Severus Snape loathed mornings with a passion, and he loathed fools who talked non-stop over breakfast even more. Unfortunately, if there was something that could be said for Minerva McGonagall, it was that she liked to chat at the breakfast table.
“I knew it was a matter of time, but it's still odd to see so many of my students—.”
Severus sighed into his teacup, eyes on the Sports page of the Daily Prophet. “Is that so.”
Unbeknownst to him, McGonagall narrowed her eyes. “Yes, especially when I see Sirius Black taking over my old position,” she added, with deceptive casualness.
"Isn't that nice,” he replied with no inflexion.
McGonagall's eyes glittered dangerously. “Yes, it's quite thrilling to be leaving my beloved Hogwarts in your capable hands, my friend; yours, and those of my dear Gryffindors, of course.”
Severus froze, brows furrowing. “Gryffindors?”
With the smuggest grin, McGonagall bit into her toast. “Why, yes, Severus; weren't you listening? Since Filius will also be retiring," she nodded at the little wizard, “I had to arrange for replacements. Mr Black was easily convinced with the help of Mr Potter and Miss Granger.”
The cup in the Severus’s hand started to rattle. He could only think of one Mr Black closely acquainted with a Mr Potter and Miss Granger. “What Mr Black?”
McGonagall pretended not to acknowledge the low growl delivered with the question and explained cheerfully, “Sirius Black, obviously. Who better to replace me at Transfiguration? Although I suppose his decision might have had something to do with Mr Potter taking the DADA position—.”
Severus's cup exploded in Flitwick's face.
Harry Potter and The Wizard
The following fall, Severus lost his Deputy Headmistress and was – reluctantly, if he might say so himself – rewarded with five new teachers: five new teachers who grated on his nerves as much as the students did. Since Severus felt inclined to believe that said students were getting more obnoxious each passing year, it was saying something that he’d rather supervise detention – Gryffindor detention – than endure a staff meeting.
If he had known what awaited him when he accepted Potter’s assistance on that near fatal night in the Shrieking Shack, he might have . . . Well, no, he’d still have chosen to live; and damn Potter for that. Damn Potter for everything, actually, right down to the shooting stars that Severus could see in the celestial ceiling Charmed by Potter himself.
Fortunately, they – the students, not the teachers, not much one could do about that – seemed to understand he was not one to coddle them, because they snapped their mouths shut when they ran by his seat at the High Table. A diminutive Hufflepuff girl even curtsied. How quaint.
Speaking of diminutive . . . “Nice evening, isn’t it, Headmaster?” Harry Potter asked cheerfully in guise of greeting, as he took the seat on Severus’s right. Nothing ever ruined Potter’s good mood, and Severus had tried damn hard in the past months of forced acquaintance. But, no, Potter simply tolerated his temper and kept on doing nice things for Severus. It was most disturbing.
It was actually one of the few things that brightened Severus’s dreary days, however. Not because Severus had some sort of misguided feelings for Potter – Merlin forbid him falling for yet another short, green-eyed tornado – but because Sirius Black became the most amusing shade of purple each time.
“Shut up, Malfoy! Merlin’s pants, you’re impossible.”
Severus sighed at the sound of Granger’s shrilling voice and ridiculous cursing. He then wondered what Draco was up to now. It better not be another attempt at shutting down the Society for the Nurturing of Outcast Trolls, or SNOT for short, Granger’s new venture. The entire fifth floor had to be closed down last time he tried.
“Granger, I’m telling you that place is warded. It’s your job to check it out!” came back the haughty reply. “Didn’t you use to take the time of the day to mess about with Hogwarts’ underground secrets? It shouldn’t be anything new for you.”
Severus smothered the urge to snort. Draco never really learned how to treat the women he fancied. Severus blamed Lucius’s insistence on his dating only pureblood witches, emotionally stunned by birthright, and, well, Narcissa’s mothering abilities.
“It’s not my job to indulge little cowards’ paranoid fantasies, now is it?” Granger snapped back. Draco got very red in the face; Severus almost feared a stroke. “Why would the third floor be that heavily warded, anyway, Malfoy?”
“I don’t know, or I wouldn’t have asked you to check it out.” He headed towards his place at the Slytherin end of the High Table. “Take that poor excuse for a Defence teacher while you’re at it; with some luck, you’ll both be eaten by the three-headed dog that I saw inside.”
Severus found himself blanching.
