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Of Feathers and Bone

Chapter Text

I'm sending a raven
Black bird in the sky
Sending a signal that I'm here
Some sign of life

I'm sending a message
Of feathers and bone
Just let me know I'm not forgotten
Out here alone
-Sam Tinnesz, Far From Home

 

 

Firelight flickered across the cluttered room, reflecting golden on delicate curves of glass, wandering through a swirling vials of silvery smoke and skipping along shelves and cabinets packed with curious instruments and baubles. It glaced off small half-moon spectacles and lit up the faded blue eyes that rested behind them. A soft rustle of fiery feathers mingled with the crackling of the hearth, adding a strange echoing depth to the noise. The gentle eyes slowed more and more with each line of cramped writing they traced, blinks growing longer, thin stooped shoulders rolling forward as they followed the slight tilt of the old man’s neck.

A thick layer of quiet descended on the dimly lit room, muffling the soft breathing from the canvases of past headmasters. The shuddering rumble of a statue shifting broke the peace and jerked the man upright, his snowy white beard tumbling over the ancient pages spread across the large desk as he blinked in brief confusion at finding himself still in his office. A moment passed before the clear sound of boots being placed with controlled anger echoed up the stairs and against the thick wood of the office door.

Albus sighed and straightened, trying to convince his spine that it was twenty years younger and hadn’t spent the evening bent over a desk. A wrinkled hand smoothed his cheerful lime green robes down just as knuckles collided with his door, the rapping somehow managing to sound both impatient and put upon.

“Come in Severus”

The heavy door was thrust open, admitting a tall, thin man in severe black robes. “There’s something wrong with Potter” the Potions Master grumbled in lew of a greeting. He stalked across the room, dark eyes narrowed with suspicion, as if Albus was deliberately hiding something from him. Since he was correct, Albus chose not to address the look that, if Severus had had his way, would have left his beard singed.

Albus motioned for Severus to sit as he waved his hand absently in the direction of the cold tea tray, causing steam to rise suddenly from the spout. The pale man gave him a small sneer with no heart behind it before sinking into one of the large mismatched chairs in front of the desk. The warm scent of Earl Grey filled the air as Severus steepled long fingers in front of his chest.

“And what has the boy done now?” a faint note of concern colored the mild words.

Severus frowned at the older man. “Nothing.”

“Nothing? I hardly think that nothing qualifies for a visit at such an hour” Albus responded, whitewashed eyes brows climbing. He was completely certain that he had never in all of his years had this particular Professor complain about a student not misbehaving.

Severus let out a frustrated huff “I believe it does. Do you know how many detentions I’ve given Potter this term?”

Dumbledore shook his head, a mild frown having crept across his face. Now that he thought of it Severus hadn’t come to complain to him about Harry yet this term, which sadly was very unusual. Typically it took less than a week before his Potions Master tried to knock holes in his door to yell about something Harry had said or done. The boy seemed to have an unrivaled ability to rile the temperamental man, as well as the unfortunate inclination to use it.

“None. I haven’t given him a single detention, nor have any of the other Professors. I’ve barely taken any points from the boy either.” Severus’ face settled into an unfamiliar expression that Albus took several moments to decipher as deep suspicion warring with a rather unsettled concern.

“Well my boy I hardly think that's cause for concern,” he said, though the disquiet that had filled his eyes gave lie to his jovial tone.

Severus snorted “Really Albus? It’s been two months since the start of the term and the boy has been a shadow. You cannot pretend you haven’t noticed. He barely eats, he looks like he hasn’t slept since he arrived and I haven’t once caught him sneaking about the castle.”

Dumbledore paused and gazed down at his chaotic desk in thought. He had to admit he too had been worried about Harry. Severus was right of course, the boy wasn’t acting normally, though Albus had no doubt that his spy had noticed it before anyone else, he was not the first of the staff to bring it up.

“I shall speak with him again Severus. I believe that he is taking the death of his Godfather particularly hard and simply needs more time. He at least seems to be maintaining normal interactions with his house, though he has been surprisingly civil to Mr. Malfoy this year” Dumbledore finished thoughtfully.

A harsh sneer appeared on the thin face at the mention of Sirius Black, but Severus nodded reluctantly. He waved away Albus’ wordless offer of tea as he swept to his feet, black robes swirling dramatically. Dumbledore eyed the bottom of the mans clothing. He had always suspected that Severus cast an exceptionally mild featherweight charm on the hems of his robes but he knew that man would die before he admitted it.

“Very well. How is your injury?” Severus asked as he prepared to leave.

“Oh as well as can be expected. Your most recent potion is very effective at blocking any pain from it, though I must admit I almost shut my hand in my wardrobe this morning. I fear it blocks all sensation, not just pain.” The Headmaster looked oddly cheerful at this, as if it were terribly entertaining to close ones appendages in one's furniture.

The Potions Master frowned again. “Perhaps if I chopped the angelica instead of mincing it…” He trailed off as Albus waved dismissively.

“No need Severus, I assure you this is quite satisfactory,” the older man said with a small smile.

The tall man looked troubled but turned without a word and stalked out with the same reserved grace with which he had stalked in, the heavy door clicking shut centimeters from the last flick of black cloth.

The Headmaster sighed softly to himself. He would need to speak with Harry again, soon if things were bad enough to prompt Severus to approach him. He had thought that the boy would have started to move on, but the events of several months ago seemed to cling to him, dragging him down. With another heavy sigh Albus hefted himself up and climbed slowly toward his bedroom, lost in thought.


Black robes snapped crisply around his ankles as he marched down the stairs, back toward the cool isolation of his dungeon rooms. Severus hadn’t wanted to approach Albus, he had been convinced that Potter’s behavior was just one more way for the boy to gain attention. Play the sad pitiful hero and everyone would go out of their way to coddle him further.

Two months of it and Snape was ready to drag the boy out of his seat and shake him just to get a reaction. Potter was a shadow of himself. He didn’t argue, he didn’t talk back, he was always on time for class and his essays were never short and never faltered in their complete mediocrity.

Snape’s mind turned back to earlier in his afternoon Defense class, filled with the volatile mix of sixth year Slytherins and Griffindors. Potter had failed to cast a moderately complex shielding charm on himself and had stood there watching burns etch their way into his arm from the acid hex that Parkinson had managed to hit him with. Snape only noticed when Granger had yelled and rushed over to stop the damage.

Severus had appeared, enraged that the boy would take his martyrdom to such levels and in desperation had done the one thing that had never failed to get a rise out of Potter.

“Just like your father, Potter. I see he managed to pass on his poor defense abilities as well as his arrogance. Perhaps if he had bothered to work harder he would have been more effective at saving those he cared for” he had said, putting more derision into his voice than he usually would.

Granger had gasped sharply and stepped forward as if to shield the idiot boy from him. Potters hand wrapping gently around her arm halted her. For just a moment Snape saw the expected fire flash in green eyes and almost crowed in triumph before Potter seemed to suddenly slump in on himself, his eyes going blank and flickering to the ground.

Snape ground his teeth in rage. How dare he keep up this ridiculous charade. Wasn’t it enough that the boy had invaded his pensieve? Did he truly expect Snape to feel sorry for him?

It took Snape a moment to realise that the boy hadn’t moved. He was just standing there, messy black hair and too thin, gaze turned blankly to the tips of his worn out trainers. A worm of doubt struggled through him as the boy simply waited for Snape to finish berating him. This was not Potter. This was not the angry child that screamed back at him, that tried to hex him and gave just as good as he got. A sickening feeling crept through his chest at the accusing glare Granger levelled at him before she turned and gently led Potter back to his seat, as if he were something breakable.

Severus shook his head slightly and looked around, finding that a few of his snakes were giving him looks of moderate disapproval. A scowl crashed across his face and he spun toward the front of the classroom as he snarled “Class dismissed. Do not forget your essays on the uses of shields are due next class.”

He had spent the remainder of the day locked in his private lab, brewing simple potions for Poppy to give his hands something to do as he thought. By the time he was done it was half eleven and he had known he had to talk to Dumbledore, and if he didn’t do it tonight he would have talked himself out of it by morning.

Severus sighed quietly as he descended the last of the stairs that would lead to his rooms, the cold dank air and prevailing gloom of the dungeons reaching up for him like an old friend. The meeting with the Headmaster had not gone as he had hoped. Albus seemed much less concerned than Snape felt he should have been since it was his Gryffindor golden boy that was acting so out of character.

He had settled into a set of warm pyjamas and was roaming his rooms idly searching for a book when a flaming brand lit and burned its way across his left arm. Snape sucked a thin breath through his clenched teeth as he doubled over, curling his body protectively around his arm. He focused on the worn blue rug in front of him, trying to follow the faded whorls with his eyes as he rode out the pain, air trickling into his lungs. His thoughts flickered for a moment to Potter, standing still and watching acid magically etch itself up his arm and Snape briefly found himself rather hysterically wondering how the boy would handle the Dark Mark.

After several minutes the worst of the pain had passed and Snape slowly straightened, swiping a shaking hand over his face and leaving a smear of liquid from his watering eyes. He only gave himself a few more seconds before he moved quickly to gather his gear and hurry from the castle to answer the Dark Lords summons.


Snape strode down the dimly lit dungeon corridor, long legs covering the distance from his quarters to the stairs. Echos from his boot heels cracked through the cold air, his black cloak barely adequate to ward off the freezing air. The sparse pools of flickering torchlight illuminated his face in flashes as he moved, distorting it into a grotesque mask, twisted in a habitual sneer. The corners of his beetle black eyes were tight, the only indicator of the pain still radiating up his left arm.

