke up with a feeling of falling apart, of cracking up from the inside and slowly falling to pieces. Harry wrinkled his nose in acknowledgment. His hand came up to where Severus’ hand was resting on his chest and touched it. It fell on the sheets right after and stayed there.

Severus’ heart jumped and grated like a cold engine that didn’t want to start. Little bugger. Twisted child. What have you done to me? His skin crawled, and he was incapable of managing a single clear thought. How would it feel to lower his hand? He silently promised himself strict punishment for being. Spooning out his own eyes, if necessary.

Necessary.

Definitely necessary.

Potter’s eyes snapped open.

Severus’ thoughts crushed to bits just as they had begun to take shape. Potter looked up at him confused.

There was a stillness between them, a period of restlessness that tied his stomach
in a hangman’s noose. It was that same deadly lack of noise that lived in the
darkness of graves; the one that crept in alleys no sane man should ever know.

Harry stretched and yawned, and Severus had to mentally curse himself for thinking over the possible ways he could shut this mouth for good. His own nerve was betraying him.

“Morning,” mumbled Harry as he rolled over and hid his head under the pillow. His arse was momentarily raised up in a stretching move that looked suspiciously preplanned.

“Good morning,” drawled Severus. The last night’s panic had passed, but his shirt needed washing, and he most certainly needed a bath too. He decided to get rid of the boy as soon as possible. He then remembered that this was the one wish that never worked.

It will soon.

No.

“Nice little moments,” murmured Harry. A ridiculous grin was splashed across his face. “Waking up late and having someone gawk at you.”

He was not. Gawking. At him.

Not bloody likely.

“You’d wish. I was merely studying the source of my bad lack.” Was that the best you could do? “Looking at you makes me wonder if you’re even worth of all the trouble I’m getting into.” There.

Harry scrunched his face and with an impressively quick move he pulled the pillow from  under his head and attempted to strike him. Severus dodged it before it hit him in the ribs; he hadn't had a pillow fight in decades, and he wasn’t going to now. Harry giggled as he landed the pillow on his and attempted to repeat it just as Severus dodged again and yanked the pillow violently from him and tossed it away. Harry was going for the other pillow when Severus curled his hand around his wrist and pinned him down. There was another moment of giggling; then Harry’s smile faded into something else. Seriousness.

Stupid little shit. Severus allowed himself a second of battling between leaving this prison in silence and granting Harry a last smirk of triumph. Apparently, one second was too much.

“You know I’m not buying it, and ah–” Severus tightened his grip. Potter grinned. “And I know you’ve been gawking at me. Why do you like to pretend you’re an arsehole when you could just be nice to me?”

Severus smirked. “Nice little moments.”

“I’m not buying it,” Harry said again. Damn his impossible stubbornness. Severus let go of his hand and strode off to the bathroom. After he’d emptied his bladder and spared himself a moment to look at the mirror, he returned to the main room only to see the boy sleep again.

“It’s almost noon,” he snarled.

And was ignored.

“Potter?” All for the best. His face was buried in the pillow again, which was now being straddled and hugged. Child.

Absolutely.

Insufferable.

Child.

He shrug off his thoughts and fought off the sudden impulse to shout at the boy’s ear just to see him jump up in terror. There was a time he’d enjoy that. He’d still do.

Then, a murmur. “Come back to bed.”

Severus furrowed his brows. His heart jumped out of his chest and he was reminded or the reasons he learnt the unforgivable curses so long ago.

His stomach lurched at the boy’s sleepy face as he struggled to focus his eyes without those damned glasses on. It occurred to him that Potter looked happy.

Potter.

A chuckle was muffled on the pillow and he rolled on his back, covering his eyes with a hand. “I bet you look scared.”

He was not. Scared.

He was nauseated. Outraged. Sick.

Late.

“I’m leaving. Do try to not spend the rest of your day lazing like a fool.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah. Have a nice day too.”

Despite himself, Severus didn’t manage to be annoyed.

Chapter Text

“So, how come Hedwig can fly around this place but other people can’t see it? I mean, Hedwig would deliver letters to Sirius when no one even knew where he was.”

Potter had no admiration for magic. His curiosity to know what men were not meant to know would only weaken the importance of magic to him. Knowing was impossible. They had to accept things as they were. In other words, “Magic.”

“What does magic have to do with Hedwig?”

Severus rolled his eyes as he took off his cloak and placed it on the bed. “You don’t think our owls are ordinary ones, do you?”

Potter furrowed his brows. “What do you mean?”

“Magic runs in your blood, and thus you are capable of many things Muggles are not. It works the same with animals.”

Potter seemed to consider that. “I’ve never thought that.”

“You wouldn’t need to think it,” Severus sneered, “if you had simply studied it in your Care of Magical Creatures class. But who am I to judge your holy decisions?” He took out his wand and checked the spells of the house once more. They were intact.

“Why don’t you teach me the things you know?” Potter asked suddenly. “You could teach me fighting spells.”

He could. And he would. If Potter wasn’t meant to lose the war. “Ask Dumbledore.”

“I’m asking you.”

“And I’m refusing. End of discussion.”

Potter released a sharp breath but didn’t push it. Severus was suddenly intrigued to spill the truth to Harry and get him out of here. Fuck the greater cause and fuck Dumbledore and fuck Voldemort too. He could make a plan. One of his own. He was a spy, after all; he knew more than Dumbledore thought. No one would know what happened and when they’d suspect Severus it’d be too late. They’d have fled.

They couldn’t.

And Severus shouldn’t be thinking like this. Might as well get over his death before it happens. Might as well.

Harry went to the bathroom for his night routine and Severus laid down on the bed, a hand covering his eyes. He should go. The fear of death never haunted Severus personally. He’d never been scared by the fact that he, himself, might someday die, nor had he felt any remorse for the experiences he wouldn’t have time to go through during his short insignificant life. He had lived it all as a pawn, anyway; he did what he must, he obeyed, he bent his head and kept to himself whatever he ever wished or desired or hated. He never gave anything to himself. He never wished anything for himself.

Slowly, he unbuttoned his shirt and took it off. He unbuckled his belt and let it fall next to his shoes. Potter came out of the bathroom and looked at Severus curiously. “Sir?”

“I’m staying here tonight.”

Severus contemplated between turning his head to see Harry’s shock and remain as he was. His tiredness won, although he wouldn’t remember how he got tired, and no muscle ached tonight but his heart. He snorted. He did look like a depraved old fool. Maybe he was one.

“Um. Okay.” Harry said cautiously. Severus lied down, and soon felt the mattress sink as Harry climbed on the bed too. With the lights turned off, Severus turned to his side, grabbed Harry by the waist and dragged him closer. “Do anything stupid and I’ll leave.”

“Okay,” said Harry in a hushed voice. He felt fingers brushing his shoulders and staying there. His own fingers traitorously found their way to Harry’s hair. It was a curious thing, the death of a loved one. Everyone knew that time in this world is limited, and that eventually everybody would end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up.

Yet it was always a surprise when it happened to someone Severus knew. It was a sickly moment of dark horror, the moment Severus heard these latest news, as though trying to readjust the way Severus thought of things.

Harry’s embrace was warm, and the hand on Severus’ shoulder now carefully wrapped itself around his body. The sound of their hearts beating existed possibly in Severus’ imagination only. He didn’t mind.

“What happened?” whispered Harry.

Severus shook his head after a moment. “War, I think.”

Harry chuckled. “Is this how you react to war?”

This is how I react to you. “Should I change my mind, then?”

“Don’t you dare,” said Harry, and then laughed. “Don’t you dare leave this bed, ever. ‘Cause I’m not planning to.”

“The great war hero Harry Potter, aren’t you. Found heavenly sleeping after the war had ended. Was woken up to state in surprise that he didn’t notice that a war had actually occurred.” Making an honest attempt to sneer was apparently being sabotaged by his hand still stroking Harry’s hair. He made a mental note to make this right tomorrow with a random nasty remark.

“Is it bad that sometimes I want just that?” The fingers making small cycles at the small of Severus’ back stopped. Wanting to live wasn’t too much to ask, Severus’ consciousness protested. His better sense argued that it was luxury. War was a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal. The lack of shame about it caused a twitch on Severus’ wand hand. If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.

“You need to be brave.”

“I am. Brave. It was just a thought.”

“Severus…”

“Harry. Sleep.”


Severus glanced at Marvolo Gaunt’s ring laying on the desk before Dumbledore. Severus muttered another spell under his breath as he moved his wand over Dumbledore’s wrist. “I warned you,” he hissed. “Why… why put it on while you knew it carried a curse? Did I not warn you?”

Dumbledore’s eyes were closed, a drop of sweat on his temper. “You told me to wait… I… waited too long…”

“Why even want to put it on?” he asked furiously as he saw his spell passing through the curse in vain. Dumbledore’s darkened fingers twitched.

The curse held a death sentence. He went through every healing spell he knew and all of them crashed to his hand and dissolved. They were fucked. Without Dumbledore they were fucked. He’d have to use dark magic to block the curse; the best he could do was convince Dumbledore to chop off his hand and hope for the best.

“The curse is extraordinary strong; I have trapped the curse in one hand for the time being –”

Dumbledore raised his blackened hand and observed it. It occurred to Severus that he was putting effort to even moving his fingers. Dumbledore glanced at them with curiosity. “You have done very well, Severus. How long do you think I have?”

The rage that boiled inside Severus didn’t try to express itself. He was going to be left alone to protect Harry. As a Death Eater, this was impossible. Without Dumbledore’s assistance they didn’t stand a chance surviving the war. “I cannot tell. Maybe a year. There is no halting such a spell forever. It will spread eventually, it is the sort of curse that strengthens over time.”

It would take less than a year; he wasn’t sure how much he should reveal at the moment. His fate laughed at Severus from a distance and Severus mentally kicked it away. As fate usually did, it crawled back to him and kept laughing. Dumbledore smiled. “I am fortunate, extremely fortunate, that I have you, Severus.”

Ah, the fortune is all mine. I’m having the best fun of my life here. Hail fortunate people of this world. May they always be blessed with such remarkable events.