If there was something he prided himself on, it was having learnt from his predecessors when tasked with hiding the dangerous or horrific. Unlike Phineas Black, he taught his students that the Darkness was Unforgivable. Unlike Armando Dippet, he took care of them with an iron fist and unbending rules; and, unlike Albus, he had avoided waving temptation in front of rash Gryffindors and nosy Ravenclaw wannabes. Especially that in the form of forbidden Mind Potions that currently rested three floors above them.
Instead, he kept his mouth shut, had the Mirror of Erised polished, Minerva’s chess table dusted, the living creatures properly fed, and then placed the strongest wards he could manage in the third floor’s forbidden corridor.
There was no way a student would ever pass through.
Apparently, and rather unfortunately, he forgot to take into consideration a certain professor’s natural penchant for trouble.
“Malfoy is being impossible about the forbidden corridor and it’s not even forbidden anymore,” Potter commented in his ear. As if Severus had ever encouraged such liberties. Only for the content of this little interlude did Severus bend his head a little in Potter’s direction, and if that meant he could smell Potter’s cologne all the better, well, that wasn’t neither here nor there. “But, taking into account the location, maybe I should—.”
“No you shouldn’t, Potter!” Potter looked stunned and maybe a bit hurt at Severus’s vehemence. Severus backtracked, not because he cared about Potter’s feelings, Merlin no, but because Potter could be rather single-minded when he wanted to be, and Severus only won if he stayed on Potter’s good side. “I mean, Fluffy,” his voice dropped in contempt, “has been spending the winter in the castle since you were a child.”
Potter didn’t seem convinced. “I never noticed.”
“Of course not. There were always very strong Compulsion Charms on the entryway. I must have forgotten to place them when we put the dog in there.”
Potter looked even more sceptical. “I can usually overthrow those, you know. Plus, since when do you forget things?”
“I’m in my mid-forties Potter, in case you haven’t noticed,” Severus pointed out grudgingly.
Potter smiled. “You’re aging rather well.”
Severus blinked, and after a moment of frozen shock, Potter flushed all the way to the top of his ears. Just to have something to do, Severus started to fill Potter’s plate with his favourites. The rest of the Yuletide Fest was excruciating with awkwardness, but Severus endured and finally delivered an admittedly terse speech of holidays.
Potter grinned all the way through.
Severus was not pleased. All because of Potter; not Black this time, no: Potter. They were in the last staff meeting of the second term, and Potter hadn’t yet deigned to show up. He usually had a bit more sense and warned Severus beforehand.
“Professor Granger,” Severus gritted out, “if Potter doesn’t show up in the next two minutes, he’s going to find himself unemployed.”
Granger narrowed her eyes, but didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to these days. “What do you want her to do, Snape?” Black snapped. Yes, she had her very own guard dog. “She’s not Harry’s keeper.”
“I had the impression that Gryffindors travelled in packs, Sirius love,” Narcissa said casually, while inspecting her fingernails. Black growled.
“Besides, I thought we had all agreed after the Manticore fiasco that Potter needed a minder,” Draco put in, using a silver teaspoon to inspect his reflection. Black started to get up, but Granger sent him a warning glance, and he grudgingly stayed put.
Severus hid a smirk. Point to Slytherin. They were in the front this term.
“I’m sure he’s just cleaning up,” she tried, reasonably. “He said he was going to take a look at the west wing of the third floor. Professor Malfoy,” she glared at said man, “has been nagging constantly, and Harry thought he should check it out, just to see if he’d shut up. Harry’s the DADA teacher, after all, and he said something about winter being over and that he should check it now or something like that.”
Severus clenched his jaw. Of course, bloody Potter’s single-mindedness was the stuff of legends. “How long since he went off . . . exploring?”
Granger looked surprised at the question. “I don’t know, an hour maybe.”
Before Severus could get up and begin his quest to save Potter’s rather nice arse as usual, the door of the staff room slid open and Potter came in, murmuring, “Sorry I’m late,” in an uncharacteristically subdued fashion. He took his usual seat, the only one vacant, right next to Severus. But, unlike usual, he didn’t grace Severus with his blinding smile. Instead, he kept his eyes averted and proceeded to take notes about Binns’ class plans.
Binns’ plans were boring even to Severus, so it was a glaring sign that something was not right. Besides, Potter seemed jittery and was constantly looking over his shoulder. It worried Severus enough to take his mind of the desperately dull meeting. When they thankfully decided it was enough for the day, Severus held up a hand for silence. “Professor Potter and Professor Granger, if you could stay for a while, please.”