As he hurried toward the empty great hall and front doors, apprehension curled in his stomach. The Dark Lord rarely called him so frequently. He had been to a gathering the week prior and did not expect a summons for at least another month.
Thank Merlin the castle was dark, students long since settled into their dorms. Not even Potter and his band of miscreants would be out roaming this late if Potter suddenly took it into his head to venture through the castle again.

The entrance hall was dim, flickering with only a few candles, inky darkness blanketing the worn edges of the ancient stones. Soft mutters from portraits lent a whispering backdrop, as if the castle itself was imparting quiet secrets.

Snape approached the smaller door inset into the huge entrance hall doors and shouldered it open, the sleeve of his black wool robes catching on the wood. Cold November air bit into his face, making his eyes water and his lungs burn. He cursed the Dark Lord for forcing him out into this weather, in the wee hours of one of the rare nights he might be tired enough to sleep. He wrapped his cloak more tightly around his thin frame, shuddering as he thought longingly of his warm bed, or at the very least his scarf and perhaps some gloves. Not that his soft grey scarf would have been allowed. Snape snorted, his thin lips twisting in dark amusement as he imagined the ridiculous, fluffy scarf that Albus had bought him tucked under the edge of his death eater mask. It would be almost worth it to see the look on the Dark Lord's face. Though regretfully he would only enjoy it for a moment before he was cursed into an equally fluffy pile of ash.

He shook his head, dark stringy hair slipping over sallow cheeks, and banished the thought, starting the process of clearing his mind. It would not do to have the Dark Lord digging that image out of him, or any of the secrets he kept locked away. Pausing for a moment, he pulled his occlumency shields up, sinking all his revulsion, hatred, and fear under his carefully built walls. The Dark Lord expected to look into his mind and see his most loyal poisoner, so that was who Severus had to give him.

He built himself into the death eater he had once been, proud and insecure, hated and hating in equal turns. He let the feelings of his past wash over him, embracing the awful pieces he had tried to banish long ago. With a deep breath Snape opened dark eyes to grounds bathed in icy moonlight, not realising he had closed them. He moved quickly past Hagrid's hut, keeping his steps soft so as not to alert Fang.

Snape flicked his wand as he approached the edge of the Forbidden Forest, summoning his patronus.
“I have been summoned” he intoned as he gazed into the brightly glowing face of his doe, knowing that Albus would understand the situation.
“Do not relay the message until Albus is alone” He added quickly. Not that he expected the Headmaster to have company at this hour, but he hadn’t been a spy for so long to start getting sloppy now. He paused for a moment, watching the doe streak away toward the castle before he turned sharply on his heel and apparated away, the soft crack echoing over bare, empty branches.


Snape appeared just outside the wards of Malfoy Manor, the frozen grass crunching under his boots. He strode through the open gates, an intricate work of iron glazed in ice, glancing over the dark grounds for any evidence of others arriving. The winding front drive and gardens were silent and sparkling with soft frost, the manor dark and cold. A shiver of unease traced its way up Snape’s spine and settled in a tight knot of muscles on the back of his neck. He could feel his tendons pulling taught, fear dancing in bitter waves across the back of his tongue.

The walk up the drive seemed to end with supernatural speed and he stopped at the very edge. The tips of his boots barely touched the line where gravel met sweeping stone, like a child toing careful feet along meaningless divisions in some incomprehensible game. For a moment he could do nothing but stand dumbly and stare at the ostentatious porch, wondering if he would ever see it again.

Snape took a slow, steadying breath, watching it plume out in a warm mist, and finally mounted the front stairs. The back of his hand lightly brushed over the emergency portkey sewn into the lining of his robes. The slight weight calmed him, reminded him that if everything went utterly pear shaped he had at least a slim chance to escape.

The large, heavy carved doors swung open as he approached, nothing visible but shadowy darkness beyond. Snape stepped into the hall, moving forward with the kind of confidence that only a man who had long ago accepted death could claim.
A small shivering house elf of indeterminate sex stood in the cavernous front hall waiting for him, a compact glowing orb of bluish light hanging over its shoulder. White marble shot through with glittering grey veins shown with a soft luster, the floors devoid of rugs. Above him hung a huge ornate chandelier, twice the size of a man, terrible in its gaudy crystalline glory. The only furniture was a thin table to the left, adorned with a pale blue vase filled with roses from Narcissa’s greenhouse.

“Master Snape will follow me please” squeaked the solitary elf as it turned and shuffled quickly down the right hand hall.
Snape followed dutifully, keeping his eyes on the back of the elf’s head, trying to ignore how the blue light gave everything a sickly cast. Maybe this is what ghosts saw, he idly mused, colors replaced with sharp reliefs, everything given an odd surreal quality.

The Potions Master was brought out of his musings as they arrived at an inconspicuous door. If he recalled correctly a small but comfortable study lay beyond. He felt a frown stretch over his face as he considered why the Dark Lord would be meeting him in such an intimate setting.

Before he could think of any plausible reason that didn’t make him want to flee, the small elf pushed the door open.
“Master Snape is being here your Lordship. Does you be needing anything else of Bimby”? It inquired, long thin fingers twisting together in anxiety.

An unpleasantly high voice spoke from a large chair in front of the fire.
“No, remove yourself from my presence and insure that no one disturbs us” Voldemort commanded.

The elf bowed low and closed the door behind itself with a soft snick. Snape felt privacy wards snap into place as the Dark Lord raised a spidery hand to wave him nearer.

The room was small but well appointed, a deep burgundy carpet lending warmth to the area. Two dark brown leather chairs were set the ideal distance in front of a small flickering fireplace with a low table between them, which currently held a steaming tea service. Light brown curtains covered the single window, a writing table set under it with a quill and full bottle of ink atop. A bookcase covered the far wall from the window, and oddly all the portraits appeared to have been removed recently, slightly darker rectangles of paint giving away their previous locations.

Snape quickly crossed the room, sinking to his knees and bowing his head to Voldemort.
“My Lord, how may I serve you?'' he said softly, his deep baritone a rolling contradiction to the Dark Lords hissing pitch.

Voldemort said nothing for long minutes. Snape was used to these games though, and while a younger death eater would surely repeat his question or fidget, he knew better. He simply waited, mind blank, the grain of the rich carpet slowly cutting into his knees, his spine radiating pain at the carefully held angle.
A deep, almost disappointed sigh came from above before the Dark Lord spoke.

“Tell me Severus, what news do you have of Dumbledore’s movements?'' he asked.

“None My Lord, to my knowledge he has not left the castle since last we spoke” Snape said carefully.

“I have had reports from reliable sources that he was seen two nights ago leaving by floo from Hogsmeade late in the evening. Tell me Severus, how could you have missed such a trip?” Voldemort asked with deceptive softness.

“My Lord you have my most sincere apologies, two nights ago I was asked by Dumbledore to brew extra potions for the hospital wing in preparation for the turning weather. I was told the stocks had run dangerously low due to an accidental spill.” Snape said quickly, sweat gathering on his upper lip. “I spent most of the night in my lab” Snape stated as a sick feeling tightened his stomach. For once he was telling the complete truth to the Dark Lord. Why would Dumbledore seek to distract him from his movements? Had he somehow lost the man's trust? He clenched his fists to hide the sudden tremor in his hands.

Voldemort misinterpreted the expression that stole over his face as panic that he could have failed his Lord. His voice had less of an edge when he spoke again.

“Severus, despite this mistake, you have served me faithfully for many years. Your work has been invaluable to our cause.” Voldemort hissed softly, finally seeming to come to the point of his summons. “I believe it is time you were rewarded for your sacrifices. After all you have been forced to live for so long among those who are lesser even than you.” cruel satisfaction at the insult leaked into his words.

“My Lord, service to you is honor and reward enough. I would ask nothing of you but to allow me to continue to further our great work” Snape said, not daring to look up to see how his words were received. This meeting was not going at all like he expected and Severus did not like the unexpected. It rarely ended well for him.

A soft chuckle sounded above him. “You always have had a serpent's tongue Severus. Never the less you will be rewarded. Give me you left hand.”

Snape finally raised his head as he stretched his left hand out to lay it in the upturned palm the Dark Lord. He desperately wanted to snatch it back as soon as the back of his hand touched the dry icy skin but he knew if he showed any hesitance the Dark Lord might decide to simply remove his hand for his reluctance. It wouldn’t be the first time he had maimed someone for showing anything other than blind obedience.

Fast as a striking snake the Dark Lord grabbed his fingers in a crushing grip as his other hand, previously buried in the folds of his robes, whipped out and snapped a glinting bracelet onto Snape’s bare wrist.
Snape forced himself to stay still as he felt the bracelet bite into his skin, sending burning fire sliding through his veins. He choked and sagged as the flame sped up his arm, into his chest and caught like napalm. His vision greyed at the edges and a strange echoing thrum beat through his ears.

It must have metal teeth on the inside he thought faintly as he felt something grinding against the small bones in his wrist, blood running in red rivulets over his dark mark. There was something horrifyingly fitting in watching his blood stain the grinning skull, the serpent twisting wildly as if the coppery liquid excited it. He dry heaved, clenching his teeth so tightly his jaw ached.

After minutes that felt like hours the pain started to recede to a manageable level, leaving him feeling achy and ill but at least able to move. Snape straightened with difficulty, wiping a line of spittle from his chin and pulling deep shaky breaths in through his nose as he raised himself back to his kneeling position. The Dark Lord had released him to the floor while he was trying not to lose conciseness. His face ended up far closer to the thin legs covered in rich black robes than before. A dry, faintly reptilian scent permeated his nose, mixing unpleasantly with the sickly sweet tea Voldemort preferred and settling in the back of his throat.

Drawing in a shaking breath and trying not to retch again, Snape murmured “Thank you my Lord for the gift, I am truly honored.”