“If you had only summoned me a little earlier, I might have been able to do more, buy you more time!” said Snape furiously. “If you had waited for me to examine the curse first, break it before you put it on…” This was Severus’ fault too. Leaving a powerful magical object with the greatest wizard of all times and expecting him to not use it. How thoughtful. He should have studied that ring sooner. He should have concerned himself with it months ago instead of dawdling in — Harry’s arms, for God’s sake.

Severus looked at the broken ring and the Gryffindor sword unable to draw any conclusion. Dumbledore should have known curses didn’t break that easily. “Did you think that breaking the ring would break the curse?”

“Something like that . . . I was delirious, no doubt. . . .”

The old bastard was lying. Severus was struggling to save his life and what he was receiving was yet again filthy lies. Why break the ring? Why with the Gryffindor sword? Was it a horcrux?

Dumbledore straightened himself and pointed at the chair across him. As Severus sat down, he mentally put in order the questions he wanted to make. Time was drifting away and he wouldn’t let himself see Dumbledore die without demanding answers first. Dumbledore had to tell him everything he knew about Harry. It would be stupid to take his secrets with him as though they didn’t matter. Dumbledore cut him short before he could speak.

“Well, really, this makes matters much more straightforward.”

Severus narrowed his eyes in terror. Dumbledore smiled.

“I refer to the plan Lord Voldemort is revolving around me. His plan to have the poor Malfoy boy murder me.”

Severus swallowed all his protests and waited. The feeling that this wasn’t going to be good became stronger and stronger.

“The Dark Lord does not expect Draco to succeed anymore. This is merely punishment for Lucius’s recent failures. Slow torture for Draco’s parents, while they watch him fail and pay the price. He was given a whole school year and failed miserably. By the start of the new term the Dark Lord won’t be so patient. In short, the boy has had a death sentence pronounced upon him as surely as I have,” said Dumbledore. “Now, I should have thought the natural successor to the job, once Draco fails, is yourself.”

There was a short pause. They had already discussed this. Severus could see where this was going. “That is the Dark Lord’s plan.”

“Lord Voldemort foresees a moment in the near future when he will not need a spy at Hogwarts?”

“He believes the school will soon be in his grasp, yes.”

“And if it does fall into his grasp,” said Dumbledore, “I have your word that you will do all in your power to protect the students of Hogwarts?”

Severus nodded. This was madness.

“Good. Now then. You must promise me that you will not break your cover by talking to Harry again after I’m gone, until, of course, it’s necessary.”

It was the sheer realisation of what they were discussing that turned Severus’ blood into ice. Surely Dumbledore was joking. This had to be some test. The useless hand hanging limp on Dumbledore’s side indicated otherwise. “Are you intending to let him kill you?”

Say no.

“Certainly not.” Lies. Again, lies. “You must kill me.”

Oh.

His plan of kidnapping Potter and abandoning the world suddenly seemed wise.

“Would you like me to do it now?” asked Severus, close to snapping. “Or would you like a few moments to compose an epitaph?”

He had been struggling with his consciousness for the best part of the past year so he could maintain his nobility. He feared Harry Potter’s existence with all his might in constant worry of what immoral paths he might follow, he restrained himself from every little happy moment he could live and stayed loyal to the cause. He watched with awe as his said nobility was completely disregarded by his master and as he was shamelessly requested to dismiss it permanently.

“Oh, not quite yet,” said Dumbledore casually. “I believe I want to see a last opening feast first.”

“If you don’t mind dying,” sneered Severus, determined to not lose his temper now, “why not let Draco do it?”

“That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.”

What were they talking about? Wasn’t Severus a human being? “And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?”

“You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,” said Dumbledore. “I ask this one great favour of you, Severus, because death is coming for me surely. I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved… Or dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before she eats it.” Dumbledore snorted. “On the other hand, you’re still going to be Headmaster.”


“You’re becoming lazier than I am,” said Harry.

Severus grimaced. “Lying down isn’t always laziness. Some people do have the ability to think and therefore use relaxation as a way of focusing on what is troubling them.”

“And what is troubling you?”

Severus didn’t answer. He saw Harry disappear to the kitchen and a part of himself followed behind him to take a better look of the boy’s ignorant calmness. The part of himself that refused to acknowledge Harry Potter’s existence kept staring at the ceiling. Even if he had been in love, he could not have been more wretchedly blind. Vanity had never been his folly. Murder wasn’t his kick. He couldn’t remember trying anything else whatsoever. Well. For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts. Severus supposed that he had accepted himself as a murderer long ago. This wouldn’t have to be hard.

Why should it?

The fact that he was going to kill the last person who ever showed kindness to him should not affect him.

Not the last one.

Rubbish. And Harry was going to die too. All Severus could hope for was to die himself before any of this occurred.

He had forced himself to follow orders, always, for her, and now he discovered a metal inside him where his heart should be.

“Want a cookie?” A chocolate cookie hovered above his mouth and Severus turned his head aside frowning. He grabbed the cookie nevertheless and looked at it.

“No love potion,” Harry joked. “I don’t think you need it. I’m already charming.”

“Unbearably,” sneered Severus.

Harry lied down beside him and propped himself up his elbows. “What’s bothering you?”

“Business.”

“Dumbledore.”

After a moment Severus grunted in agreement.

“What did he tell you this time?”

“Stay out of it.”

“Fine.” Harry snatched back the cookie from Severus’ hand and ate it. Severus silently damned Harry for still having faith in his good side. He shut his eyes against the image of the betrayal he’d cause Harry to feel and it only became clearer. He quickly glanced at the confused boy who studied him with furrowed brows. The odds for Severus to save him were slim. He shut his eyes again.

“Is it that bad?”

Severus forced himself to remain stern, despite the snort that was threatening to escape him. “Has it ever been good?”

“It has,” Harry said. “Cookie?”

Severus accepted it with a barely opened mouth, if only to make Harry shut up. And immediately regretted doing so for he was now choking on it. He abruptly sat up and coughed hard until the danger was over. He glared at Harry with what he hoped was a disapproving look and Harry grinned. When Severus lied down again, Harry suddenly became sullen. “What if Dumbledore needs our help while he’s away? What if they find him?”

Ah. You’re still there. Severus didn’t know whether to tell him that this particular plan was rather cancelled or not. And how was Harry going to finish whatever business he had without Dumbledore? Who would help him? His useless friends? “We’ll see. Have you finished your exercises?”

“Yes. You want to play?”

Severus pulled himself up and Harry sat cross-legged across him. “I wasn’t aware that mind altering was a game to you. It’s obvious, you take your education seriously.”

His heart beat faster and he was suddenly too unwilling to keep up this act. Every word he uttered to the boy was a lie. Every hope he gave him for a better future was fake. He was keeping him alive so he could die from the hand of Lord Voldemort. He was entertaining a moribund who loved him; trusted him. So. Severus was a heartless bastard. No news here.

He deepened his glare and Harry frowned. White, he thought, although they had done white before. He was planning to move forward to more difficult concepts, but it now seemed fruitless. What for?

“White,” Harry said confidently.

“And now?”

Severus shifted his thoughts and watched as Harry struggled to follow. “Is it still a colour?”

Severus smirked. “I don’t know, is it?”

Harry pulled his face into a look of strict concentration and his tongue darted out to lick his lower lip. Severus focused on his eyes.

“I want a drink. Alcohol, I mean. Is that…?”

“Close enough. It was whiskey.”

“Don’t tell me next time until I find it.”

“And leave eternity pass so uselessly? I doubt so.”

Harry rolled his eyes to the back of his head. “Fuck off. Can I do that to you too?”

Severus couldn’t keep back his urge to laugh. The Dark Lord himself couldn’t read his actual thoughts. “Not in this lifetime. Focus.”

They did it again and Harry succeeded. He won, as Harry preferred to name it, a childish grin on his face every time he found the right answer. A smile for getting closer to the dream of mastering the art of Occlumency. To make Severus proud. Severus was suddenly filled with the urgency to see Harry succeeding too. Another restless night was approaching and Severus gazed hard as he blocked out of his mind the cold bed that awaited him back home and his mark that’d burn every time a Death Eater committed murder. Which was precisely all night long. His body went rigid at his incredulously persistent inclination to sleep here again, and he forgot to hide the worry from his face.

At the possibility of not sleeping alone, he felt his muscles relaxing and he inwardly wished himself death for such weakness. He’d sooner parade in the front papers cuddled  in Harry’s protective arms than get used to sleeping with him. The little voice in the back of his head that used to sooth him by reminding him that he was not attracted to little boys did little to reason him anymore. Facts spoke in a clearer voice than beliefs, and whatever had been fact to him his whole life was now incompetent in explaining why he had come to a point where he could not protest when Harry was close.

He blamed tiredness for not getting angry every time. He reasoned himself that, if he were to survive this, he had to make some kind of peace with the boy. He told himself that being close to someone wasn’t necessarily equal to being attracted to that person. He even tried to convince himself that what he felt was closer to a newly developing paternal need for protection that anything else.

That last part made him so nauseous that it was quickly dismissed as purely sick.

And that alone made the even sicker truth more obvious.

He could not explain it.

He settled to not think about it.

Severus’ temples throbbed and he relaxed his jaw just in time to notice the beginning of a headache. Harry broke the eye contact first, and rubbed his own eyes with a thumb and an index finger. “Can we stop for a few minutes?”

“Yes,” Severus said much too quickly. Harry fell back on the pillows and Severus rubbed absently at his neck. To his surprise, Harry didn’t propose a massage.

Chapter Text

Every time Severus woke with Harrys’ random parts glued on him, he promised himself it would be the last time. Every time he opened his eyes to watch that face buried on the pillow next to his while a hand or a leg or both were entangled around Severus, he vowed to end this decadency and move forward to a happy independent life. As this was not an option, however, he watched himself falling and falling again, unable to find a good enough reason to stop this fall. The next time he’ll do it, I’ll stop, he thought to himself, although he knew that he needed not another attack of Harry’s to know that he should stop.

The fact that Harry was at last sleeping normally should not be as strong an argument. The fact that Severus himself was sleeping better when the bed wasn’t cold was outrageous.

Sometimes, the best and worst times of one’s life can coincide. It was a talent of the soul to discover the joy in pain – the bitter ache of surrender burdened Severus’ soul and he found that he didn’t know what to do with it. Until a solution presented itself, he carefully packed it away and continued obeying the boy’s desires.