Granger had been casting Potter concerned looks for a while now, which was probably why she waved Black off when he began to protest. “We’ll be right after you, Sirius. Just a moment, please,” she said firmly enough that Black snapped his mouth shut and walked out sullenly, closing the door behind him.
“Potter,” Severus began, in what he thought to be a very reasonable tone, “what did you do?”
Potter looked down. “Nothing, sir.” That was unusual; Potter hadn’t called him sir, or any other honorific, in some time. Severus sort of missed this consideration. Furthermore, Potter was the picture of guilt. Severus quirked an eyebrow when he looked up. “All right! So I drank it! You should have told me there was something this dangerous in the castle!”
“What’s dangerous?” Granger asked, eyes narrowing.
“Hermione!” Potter exclaimed as if he had just noticed her. “I thought I should check the west wing because,” he stopped, and his brow furrowed in confusion. “Well, I can remember why, but there was this odd-looking vial in a dais and I drank it. Now, look what I can do. Lumos!” The point of his wand lit up predictably. “The words just pop into my head!” he cried out in outrage.
Severus and Granger stared. “Oka-ay. That’s not normal, Harry?” Granger asked hesitantly.
Potter flailed. “Of course not! Look! Wingardium Leviosa!” Severus’ inkwell rose a few meters in the air. “See?”
Potter turned to Severus, looking helpless, and inadvertently breaking the charm on the inkwell, which fell down at a dangerous speed. Before he thought about it, Severus drew his wand and stopped it from shattering on the floor. Potter’s eye got enormously round. “You can do it, too?” His hand closed around Severus’s arm. “You can. Can you teach me?”
“How to levitate an object?” Severus asked, just because he couldn’t quite accept that Potter was asking for his teachings with something so mundane.
Potter nodded eagerly. “Yes. Hermione, you'll keep a secret, won’t you?” He asked, while pouring himself a glass of water. Granger frowned. “You all right, Harry?”
Potter shrugged her off, his breath heaving a little. “Of course I am. Come on, you two,” he smiled weakly at them both. “We need to get to lunch, or people will realise something’s off.” He didn’t get very far, though, because he suddenly turned ashen and his eyes rolled closed.
Granger was quick to draw her wand to hold him with magic, but it was Severus who caught Potter before he smashed his glasses on the floor. He picked him up, and turned to Granger. “Go tell Madam Pomfrey I’m on my way.”
“You’re barking mad, Snape!” Black exclaimed, as he followed Severus up the stairs. “It didn’t occur to you that the kids might have wandered there? A seventh of them don’t quite know their way around here, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“While I’m astounded that you can manage maths, Black,” Severus sneered, clutching Potter tighter, and Black growled in warning, “you cannot possibly believe I’m so stupid as to have left the maze without wards. No child would have breached the first door. And any teacher should have had more sense.”
Black snorted incredulously. Severus supposed he had a point there.
The white doors of the Infirmary slid open at their passage. Granger was waiting with Pomfrey on the other side. Severus placed Potter on the bed, smoothing his hair before taking a step back. Merely because it always looked ridiculous and not because Potter would never have let Severus smooth his hair if he were awake.
“Is he going to be all right, Madam Pomfrey?” asked Granger anxiously, when Pomfrey began the diagnosis.
“I’m afraid he’s a bit dehydrated, but there’s no lasting damage,” Poppy reassured her, before turning narrowed eyes towards Severus. “Is there a reason the staff was not informed about this little stunt, Headmaster?”
Severus took great pride in not wincing; especially, since that was the tone Poppy used to take with Albus each time Severus came home from a particularly taxing raid. He did not appreciate the comparison. “It was the best choice, considering the current staff we house, madam.”
“Hey! Is that for me?” Black demanded. “I’m not irresponsible, you know.”
Severus took a moment to snort at that, before replying, “I’d be lying if I said that Gryffindor rashness didn’t cross my mind; but, and mind that I do not have to explain myself, I didn’t think it was necessary to paint a target in Hogwarts’ walls, with Harry Potter in the vicinity.” It seemed they all could understand that.
“You’re yet to explain to me why my godson passed out,” Black pointed out, after a while.
Severus ignored him and turned to Pomfrey. “The Department of Mysteries has been developing a draught to enhance Auror contribution in the field, but their efforts have gone somewhat awry and the potion has some hallucinogenic side effects. In short, it makes the victim think they’re invincible.”
“Why did they have to hide it in Hogwarts?” grouched Black.
“It was a request from the Narcotics Auror Division.”
