Harry looked up from his packing to see Severus Snape standing in the doorway of his bedroom in number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Harry had been living there since the downfall of the Dark Lord – the house was his now, after all – and had taken up residence in Sirius’ old room specifically for its familiar atmosphere and personal sense of nostalgia. Knowledge of who the room once belonged to would not be lost on Severus, but he’d never said anything about it.
In the time since Harry had witnessed Severus’ memories, he and the Potions Master had formed something of a friendship. It had been cautious and rocky at first, but only because Harry knew Severus’ trust would be hard won; transitioning from a life of constant deception and manipulation into one of easy conversation and openness did not happen overnight. But Severus had seemed to want to know Harry, too, and so they worked at it in earnest. Harry had always found his Potions professor interesting, even while in school, but had never had the chance to explore it due to the adversarial nature of their interactions.
After the war, Harry carried a nearly debilitating guilt about how he had treated Severus over the years – for not realizing the sacrifices Severus made in his name and for constantly jumping to conclusions about the man (and incorrect ones, at that). But now with all pretenses dropped between them, all former alliances dissolved, it was just the two men left, just as they were. Harry’s respect for the man he had once considered an enemy ran deep and he very much envied him his courage. Not that he was comfortable telling Severus this, but hoped it was implied at least. In fact, if Harry was being honest, the time spent with Severus was one of the only things that had kept him going in the months that followed the end of the war.
“Hi Severus,” he acknowledged with a quick glance over his shoulder, noting the man in question was leaning against the door jamb, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Harry never called him ‘Snape’ anymore. It felt too cavalier, if not a bit reminiscent of his youthful ways. He didn’t mind that Severus called him by his surname, though – it was something of a joke between them now.
Harry blanched. He hadn’t intended on notifying anyone in advance of his plans, even Severus, for he knew if he did there would be no end to the stream of objections raised. For a moment, he contemplated lying about his intentions, but quickly decided better of it. Something in his gut told him it would be in his best interest to be honest, at least with Severus. Harry stopped folding the trousers in his hands and turned around to sit on the edge of the bed. He dropped his gaze to his hands and considered them briefly before looking back up at Severus, whose face now bore signs of growing concern.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, but I just need to get out of here for a while. I don’t know where I’m going to go yet, maybe somewhere out of England…” Harry said, his voice trailing off.
Severus’ gaze sharpened while Harry spoke, contemplating the announcement. He felt conflicted, trapped somewhere between wanting to give the advice of a parent and wanting to give the advice of a friend. He knew Harry had been suffering immensely these past few months, although the young man rarely opened up about his true feelings on the matter – presumably because he wasn’t even sure how he felt about them yet – but nevertheless, Severus had been making it a point to keep a close eye on him.
“I have an offer I would like you to consider first,” Severus said finally.
Harry looked up. “What would that be?”
“A very rare, very complicated potion. It is called Sanctimonia Animadverto. Loosely translated, that means ‘virtual reality.’ As it happens, I have a knack for brewing it.” He paused, the ghost of a smirk on his lips. “I have been perfecting it for the last ten years, though most of that has been minor customizations.”
The quizzical look on Harry’s face was very telling: Potions really was not his thing. Severus sighed and walked over to sit down on the bed next to Harry. He decided to try a different tack.
“Have you ever seen the series Star Trek?”
Harry looked at him, agog. “I used to watch that show whenever I could steal time on my cousin’s telly! But how do you know of it?”
“I grew up with a Muggle father, Harry. He used to watch it. I don’t think he realized I did, however.” Severus considered that for a moment before resuming the conversation. “Regardless, do you recall a piece of technology they called the Holodeck?”
Harry sat up straighter, clearly eager to find out where this was heading. He nodded, his eyes alight with interest. Severus momentarily relished the view of Harry hanging on his every word, his handsome face only inches away – yet so far out of reach, he knew. He pushed the thought from his mind before continuing.
“Good. This will rather make the description of Sanctimonia Animadverto quite simple. Evochi, as the potion is commonly called, is similar in concept to a Holodeck, but without the technology and physical setup. It allows you to construct a virtual reality strictly within your mind, but feels every bit as real as anything on a Holodeck would. Or, indeed, anything in real life.”
Harry knew his mouth was open but did nothing to change that fact. He was listening so intently he almost forgot he had been packing his clothes and ready to leave England a few minutes ago. He blinked slowly and then swallowed. “So… this potion, Evochi…” Harry searched for what he wanted to ask but nothing was coming to him. Severus seemed to take that as his cue.
“Yes, this potion is my offer. Specifically, for me to administer it to you. You would stay at Hogwarts with me so that I may observe you while under its influence, which in turn gives me valuable research on its effects—” Harry made to object at this point but Severus held up his hand and continued. “Not to worry, it has been thoroughly tested. However, everyone responds differently to the stimuli created within the virtual reality, and as I cannot conduct this research on myself—”
“You’ve taken it before?” Harry blurted out.
“Of course. But as I cannot observe myself, you will have to make do as a substitute.” Severus looked at him sardonically.
Harry briefly acknowledged Severus’ remark with a grin and then became lost in thought, his face falling, suddenly remembering his plans to leave and get away from everything. The idea of returning to Hogwarts did not thrill him, yet Severus’ offer had certainly piqued his interest.
“Why are you offering this to me?” was what Harry heard himself say out loud, but what he was really thinking was, Why would this help anything?
“I thought you would never ask.”