Not all of them.

Shut up.

He turned to see Harry sleeping on his belly with the sheet up his neck, facing away from Severus. His breath was even; Severus’ was far from it. His mark hadn’t stopped burning, and he was to be summoned any time soon now; the Dark Lord had already decided that taking Hogwarts was a priority, and no one knew the school as well as Severus. The Death Eaters would have to break in.

To his defense, he was once again forced to do as told.

Apart from that, he was indeed going to betray the Order under Dumbledore’s orders. Not that Severus had any friends.

He had allies. To him, it was the same.

And now another Weasley was getting married and Harry would stubbornly want to attend. Severus made a mental note to sternly opt out of this even before he was asked to participate. Between witnessing another Weasley wedding and killing Dumbledore, he definitely preferred the latter. And a marriage with a Veela it was, just to make sure that she’d get fucked as frequently as the tradition demanded to produce another dozen of mindless brats.

Giving birth was not something to be proud of; getting married applied to that category too. Announcing one’s love and expecting to be admired for it. For having succeeded at being absolutely ordinary and having found a person amongst the billions of the earth to get along with them for a reasonable amount of time. This was what animals did, and they were certainly neither proud nor ashamed for it. Pretending to be touched by someone’s façade was hypocrisy. Being happy because someone was introducing themselves to troubles of affiliation that Severus had successfully managed to skip was at least boring.

Yawning, he reached the conclusion that he was glad he had never been married. Sharing a life with someone else was not something he wished for. Having to rely his secrets and give away his habits and desires for the sake of a brainless wife seemed to him terrifying. He would never stand not having a bed for himself.

Except he could.

He stretched and made a much too needed trip to the bathroom before washing his face and pouring himself a cup of tea. The forgotten box of biscuits from yesterday's night laid on the mattress next to Harry’s hand, and Severus placed it to the nightstand. He sat back to the bed and took out of his robe the invitation.

Miss Fleur Delacour and Mr. Bill Weasley request the pleasure of your company at their wedding.

He stopped reading and crumpled up the paper. It seemed that they’d have to survive their wedding without him, then. Pity. It occurred to him that it must have been Molly’s insistence that they invited him. His mark itched again and he almost dropped his cup on the sheets. He winced as the pain became stronger and Harry curled to his side hissing. “Fuck.”

“Potter.”

The boy clutched at his forehead and Severus dragged him up to a sitting position. Harry pushed him away. “Let go! Ah – FUCK!”

“Focus, Potter! Push him out!” He grabbed Harry by the arms and shook him. Severus’ mark throbbed. He had to go.

“AH – NOOOOO!”

“Focus!” Severus shouted. “Remember what I taught you.”

Harry’s forehead fell forward on Severus’ lap and he screamed. Not knowing what to do, Severus stroked his back awkwardly. The screaming didn’t stop. Harry’s nails dug into his scar as though trying to eradicate it. Severus watched in terror the connection he had heard about but had never seen this clearly before. Their souls connected. Harry was indeed the piece that had been missing from the Dark Lord’s soul. They were one.

Dark magic was Severus’ passion since he could remember himself. He was in love with its abilities and the lack of limits it provided to those who knew how to treat it. It was an art, he used to say, but it wasn’t. It was power. It amazed Severus like nothing else.

At this moment, it sickened him.

Harry let a final sob on Severus’ thigh and stopped. He helped himself to his feet and ran to the bathroom, where he closed the door and most likely retched his stomach out. Severus dressed himself and drank the rest of his tea in a gulp. When Harry came out of the bathroom Severus was ready to depart. “I left a painkiller on the kitchen table, in case you need it,” he said taking a handful of dust.

“Are you going to him?”

Severus didn’t look at Harry as he threw the dust in the hearth. “Spinner’s end.”


“Where are they going to hide the boy next?”

“At the home of one of the Order,” said Severus. He ran through the details of a plan that didn’t exist and fixed his gaze with the Dark Lord’s. At the front of his mind hovered the images he wanted the Dark Lord to see.

“Well, Yaxley?” the Dark Lord called. “Will the Ministry have fallen by next Saturday?”

Severus knew where this was going. With the Ministry down, the next task would be to kill Dumbledore. He kept his gaze calm, but the difficulty with which he was now keeping himself from burning the manor down and taking everyone with him had never been so intense. He listened to their plans and carefully packed them in his memory to convey to Dumbledore later.

“As long as Dumbledore is alive,” the Dark Lord stopped to look at Severus for a second, “I cannot move forward to the Ministry. I want him dead. He protects the boy.”

The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies was that they had a greater capacity to diminish people than exposed ones. They eroded Severus’ strength, his self-esteem, his very foundation. Looking back, he couldn’t think of a moment where he was truly himself and cared not about what he should pretend to be. Violently pulled back to reality, he decided that even a tiny bit of deceit was dishonorable when used for selfish or cowardly reasons, but manipulation itself was useful after all. He trusted his instinct upon maintaining the personality the Dark Lord wanted him to have and silently wished for this to end as soon as possible.

“I have been careless, and so have been thwarted by luck and chance, those wreckers of all but the best-laid plans. But I know better now. I understand those things that I did not understand before. I must be the one to kill Harry Potter, and I shall be.”

And you will, repeated Severus inwardly, and when his eyes met the Dark Lord’s he smiled.


“Are you really not going to come?”

“I see no reason why I should.” In all honest, he saw. But this was his mere protest against Dumbledore’s grant idiocy. Keeping Harry in a cage for his protection but letting him out to go to a wedding. Reasonable to the very end.

“Hermione and Ron thought that I should use Polyjuice, but since I’m going to be with Dumbledore I don’t think I need it. What do you think?”

“Polyjuice, which you learnt how to brew by stealing from my apothecary.”

Harry glanced at him cheekily and put on his jacket. It occurred to Severus that he barely looked any older in it.

“Ron makes a really good effort to be alright with me. It was stupid to think he would never talk to me again.”

Severus didn’t roll his eyes. Making an effort to be alright with someone wasn’t what he had in mind when he thought of friendship. Then again, what did he know. Dumbledore apparrated with a pop and smiled at Severus happily. An “I’m-so-happy-I’m-going-to-attend-to-a-wedding” smile. An “I-have-definitely-not-asked-you-to-murder-me-anytime-soon” smile.

Severus nodded curly and left the room just in time to save himself from the glorious scene of Dumbledore teaching Harry how to make a tie tying spell.

As soon as he stepped foot in his home he ran for a shower, rubbing off him Harry’s scent and Harry’s memory and everything that could possibly remind Severus of him. Remembering his place in the world, he wore his Death Eater cloak and departed for the Malfoy Manor. He wondered about the seemingly endless row of troubles that had fallen upon him since he began… pretending to care for the boy. It was surely the most brainless decision of his; wishing for the mere courtesy of self-respect he brought to mind how he was always being accustomed to situations despite liking them or not. For he didn’t.

He assisted Harry Potter because it was asked of him. Nothing intriguing or interesting had him continue doing so, and so it had to be routine. Inwardly, he applauded himself for successfully keeping on hating the boy with all his heart. Outwardly, he forced his face to fall and let his expression become blank.

After all this time of serving old greedy bastards, he finally had to care for himself, even a little. Dumbledore had been taking advantage of his love for Lily since she died. Severus was expected to be unaffected, of course. He had to live without sympathy, didn’t he? He was the heartless bastard of Slytherin. The dirty fascist. He had lived up to this role and all the strangers’ expectations with no trace of sentiment slipping out. He was proud to state that he was planning to do so for the rest of his days.

But that was impossible.

People acted it to one another, all this hardness; but deep down they weren’t like that. The Dark Lord himself had desires and voraciousness and thus had weaknesses. Dumbledore disagreed, but Severus believed that even the Dark Lord contained emotions.

One couldn’t be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold.

Well. Not Severus.

It occurred to Severus that this was against every theory he had developed over the past years. Not that it mattered what he believed.

Severus’ job was to pry through the keyhole, and transfer information. That was what servants did.

Other people, not servants, not spies, not perplexed with inadmissible sentiments towards little disobedient children, did better. Fell in love, got married, organized weddings, and invited people like Severus, knowing far too well they’d not come.

“Ah, Severus. Just in time.”

“My Lord.”


“The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.”

Harry took out his wand as he looked around for Dumbledore. Hermione dragged him aside and they crouched under a table as the people started screaming and running. Ron kneeled down beside them as soon as he saw them. “Go,” Harry yelled at them. “I have to find Dumbledore. Go!”

“No, you must come with us!” Hermione yelled back. Ron touched her arm.

“Harry!” Ron shouted as something behind him exploded. Harry felt a tight grip on his shoulder and looked up startled to see Dumbledore steeling him. Be careful, Harry wanted to say to his friends, but he didn’t have time. Dumbledore apparated them away.


It took a lifetime for Harry to calm down. Dumbledore took him to the safe house and then left, promising to return soon. An hour passed and he hadn’t, while Snape was missing too. Harry took a shower and let the hot water wash away his fear and anger. He checked the fireplace as soon as he got out of the bathroom, but it hadn’t been used, and he couldn’t get out, so he had no way of knowing what was happening to the outside world. The possibility of both Snape and Dumbledore being dead ringed in his ears and made his body vibrate in horror. He imagined staying stuck up in this room until he died of hunger.

He could not sleep. He watched the dawn as it illuminated with its red and golden shining and was reminded of the Gryffindor colours and Hogwarts and all the places he had no access to because he was locked up. His scar didn’t hurt. He was alone.

He drank what lemon juice was left and discovered a box of biscuits in the cupboard. His stomach was a knot and after the first biscuit he felt nauseous. When the pop of apparition was heard, Harry jumped up and saw Dumbledore carrying a tired, grim expression.

“Is everybody alright?” Harry asked at once. “Where’s Snape? Hermione and Ron –”

Dumbledore raised a hand to calm him down. “Everything is in order, Harry. Your friends are safe. They have been moved along with the rest of the Order, and as far as I’m aware we had no losses. Voldemort has taken the Ministry. Things are going to change.”

“Where’s Snape?” Harry asked again.

“Unknown.”