Voldemort's high laugh rang out, shattering the silence of the room like shards of broken glass, doubling the pounding pain in Snape’s head. He swayed slightly, struggling to remain on his knees. He knew what kind of punishment he would face if he were to show weakness and he did not think he could make it back to Hogwarts with the added drain of the cruciatus curse.

“I am pleased you like my gift Severus. I wished to show you how much I value you. The bracelet ties you more closely to me, more so than any of my other faithful” the Dark Lord said, satisfaction clear in his voice and faint glint of suspicion in his red eyes. Snape knew abruptly what this was, and his stomach rolled. He didn’t know what he had or hadn’t done that had cast doubt on himself and it scared him almost as much as the bracelet.

Snape suppressed a shudder, “I am most honored My Lord” he uttered again, shock keeping him frozen on the spot and preventing him from trying to claw the horrible thing off of his wrist.

“That will be all Severus. You will inform me of all of Dumbledore’s movements in the future. I’m afraid if you do not I would be forced to remove the mark of my favor” he hissed with a significant look. Snape doubted he would survive it coming off.

“Of course My Lord. I will not fail you” Snape said tightly as he staggered to his feet.
Snape made his way haltingly to the door. Just as his hand closed on the silver knob Voldemort spoke again “Please do remember Severus not to try to remove it. You would find the results to be rather unpleasant.”

“Of course not My Lord. I have no desire to remove it” Snape assured him as he made his escape into the dark hallway.

Snape stumbled several steps into the inky blackness before he caught himself with a hand braced on the wall. His breath came in sharp painful gasps as he fumbled for his wand. His long fingers finally closed around the smooth wooden length and the hall filled with gentle wavering light of his silently cast lumos.

He made his way to the front door, a steady drip of blood marking his passage. It took him two tries to rip a strip of cloth from his robe to wrap around the bracelet and the torn skin underneath. He did not dare try a healing spell on it. A shaky wave of his wand and the splashes of blood were banished before he slid out the front doors and into the predawn light.


Harry rolled over again, twisting his sweaty sheets more securely around his legs. He kicked at them, trying to free himself but only succeeding in trapping himself more thoroughly. He had only slept a few snatches, plagued by the recurring dream of Sirius falling through the veil. Unlike the memory, where Harry watched and was unable to reach him, Harry stood in front of him, his hand reaching out to Sirius. Instead of grabbing his robes and pulling him to safety, he planted his hand in the middle of his godfathers chest and shoved. He always woke just as the expression on Sirius’ face changed from confusion and panic to pained betrayal. He knew it was just an ordinary nightmare, he could tell the difference now, too late to be useful. Even though it was not a vision it was no less horrifying and he couldn’t ever manage to get back to sleep after.

He heaved a heavy sigh as he stared up at the canopy of his four poster, the closed red curtains creating a small private island in his dorm. He could faintly hear Ron snoring in the bed next to his and considered briefly waking him just to have someone to share his sleepless misery. It’s not like Ron hadn’t had a good amount of sleep, he thought sourly, Harry had listened to his snoring all night.
Harry cast a quick tempus, the glowing numbers informing him that it was a quarter past five and he would have no chance of getting any sleep anyway. After some undignified thrashing he finally managed to free himself and scrambled out of his bed. He pushed his curtains open quietly, getting dressed in jeans and his warmest Weasley jumper in the feeble dawn light.

He grabbed his gloves, scarf and Firebolt as he slipped downstairs. The common room was silent and chilly, the house elves having not been in to light the fire yet. Harry moved on stocking feet to the portrait hole, his shoes wadded up in a bundle with his cold weather flying gear. Once he was through he paused to slip on his trainers, hopping in place as he balanced on one foot, holding his broom awkwardly.
“And what are you doing out so early young man” the Fat Lady asked, her eyebrow raised in amusement at his balancing act.

“Just off for an early flight. We did well in the last game, but we wouldn’t want to lose our edge” he said forcing a half smile for the nosy portrait.

“Right you are Mr. Potter, perhaps next time rouse Mr. Weasley to accompany you. We must keep our lead!” the Fat Lady declared with satisfaction and far more volume than the conversation required.
With a last graceless stomp Harry finally managed to get his second trainer on and took off down the hall.
“Be sure to use a warming charm, we wouldn’t want you catching your death” the Fat Lady called out as he headed down the staircase.

Harry raised a tired hand in acknowledgement and wrapped his scarf around his neck, tying it off and tucking the ends under itself. He drew in the first relaxed breath he had experienced all night as he loped down the stairs, the high ceilings glowing with pale gold light. He loved the castle in the early morning. It had a certain soft hazy potential to it, like the world hadn’t really settled in yet and was still undecided on the course the day would take.

He paused at the base of the grand staircase, briefly torn on sneaking into the kitchens and begging a cup of tea, but decided it would be more welcome after an hour in the cold. He moved through the silent entrance hall, unknowingly tracing Snapes path from a few hours prior.

Harry pushed the inset door open, stepping out into biting cold, the grounds lit by pale pink streaks of dawn. It looked to be a clear day, one of the first that spoke more of winter than of autumn. He hopped down a couple of steps before slinging his leg over his broom and kicking off gently. He soared at a comfortable pace toward the quidditch pitch, gaining height slowly as he moved through his initial warm up routine. He looked over the sleeping castle and the black lake, covered in a fine layer of mist that raced in smoky patterns over the top of the water. The edge of the lake sloshed with gentle waves, rippling evidence of the giant squid stirring in the depths. The silence was broken by the echoing call of a lonely water bird, gliding in to land in the rushes with a flash of white feathers.

Harry picked up speed, falling into the familiar loops that worked his arms and shoulders, the muscles slowly loosening as they warmed.
He was almost to the outer wall of the pitch, coming out of a tight spin that made his hips ache with the effort of keeping himself flush with the broom, when he spotted movement on the edge of the forest.

Harry paused and hovered, watching to see if perhaps one of the inhabitants needed help. It was not uncommon for something to be injured and crawl itself to Hagrid's hut for healing. Harry sucked in a sharp breath as the figure resolved into a tall man, heavy robes and cloak sweeping behind him. He would recognize that particular stalking walk anywhere, after all Snape had ensured that every student he had ever taught had an unpleasant, visceral reaction to billowing robes. Harry felt the first stirrings of anger in his chest, the sight of the man reminding him of the humiliating berating in Defense that day before.

Harry’s eyebrows drew down in a frown as he saw that the normally smooth glide was stilted, his stride shortened. Realisation dawned and his face twisted in a snarl. Snape had been out with the Death Eaters. That was the only possible reason he could have for sneaking out of the forest at this hour and injured as well. Harry unconsciously flew closer, his height enough that unless Snape looked almost directly up he wouldn’t spot him.

Harry turned his broom and started to drop toward the ground, half formed plans of confronting the man flitting through his head before he slowed and gently pulled up. Doubt filled him, dragging over his mind in a swirling fog like it had everyday since Sirius had died. He didn’t know, he couldn’t know what Snape had been doing. He couldn’t trust himself to make those kinds of calls anymore. He had always relied on his instincts and he had been so certain he was right, that Sirius was in danger, only to find that he was wrong in the worst way.

Harry watched with narrowed eyes as Snape staggered slightly on his way to the front doors, his boots and cloak weaving a dark trail through the frost. Snape paused at the doors, seeming to need to brace himself for a moment before he slipped inside. Harry hesitated for a second with indecision, thinking perhaps Dumbledore should be alerted, before turning back to the pitch and resuming his flight.


Snape hurried down the dungeon stairs, trying to get to his quarters before he fell unconscious in the middle of the corridor. He badly needed a blood replenishing potion, the strip of cloth he had wrapped around his wrist was soaked through, as was the entirety of the left arm of his button down and robe.

He stumbled into the small statue of Ares that rested on a plinth just in front of the blank stretch of wall that hid the entrance to his private rooms. With an unusual lack of grace, Snape twisted the statue past the normal quarter turn needed to access his rooms, facing it fully to the wall instead. He felt a soft click as the spell to alert Dumbledore was triggered. The statue was one of their built in fail safes, sending an alarm to the Headmaster if Snape feared he was compromised. Dumbledore would know to speak to him carefully until they could check him for spells.

He dragged himself through his comfortably shabby sitting room and into his personal lab, leaning heavily on his worn work table, knocking over several empty glass vials as he jarred the surface they rested on. He grabbed the potions he needed from the shelf that held his personal store and downed them in quick succession. He dropped bonelessly onto a nearby stool and closed his eyes, waiting for his potions to work.

He buried his face in his hands, pushing the heels of his palms almost painfully into his eyes, trying to get a hold of his roiling emotions. Questions assaulted him. Why would Dumbledore not inform him he was leaving when he knew that the Dark Lord had commanded him to report back? Where had he gone that required him to floo in the middle of the night from outside of Hogwarts? And most of all what in Merlin’s name had the Dark Lord linked him to with blood magic?

He was fairly certain it couldn’t detect his thoughts, he was accomplished enough at guarding his mind that he would have felt an intrusion, but there was every possibility it could transmit sound, a record of spells cast, even possibly images. He couldn’t risk reporting in his normal way until they knew what it did, and Voldemort, the complete bastard that he was, had obviously cast on it prior to Snape arriving, giving him no idea what the spells might be.

Snape finally lowered his hands, dark spots blooming erratically across his vision as his eyes adjusted to the sudden lack of pressure. He blinked owlishly at his lab, noticing for the first time the broken vials on the floor and the cauldron shimmering softly under a stasis spell he’d thrown on it prior to going to leaving last night. For a moment he couldn’t even remember what he had been brewing.

He sighed heavily as he tried to vanish the glass shards and frowned when they only rolled sluggishly around. He turned to his wrist and slowly started unwrapping it, hoping that the clotting potion had been effective. He was certainly feeling more steady, though the dizziness had been replaced with a kind of bone deep wariness that he only felt after expending large amounts of magic.