“You should have told us, Headmaster,” Granger said, pursing her lips in disapproval.
Severus spared her a glance. “Really? So that Mortimer and Lawry could go snoop around? I’m all too familiar with the side-effects of waving temptation in front of wilful Gryffindors, Professor. I had my leg nearly bitten off once because of it.”
Granger had the grace to blush.
“I can’t say I blame you,” Pomfrey interrupted, sparing a sympathetic glance at Potter. “How long will it take for him to recover?” She looked at Severus for an answer.
“I’ll most likely have the antidote ready by the end of the term.”
Black’s face looked expectedly blank, but Granger blanched. “What is the in that potion that requires such a complicated antidote, Headmaster? I’ve heard of only two antidotes that take longer than a lunar cycle to brew, and neither leads to a very nice poison.”
“Well,” Severus began casually, “you are correct, Professor Granger, and this is not one of those. I could have the antidote ready by tonight, but I'd rather use this opportunity to teach Harry Potter not to mess with my affairs.”
Potter spent a great part of the Easter holidays too afraid to leave his room. He refused to speak with anyone but Granger, and even Severus’s daily dose of smiles was dramatically reduced. Severus started to reconsider his early decision and ordered the ingredients necessary to brew the antidote from his usual apothecary on Knockturn-Alley.
Then, halfway through the holidays, he was abruptly called to the seventh floor after Potter hexed a couple of students dressed in what was, to all intents and purposes, a drag costume. Severus was so shocked, and a little bit aroused he supposed, that he couldn’t react until Potter vanished, leaving the students in hysterics because, “Professor Potter had Petrified his students!”
“Professor Potter is suffering from a delusional illness,” he told the students that night at dinner while Granger kept Potter busy somewhere else. “I wouldn’t worry, since Professor Potter is the sort of wizard who would rather disarm than actually harm, and the staff is going to be attentive. Now, what concerns you: none of you is to shatter Professor Potter’s illusion as that would be highly counterproductive to his recovery.”
The Ravenclaw Prefect that had been getting on Severus’s nerves since she had been appointed to the position got up, and Severus didn’t really expect anything other than her predictable question, “There’s no antidote, sir?” with a pair of narrowed blue eyes.
Heather Clancy had always been too clever by half. Clever enough that she thought of ambushing Severus during the teachers’ nightly walk to the staff room after dinner. Severus really shouldn’t have agreed to be her tutor when she asked three years previous. She was a fair Potioneer, however.
He just barely refrained from rolling his eyes at her. “If there wasn’t, I’d invent one, Miss Clancy.” Clancy pursed her lips in a beautiful imitation of teenage Granger. “Alas, no, there is in fact an antidote, but,” he thought quickly of an excuse that didn’t involve how Severus enjoyed being in the centre of Potter’s life for once, “the ingredients are difficult to procure.”
Granger was walking next to them and shamelessly listening in, and she narrowed her eyes at him. Severus could tell that she was running the ingredient list in her head. He supposed that warm dragon tears fit somewhere in that category, anyway, for someone who didn't have Severus’s shady connections.
Granger’s shoulders slowly relaxed and she stopped looking at him suspiciously. “Oh, all right, then, Headmaster,” said Clancy, but, to her credit, she didn’t seem nearly as convinced as her Professor.
Well, too bloody bad for her, as most of the students didn’t spare Potter’s condition another thought, and were more than happy to indulge their teacher and have a little fun with it. That was when Potter began leaving his patrols halfway through, because “he was needed elsewhere”.
In the meantime, though, two crying Hufflepuffs were rescued from a Titanic, one Ravenclaw got the book he wanted from the library with a Gryffindor being hexed in the process of book liberation and, finally, seven Slytherins and eleven Gryffindors of variable years were given detentions for bullying.
Severus was secretly thankful for that first one, because the little bastards had somehow smuggled electronic material into Hogwarts and kept having slumber parties where Severus couldn’t reach them; and, a nice bonus, Black was still seething from the whole detention spree.
Potter didn’t look the least bit apologetic and seemed to glow when Severus expressed his approval. “I think the Wizard did a good job,” Potter was saying. “Those boys needed to be taught a lesson.”
“You didn’t have to be so strict with them, though,” Black pointed out, sulking, because three of those boys had been his Gryffindor Chasers. “As Head of Gryffindor—.”
“You did nothing to prevent it,” Potter interrupted shortly, the real first words he had said to Sirius Black since the beginning of the whole ordeal. Severus fought the urge to laugh. Black looked very discomfited that Potter didn’t remember him.