Harry sighed and collapsed on the bed. He rubbed his face with both hands and was aware of grunting. “He’s with Voldemort,” he muttered after he had calmed down.

Dumbledore placed a hand on his back. “Severus can protect himself, Harry. I believe you know that.”

Harry nodded. He knew that. What he didn’t know was if he could endure losing another person. “When is he going to be back?”

“Harry…”

Dumbledore didn’t understand. No one did. Maybe he didn’t even want them to. He felt violated, he didn't want Dumbledore to know. He should've kept the truth to himself and Snape should've done the same. It didn’t feel right for other people to know.

“I don’t want to discuss it, sir.”

“Severus puts his life at risk for us,” Dumbledore said calmly. “You are a man, Harry, and I feel honoured for having seen you grow up from the little boy you were.” Harry felt a faint smile taking form on his face. “I need you to think as a man, and tell me, if it’s wise  of you to be close to someone who could be killed if anyone knew that you two are close. If… an urge, a friendship, even, is worth getting someone you care about into a bigger risk than he already is.”

Harry felt the blood freeze in his veins. It seemed stupid, to never having thought of that, but now he couldn’t help but admit how obvious it was. “He’s a good Legilimens,” he protested, the argument already dubious in his head.

“Every time you two ignore my warnings, he’s getting closer to death,” Dumbledore said, and Harry felt that Dumbledore must have been waiting for this moment too long, and he was suddenly perplexed about what to believe. If Dumbledore cared so much about Snape he wouldn’t have him spy on Voldemort. Of course, Voldemort’s death mattered above all. Harry couldn’t bring himself to argue.

He shook his head. “I don’t want anyone to die because of me ever again,” Harry said in a hushed voice, his head bowed. “Ever.”

Dumbledore patted his back. “Then be careful.”

He knew Dumbledore was right. He knew he should stop. That even Snape wanted him to stop and that most of the times Snape looked at him as though Harry had grown a second head. If he could, he would stop it. But when Dumbledore left and when another fifteen hours passed until Snape appeared, Harry could not bring himself to stop, and he remembered how Snape always accused him of not having control over the simplest things, and like the arrogant little brat that he was to Snape, he bolted up from the bed and hugged Snape in despair, his arms curled around his neck, his weight on his toes, his voice hoarse as he said, “Where the hell were you all this time?”

Snape allowed the hug without protesting, and grunted only when Harry didn’t seem to have any intention of letting go. He finally pushed him away, and his black eyes peered at Harry's as he studied him. Harry grinned. “You’re alive,” he said.

Snape creased a brow. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Right.” He couldn’t wipe that grin from his face. He could tell that Snape was appalled by it, but he didn’t care. He wanted to hug him again, tight, and never leave him. Instead, he sat back on the bed and tried to reason his stupid heart. “Since I don’t think you visited in the middle of the night to teach me Occlumency, I think you should drop trying to convince me that you’re deranged for some reason and just lie down,” he said as he slid under the sheets.

Snape remained still for another minute, as though considering his options and failing to find a window that would save him from this. At last, he went off to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Harry wanted to wait for him to come back, but after a minute he realised that he hadn’t slept the last two days, and the sound of Snape taking a shower or washing his face or whatever it was that he was doing was the most relaxing sound Harry had ever heard. He tried to keep his eyes open so he could sleep with the weight of Snape breathing beside him.

Unable to do so, his eyelids shut close and the last sensible thought he made was that Snape would be shocked to see him grinning even in his sleep.

Chapter Text

Harry’s eyes snapped open as he rolled over and crushed against something warm. Someone exhaled a nonchalant grunt and Harry looked up to see Snape giving him a disapproving glare before closing his eyes again. The darkness of the room was only interrupted by the fading moonlight, now slowly retreating behind a cloud. He looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand; three after midnight. What woke him up?

“S’ry,” mumbled Harry. He tried to drift again to sleep, but as the seconds went by he felt more and more awaken. He gently pushed Snape’s arm, making sure he was still awake. “When the war is over,” he murmured, “I’m going to buy you a huge house –” Snape pushed him away and Harry stretched, “and I’ll constantly bother you. Can you imagine me ringing your bell every day?” Harry rubbed his eyes and put on his glasses. Outside the window, the dark sky seemed almost unreal.

A faint smile appeared on Snape’s lips and he took a deep breath as though silently accepting that this was all the sleep he would get for tonight. Snape yawned and fixed his pillow.

“Or we could live together and you’d still pretend you hate me. You’d say how much I irritate you and that I’m insolent and stuff. And in the end of the day –”

“Were you dreaming about this imbecility or are you experiencing a delirium?” Snape said hoarsely.

“I think I was dreaming about it,” Harry said honestly. “Among other things. Like, what I’m going to do once Voldemort is gone. What you’re going to do.”

“Very thoughtful. You might not know that, but romanticism is my secret kink. I’m now touched. Thank you.”

Harry chuckled. “Fuck off. You need to believe it, you know. That we’re going to kill him. He can’t stay alive for ever.”

“He came back from the dead once,” Snape responded calmly.

“You’re a pessimist.”

“And you’re young.”

“I’m young,” Harry confirmed confidently and yawned again. “And I’m going to use all my magic to kill him if I have to.”

Snape’s lip quirked upwards at the mention of magic.

“What?”

It seemed like he wasn’t going to respond, but he did. “When I was young, I had a passion for wild magic. My mother was studying dark spells secretly and I was trying to repeat the wand motions of her books with my bare hand.”

“You ever made it?” Harry sat cross-legged, suddenly interested in what Snape had to say.

“Once. Half the house was burned. Tobias was furious. He blamed my mother.”

Harry tried to keep back his curiosity but it was stronger than him. “How did she die?” As soon as he asked it, he realised it was a stupid question, and he thought that if he should have known better than scratching old wounds.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Harry wrinkled his nose after a moment. “I’m sorry.”

“Certainly.” Snape looked at the ceiling again and Harry felt the urge to direct the subject elsewhere.

“When I was six,” he recalled, “I punched my cousin in the face. He was chasing me in the backyard with his friends and I was trying to run away. Then, at some point, I couldn’t stand it anymore so I just stopped still, turned and punched him. He flew all the way back to the backdoor and he crashed against it. He cries were so loud.” He chuckled at the memory. “Aunt Petunia wasn’t happy. I didn’t know how I had done it, so I told her maybe I had super powers. You should have seen her face.”

To his surprise, Snape did laugh at that. He reached for his wand and casted Lumos. Harry took Snape’s wand from his hands and held it between the two of them.

“How is she?” Snape asked at last. “Last time I saw her she was thoroughly unhappy with her existence.”

Says the overjoyed man, Harry thought of saying, but decided against it. “That’s her,” he agreed. “She’s happy when Dudley gets good grades, though. Oh, and when Uncle Vernon lets her be. I don’t think they even like each other anymore.”

Snape nodded, suddenly lost in some thought or memory that had completely sucked him in. Harry grinned, as he recalled something spicy. “Two years ago I caught her having sex,” he stated simply.

Snape raised his brows warningly but Harry could see that he was struggling to remain serious. “With that fat beast?” Snape blurted out and Harry grinned wider. Snape never struck him as a gossiper.

“Yeah. I didn’t see them but I heard them when I got up to take a piss. I was traumatised for a week.”

“I imagine so,” Snape said carefully after a moment. Then, “She was quite promiscuous back in the day.”

Harry goggled his eyes and Snape smiled. “Who? Aunt Petunia?” He pointed the lightened wand on Snape’s face to make sure he wasn’t joking.

“Yes. She wasn’t the magical one. She had to find other ways to be congenial.”

And suddenly there was more tension between them than Harry had expected. The memory of his mother was almost visible, sitting on the bed with them. It occurred to Harry that Snape was holding his breath. Regretting having said that. And what did the magical one do?

Harry took a deep breath, determined to not let the moment ruin itself in the hands of Snape. “So what, you mean she had boyfriends and such? Because she goes to church every Sunday and blames TV for the corruption of young people all day long, not to mention she hates the neighbour’s daughter for wearing dresses.”

“Is that so.”

“Her name’s Linda. And I once got the impression that Dudley likes her, which of course makes aunt Petunia hate her even more. She wouldn’t want Dudley to be around, you know, this kind of girls.”

Snape smirked mischievously. “If I tell you a story,” he drawled, “you must promise me, and I mean it, Potter,  I’ll know if you’re lying – that you will never speak a word of it.”

Harry nodded and was suddenly deadly curious. “What story?”

“Your word, boy.”

“You have my word, Professor. It’s a deal.”

Snape ignored his mockery and began. “I was fourteen, she was sixteen. It was summer. I was going over to the Evans house for lunch and –”

“They used to invite you for lunch? My grandparents?” He hadn’t thought that his grandparents knew Snape, but it did make sense come to think of it. Yet he always thought they didn’t want his mum to be friends with him.

“Don’t interrupt me, Potter. Yes, I was invited, and as soon as we sat down to eat we realised Petunia was as usually late.”

“You’ve got to tell me everything you know about my grandparents right after,” said Harry impatiently.

“I told you to not interrupt me,” Snape warned, his tone far from convincing. “So. As I was saying. Lily sent me to bring her back because she knew it would piss Petunia off to have me scold her. And it also pleased Lily a great deal.” Harry snorted and Snape smiled. “I went out looking for her but she was nowhere to be seen. I looked everywhere but at the treehouse, which I thought of lastly. She was there.”

Snape made a pause and Harry suspected that he wanted to add suspense to the moment, but restrained himself from interrupting again.

“She was with a boy. Pleasing him.”

Harry’s jaw dropped and he felt his grin slowly fall to a paining grimace. He tried very hard not to gag in protest. The very image was not coping well with his mind. He had never thought aunt Petunia capable of – anything like that.

“You’re not serious. No, you’re joking.” He directed the wand light away from his face to hide his blushing. “And what did you do?” He asked breathlessly.

Snape smirked. “What could I do? I never told anyone, but I kept proposing to her to come and play with me at the treehouse every time I’d see her alone. The blush of shame on her face was all I needed to satisfy my sick amusement. This kept her from talking Lily into breaking our friendship for the best part of my adolescence.”

“You’re evil!” choked Harry in between an impulse to retch and another impulse to break into spasmodic laughter. “What the – GAH! Why did you tell me that?”