Snape dropped the sopping wet strip of cloth to the floor where is landed with a wet splat, blood spraying out and forming a grotesque halo around it on the stones. He pulled a face before banishing it and turning to study his newest shackle.

It was a simple silver band, plain but tasteful and thick enough to almost be a cuff, the edge barely covering the bottom of his dark mark. The spikes on the interior had retracted and it shifted easily on his wrist, just loose enough to allow for full range of movement without a chance of slipping off. It had no seam, not that he expected it to. The thing he found strange was the complete lack of markings. He frowned at the bracelet as he stretched his magic out to it, cautiously feeling around the edges. He felt a certain fuzziness he equated with concealment charms, and without thinking he pushed a little harder. For just a second before blinding pain screamed up his arm he saw a flash of deeply carved runes, then the floor rushed upwards as blackness took him.

Chapter Text

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons could be birds, taken broken up to the mountain

-Iron and Wine, Upward Over the Mountain

 

 

Harry rushed into the dorms just as Ron was coming down the stairs from their room.
“Hey mate, where were you? ” Ron yelled up as Harry ducked past to change into his uniform.

“Flying!” came the distant reply as Harry quickly stripped out of his sweaty jumper and t-shirt. His glasses had fallen off when he yanked his shirt off and everything had developed a soft fuzzy quality. He moved carefully, groping around for his dropped glasses. His fingers grazed cold plastic, and he snatched them up, stuffing them on his face, and turned quickly to grab a clean shirt from the wardrobe he shared with Ron. With a sudden muffled crash Harry tripped over Seamus’ boot, sitting in the middle of the room, the only remaining evidence of a brief but fierce retaliation against Ron’s seemingly unending need to sigh Lavender’s name.

Harry dragged himself up, his glasses sitting askew on his face as he blinked down at the offending shoe. He scooped it up, intent on returning it to its owner.

“Bloody hell Seamus, I almost broke my nose” a shirtless Harry appeared at the top of the stairway, staring accusingly at a startled Seamus across the common room. A chorus of giggles erupted from a group of fourth years standing by the portrait hole at his appearance. Harry flushed and flung the boot at Seamus before he ducked back into the dorm, not waiting to see if his throw connected.
“Well he’s in a mood” muttered Seamus, bending to pick up his boot, before he shouted “Sorry mate, Ron was being a bit of a wanker.”

“Hey now, I was not. Minding my own business I was when your bloody great boot came out of nowhere” Ron protested, rubbing a sore spot on the back of his shoulder as he made his way into the common room.

Seamus rolled his eyes as Dean and Neville shook their heads, faces cast with identical looks of mild disgust.

Harry finished dressing in record time, hurrying down the stairs and skidding to a halt in front of Ron. “Hurry up, we’re gonna be late for breakfast” Ron said as he grabbed his bag and headed toward the portrait hole. Harry followed him with a resigned look. He really was still upset with Ron over how he had treated Hermione, even if she was being unfair about the match. Besides, he was just as tired of listening to Ron go on about Lavender as everyone else was, and as best mate he had the unique honor of hearing every single detail.
He could feel a headache coming on already and he hadn’t even started classes. He groaned quietly to himself as he realised he had Defense first thing this morning and he could likely look forward to a hex or two flung his way, peppered heavily with criticism and insults, especially if Snape felt as bad as he had looked that morning.

“You alright mate? You look a bit….” here Ron trailed off and pulled an awful face instead.
“Thanks for that” Harry said with a flat look at his friend. “Didn’t manage much sleep last night and I just remembered we have Snape first thing this morning. Which reminds me, I saw him coming out of the forest when I was out flying” he reported with a raised eyebrow, hoping to distract Ron from his sleeping habits.

They made their way into the Great Hall just as Ron opened his mouth, the look on his face clearly showing the whatever Snape related wisdom he was about to impart should not be uttered in public. Harry gave him a look, at which Ron shut his mouth with a snap and headed toward their normal spot at the Gryffindor table.
A shriek cut through his confusion “WonWon!” Lavender scrambled up to pepper Ron’s face with kisses as if she hadn’t spent all of the previous evening snogging him in the corner of the common room. Well that at least explained Ron’s quick exit from the chance to heap abuse on their potions master.

A crash drug Harry’s attention away from the horrifying sight of his best friend trying to climb inside of Lavender Brown’s mouth. Hermione stood several seats down from where they normally sat, her plate broken on the floor. She shot a hurt look at Harry before gathering her books and hurrying out of the hall.
Ron didn’t seem to notice Hermione’s exit but Professor McGonagall did. “Mr. Weasley, Ms. Brown, if you could kindly seat yourselves and let the rest of us resume our breakfasts, not all of us enjoy a show with our eggs” she called out from the high table.
Ron jerked back like he’d been stung, his face slowly turning the same shade as his hair, and slunk to his spot on the bench. Lavender, seemingly unaffected, followed along behind him.

Harry shot a grateful smile up at his head of house and received a genial wave of a fork as McGonagall returned to her conversation with the Headmaster.

A frown fell over Harry’s face as he looked along the table and realised that a certain greasy headed git was missing. A trickle of unease crept over Harry. Perhaps Snape had been more injured than he had initially appeared.

Breakfast forgotten Harry moved toward the staff table just as Dumbledore got up to leave. Harry caught up to him as he moved toward the Great Hall doors. “Professor” Harry called. Dumbledore turned to Harry, his eyebrows arching in question. “Harry my boy, what can I do for you? ” the Headmaster asked genially.

Harry motioned toward the now fairly empty entrance hall and strode after Dumbledore as he crossed the hall and ducked into an empty class room just off the first branching corridor.

Harry shut the door behind him and turned to Dumbledore, who had wandered off between the empty desks. The room was smaller than the normal class rooms, and felt disused. The desks looked worn, many with carvings and scorch marks across their surfaces.
“What seems to be the problem my boy? “ Dumbledore asked, his eyes crinkled as he smiled.

“It’s Snape sir” Harry said. For just a second Harry thought he saw a flicker of surprise in the softly twinkling blue eyes before it disappeared.
With his healthy hand Dumbledore traced a name carved into the desk nearest him as he replied, “Whatever do you mean Harry? I can only assure you so many times that Professor Snape is not planning something nefarious” stressing Snapes title, a hint of warning in his tone.

Harry hesitated, trying to decide the best way to proceed without sounding like he was accusing Snape. “No sir, it’s nothing like that. You see I was out on the Quidditch pitch this morning and saw him coming back to the castle. He looked like he might be injured, and when he didn’t show up for breakfast, I thought I should tell you” he finished, keeping his voice carefully neutral.

A startled look settled on Dumbledore’s face before he smoothed it out into something that looked suspiciously like satisfaction. “Well then my boy, you’ve nothing to worry about, Severus contacted me last night before he left. I was just on my way to see him. I’m sure he’ll be up and about in time to get to class, but I’ll be sure to tell him you asked after his health” he said with what Harry thought was a rather evil twinkle in his eye.

Harry blanched as he imagined how terrible his term would become if Snape knew he had seen him and thought he was mocking him. Snape had been particularly awful the last couple of months and he honestly wasn’t certain if he would come out intact if it got any worse.
“oh no need for that Professor” Harry responded hurriedly. “Well, erm, I should be going, classes you know” he trailed off awkwardly, thoroughly regretting his impulsive need to tell Dumbledore what he’d seen.

“Before you leave could we speak for a moment?” Dumbledore asked as he settled himself comfortably on the edge of a nearby desk.

Harry moved reluctantly away from the door and took a seat on a chair that looked like it had met Seamus on a bad day. He knew this would be another in a long line of similar conversations. Professor McGonagall had already caught him twice this term, Dumbledore once, Hagrid every other week during tea and even Flitwick had corned him to inquire very carefully about how Harry “was holding up”. He was thoroughly tired of it. He knew he was acting differently but how could he not be when he had been shown exactly what kind of horrible consequences his anger and his habit of leaping before he looked had?

“How are you doing Harry? Truly?” Dumbledore said softly, concern lacing his voice.

“I’m fine Professor. I know that no one seems to believe me but I really am alright” Harry replied, frowning down at a small hole forming in the leg of his oversized jeans.

“It is not that we do not believe you Harry, it is simply that you seem less yourself and several of you teachers have expressed their concerns. I know it must be difficult with all that happened last year, but if ever you need to talk, I would be happy to lend the ear of a tottering old man.” The Headmaster finished with a gentle smile.

Harry twisted uncomfortably in his seat. “Thank you Professor” he hesitated for a moment before continuing in a rush. “I just don’t want to make the kind of mistakes that hurt people.”

“Dear boy, I’m afraid you will find, especially in times such as these, there is always the potential that a choice we make will hurt someone. It is a mark of your character that you have learned from your mistakes, but please don’t let doubt rule you.” Dumbledore said, his face suddenly showing his years.

Harry sat awkwardly for a moment longer, silently acknowledging that his professors were right in certain ways. He couldn’t seem to get himself away from the strange feeling that his brain was encased in a quiet fog. It would clear at times throughout the day, mainly when he was with Ron and Hermione, but would creep back in when he was alone, or when he felt himself getting angry. It wasn’t that he felt particularly sad, just oddly disconnected, like he wasn’t fully engaged in his day. He did what was expected of him because he knew that everyone was watching and waiting for him to break apart like he had just after Sirius died and he had sworn to himself he would get better control of his emotions. He would show them that he wasn’t the irresponsible child he had been. He had to if he had any hope of beating Voldemort.