The situation soured a bit when Granger was finally defeated into following Potter around in a tight leather outfit, whispering first-year incantations in his ear. Severus found out far more about Granger’s body than he strictly wanted, but then, Potter was wearing a similar outfit, so Severus decided not to question their fashion tastes.
Furthermore, Granger was having fun indulging him, despite the considerable gag effect of Black’s appraisal, and it happened to benefit Severus’s libido, as well, so good for them.
He smirked behind his The Practical Potioneer. Oh, yes, overall? Point to Slytherin.
Any amusement died completely on the first day of the last term, at breakfast, when Potter didn’t take his usual seat. Instead, he headed towards Narcissa and smiled coyly, asking if the seat next to her was taken.
Severus thanked heavens that his years as spy had strengthened him against shock, because Black had oatmeal dripping out of his mouth and Granger was spilling tea directly into her lap.
Severus had been having what passed as fun for him lately: this new Potter seemed to worship the ground he walked on; whereas the usual one was much too fiery and proud to acknowledge what Severus had to say and would rather demand all sorts of things. This Potter simply listened.
And Potter, sane or high as a kite, had never sat anywhere but by Severus’s right side.
Draco seemed every bit as shocked as everyone else above eighteen did. In fact, it looked like Draco might just hex off Potter’s bits; except that, Draco, like Severus, saw the heated look in Narcissa’s eyes at the request. Point to Narcissa?
Staff meetings went from bad to worse after that, because the two acknowledged factions were suddenly not factions at all. It was more of an all-against-all war.
“Really, dear cousin, that’s your answer? Clean the dungeons?” Narcissa drawled. “They threw Miss Garner into the lake!” Which had happened exactly three times before and Narcissa couldn’t have cared less, even being the Head of Slytherin house.
“They thought she was a mermaid,” Black argued, “Jones said so, and they usually listen to him. How could they have known that Jones fancied her, and was just being a lovesick idiot? Boys that age don’t usually get a woman’s appeal,” he added with a grin. “With teachers like you, Cissy, who can blame them?”
Narcissa’s eyes went deadly cold. “You wouldn’t know, Sirius, would you?” Granger was now looking mortified, Severus noted with no small amount of compassion. “I seem to recall a sweet werewolf who seemed to think you had hung the full moon for him.” She giggled at her own innuendo and Draco snickered. Severus snorted in disgust.
Black sat up straight. “Take that back, you bitch.”
Longbottom let out a long-suffering sigh and drew his wand to protect himself, while Narcissa inspected her nails. “Why? Did I hit a bit too close to home, love? Don’t worry; no one will hold it against you. Boys don’t get a woman’s appeal at that age.”
Only from years of practise did Severus anticipate Black drawing his wand at amazing speed. He aimed his own wand at Black, but before he could cast a Shield Charm, a black-haired figure jumped between and disarmed Black. “I won’t let you hurt her, Black! Expelliarmus!”
Severus reeled at the sound of that voice. Potter had his wand drawn and trained on Black. The expression on his face startled Severus and not many things could do that. His expression was one of self-righteousness and determination; the same he had when he had faced down the Dark Lord. He looked more like his normal self.
Black looked so shocked that Severus felt a bit sorry for him. “That’s right, Black. Be afraid of my magic.”
Longbottom choked a laugh, and Granger patted him sympathetically on the back.
“Mr Potter,” Narcissa began, cheeks scarlet and eyes gleaming. “I’m afraid I’m not exactly blameless in this discussion, and really, I assure you I can hex my cousin right back.”
“Do you want to get out of here?” Potter interrupted, throwing Black’s wand aside. Black’s breath hitched when it hit close to the open window. Extending a hand to Narcissa, Potter Summoned his Firebolt X. “I’ll take you wherever you want.”
“Well,” Narcissa said hesitantly, “I suppose I have been bored out of my mind in this meeting.”
Moments later, Potter and Narcissa soared out of the open window, and that was when Severus started to think that it was time for Sinistra to come out of her retirement.
The silverware began rattling and, somewhat surprised, Severus realised it wasn’t his temper doing it, but Draco’s. “What the fuck is Potter doing with my mother, Granger?”
Granger looked shocked, speechless. “I, uh . . . .”
“I’m going to kill him! I’m going to castrate him!”
“Calm down, mummy’s boy,” Black growled. “I’m more worried about what your mother doing to my godson. That damned harpy cannot resist a good catch.”