Snape shrugged his shoulders innocently. “You asked.”

“Of all the things you could have told – no. Just no. You’re sick. No. Ghhh.” Harry shook his head in an attempt to shoo the mental image away.

Snape snorted and Harry raised up a hand. “Just – don’t tell me anything like this again. Ever.”

The faked innocence hadn’t been wiped off Snape’s face yet. He crossed his arms over his chest. “You mean you don’t want to know about what she did with the cinema usher when she was seventeen?”

“NO!” Harry covered his face in an attempt to block out the world. He felt his cheeks heating up. “If you’re so keen to talk about people’s romances why don’t you tell me about you, instead? I mean after, you know,” he added quickly.

Snape took a deep breath. “I’ve had a matchmaking once. It was Lucius’ idea and it would  have been suspicious of me to refuse the date. She was rich. Black hair, elegant posture, twenty something back then. We stopped seeing each other when I couldn’t stand her anymore. She was the stupidest woman I’ve had ever met.”

Harry raised his brows. “What, that was all? Where are your dirty details?”

“Where they are supposed to be boy, away from your curiosity. Now, if you don’t mind, if I have entertained you enough I would really like to go back to sleep.”

“Yes,” hissed Harry as Snape turned on his side away from him. “And thanks for sharing my aunt’s adventures with me,” he said sarcastically. “I’m sure I’m going to have amazing dreams thanks to you.”

“I aim to please. Nox.

It was after long time, and Harry had almost drifted to sleep under the blanket, when he remembered to talk again.

“Severus,” he whispered. Snape was probably already dangerously close to unconsciousness when he sighed in acknowledgement. “I love you.”

Snape didn’t answer immediately. “But not enough to let me sleep.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Hm.”


“Your books.”

Severus handed him the textbooks for his seventh year knowing too well that he wasn’t going to need them. Harry accepted them and opened a random one to take a look.

“I’m not going to take Arithmancy,” Harry complained. “Wait, you bought those yourself? You didn’t have to.”

“The Headmaster bought them,” Severus lied. “Unless you thought I’d waste more of my time to satisfy your needs.”

Harry rolled his eyes and Severus felt a familiar anger building up inside him. He couldn’t even insult Harry anymore. He had become useless. It occurred to Severus that the despair with which Harry was examining his new books was fairly true to the level of education Harry had received over the years. The boy’s culture was defective by all means. Non-existent, perhaps. A mind whose doors had been closed shut because of stubbornness and bad luck.

After a minute Harry threw the books in his trunk and Severus took his wand out of his robes.

“You still need to tell me about my grandparents,” said Harry.

Severus made an effort to not cover his face with a hand at the memory of how much he had exposed his past to Harry last night. Years of secrecy and vigilance had been erased by a mere night of weakness. At the curious look that was now piercing him, Severus barely managed to scowl. He did make however a mental note to never allow himself have any kind or personal discussion with Harry bloody Potter again.

“They were Muggles,” Severus simply said.

“I didn’t ask that.”

“Get up. We’ll practice.”

“How did they die? Why no one has ever told me anything about them?”

“Enough, Potter. Up.”

Harry stood, although annoyed. He should teach the boy how to hide his emotions after all. Although he had a feeling that he’d fail miserably.

“You said you’d tell me. What changed now?”

And even after all their interaction, Harry was still trusting him to tell the truth. It was hard not to laugh. But not impossible. “I am pretty sure I would have said anything in order to have my quietness back. When an oppressive teenager pokes and kicks at me at four after midnight and develops a sudden impulse towards small talk I believe it is reasonable for me to lie.” He made a small pause to observe Harry’s features and was glad to see the embarrassment beginning to show. “Now I can simply inform you that I’m not planning to become your story teller so you’d better drop it. Ready?”

Harry dragged his feet to the middle of the room boringly. He dared be bored at Severus’ effort to teach him. Not even trying to hide it anymore. On second thought, when had he?

“My theory is still valid after all, you know.”

“What theory?” croaked Severus before he could help it.

Harry smiled. “You’re far more cooperative in bed.”

Severus was shocked for the space of a heartbeat; then, “Legilimens!”


“They weren’t exactly normal,” Severus heard himself saying after they had eaten their sandwiches. The kitchen table was rather small, and Severus couldn’t help but think that this place had been made for dwarves. “They treated wizards with too much enthusiasm, even with lowliness sometimes.”

Were he eating with anyone else, he would have made a point of those terrible table manners as Harry dropped his fork and pushed his plate aside to concentrate on Severus. Right now, he was so taken aback by his own desire to talk that he didn’t have a mind to mention anything else. All the reasons he shouldn’t be saying any of these things to the Golden Boy remained visible before him. He had, however, already began.

“They learned that Lily was a witch very early…” It was the wrong moment to do so, and he feared that if Harry interrupted him now Severus would have to leave. The distant part of himself that looked at him with damning eyes and warned that speaking to a Potter about his beloved Lily was the ultimate act of disrespect faded under the intensity of Harry’s own eyes waiting for more. “I was the one who proved it to them. She thought they didn’t believe her, so I showed them. Our wild magic was so easy for us to summon that soon enough a later came to her home to sooth down her parents and explain to them the situation.”

They were nice memories, but Severus had little faith to nostalgia. It brought to the surface parts of himself that were easy to break. Already broken, maybe. “Petunia wanted to be like us. I was poor and unwanted, so she couldn’t understand why I had a gift she didn’t have. She grew jealous of Lily over the years, although she was smarter than that.”

“What do you mean?” Harry said doubtfully.

“Petunia was determined. She liked rules, control. Lily, instead, was wild. She knew no boundaries. She wanted to break her limits whenever she touched them. The worst thing for her was when she wasn’t allowed to do something she could. It was maddening her. That’s why she was good at Potions.” And because she was using Severus’ notes most of the times. But that needn’t be told.

“Did they like you?”

Severus smiled sadly at a particular memory of Lily’s mother telling him that Lily used to talk about him all the time when she was home. “I was their daughter’s best friend. I suppose they had to. But they did like my family or my magic. When we came back from our first year at Hogwarts we spent a whole night telling them everything we had been taught. They were mesmerised. All their lives they thought magic didn’t exist, and they were suddenly part of it. They were…” stupidly proud of something they’d never do themselves, “…happy.”

Harry nodded. “How did they die?”

“I don’t know. I – Lily and I weren’t talking anymore when it happened.”

“Oh.” Harry’s gaze fell on the table for a second. So you don’t know at all?”

How could he? He was a Death Eater. He could have killed them himself if he was ordered to. “I’m afraid not.”

“They liked my mum more, didn’t they?”

They liked her power. To their eyes, they had given birth to a miracle. A demigod. Petunia was ordinary. Severus knew that, and their parents knew it too. Ordinary children were doomed to suffer, with or without magic blood in the family. It was a dichotomy between “equally loving all children” and secretly having a favourite one. What the Evans were missing, was that such secrets never remain hidden. It was instinct itself that would make the truth clear. Petunia knew it. They never told, they most likely never admitted it to themselves, but at the disdain and the hatred on Petunia’s teenage face it was written clearly: the family loved one of them more. And it wasn’t Petunia.

Severus didn’t need a sibling to not be the favourite in his own family.

“Were you three the only children in the neighbourhood?”

“I never befriended Muggles willingly, and especially back then I couldn’t see why I would want to waste my time on them.” As far as Severus could remember, he never spoke to anyone but Lily. There were others, but they were Muggles, and anyway they didn’t like Severus much. The pathetic eagerness to belong which he suffered from in a younger age had led him once to desire the other boys’ company in his neighbourhood before Hogwarts. The fact that they mocked and bullied him for even daring to approach them while they were playing football was the proof that Severus should have never bothered talking to Muggles in the first place. He made sure they paid for it once he could cast magic outside the school properly.

“Muggles are fine,” said Harry, but quickly added, “And anyway I don’t think my mum wouldn’t talk to people because they were Muggles.”

The look of uncertainty that shadowed Harry’s face indicated how unsure he was of his statement. If he was waiting for an honest answer, he’d better seek it elsewhere. “She was… tolerant.”

Lily was his for a few years; they spent their summers together, talking, playing, and discovering. Then she was Potter’s girl and she was suddenly inviting him over for the summer. Severus could see them sitting under the trees Severus had showed her. Read of the books Severus had given her and share secrets Severus didn’t know. James Potter had seen him, once. He had raised his wand to hex Severus outside his own house – to humiliate him in front of Lily once again, of course. And she, she was tugging on Potter’s sleeve and was muttering “let’s go, leave him alone, stop,” eager to leave the scene and continue her date with Potter somewhere else. He had hated her. He had truly and wholeheartedly hated her. For a few days.

“My grandparents… Were they – did they dislike… people like me? People who like…” he took a breath, “Gay people. Did they hate them? Because my aunt does.”

Seeking acceptance from the dead. Severus would fail to see the point of it if he hadn’t fallen in the same trap when Lily died. “How would I know?” he spat irritatingly.

Harry snorted. “Right.”

James Potter and Sirius black, on the other hand, had a particular abhorrence for faggots as far as Severus could remember. He shut his mouth around the information before it could escape. It wouldn’t do any good. Severus suddenly came to the conclusion that he had said enough. He went off to the main room and wore his cloak. “You might have to stay by yourself tomorrow. Don’t have a breakdown and don’t lose your nerve during my absence no matter what conjectures you might make to pass your time. It’s an order.”

“Just bring me cookies when you come back,” Harry said as he leaned against the door.

Severus forgot to look disgusted.

Chapter Text

Snape folded his arms. “This has gone on long enough. What is wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Potter.”

Harry sighed and looked up. “What? Nothing’s wrong.” A lot of things were, but it wouldn’t help to discuss them. He was tired; talking about things that would remain unsolved and would just cause another fight was not something he looked forward to.

“If nothing is wrong, then why are you being continuously distracted since morning? It might surprise you but I do have better things to do. If you can’t practice today I can’t see why I am here at all.”

“Because you want to.” The words slipped out of Harry’s mouth before he could help it. “To teach me,” he added quickly. He couldn’t deal with this now. He was sick of pretending. Sick of hiding behind words. 

“I can’t teach if you don’t want to be taught. And I certainly can’t teach if you look out the goddamn window when I’m talking to you!”