“Well my boy I’m very glad to see that you and Severus are beginning to get along” the Headmaster broke in suddenly. “I still think you two would have a great deal to talk about if ever you tried. I dare say you might even be friends” he finished as he waved Harry toward the door.
Harry didn’t hesitate at the invitation and quickly ducked through the door, shuddering at Dumbledore’s words. It would be a cold day in hell when he had anything friendly to say to the greasy bastard.


 

Dumbledore stood in the dusty room for a moment longer, considering. If only his boys would stop fighting long enough they might realise they had far more in common than either would ever guess. He truly hoped Harry was going to be alright. He knew that he put too much on the young man, but what choice did he have? And the boy had so few people who loved him that he loved in return. To lose one had been devastating, and Albus knew that Harry blamed himself, he just hoped the boy would be able to come to terms with it soon, for everyone’s sake.That thought sobered him as he left the class room, turning toward the dungeons.

He wouldn’t admit it to Harry but Severus not contacting him was worrying. The protocol they had put into place during Harry’s first year dictated that Severus contact him first, in a place and time of his choosing as he was more likely to know what spells might be on his person.
Dumbledore had waited up after Severus’ doe had woken him, but the man never showed. When shortly after dawn the previously unused alarm rang out in his chambers he had known that nothing good had come of that meeting.

Dumbledore arrive at the stretch of wall that hid his potion masters rooms, and looked sadly at the back of the statue of Ares, still turned to face the wall and with an alarming smear of dried blood across it. The headmaster raised his hand and lay it on the cold stones. The stones seemed to shiver for a moment before they melted away, taking a rather formidable set of wards with them.

“Severus? Severus my boy you missed breakfast and our meeting. I really must insist we talk. I’ve been getting complaints from all the other heads of houses about your point taking” Albus called, forcing the right note of annoyance into his voice in case anyone or anything was listening.
Dumbledore frowned when no answer was forthcoming. The front room looked to be in order. A worn couch and two comfortable sage green chairs stood facing the cold fire grate. Bookshelves covered every wall, crammed to capacity with anything that had caught Severus’ fancy. A soft dark blue patterned rug, worn thin in places, covered the floor behind the couch and stretched under Severus’ writing desk. A pile of what looked like half graded essays graced the desk and the coffee table, quills abandoned on most flat surfaces.

Dumbledore rapped softly on Severus’ bedroom door, not wanting to disturb him but worried enough to risk his wrath. When no answer came he opened it carefully and ducked his head in. The bed was empty didn’t look slept in. The door to the attached ensuite was open, showing it was empty as well.
Albus pulled his head back, frowning in earnest now. He paced quickly to Severus’ private lab, thinking to check it quickly before he sent out his patronus to hunt down the wayward man. Not many knew you could task a patronus with such things, but he had found it supremely useful during the first war, and sadly would likely find it such for this one as well.

The Headmaster gasped as he opened the lab door and saw Severus slumped on the floor in front of his work table. With a flick of his wand his silvery phoenix burst forth. “Message for Poppy. Come to the dungeons immediately. Professor Snape is in his quarters and injured”. As soon as he finished speaking the phoenix shot upward through the ceiling.

Albus carefully rolled Severus over, checking for any obvious wounds. There was dried blood on his left arm and hand, along with a bracelet that Albus knew Severus hadn’t had yesterday. A considering look came over his face as he realised that this object was most likely the cause of their current problems and Severus’ injury.
Poppy arrived a moment later, having the same level of clearance to enter any room as the Headmaster did. It wouldn’t do to lock yourself away from the resident healer, just in case she was needed.

She knelt quickly beside Severus, flicking her wand to bring up a diagnostic spell.
“Dehydrated and exhausted, with some blood loss, but it looks like he took a blood replenisher”. Her face fell into a scowl. “His temperature is much too low Albus” Poppy said worriedly. Her sudden gasp stopped Albus from casting a warming charm. “Headmaster, his magic is almost gone. His core is dangerously low. I don’t know what he could have done to get himself in this state but he will need days if not weeks to recover, the stupid man” Poppy snapped as she cast a quick levitation charm and moved Severus to his bedroom, Albus trailing along behind.

“Binky” Poppy called out as she efficiently flicked her wand, stripping Severus and cleaning the blood off of him before a pair of his soft sleep trousers made their way out of his wardrobe and onto him.

 

A house elf wearing a clean hogwarts tea towel with a small additional green ribbon, showing her to be in service to the hospital wing, appeared.

“Yes Mistress Poppy?” She asked.

Poppy listed a string of potions she needed in rapid succession and the elf nodded before vanishing with a crack. She appeared again a moment later, skinny arms laden with glass bottles.

“Thank you Binky, that will be all for now, though I would like you to set up a standard medical watch on Professor Snape. Assign who ever you feel is best.” Poppy said as she gathered the potions and moved toward Severus.

Binky nodded once in acknowledgement and vanished again as Poppy began spelling the potions into Severus’ stomach. When she was done she pulled the covers up to his chin and tucked him in, fussing with the edge of his soft white quilt for a moment.
“Will he be alright Poppy”? Albus asked quietly.
“Yes, of course Headmaster” she answered distractedly “He simply needs rest and to eat more than he does,” she said. “Though we both know that it’s not likely he’ll bother to do either” she added sadly.

Albus gazed quietly at Severus for a moment. He looked so much younger tucked into the sea of white blankets, his normal presence somehow diminished. Abruptly Albus was reminded that Severus was not the old man his eyes and experiences declared him to be. He was only 37, his face yet unlined, barely of an age to be taken seriously in the wizarding world. Albus himself was a sprightly 141, hardly ancient when most wizards could look forward to seeing 200.
“Please let me know if anything changes Poppy” Albus said softly as he moved to leave the room. “I’ll need to arrange coverage for his classes today”.

Poppy nodded briskly and stood to follow him out. “Of course Headmaster. If you can please try to keep him in his chambers for at least a full day” she said, lips thinning in displeasure “perhaps you’ll have more luck than I do” she said as she stepped through the brick archway that marked the door of Severus’ chambers.
Dumbledore didn’t reply, but gave her a wry look before striding down the corridor toward the stairs, leaving Poppy staring curiously at a statue turned the wrong way about.


 

Harry walked into his defense class, warily eyeing the empty desk up front and hoping Dumbledore hadn’t told Snape that he had seen the man stumbling across the grounds that morning. He hardly needed more reasons for the Potions Master to hate him, and he had a feeling that admitting to seeing him in a weakened state wouldn’t endear him any.

Harry set his bag down at his normal desk in the back of the room, Ron to the right, Hermione’s normal seat to the left conspicuously empty. Just as Harry was looking up to see where she’d got off to the door opened. Instead of sweeping black robes and the sharp crack of boots on the stone floor, his head of house walked in on soft feet. His eyes met Ron’s and Ron leaned over to whisper softly “Do you know where he is? Is this about this morning?” He asked curiously.

“Yeah probably” Harry replied, but was cut off from further speculation as Mcgonagall called the class to order.

“Everyone if you could find your seats please. That means you Mr. Finnigan, and if that is a Weasley product in your hand you would do best to see that it finds its way into my office by the end of the day.”

Seamus flinched and dropped into the seat beside Dean, stuffing something into his bag.
“Now, as you can all see I will be filling in for Professor Snape today. He is attending to a matter for the headmaster, but I assure you he will receive a full report from me” Mcgonagall said warningly.

She shot a very pointed look at Harry just as he opened his mouth to ask what sort of matter would draw Snape away since he knew that the man was injured and should be in the hospital wing. He snapped his mouth shut at as it occurred to him that perhaps Mcgonagall wasn’t being entirely truthful and got his book out.

The lesson in wordless casting moved forward with minimal fuss, and was by far the easiest defense class he had had that year. Mcgonagall hadn’t insulted him, hexed him or taken house points for “looking disrespectful.” It was all rather nice actually.
Harry spent the remainder of his day in the library with a small break for Charms and lunch, but managed to get most of his transfiguration essay written, 8 inches on the properties of animate to inanimate transforms. He was feeling rather accomplished when he returned to the common room that night.

Harry ducked through the portrait hole and almost ran into one of the fourth years that had giggled at his bare chest that morning. He flushed slightly as she smiled at him.

“Hi Harry” she giggled. “Would you like a chocolate?” she asked, a coy look on her face. She was rather pretty, long dark hair with deep blue eyes. Harry couldn’t remember her name but thought it started with an R.

“Erm, no thanks, I had a pretty big dinner” he said apologetically as he skirted around her. He caught a glimpse of her disappointed expression before she flashed a smile at him.
“Of course Harry, maybe later” she said as she turned away, her box of chocolates tucked under her arm.
He shook his head as he moved over to the fire where Hermione was ensconced in her typical spot, her papers and books strewn around her.

“Hi Harry” Hermione greeted him distractedly. “What did Romilda want with you?”

“Romilda?” Harry asked, confused.
“Yes Harry, the fourth year you were just speaking to” Hermione asked slowly, an eyebrow raised in question.

“Oh is that her name? I’d forgotten. She was just offering me a chocolate” he said, waving the interaction away.

Hermione frowned slightly but seemed to accept it.
“Have you started your transfiguration essay?” she asked instead.

“Yes, and finished it. I still need to go over my defense homework again. You know Snape will take any points he can from me” Harry sighed sadly.

He did enjoy the look of surprise that crossed Hermione’s face before she held out her hand to check his work. Wordlessly he handed over his essay and dug around in his bag for his defense homework, emerging a moment later triumphantly with a slightly squished scroll.

“What sort of thing do you suppose Professor Snape is doing for Dumbledore” Hermione asked while squinting at his messy handwriting.

“Oh, Hermione, I forgot to tell you!” Harry said quickly before he filled her in on what he had seen that morning.