Severus rather agreed, but he didn’t trust himself or his objectivity to comment on the subject.
The following morning, Severus entered the Great Hall to find a battlefield.
The few students present were hurdled in a corner where Granger was keeping a Shield Charm up to protect them. Black was trying to do the same, but he kept getting distracted and aiming his wand elsewhere, namely at Draco.
At the High Table, Longbottom and Vector had erected their own shields and were calmly enjoying their breakfasts.
And, between Gryffindor and Slytherin’s tables, Draco was frantically firing spells at Potter, who dodged them with the same ease Severus had got used to when duelling with him. “What did you do to my mother, Potter? She didn’t come home last night!” Draco shrieked, his face an alarming shade of red.
The most infuriating smile came to Potter’s lips. “Your mother’s a grown woman, Malfoy. I’m not trying to take her away from you.”
Draco flailed soundlessly for a moment, and then screeched, “Potter! What did you do to my mother?”
Severus wanted to know too, but it was his job to end this madness, and what did that say about Hogwarts’ Headmasters? “That’s enough, Draco,” Severus gritted out. “Expelliarmus!”
The boys, because Severus couldn’t think of them as anything else when they acted like that, sulked. He turned towards Granger. “Is everyone okay?” She nodded. “Have they eaten?” he asked, gesturing towards the overexcited brats.
“Not properly, Headmaster.”
Severus sighed. “Very well. Classes are suspended during the morning,” he declared for the students’ sake. Predictably, they cheered among themselves. He narrowed his eyes at Potter and Draco. “However, I expect you all on your best behaviour this afternoon, or my wrath will be unforgivable.”
Potter smiled sweetly at him, before turning to leave. “I suppose you’re right, sir.”
Severus stood there stock-still, unsure why this situation irritated him, and then it hit him. Potter would never address him with such respect.
Severus usually demanded it, but Potter’s meek behaviour was starting to make Severus feel overlooked, as if Potter didn’t think him worth it of his rage or passion. It was shocking, especially because Potter was still the same short-sighted force of nature. Potter just didn’t aim that strength at Severus, anymore. He just listened.
It was time to brew the antidote.
“Severus, may I come in?”
Severus startled and only just stopped from reaching for his wand. Instead, he took a breath to even out his heart rate, and lifted his head to see Narcissa hovering in the doorway to his private lab. “Of course, is anything wrong?”
Narcissa smiled one of the few honest smiles Severus remembered seeing from her. “I’m the object of a beautiful young man’s attentions, what can possible be wrong?” Severus gritted his teeth. “I just thought I should let you know: no matter what my cousin and son think, I haven’t done anything to your hero.”
“I didn’t really think you had, Narcissa.”
She quirked an eyebrow and asked, “Is that why you’ve been corresponding with Aurora Sinistra?”
Severus quirked an eyebrow of his own, responding, “I don’t think my affairs are any of your business.”
Narcissa laughed. “That would be true if you had any, my dear.” She spared him a condescending look. “You know what I think about you closing yourself off in this school like the late Dumbledore, don’t you? Don’t worry, I won’t say anything again.” Severus controlled the urge to roll his eyes. “I thought we had become friends, Severus. You don’t really think I’d take advantage of Professor Potter’s weakened state, do you?”
Well, Severus had indeed, but he supposed she was right. They had become friends over the years. If there was something he could say about Narcissa, it was that she was too prideful to take something she hadn’t earned. “I suppose I don’t. I apologise.”
Narcissa’s voice conveyed a smug smirk. “Don’t worry, dear. You weren’t thinking straight.”
Severus glanced up sharply, but Narcissa was inspecting her perfectly manicured fingernails. “I cannot fathom your reasons, however,” he tried, Conjuring a set of tea for both of them. There was the honest smile again, Severus mused as he lifted his teacup.
Narcissa looked far away. “He sort of reminds me of Lucius when we first met.”
Severus choked on his tea.
After that, Severus withdrew somewhat. He didn’t really want to see Potter fawning all over Narcissa, Draco playing voluntary third wheel and Granger berating him for it, so he ended up commiserating with Black.
Unfortunately, Potter seemed determined to follow him around, eyes alight with suspicion, and that hardly allowed Severus to stick his head in the proverbial sand.
Severus decided that it would all go away fast enough, as soon as he finished the antidote’s second recristallisation.
On the path from the Headmaster’s office to his lab, his mind reeling with all things Potter and thus not as aware as he would have been, Severus found himself Petrified, blindfolded and forced into unconsciousness.