Harry turned to see Snape furrowing his brow and sensed the anger he was trying to avoid since Snape’s arrival coming for him. “I can’t practice today so you can go if you want,” he said quickly before disappearing to the kitchen. Snape stormed behind him.

“Potter. Have you been having visions?”

“Potter,” repeated Harry as he poured himself a glass of juice he’d not drink. “You still manage to call me Potter. Even after a year of spending every day and night with me. No one calls me Potter in Hogwarts except McGonagall, and I haven’t been in her office more than six or seven times in my life.”

Harry passed a hand through his hair to push back his fringe. Snape stared. “Is that what has been bothering you?” he said calmly after a moment. “The war awaits and you –”

“And I’m selfish, arrogant, and stupid. Yes. I’ve learnt that lesson, sir, there’s no reason to repeat it.”

A cruel sneer formed on Snape’s face and he leaned forward, eyes bearing straight into Harry’s. “However clever you think this little game is, I assure you it is not. Intimacy with students is something utterly undesirable, even with my own Slytherins.” 

“Then why the fuck are you sleeping here?!” shouted Harry. The moment the words escaped his mouth he knew he had gone too far. He glared and Snape scoffed. Acknowledging it would make it real. Saying it out loud would make Snape stop. Harry had already lost what little happiness he had with him anyway. He didn’t feel like shutting up now. “Tell me why I am getting up every morning to find you looking at me and tell me why you come here every night behind Dumbledore’s back to sleep on the same bed with me! You are not being obligated to do any of that. I never asked you to.”

“Stunning though your assumptions may be you will be disappointed to know –”

“Last night,” Harry shouted, “last night, I woke up to find you sleeping half naked next to me and you hadn’t even told me you’d come over!”

“Another word and you’ll regret it,” Snape hissed. 

“Like I did last time?” It was fun how talking about things would make him regret it but Snape never had to explain why he did them. Even if Harry wanted to get away from him, ignore him, forget him, Snape wouldn’t let him go. Snape was stuck with Harry as much as Harry was with Snape. The difference was that Snape couldn’t see it.

Snape bared his teeth. “I will not apologise for sleeping with as much clothes I feel comfortable on nor about my wish to get a single night of actual refreshing sleep. I will apologise, however, for doing so in the same bed with an imbecile student of mine. I am sorry for being utterly horrified of what Dumbledore might do to me should you commit suicide during your lonely and restless nights. I assume you must make do alone from now on.”

“Fine! It’s better off alone than being near to someone who doesn’t even know what he wants!” Harry’s hands twitched and he felt thankful for not carrying his wand with him at the moment.

“Fool. It might surprise you but I know far too well what I want. And what I do not.”

“Then why are you sleeping here? The truth. Because Dumbledore has nothing to do with it and that’s fucking obvious even for an imbecile like me!”

The silence that fell upon them had suddenly said too much. Harry’s glare softened as Snape said nothing, and they stood there looking at each other, the answer at Harry’s question lost somewhere between them. Harry realised that one could listen to silence and learn from it. It had a quality and a dimension of its own.

Harry needed to be alone. He need to ponder his shame and his despair in seclusion; to lock himself in the bathroom without this conversation having been made, face to face with himself, with only his own stupidity for company.

“Your silence is not going to protect you,” Harry said at last. He let his anger dissolve and took a deep breath. Snape’s dumbstruck look was what Harry loved; he couldn’t help but snort. It was a rare view to catch Snape out off guard. To actually see him scared or shocked or panicked. Harry looked up at him and Snape sighed. “Severus.” At Snape’s disapproving glare Harry stopped him. “Just explain it to me. Because you’re confusing me too much.”

He wanted to call him Severus. He wanted to get used to thinking of him as Severus. He wanted for once to be called Harry regularly.

“I can’t explain it,” Snape muttered under his breath, and it occurred to Harry that this was probably the only honest thing Snape had said today. “It will stop.”

“I don’t want you to stop it. I want you to admit that you’re thinking more about me than you let out. You don’t even call me by my name and yet you like to spend your nights here. You chose it. Who do you think you’re kidding?”

Snape pressed his lips together in a thin line and Harry steeled himself for whatever blow of random nastiness was about to come. Not that insults would make what he had said less real. But to Snape, it probably would.

Leaning against the wall, Snape rested his head back. “Masks can be dangerous,” he said.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I am who I pretend to be.”

Harry licked his lips in frustration. “I don’t understand.”

Snape laughed soundlessly. He shook his head. “You weren’t meant to.”


“Just explain it to me. Because you’re confusing me too much.”

Explanation took a dreadful time and described nothing of the situation. Life did not offer explanations. It offered moments that were absolutely, utterly, inexplicably odd.

“I can’t explain it,” Severus heard himself saying and was appalled by his own nerve to continue this conversation instead of fleeing into the safety of his role. A professor. An adult. A Death Eater, if necessary. His mind hardly coped to form a statement which would make his determination to get his morals back in place clear. “It will stop,” he said instead, and the pathetic lack of vocabulary only proved that he didn’t mean it. It wouldn’t stop. He didn’t want it to stop.

“I don’t want you to stop it. I want you to admit that you’re thinking more about me than you let out. You don’t even call me by my name and yet you like to spend your nights here. You chose it. Who do you think you’re kidding?”

His story telling conscience. His past. His present. There was nothing riskier than pretending not to care, but exposing one’s caring when it didn’t have to. There was a great deal of power in pretending. He slept here because he wanted to. Because for once in his life he took the risk of doing what he fancied without thinking about it, without searching inside him for the reason he wanted it or for the meaning of it. He followed his urges. The freedom of it was ill advised and evanescent.

He was now being interrogated about it.

He rested his head back to the wall and folded his arms. Receiving kindness was an extraordinary moment. Harry caused him a silliness of sentiments he hadn’t felt since adolescence. The illusion of not having to be independent all the time had been new to him. The certainty that no matter what he did or how bitterly he talked he was still desirable and as much as before. He was wanted here.

It was unspeakable that this could mean anything to Severus.

“Masks can be dangerous.” Dangerous to keep, dangerous to destroy, dangerous to trust or distrust them. They held a soul of their own. Severus couldn’t remember of a time where he didn’t have to wear one. Even with Lily, he was trying too much. He was struggling to impress her with the simplest things. It occurred to him that he hated his younger self. If he could go back, he would kill that brainless loser that he’d been. Having overflowing emotions about a girl who would talk to him about the boys she liked. Hilarious. Sickening.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

That Harry Potter didn’t stand a chance of listening to the truth. Severus didn’t know the truth. “I am who I pretend to be,” and right now I’m pretending to be your enemy.

“I don’t understand,” Harry said, his features scrunched in confusion.

Laughter escaped him as he thought of what he could become were he to pretend to be a friend. “You weren’t meant to.”


Severus was awoken by a suffocating pressure against his lungs. He opened an eye to see Harry hugging him tightly. Against his own bare chest, Harry’s torso felt sticky with sweat. The body which he had grown accustomed to finding draped all over him now breathed hard. Severus rolled on his side. “What happened?”

“Promise me you’re not going to die.” Even in the deep dark of the night, the green eyes glimmered in intensity.

Severus grunted. “Nightmare?”

“Promise me!” In the silence of the room, Harry’s voice echoed desperately.

Wartime outlawed hope. Dreaming of surviving could only concern the next day. Severus didn’t approve of hope. He could safely say that it never concerned him. It was the opium of emotions: it hooked fast and killed hard. It was bad news. The worst. When hope showed up, it was only a matter of time until someone was destroyed.  

What Severus could promise, was that even if he died soon, Harry wouldn’t be alive to see it.

“Tell me what you saw.”

“No. Promise me. I can’t lose you. I’m not going to. I just won’t let it happen. Ever. You must promise me.”

“You’re being childish.”

“FUCK YOU!” Harry kicked at the sheets trying to get up and kneed Severus’ stomach on his way. Severus got a tight grip of a random limb, then another, and pulled down. Harry shouted and almost hit him with an elbow. He kicked around furiously as he tried to get free.

“For fuck’s sake, calm yourself down!”

“No! Just go away! Leave, you’re not even supposed to be here! What for? To die and leave me alone like Sirius did? Fuck you!”

A bare foot kicked him on the knee and Severus wondered why he was even trying to calm the boy down. A hand pushed hard at him in an attempt to let go. His patience lost and his kind side suddenly dismissed, Severus pinned Harry on the sheets and squeezed his wrists above his head. “Kick me again and I’ll break your legs. Understood?”

“Fuck you!” Harry spat again, still trying to break free from his grip.

“So it that it then?” Severus hissed against Harry’s throat. “You see Black in me, don’t you? Or is it even deeper? Maybe all you want is to stop missing your deceased daddy after all, going after men his age, is that it?”

Harry writhed around, shaking his head. “Don’t —”

“Unless you prefer me to drug you asleep, next time you will keep your outburst for the morning.”

“Severus —”

“And I don’t know if I’m going to die, nor do I think about it because I’s not going to help or make it any better. You can sulk in your boasting for all I care but do remember that I certainly have more important things to keep me from dying than you and your egoistic reasons for wanting to keep me alive. Or did you think that I am merely alive to satisfy your need for company? Do you think my motivation to survive would be your request to do so?” Is that worth waking me up clutching on me for dear life?

“Don’t –”

“Don’t what?!”

“Don’t move so much — friction — ah — fuck.” Harry closed his eyes and gasped., pushing his pelvis upwards. Severus stared. Then he felt it; first the pulsation, then the wetness against his own thigh. He bolted up suppressing a familiar urge to murder and he became aware of the boy awkwardly getting on the floor and searching around for his tracksuit.

Severus felt his muscles tense up again and a reasoning voice in his head soothed him by recalling that adolescent erections could occur at any moment of the day without a relevant incentive in sight. His throat was clenching around a whole new outburst that had nowhere to go but to himself. He turned around to give Harry a moment of privacy and only breathed again when he heard the bathroom door closing shut.

He heard himself breathing with difficulty and it occurred to him that there should be no more sharing a bed for tonight. Beginning to dress, he decided to not react. He was too astonished to do so. Too embarrassed to care for the embarrassment of someone else. He clutched at his head as though keeping it from ripping open. He remembered the flash of Harry’s eyes and couldn’t bring himself to feel like leaving. Things were getting worse. Closer. He couldn’t stop it. Liar.