“And then Dumbledore said he was fine and he was going to head down to the dungeons to see him”. Harry paused, waiting for Hermione to tell him he should have offered to help Snape of at least fetched the headmaster.

“I think you did the right thing Harry. You know how Professor Snape is. He likely wouldn’t have wanted your help anyway and it might have made things between the two of you worse. And you know how bad it’s been since last year.” Harry shuddered at the reminder of the man’s rage over the pensieve incident.

“I’m sure it’s fine” Hermione said firmly, patting Harry gently on the knee. “Why don’t we go over your defense homework as well. Your transfiguration essay looks good, except you seem to have trouble understanding Bertreds principle of personality type.”

“Teacups have a personality type?” Harry asked, confused.

Hermione just sighed and settled down to go over the chapter with him again. By the time they called it quits they were both bleary eyed and the common room was empty of all but a few 7th years studying for NEWTS and looking hunted.

Harry stumbled up to his bed, for once falling asleep almost immediately, his last thought that he might get to enjoy defense again if Snape stayed out a bit longer.


 

Snape woke in his own bed. It smelled like the lavender and rosemary he stored all of his sheets with and he relaxed further into his blankets. He frowned, trying to remember getting into bed, just as the crack of a house elf arriving sounded in his room. He jerked upright and immediately regretted it as a wave of nausea hit him.

“Oh Master Snape, you should not be up yet” a small voice scolded firmly. “Mistress Poppy says you is to stay in your bed until tomorrow”.

Snape swallowed roughly, trying to keep what little might be in his stomach down.

“When did I get here?” he asked, his voice low and rasping with sleep.

“You has been in bed since just after breakfast Master Snape. Headmaster Dumbledore be finding you on the floor.” The elf said, disapproval radiating from its small frame as it set up a tray with broth and a slice of soft bread.

“Mistress Poppy said you need to be eating something. Too skinny she says, you has not been taking care of yourself.” The elf looked positively mutinous at this.

Binky, he remembered faintly, seeing the green ribbon that marked her as one of Poppy’s elves. He seemed to recall a similar conversation with this particular elf the last time he had been subjected to a stay in the hospital wing. If things held true to form Poppy would arrive shortly and Binky would stand glaring at him until he ate enough to satisfy her.

He knew better than to try to ignore her. The last time he had ignored one of the hospital wing elves he had found himself in the scratchiest set of hospital pyjamas he had ever had the misfortune of meeting.
He meekly took the tray and spooned a few bites of broth into his mouth. Binky made a small satisfied noise and disapparated.
He ate a few more bites, surprised at how hungry he was. He rarely had much of an appetite these days.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of his outer doors opening, followed swiftly by his bedroom door swinging open to show Poppy, closely followed by Dumbledore. Snape set the tray to the side and pulled the blankets up, hiding his thin, scarred chest from view.

“Well how are you feeling Severus?” Poppy asked, already casting her diagnostic charms.

“As well as could be expected, though still somewhat dizzy.” He replied.

“I would think so young man, You almost drained your core completely. What exactly were you doing that took so much energy?” Poppy asked suspiciously. She knew very well how powerful Severus was, and anything that caused him to use so much magic could not be good for the Order.

“Nothing. I didn’t use anything beyond a few simple spells over the last day” Snape replied, a troubled look on his harsh face.

“Well that’s not promising my boy” Albus spoke for the first time, looking pointedly at the bracelet.

Poppy fussed with him for a minute longer, reminding him to finish his food and to call her if he felt faint again, her eyes flicking between Severus and the Headmaster.
“You’re to stay in bed until at least noon tomorrow Severus. I’d like to make it two days but I know you won’t agree to it. If I see you out of bed before then for anything other than a trip to the loo I will body bind you.” She looked so serious that Snape just nodded and sat back on the pillow throne she had assembled behind him.
Poppy gave one last nod to both him and Albus before leaving.

“So my boy, tell me how you ended up in the state I found you? Anything to do with the broken bottles in your lab?” Dumbledore asked, giving him a convenient out.

“Yes, it must have been Headmaster, I was working early this morning and accidentally knocked over an experimental sleeping draught. I was hoping to make one that could be safely inhaled, but it appears it’s stronger than I intended.” Severus lied swiftly.

As they spoke Dumbledore lined himself up until he was just in front of Severus.

“Well then, let me just send a quick note to Minerva so she knows she’ll have your classes again tomorrow.” As Dumbledore finished speaking he looked Severus in the eye and cast a silent legilimens.

Snape dropped his shields and brought the memory of the previous night to the front, as well as what had happened before he blacked out in his lab. Dumbledore played it through twice before backing out.
“There my boy, all taken care of. You’ve no need to worry about your students tomorrow.” A slight shake in the Headmasters voice the only thing that betrayed their farce.

Silently he held his hand out, echoing Voldemort’s movements from the night before. Snape placed his hand in Albus’ and waited for something to happen. Albus sat and stared for a long while before releasing him. Glowing golden words suddenly appeared in front of Snape, who startled before he realized that Albus was writing in the air. “I could find no trace of a visual component to the spells, but there is certainly an audio portion. The main purpose seems to be to drain your magical core. I fear Voldemort may be able to add your power to his with this. There is something else concealed, but I suspect it is simply the runes that allow him to make the bond to your dark mark that he has obscured.” the writing hung for a moment before flaring and raining down in sparks.

Snape responded, his own silvery script lighting up the dim room. “Do you have any idea how to remove it?” he asked, his face pinched with fear. He thought that if he were offered a quick death or the loss of his magic he wouldn’t choose to lose his magic, and certainly not to Voldemort.

“Not yet, though I have a few things I would like to look up. In the meantime try to recover and make sure that you play your part exactly” Albus warned, script glowing.

“I’m sorry my boy I must have dozed off for a moment” Albus said jovially. “I had best be off before Poppy returns and accuses me of keeping her patient up.”

 

The Headmaster rose and moved toward the door, giving Severus an easy nod as he left. Severus huffed and let himself sink back into his pillows. He was hugely grateful that at least there wasn’t a visual portion to the spell, but the idea that he could wake up a squib or not at all, depending on the Dark Lords fancy, was terrifying.

Having to make sure he played his role, regardless of whether he was alone or not was going to be difficult. He sat up suddenly as a thought occurred to him and summoned a quill and parchment. His head spun as the items soared into his lap, reminding him that his magic was still dangerously low.

He scribbled off a quick explanation for his personal house elf about how his behavior would need to change so Tippy would know he wasn’t angry with her. She kept her discretion and would not share what she knew. She had known of his status as a spy for years and protected it. She would understand the need.

“Tippy” he called out. She arrived with a soft crack. Before she could say anything he held a hand up and pointed to the bracelet. Her huge eyes narrowed at it, then widened almost comically. He handed her his note as he ordered “Draw a bath for me, and if you forget to add my healing potions again you’ll be doing worse than ironing your ears” he snarled. Tippy looked sharply at him, then bowed quickly. “Of course Master, Tippy will not forget again” she said, playing along even if she didn’t yet understand.

Tippy hadn’t called him master for years, nor did she ever forget to add healing potions to his bath, even when he insisted she needn’t. She opened the note and scanned it, her small face relaxing. She glanced up at him, sadness writ large across her face as she gave him a gentle nod to show she understood.

She moved to go fill a bath for him, bringing out his softest, most worn bed cloths, something she only did when she was truly concerned about him. She hated the tatty things and insisted that they made her look as if she was neglecting her wizard, but she kept them anyway.

She walked over and offered a small hand to help him to the bath. He reached out, carefully wrapping his large hand around her thin fingers. He was filled with a sudden warmth and strength as she pushed a trickle of her magic around him, helping him to steady himself. They maneuvered into the bath where he gave her a grateful look before she slipped out of the door.

Snape scrubbed himself twice over before lying back against the edge of his tub. The water was self cleaning and stayed at the exact temperature he preferred, which happened to be a few scant degrees short of lava. He had never been allowed warm showers when he was a child and so had avoided them. It wasn’t until he got to Hogwarts that he learned the magic of hot water. Despite what his students might say he spent an embarrassingly long time bathing each day, it was one of his few indulgences. Snape relaxed further into the water, the faint smell of herbs floating around him, his mind drifting idly.

Tippy found him there an hour later, fast asleep and decidedly wrinkled. She snapped her fingers, lifting him and drying him all in one movement. A small wave and he was clothed in his worn track pants that had started life black but were now more of a faded grey and a pale blue t shirt that was so thin and soft it molded to his chest and back, showing the shadowed lines of roping scars.

She tucked him back into bed, brushing small fingers through his hair when he stirred. He quieted and burrowed deep into his blankets, murmuring something incomprehensible to himself. With one last sad look Tippy disapparated, but not before putting a warning charm on his bed that would alert her when he rose. She would take care of her wizard, especially when he refused to do it himself.


 

The rest of the week and weekend passed quickly for Harry, a whirlwind of Quidditch practices, classes and trying to avoid being in the presence of both Ron and Hermione at the same time. He found himself spending a great deal of time in the library reading through the Prince’s book and wishing the man were there. Maybe he would have some insight into what Dumbledore had shown him about Tom Riddle. At the very least he would offer a welcome respite from avoiding his two best friends who both seemed to talk incessantly about Lavender Brown, for very different reasons.

On top of everything else Romilda Vane seemed to be following him. She kept popping up in the most unexpected places, as if she were lying in wait for him. Even Ron, who originally thought it was funny was getting a bit creeped out, not to mention that Ginny seemed weirdly upset about it, which upset Dean, even though they were on the outs. Harry had come to the conclusion that he would never understand anyone and had given up, stuffing his Gryffindor courage for once, and gone into hiding.
Snape had shown back up at breakfast the day after Harry had seen him hurt, if possible looking even more bad tempered than usual and receiving pointed glares from Madam Pomfrey.