Severus woke up in a damp, smelly place, with someone gently shaking him awake. It didn’t concur with a kidnapper’s behaviour, and that put Severus on edge. “Shh, I’m sorry, Snape, but I couldn’t risk having you seen with me. Too dangerous, with Lord Black lurking about. . . .”
Severus knew that voice very well, and the owner of it would be sorely sorry for deciding to involve him in this delusional business. Even if Severus had always thought Black had the makings of an evil Dark lord. Never mind that it was Severus’s fault for refusing to brew the damned antidote in the first place. “What the fuck are you doing, Potter?”
Potter gasped. “How did you know it was me?”
Severus loathed Potter’s stupid guile sometimes. “Really, Potter?”
Potter took off Severus’s blindfold, a lopsided smile on his lips. “I should have known you’d figure it out.”
Severus refrained from pointing out that a paper mask and a leather bodice did not constitute a proper disguise, but Potter was too exasperating in his charmed obliviousness. “Indeed. You may start anytime, by the way, Potter.”
“An explanation!” Severus barked and Potter flushed in the most becoming way.
“Oh, well, I need your help,” Potter said. Severus noticed Granger in the corner, very red in the face, as if she’d rather be anywhere else. Severus narrowed his eyes. “You see, I want to rescue my beautiful Narcissa from her awful cousin and his minion.”
Severus could have sworn he heard wrong. He hadn’t. “And that implicates me, how?”
Potter smiled oddly. “You’re a wizard, too! You’re my mentor. I know you’ve retired, but I need your help!”
“Narcissa Malfoy does not need saving, Potter.” Potter’s face closed off, eyes cool and assessing. “What?” Severus demanded. Potter didn’t move, so Severus continued, “She does not need saving, and you’d do well to stop caring for her so much.”
Potter turned way, shoulders taunt. Granger looked sombre. Severus did not want to think what the normal, semi-sane Potter had felt for Narcissa in order his delusion to take such a turn. He really didn’t. “You remind her of her late husband, in fact. And Black does not wish her any harm.”
Certain that he had made his point, Severus turned around to stalk out, only to stop short.
They were in a darkened chamber, with the skeleton of what seemed to be a gigantic snake and the statue of an old man. Severus’s breath hitched. “Granger?” The young woman appeared at his side, her face sympathetic in a way Severus didn’t appreciate. “Where are we?”
“Harry’s hideout: the Chamber of Secrets.” Severus felt his world shift: Slytherin’s famous chamber. There was no way any Gryffindor realised what that meant. “Harry can bring you down here later, Headmaster,” Granger interrupted his thoughts and gestured toward Potter with her head. “We'd better go.”
The last thing Severus saw was Potter in front of the altar, hands flat on the stone and head bent low.
It was the Monday following Potter’s Friday interlude in the Chamber, and Severus hadn’t seen him since. If Potter was sulking and refusing to have his meals, Severus would have to take measures.
His dark musings didn’t go very far, because, at that moment, a loud bang sounded in the Great Hall, and a familiar voice screeched a wicked laugh. The Wizard descended upon the Great Hall, laughing and shooting Stinging Hexes at anything that moved.
Severus was shocked speechless for a moment, while the teachers gaped and the students shrieked, but then he got up to stop him, only to find the High Table blown out of his way and himself bound to his chair. When Potter landed in front of him, face twisted with glee, the teachers scattered around to take the students to safety. “You thought you could fool me, Snape?”
Severus blinked. The look in Potter’s eyes was something Severus had seen before, anger and betrayal, and it was the second time those feelings were directed at him. Part of Severus was gleeful that his Potter was coming back, but the other part wanted the enthusiastic, non-belligerent if possible, teacher that debated with him over the Prophet. But there was something else, something dark and chilling that Severus recalled seeing in the eyes of Tom Riddle.
“What do you think I did, Potter?”
Potter laughed again, and the illusion of normalcy shattered. Potter’s delusion was escalating and converging to the subject’s true life. “You think you can fool me?” Severus shuddered. The last time he'd heard that sentence in that particular tone, he had suffered a night of Cruciatus. “You’ve betrayed me. You’re his lover!” Potter shouted, finger pointing straight at Black.
Black squeaked, and Severus blanched in disgust; he opened his mouth to refute the ridiculous accusation, and Potter took the chance to spray him with some sort of clear liquid. Surprised, Severus licked his lips to collect the drops and realised immediately his mistake. The taste was familiar: Veritaserum. He tried to pull up his Occlumancy shields, but he hadn’t thought he’d need them again, and he didn’t have enough time.