Damn.

The sincerity of the truth never ceased to amaze him. Harry Potter did fancy him.

The fact that he was turning on the boy so much shouldn’t be new to him. It was. He had turned a blind eye to what was happening for far too long. He was playing along. Letting a little boy make the rules. Following silently and pretending not to notice. Severus loathed himself. He truly, deeply, abhorred his very existence. 

His own mortality seemed like an easy matter to solve compared to Harry’s insistence of breaking the rules in any possible way. He fought the urge to reach and knock on the goddamn door to inform the boy that this was over, being aware of the unimportance of such declaration when he knew that he couldn’t keep his word. His stomach lurched and he felt completely ridiculous. Dispelling the image that would probably haunt him again later, he prohibited himself any thought concerning the boy for the time being.

The door opened. “You’re leaving.”

Severus nodded stiffly as he sat on the bed and put on his shoes. With his hair hiding his face he highly doubted that his rigour had been communicated right.

“I…”

“Let’s not, Harry.”

At the sound of snorting Severus managed not to look back. His jaw clenched. His stomach still burned with a form of hatred he didn’t remember being familiar with. He could feel Harry’s glare penetrating him from behind, and he silently counted the days left for this hell of a summer to end.

When he did count them, the nausea worsened.

Not nearly enough, actually.

 

Chapter Text

“Suddenly impatient for school to start, aren’t we?”

Harry turned around and rolled his eyes before tugging at his Gryffindor sweater to pull it off. “I was just trying it on. I don’t fit in it anymore. I need a new one.”

He did most likely not. Once the Dark Lord conquered Hogwarts, Harry wouldn’t have a chance continuing his education there. He’d be captured and killed the very moment he’d be seen.

Ah. But that was the plan anyway.

“Lose weight.”

“Kidding me?” Harry crawled on the bed searching for his glasses. Severus sat on his chair. “It’s too short, my stomach’s out. I need a new one.”

“Then buy one.”

“I’m locked up. Will you buy it for me?” Harry sneered. It occurred to Severus that he was trying to mimic his voice. And failing.

Severus folded his arms. “Happily. Nothing commoner than the Slytherin Head of House buying Gryffindor sweaters, isn’t it?”

“I can’t wait to get out of here,” Harry said. “Hermione says they almost burned the burrow down. The Death Eaters.” He looked at Severus. “Do you think Hogwarts is going to be safe?”

Certainly. As safe as it had ever been, come to think of it. Taking into account all the murderers and frauds that occasionally taught at it.

Or the werewolves.

“I trust the Headmaster.” As close to the truth as he could get. Once Dumbledore was gone, Severus would have no one. He would be lost. As much as he wanted to think about Harry’s future from then on, his own misery overtook him. Without Dumbledore, he wouldn’t know where to start. What to do. Not a single living person would ever believe  again that Severus wasn’t a traitor.  And Dumbledore was blindly willing to sacrifice Severus’ soul so he could depart from the world with style. Nothing new now, was it?

“Well I don’t.” Inwardly, Severus nodded in awe at Harry’s wisdom. Outwardly, well. He drank his tea. “Why would I? He doesn’t tell me anything. I don’t know what’s happening out there and I can tell that he’s making plans for me again.”

Exquisite plans. Marvelous ones. But Harry knew more than Severus, even if he wasn’t aware of it. A fact of which Severus could take slight advantage. “What has he told you?”

Harry sat on the bed across Severus. His eyes were focused on the floor. “Well, I was the one who brought him Slughorn’s memory after all, so I know about the Horcruxes. I think Dumbledore suspected it all along though, didn’t he? He just didn’t know they were seven.”

Severus was trained to deal with this kind of emergency. Facing the unbelievable, and nodding his head calmly at it. Being unable to comprehend the shock and tucking it away for later examination. He clutched his fingers around the mug. His brain failed to come up with a satisfying response. Seven Horcruxes. Seven parts of the same soul. Seven murders under the ritual of ripping apart one’s own psyche and shoving it to random objects for future use. Had any piece of soul remained inside him or was he now an empty shell? This was why Dumbledore insisted that the Dark Lord had no capacity of comprehending emotions.

The invisible grip that had got hold of Severus’ throat tightened dangerously and he gulped another mouthful of tea to hide his astonishment. “He’d been suspecting it, yes,” he said stiffly, keeping his frustration in check. He didn’t want to hear anything else about it. Watching a brat half his age informing him of the progress they had made during war was not exactly flattering. He toyed with the idea of exposing Harry by opening a casual discussion about Horcruxes with Dumbledore. For all the new information he’d get. None at all, really. The optimism of their unique at heart headmaster would suddenly cease to include Severus in his worth trusting soldiers collection.

He was loyal to Dumbledore. He respected him. He respected alcohol too. “I had left a bottle of whiskey here,” he recalled suddenly.

Harry looked up in awkwardness. ‘Um. Oh. Yes. You had.”

“Fetch it.” The blush that spread over the boy’s face wasn’t at all satisfying. Severus creased a brow. Harry stared.

“Why?”

What kind of question was that? “Because I want it back, you prat!”

Harry snorted and an apologetic look shadowed his features. Momentarily. Then the cheeky grin was back. “Um. I don’t have it anymore. I thought you’d forgotten it. I’m sorry?”

That didn’t make sense. “You’ve drunk a bottle of whiskey by yourself? When?” Walking over, he grasped Harry’s chin and tilted his head back to check on him. He was sober. Harry pulled free.

“Not today! You know, all these days. Since you left it here. I didn’t drink it all at once.”

“I left it here two weeks ago. Have you been drinking daily?”

“No. And not much.”

“H – Potter.” Damn. Too close.

Harry sighed. “Look, it’s nothing bad, okay? It was just making me relax when I needed to and I haven’t been drinking daily anyway. You’re drinking regularly too. It’s not bad.”

Thank gods the boy had a proper role model to look up at. Becoming cynical and starting to drink. Severus had made a small soon-to-be bitter bastard out of him. It served him right.

Or perhaps not.

“Not that this matters to you at all, but we are not the same age, Potter.” Severus glared. Harry took the message.

And rolled his eyes. “Alright. I’m not going to drink again. Just so you know, since I’m an adult now and it’s not prohibited, every time you do this you just prove you care.”

Or I could have simply wanted the whiskey for myself, he silently protested. He dismissed his impulse to say it out loud when he understood that he wasn’t fooling anyone.


“What classes do I have to take to be an auror?” Harry asked. Severus’s breath was calm. His lungs, however, were burning. He rolled on his back.

“Defence, Potions, and Transfiguration are the most important. You should apply for preparation to the Ministry’s courses too. Concealment, Disguise, Stealth and Tracking. You won’t be learning anything useful until they accept you to the Auror Office of course, but Dumbledore makes an effort to provide helpful preparatory courses and I’m also being paid extra for teaching them.”

It occurred to him that explaining this while lying on the bed with a student wasn’t exactly his idea of proper career assistance. Especially for the early morning. At the focused look on Harry’s face Severus wondered how long he’d been thinking about this. His mind intervened that he probably didn’t want to know. He was dismayed that Harry’s familiarity seeking methods were far more effective than Severus’ determination to assert himself.

“Oh. But they’re extra classes, right? They’re not necessary.” Harry propped himself up one elbow. His other hand was occupied with playing with Severus’ upper arm. With his index finger, he lazily drew invisible patterns on his skin and scratched them.

“They are, if you don’t want to fail later due to lack of basic knowledge. The classes you’ll take will be mentioned in your curriculum vitae as well. It’d be careless to dismiss the possibility of better future opportunities.”

The heaviness of the conversation throbbed and kicked at his insides. All this was rubbish. A consolation. A mockery. Harry would be dead long before he stepped foot in the Auror Office. Severus felt blessed for having this moving knowledge all for himself to enjoy. May as well throw a party behind Harry’s back and invite no one but Albus fucking Dumbledore to share this utter thrill. And end the party with an unforgivable. And even then Dumbledore’s broken corpse would laugh at him for having done everything as ordered.

“My grades are not bad. I just don’t know how many classes to take. If I take too many I might get confused. I don’t want to have to drop a class because I won’t be able to cope.”

“And this concerns you at…” he looked at the clock on the nightstand, “seven in the morning.”

“Yes. It’s my future.”

He had no future. And death showed no pity to the dreaming youth. Dying was the easy part, and the path to it was in Severus’ hands to create. Yet again. The irony was too much. The pain…

Nowhere to be seen. Through the ringing in his ears, Severus sealed the hideous sentiment of attachment and promised himself to destroy it later when alone. Death shouldn’t be scheduled. Death was supposed to come and go in his own terms. This death, was the period in the end of a sentence. He was vaguely aware of the impatient brat next to him waiting for an answer. Blasted boy.

What advice to give?

He was caught by the admittedly right impulse to spill the truth and not give a damn about the consequences. He silently applauded himself for still having the self-control to bite back his yearnings for candour for the sake of deception. Encouraging Harry would only harm Severus. He was struck by the reassurance that he had no reason to be harmed by the boy’s upcoming murder.

“Your grades are average, and this only occurs because you are the Chosen one. Should you be any other student you would shockingly discover that you are not nearly as good for the career you wish to follow. You have to exceed expectations in all your classes.”

Harry wrinkled his nose. Then frowned. “That’s impossible. Especially with you teaching Defence.”

Wait to see how you’ll do with me being headmaster, a voice in his head mused. Severus mentally punched it unconscious. “With me teaching Defence, you’ll get what you deserve. Try harder and you’ll be rewarded.” It occurred to Severus that this had come out wrong. Harry grinned. Severus scowled.

“Wear your glasses you stupid brat. You’re squinting.” Severus rolled his eyes as Harry reached to the nightstand. When he rolled back to where he was and crushed on Severus, Severus did not complain. Harry rested his cheek on Severus’ shoulder and placed a hand on his sternum.

You see, he had absolutely nowhere else to go. And the rest is rust and stardust.

“How about more private lessons then?”