Harry was lingering over his breakfast, delaying going to defense for as long as possible. Hermione was beside him, deep in her book and determinedly ignoring Ron and Lavender, several seats down and busy snogging.

Harry jumped, losing his last bite of sausage to the floor as she suddenly slammed her book shut, bringing a small pool of silence to their area of the table as everyone stared at her, wondering if this was when she finally lost it and beat Ron to death with a book. Harry knew for a fact that there was a betting pool on how long it would take before she resorted to violence. She’d gotten a bit of a reputation after socking Malfoy in third year.

Hermione stood, steadfastly ignoring the rest of the table and looked at Harry. “Come on, we’ll be late for defense” she said crisply.
Harry groaned but bent to pick up his bag and follow her out of the Great Hall. He was regretting eating that last sausage as they passed through the classroom door and moved to their usual seats. If Snape hit him with a curse he’d likely throw up, which he was sure would lead to mocking for the remainder of the term, if not the rest of the year.

Harry was just turning to Hermione to ask her to take pity on him and memory charm the whole class if he did throw up when Snape swept in, slamming the door behind him. It locked with an ominous click. Those in the front row, mostly Slytherins with less to fear, looked puzzled while the Gryffindors all wore expressions of deep concern.

“A new policy is in effect immediately. I will not tolerate tardiness. Any who are outside of the classroom after I have shut the door will need to read their books carefully” Snape said with a malicious smile. “Or perhaps Miss Granger will share her undoubtedly overly thorough notes with them in exchange for a few moments of the approval she so very much craves.”

Hermione drew in a sharp breath but stopped when Harry laid a gentle hand on her arm. Snape’s eyes narrowed at this and he opened his mouth, no doubt planning to spit more vitriol at them when a rapid knocking came at the door.

A terrible look of glee came over the potion master’s face as he gave a negligent wave of his wand in the direction of the door. Almost instantly there was a crackling sound followed by a sharp yelp and a series of curses that sounded suspiciously like Ron. Harry glanced around but didn’t see any tall redheads hiding in the room. Snape stared at the door as if to assure himself that the unlucky student wouldn’t be persisting. He looked almost disappointed at the lack of opportunity to continue hexing his students as he turned back to the room.

“Professor Mcgonagall gave me notes from Monday's lesson and frankly I am unsure how to convey to all of you how much of a disappointment you are. You were unable to wordlessly cast even simple hexes” he said with a sneer. “How will you ever win a duel when you announce each curse to your opponent” he thundered “You were all instructed to practice over the previous week, but I see that once again you’ve chosen to ignore me.” For a moment Snape had sounded legitimately angry, a tone that Harry was intimately familiar with. He knew what was coming next so it didn’t surprise him in the least when Snape snapped “Potter, to the front of the room.”

Harry slowly rose from his seat, thinking rather forlornly that he hadn’t had a chance to voice his request for memory charms to Hermione. He sighed heavily as he took his spot across from Snape, his wand held loosely in his fist. Snape sneered at him “think you’re too good for practice Potter? That you’ve already mastered everything I can teach you?” he snarled.
Harry felt the old anger raising up before being swallowed by the strange resignation that seemed to be his new default response to Snape. Instead of responding he simply brought up his wand, falling into a traditional dueling stance.
Snape gave him a vicious look and took up the same pose. Without warning a spell cracked out of Snape’s wand as he slashed it toward Harry. Harry tried to cast his shield in time but ended up having to dive off to the side to avoid whatever it had been. Harry scrambled up just in time to take a curse directly to his face, something that glued his teeth together.

“Lets see how you do when you can’t speak.” Snape said mockingly, causing a chorus of gasps around the room.
“That’s not fair Professor, we just started learning to cast wordlessly” Hermione protested from the back of the room.
Snape whirled on her rabidly, spit flying from his lips “I suggest you keep your mouth shut Granger. I hardly need teaching suggestions from someone of your background” he said nastily.

It was as close as a Professor could come to calling a student a mudblood, and by the stricken look on Hermione’s face she knew it too. Silence reigned across the room.

Harry tried to open his mouth to tell Snape to leave her alone, to pick on him if he really needed to abuse someone today, but couldn’t unlock his teeth. He strode across the room and for the first time in months felt the familiar burn of anger in his chest. Harry reached out and grabbed hold of Snapes left wrist, fully intending to shake the man until he released the spell and Harry could tell him exactly how much of a wanker he was.

Snape jerked back so hard he stumbled, knocking into the first row of desk and making Malfoy yelp as his chair was knocked back into Dean, sending them both crashing down. Harry tried to recover but somehow got tangled in Snapes long robes, both of them falling hard, Harry trying his best to drop his Professors arm and get out of the way.

The charm sticking his teeth together suddenly released as Harry tried to untangle himself from the long limbs of his teacher. He pulled himself up and for a moment he thought that Snape was holding him down with a hand around his right wrist. What he saw made confusion replace his anger. A plain silver band had appeared on his wrist, identical to one on Snape’s left wrist and they seemed to be stuck together. Harry met Snape’s eyes, opening his mouth to ask what the man was playing at, but froze at the look on Snape’s face. Absolute terror shown out of onyx eyes.

“Potter, headmaster now. Whatever you have to do, get him.” he said, seconds before he collapsed, screaming.

Harry’s scar burst with pain and he could faintly hear someone shrieking in rage. He doubled over, clutching his forehead, trying to get a handle on the pain, tears leaking from his eyes.
Harry raised his wand and flicked it, wordlessly summoning his silver stag. “Dumbledore, emergency, defense class room” he forced out.

The stag leapt away, vanishing through the locked door. Hands where suddenly on him, bracing him up. Hermione’s soft hair brushed his cheek and he tried to breath through the splitting pain. Harry forced his eyes open and looked at Snape.

The man had clenched his teeth shut, trying to prevent any further noises escaping. Blood from where he’d bitten his lip trickled over his chin, and he seemed to be gasping for breath, red foam between his locked teeth.

Harry studied their linked wrists, head swimming, and couldn’t see anything that actually locked them together. It was more like they were magnetized, he couldn’t seem to pull away. Snapes arm followed his faithfully as he moved. The door to the classroom suddenly blew open, slamming so hard into the castle wall that the knob stuck.
Dumbledore strode quickly to his side, Hermione moving to make room.

“Miss Granger, if you would please have your fellow students leave the room and then go retrieve Madam Pomfrey, we would be most grateful” Dumbledore said calmly, all the while flicking his wand over their joined wrists.
Hermione nodded quickly and turned to herd everyone out. As the last person excited, the abused door swung shut with a snap.

“Professor, whats wrong with him?” Harry asked quietly.

“Voldemort is draining his magic, Harry. I fear if I cannot stop it, he will die” Dumbledore answered shortly.

Harry choked as his throat closed up, doubts about Snape’s true allegiances trying to escape all at once and he had to stop himself from asking if that would be such a terrible thing.

He was horrified at his brief consideration of just letting the man die, guilt driving him to quickly ask “What can I do Professor?”

Dumbledore spared him a considering look, then glanced down at their joined bracelets “There is a possibility you could push magic through the bracelet since part of its purpose appears to be to transfer magic. You have a great deal of power Harry, much more so than Severus. If you can push your magic into him, only a small trickle, it could buy me time to block the connection.”
“Not too much” Dumbledore warned. “Whatever goes to Severus will likely go to Voldemort.”

Harry swallowed past the lump in his throat and closed his eyes to concentrate on pushing his magic. He gathered together the fire that ran through his veins, just like if he was going to cast, but instead pushed it down his right arm. Since he cast with his right hand it felt fairly normal, just much more deliberate than he usually experienced. He ran up against a wall suddenly, as if his skin was a barrier, holding his magic in tight. The harder he pushed the harder it got. Harry was so involved with trying to get around the barrier he barely felt the pain in his scar, but was brought back abruptly when his right arm was suddenly wrenched. His eyes snapped open to see Snape seizing violently, his skull cracking on the floor.

Without thinking Harry slid his left hand under the man’s shoulders and jerked him into his lap, bracing the thrashing body against his own chest. His bound right hand wrapped around Snapes chest, keeping contact with the mans marked left arm across his body.
The seizure seemed to only get worse as Harry clung on grimly, Snape making horrible pained noises. Harry looked desperately at Dumbledore, but he wasn’t paying attention, his face drawn in concentration as his wand moved smoothly over both of them.

Harry found himself twisting, his right hand pivoting on the bracelet to clutch Snape’s arm, covering the lower part of the dark mark with strong fingers. His left hand snapped up, landing on Snapes chest, over his heart, the beat erratic and faint against his palm.
Harry closed his eyes, gripped Snape tight, and pushed at the barrier, trying desperately to shove magic into the man before his body shut down.

His mind scrambled for a way around, looking for anything, a small hole in the defenses that locked his magic under his skin. Suddenly he felt a give, like the barrier was thinner in one spot, almost stretchy. He narrowed his focus and pushed at it, feeling it stretch further and further until, with an almost audible twang, it snapped.

Harry felt his magic rushing to fill the body in his arms as he heard Dumbledore yelling at him to pull back, but he couldn’t figure out how to stop it. It was like a tidal wave, crashing through him. He had always thought of his magic like light, or a ball of fire in the center of his chest, nothing like what he felt now. It felt like an ocean roared in the center of him, waves beating with the rhythm of his heart.

The last thing he heard before everything went black was Snape, drawing in a deep gasping breath, like a drowning man reaching the surface.