“I want to know what you did. I want to punish you for your crimes.”
Severus’s head got foggy and he felt himself drifting away from his body.
“What’s your name?”
Something compelled him to answer. “Severus Tobias Snape.”
“How old are you?”
“Are you Lord Black’s lover?”
Severus all but gagged. “Merlin, no.”
“Really?” The voice that had been shrieking words of evilness a moment ago had now drained into an uncertain whisper.
“Yes,” Severus said. After a moment of stillness, a gentle hand cupped his head and a liquid was poured down his throat; his mind started to clear.
“Oh, I thought—.”
Somehow, all that hesitation was grating on Severus’s nerves and he forgot that he should shut up. He knew the voice; it was Potter’s. “You thought what exactly? What do I have to do to have your trust, Potter? The things I’ve done for you!”
“Snape, I’m sorry,” Potter said softly. He threw his mask away and crawled to Severus until his upturned face was right in front of Severus’s nose. “You were acting so oddly, and you weren’t speaking to me.”
Severus snorted. “You had Narcissa Malfoy, Potter.”
“Oh.” Potter was kneeling in front of him, blushing, but smugness was creeping to his face. “You were jealous. I should have known you’d always be by my side.” Green eyes were alight with pleasure instead of accusation and Severus knew he was lost. “I was jealous, too.”
Potter waved his wand to unbind Severus, but Severus was rotted to the spot. “I beg your pardon?”
Potter blushed brighter and grinned wider. “Yeah.”
Suddenly, Severus became aware of all the staff around them. “Let’s talk about this somewhere else, Potter.”
“You’ve got to call me Harry, though.”
Severus felt himself go warm. “Very well.”
Granger stopped Severus from leaving the breakfast table the next day. “You know what this means, Headmaster. His psyche is converging, and his delusion is getting nearer to his own perspective.”
Severus nodded. He knew that: it was precisely what made the drug so dangerous; that the subjects’ lives were replicated so accurately, and that they could not see something was not adding up. There would be no memory lapses, no feeling of loss, only bravery and magic. The characters in his life would take their role. The sidekick, the repressor, the mother . . . the lover . . . .
Severus knew what it meant for him, but he could not bring himself to say it aloud.
Granger spared him a sympathetic look. “I expect you to be as honourable as I’ve known you to be, Headmaster.” She smiled weakly. “He likes foam baths, by the way.” Point to Gryffindor, not so sadly.
Harry’s kisses were something akin to bliss, and wasn’t Severus a bit too old to be snogging on the couch of his office? It didn’t seem to stop Harry and Severus was Slytherin enough to take advantage of it.
The first day of summer holidays, Severus gave Granger the Clarity Infusion, and neither Potter nor she were seen the remainder of the day. It wouldn’t have meant much to Severus, if everyone and their mother hadn’t been tiptoeing around him. Even Black patted him sympathetically on the shoulder. Black!
Soon afterwards, Severus hauled himself into his office, hung a black drapery over Dumbledore’s portrait, just in case, and dedicated himself to wait for Potter’s indignation. It wasn’t until late evening that he heard a knock on his door, and a messy-haired head poked inside. “Are you busy?”
Severus schooled his face into blankness and willed his heart to slow down. “Not terribly so, no.”
Potter came inside and gingerly took a seat in front of Severus. “I feel like I should apologise,” he began, “I broke through your wards and exposed a very dangerous drug.” Severus supposed he should be worried about that, yes, but his mind was busy elsewhere. “Then I all but harassed you and Professor Malfoy—.”
“I wasn’t exactly blameless in that situation, Potter. I should apologise for taking advantage of your condition and—.”
But Potter’s face stretched into a self-satisfied smirk. “You won’t hear me complaining.”
To his horror, Severus found himself flushing in embarrassment. “Yes, well—.”
“And you used to call me Harry. In fact, you used to scream it when I—.”
Harry’s face softened into an affectionate expression. “I didn’t mean to tease you, sorry. You’re still my wizard, you know.” He got up and leant onto the arms of Severus’s chair. “Am I still yours?”
Severus relaxed into his chair and Harry crawled on, his strong legs straddling Severus’s hips. “Not so much a superwizard as a bloody annoyance and reckless educator,” he said, “but mine, nonetheless.” Harry pushed himself down on Severus’s lap, lips ghosting Severus’s. Overall, it felt like a thousand points to Slytherin.