Severus glared. Harry chuckled. “No, I mean it. And anyway I won’t have much to do in Gryffindor either. Hermione will be studying her brains off and she’ll be forcing Ron to do the same, I suspect.”

“And the possibility of studying with your friends as well instead of studying with me isn’t exactly exciting, is it?”

Harry blushed. “You know more than them. And it’s going to be in my curriculum vitae too.” With no warning, Harry bit Severus’ arm hard, his mouth still forming a smile while doing so.

Severus bit back a grunt as he grabbed his hair in order to pull him off. “Idiot. Behave yourself.”

Harry laughed, and as always, Severus gave up. The boy rested his head back on his shoulder and Severus found himself lazily stroking his nape with a finger.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you. Hermione and Ron almost know they fancy each other now.”

“And how is that supposed to concern me or even make sense?”

“I mean, Ron was with Lavender, and Hermione was a bit annoyed at first but then she was just angry, okay? So, she dated this other guy and I was supposed to tell Ron but she didn’t really date anyone else and Ron broke up with his girlfriend because she suspected he liked Hermione more, then —”

“You’re raving, Potter. In case you have failed to notice, I don’t care.” The fact that he’d have to face in class a boy he had slept on the same bed with was already difficult enough. To regain authority over more students of whose hormones he’d been aware of was at least horrifying.

“And Ginny doesn’t mind anymore. That I’m gay.”

I do.

“Congratulations.”

“Honestly, I think she knew before I even told her. She was trying to… do things. And I couldn’t. I let her do something to me once but… it just didn’t work.”

Exciting piece of information for the early morning. Severus couldn’t have asked for more. He was grateful. Blessed, even. “Have you read any of the books I gave you?” he said in an attempt to lead the conversation somewhere better. Anywhere else, really.

“Yes. Transfiguration is a bit difficult. And Potions have ingredients I didn’t know that even existed.”

Severus rubbed his eyes and took a reasoning breath. “Give me your Potions book.”

Harry crouched across the bed and delved into his trunk. Severus was given a few moments to change his mind and he heedlessly let them pass in vain. He found himself rushing to do this out of the same fear that he’d regret it. Harry gave him the book and Severus shifted to sit back against the pillows. He went through the pages quickly.

These chapters were known to him as much as his reflection was on the mirror; he had taught and repeated these passages for the best part of the last seventeen years. There was nothing in there he couldn’t teach by memory. He folded various corners of pages as he ran through the book and did not bother to check twice. He closed it and handed it back.

“Slughorn pays attention to these chapters usually. They are objectively easier than the ones I chose to give to N.E.W.T students, but you will sadly have to endure a less capable professor. Make sure to know perfectly well everything that’s there and you’ll most likely pass.” And I would have never done this were you to actually be there for your N.E.W.T examinations, he inwardly added to give his conscience a pat on the back.

Harry looked at the book dumbstruck. Then at Severus. Then at the book again. “Oh. Right. Okay.” He luckily knew better than to thank Severus for it. “I just can’t imagine this going on forever. Voldemort. It must end and I know I must be the one to do it but I don’t even know how. Should I just wait for him to come and get me or should I go searching for him? I don’t know. But I’m not afraid. At least I don’t think I am.”

Severus flinched as he pushed away the nightmare he was being part of. Distancing himself from it unfortunately made it only more touchable. He clung to the hope that they’d never have to leave this room. He wasn’t Severus Snape here. He was an irresolute puppet of relaxation and composure. A slave of his own restfulness and of simple emotions he had previously been not aware of.

A not so dim aspect of himself objected that he couldn’t recall a time where he was Severus Snape more than now. But that part had to be wrong. How else was he going to explain the lack of sternness and the open display of slackness? Of intimacy?

“You kill him or he kills you. All possibilities come down to the collapse of our world as we know it. The fact that you delude yourself over your supposed victory only proves how immature you are.” Severus stood up, impatient to get out of there.

“What’s wrong now? Where are you going?” Harry’s complaints were muffled by Severus’ inner arguments of how low he himself had fallen for the sake of this little heaven that provided nothing but pointless hope. He was quite sure he didn’t want to know where this hope was leading. The last time killed him. Lily’s death had killed him. He had to get out of here.

“Severus!”

A hand grabbed his arm to stop him and Severus turned and smacked the boy hard across the face before he could stop himself. The regret came even before the smack. He was aware of the boy’s stare burning his neck but he didn’t turn to look back at what he had done as he dressed.  “You will not see me again until you learn to call me ‘sir’,” he said stupidly as he stepped into the hearth.

The castle’s corridors were too cold for this time of the year. It occurred to Severus that even the ghosts were missing. As he quickened his pace, the sound of his own shoes against the stone floor was the only thing he could hear. It covered the noise of his thoughts successfully. He couldn’t recall noticing the moss clinging in the walls before. The cold damp air wrapped around him like a heavy coat as he ascended the tight spiral of stairs. In the absence of flaming torches the dimness gave the impression of a winter twilight despite being only August.

He slammed the door open and was not surprised to see Dumbledore sitting on his chair. The man didn’t have anything better to do than pretend to run the school even during summer. Or he simply knew Severus was coming.

“You can’t do this,” Severus said.

Dumbledore smiled, but his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Severus?”

“You can’t. He doesn’t deserve it. You can’t let him die like that. Not so pointlessly. Not now.”

Dumbledore stood and Severs drew his wand.

“Are you going to curse me? In here?”

Severus shook his head.

“Severus…”

“Please!” He dropped his arm; his wand slipped from his fingers, fell on the carpet, it didn’t matter, nothing did — “Please.”

“You know it pains me more than anyone, yet it must be done.” Severus was only shaking his head, refusing to listen, refusing to obey anymore. “I have entrusted you with the truth because I believed you would understand the importance —”

“No, no no. You entrusted me to use me, as you’ve been doing all these years — you have no remorse, no interest in his life — telling me he’d need my protection and then sending him off to die…”

“I never said it’d be easy, for any of us.”

“Harry’s all I have.” For the first time in ages, he felt his voice breaking. His eyes burned. “You owe me this. After everything I’ve done — risked my life — betrayed friends — please, please let him live.”

“Harry’s all you have?”

“Have I not pleased you enough? Have I not done anything I could to keep him safe? To keep an eye on him even when he and his disgusting friends wanted me dead?”

“It’s impossible to avoid one’s destiny, Severus. You know this as well as I do. The boy must die. We’ve discussed this.”

His legs were too weak to support him anymore. He dropped before Dumbledore and his knees hit the floor hard. Despair consumed him. “There must be a way… please! If anyone can do something it’s you — you could save him — there must be a way! Please!” When the words stopped coming, the tears did.

Mourning for someone still alive was not supposed to feel so familiar to him. A painful déjà vu of a fate that he was doomed to live over and over again. Mourning was supposed to be something dignified and stoic, but he cried like a child, noisily, the numbness of the loss already ripping his chest apart as hot tears ran down his face. He choked on his sobs. The pain struck him everywhere. It was doubling him over.

He squeezed at Dumbledore’s hand and kissed it. He could save Harry. He could find a way. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Harry had to live. “I know it’s sad, Severus… But there is no other way. Voldemort can’t be killed as long as Harry lives.”

“I don’t care about Voldemort!” A raw emptiness nibbled at his stomach like a hungry rat and he cried. A strong hand gripped at his shoulder. Severus flinched away. “SAVE HIM! I know you can! Save him… save… please…” Snot streaked from his flaring nostrils down his lips. His fists opened and closed on his lap; yearning for whatever solution to his pain. “You never cared… You never hesitated risking other people’s lives so you could reach your goals. The boy’s safety didn’t – never concerned you. You only wanted him to live as much as you needed him to…”

He looked up to see Dumbledore’s tired blue eyes staring back at him with pity. His features betrayed his age, and Severus was suddenly talking to a very old man, a man tired of the many years on his back, weakened and exhausted from life and its fights. The powerful wizard who held the world in his hands was nowhere to be seen.

“Do you really believe that, Severus? You believe that if there was a way for him to live I wouldn’t have chosen it? You don’t see all the things I do for Harry daily?”

“Please,” Severus said again. “Better – it’s better to kill me – we can tell — Voldemort — to kill me instead of him – I’ll take his place – this is my fault, I should pay… not him, I should pay for this! Kill me… Kill me…”

Dumbledore opened a cabinet and then a small phial was shoved in Severus’ trembling hands. Severus recognised it as some sort of calming draught. He clutched at it on his lap but didn’t drink it. He remained still as his chest trembled and his fingers shook. It was hysterical crying. He couldn’t stop himself. “Don’t let him die… don’t… he can’t… not again, please… I can’t do this… it’s not fair…please…”

“This is the only way.” The hand returned on his shoulder as he could not keep himself from shaking. “Calm down, please. You’ll understand if you do. I know how much you loved Lily, but –”

“You don’t get to talk about Lily, you killed her too… Everyone I have — ever loved —this has nothing… to do with Lily… Thought… it did… not about Lily…”

“Calm down, Severus.”

“It’s not Lily… I’ll lose him… I can’t… I love him more than my own life… please…”

If Dumbledore was shocked, he didn’t show it. After a small silence, he offered Severus a hand. “I believe you should rest, Severus. There are many things to be done. I need you to be strong.”

Severus snorted in between sobs. He didn’t accept the hand. The phial rolled from his thighs to the floor. “Why? Why are you doing this to me?” He didn’t know who he was talking to. He didn’t know whom to blame.

“WHY?” he shouted, and all the images he had been blocking out half his life were now vivid again; Lily’s corpse in the front pages, Lily’s funeral to which he never attended, everyone saying what a perfect couple she was with James, everyone willing to take in the Boy Who Lived, the Dark Lord telling him proudly that he was going to kill Lily and James Potter. Severus crying before an Albus Dumbledore who had done nothing to protect her. Crying before her death, sensing far too well that no one could help her once the Dark Lord wanted her dead, knowing far too well that Dumbledore’s plans didn’t exactly include her safety or her life. Crying after her death and weeping as his soul shattered to a million pieces that he did not think possible that could be glued back together again.

They had.

Only to be broken again.

“Please,” he croaked again, his voice hoarse and pathetic, and as he blinked his tears away he knew that this battle was lost. Lily was never his. Harry was. He endured this hell once, but one could only take as much.

This strike would finish him.