 

Harry woke to pain. Everything hurt. He tried to remember what had happened and how he had landed himself in the hospital wing. He knew without opening his eyes that was where he was. No where else in the world had that particular smell, a blend of antiseptic, herbs and the burning sage scent he equated with healing spells.
He groaned softly as he tried to move. It felt like every muscle in his body had been hit with a bludger and the world was slowly rotating. He didn’t need to open his eyes to know the ceiling would be spinning in a graceful twirl. Merlin, he must have hit his head. He couldn’t remember what happened or the last time he had felt this poorly, but that night in second year with the full round of skel-grow was a close contender. He reached over to where he knew the bedside table would hold his wand and his glasses, to be brought up short by something wrapped around his wrist.

Harry’s eyes flew open in surprise, only for him to hiss and narrow them against the blinding light coming in through the windows above the bed. He blinked rapidly, his eyes watering as they adjusted to the reflective white of the hospital wing. When Harry had gotten his vision cleared enough to see why his arm was trapped, he immediately wished he hadn’t.

Attached to his right wrist was a thick silver cuff, butted up against an identical one on a neighboring arm. The long sleeve of the usual hospital shirt was pushed up to show a thin arm, with whipcord muscles standing out under the rippling blackness of the dark mark. The mans face was turned away from him, but the oily black hair spread out across the pillow was enough to tell him who was next to him, if the dark mark hadn’t been proof enough. He couldn’t imagine what other death eater he would find himself tethered to in the Hogwarts hospital wing. Maybe Malfoy. He stopped for a moment to consider which was actually worse. Probably Malfoy.

He would have panicked at finding himself sharing a bed with the greasy bastard if memory hadn’t crashed into him.
Suddenly the pain and weakness made a horrible sort of sense. He had felt power burning through him, felt like his veins had run with molten metal as he pushed more magic through himself and into Snape than he was sure he ever should have. He felt immediately sick when he remembered what Dumbledore had said. Had he managed to push all of his power into Voldemort?

Harry blinked myopically up at the ceiling and considered his most recent predicament. Honestly he wasn’t even surprised anymore. If someone would have told him a few months ago that a student would get bound to Snape, have his power sucked out by Voldemort, and end up in the infirmary, Harry would have put every galleon he owned on it being him.

A horrifying thought struck him and he snapped his eyes closed to better reach for his magical core. He sighed in relief as he felt the normal rolling fire in his chest, though it felt strange, like it didn’t want to settle. He thought he had expanded a huge amount of energy, but either he hadn’t thrown as much as he’d thought or they’d been asleep for longer than he hoped.

Just then curtains pulled back and Madam Pomfrey came around them.
“Oh, you’re awake!” she said in surprise. “I didn’t expect either of you up for another day at least. Let me just check you over.” Harry held still as she waved her wand and lines of incomprehensible diagnostics scrolled through the air in front of her.
“A bit of pain and dizziness but overall you look reasonably healthy” Pomfrey said, a note of confusion in her voice.

“Do you feel up to eating?” she asked. Harry’s stomach gave a grumble at the mention of food and a smile flashed across Pomfrey’s face.

“I’ll have an elf bring you something” she said kindly as she handed him his glasses, which had been resting on Snape’s side of the bed.

 

Harry was halted for a moment by what an utterly bizarre thought that was before he asked “How long was I out this time?” It was a question Harry asked every time he woke in the hospital wing, and after so many years it was a morbid sort of joke between them.

Pomfrey smiled at him and answered, “Just a day this time dear, better than usual.” She turned and moved out of the curtained area, presumably to order his food.

With a heavy sigh Harry turned to study the “room” they’d been given. It looked like they’d been put in the furthest bed from the entrance, giving them actual walls on two sides, curtained partitions on the other two. A small table sat on Snapes side, closest to the wall. The standard hospital bed had been extended to fit both of them comfortably. A small vase with cheerey red and gold flowers and what appeared to be a small mountain of chocolate frogs surrounding it sat on the table. A single hard backed chair sat on his side, telling him he had likely had visitors.

Finally he looked down at the man sleeping beside him. His skin was sallow, paler than usual even, the circles under his eyes were purplish bruises. The faint line where he had torn his lip open was still visible, not having had time to fade. A small speck of blood still sat in the corner of his mouth. His inky black shoulder length hair looked fairly clean up close and he smelled rather pleasantly of lavender and rosemary, overlayed by the faint stench of burning magic.
Harry realised Snape actually looked much younger with his face not twisted into a scowl. He leaned closer when he saw something shimmer oddly across Snape’s cheek. Harry frowned as a paper thin scar he couldn’t remember seeing before appeared on Snape’s face. He shifted nearer, almost nose to cheek with him as his skin continued to shimmer softly.

Harry jerked back as whatever glamor had been on Snape started to fade away. Old silvery white scars shimmered into view, covering the mans face. Most were paper thin and crossed over each other, but the worst was thicker, bisecting Snape’s delicate black brow, traveling over his right cheek and down the sharp angle of his jaw. Confusion filled him as he tried to figure out what could possibly have caused them. A potions accident? A muggle accident as a child?

Harry stifled the urge to retch as the pattern suddenly became clear and he realised that this must have been done purposely, many years ago. The lines were too straight, too deliberate. It had likely happened before he had gotten to Hogwarts, else the scars would have been erased.
He knew once a scar was there for long enough even magic had trouble removing it. He had his own set that he would always wear.

He stilled as he considered what it meant, considered that someone had held a small child down and systematically cut his face open. Harry had a flash of what he had seen in Snapes mind during their occlumency lessons, of the huge looming man and the little black haired boy hiding in terror.

Harry twisted over the edge of the bed just in time, heaving bile and potions up. Pomfrey came running around the corner at the sound, waving her wand to vanish the mess.
“Harry are you alright? Is it just nausea?” the healer asked hurriedly. Harry gasped for breath, trying to draw in air past his suddenly tight throat. A slender had rested on his upper back, rubbing soothing circles for several minutes, eventually calming him enough to drag air into his struggling lungs.
“Have you seen his face? Oh Merlin, have you seen it?” Harry finally got out between rolls of his stomach.

There was a loaded pause. “It’s not something he can help Harry” a chill had entered Pomfrey’s voice, the gentle hand going stiff on his back.

Harry was too distraught to notice the distance in the normally friendly voice, and he replied without thinking. “Of course it’s not his bloody fault, it’s that monster he grew up with. No wonder he hated muggles.” Harry paused as an awful thought occurred to him “Why didn’t Dumbledore get him out? He had to have known what was happening.” Harry said, anger chasing away the nausea.

Harry hated to think of it but he knew intimately that Dumbledore wouldn’t necessarily remove a child from that kind of situation, he had just thought it was only him in his very particular circumstances.

Harry turned blazing green eyes up to Pomfrey, ready for almost any answer but the one he got. She glanced over as if to reassure herself that Snape was still asleep before answering.

“Severus learned glamors when he was very young,” she said quietly “It was how his accidental magic manifested. They were such a part of him that no one realised he was wearing one until his 5th year.” Her lips thinned in anger “By that time his father had left and there was no reason to remove him. His mother needed him and she was just as damaged.” The healer paused, her hand softening again on his back, gentle circles resuming “Do not believe for a second that I would not have taken that boy had I known what was happening” Pomfrey said fiercely.

Harry stared at her in surprise “I didn’t mean to imply you wouldn’t have” he said softly. Pomfrey made a small sound of distress and brushed his unruly hair out of his face, helping him lean back against the pillows, careful not to jerk Snape’s arm.

Pomfrey stood to leave but paused for a moment.
“Harry, as of right now it appears we cannot remove the bracelets” she stated apologetically, “I’m sure we’ll solve it soon, but in the meantime you and Professor Snape are going to spend a great deal of time in close quarters. You may see more of him than he willingly allows anyone. Please keep in mind that he still chooses to hide his scars.” With that rather cryptic warning she left, slipping around the corner of their partition.

Harry lay awake for a long time, staring at the ceiling and thinking of small boys, and small dirty rooms and scars.

Chapter Text

so i’m pickin’ up the pieces where i went wrong,
oh i’m pickin’ up the pieces where i went wrong,
and there’s somethin’ so familiar, like an old bedtime song,
i’m pickin’ up the pieces where i went wrong…
-Gregory Isakov, Raising Cain

Snape came awake all at once, as he always did. He shook as he opened his eyes to a dark hospital wing. He felt weak and achy, almost raw, like the inside of his chest had been scoured. He went suddenly and completely still as he realised he wasn’t alone in bed. A warm hand rested against his and the feeling was so completely foreign he simply lay there, stupidly having no idea how to proceed.

He finally turned to look at his bed partner, already knowing who would be there but hoping desperately that he would be wrong.

A shock of wild black hair greeted him, one broad shoulder resting gently near his. His eyes skated down the well muscled arm to the silver bracelet wrapped snugly around the man’s wrist. The bracelet that was an exact match to his own, resting tightly against his. The bracelet that now shown with twisting runes that seemed to slip away as he looked at them. The concealment charms must have torn away when the Dark Lord attacked. At least the boy had gotten Albus in time.
He couldn’t remember what had happened after he saw the bracelets bind them and the horrible crash of understanding. It had been a test, just not the one he had thought. As soon as Potter was bound he had felt his Dark Mark explode in pain, calling him to his Lord’s side, with the Chosen One conveniently attached to him.

He looked at the boy distastefully. He knew logically it wasn’t the boys fault, but if he hadn’t lost his temper and grabbed him that this wouldn’t have happened.

A small voice spoke from the back of his mind, reminding him that he had been trying for that very reaction. Trying to play his part, to be as nasty as possible to anyone of less than pure blood, and it was just a bonus that Granger happened to be one third of the Golden Trio. He knew Potter would normally have reacted badly, but with his behavior since the start of term he was honestly somewhat surprised that all it took to goad him was upsetting Granger.

Snape sighed as he looked mournfully at their matching jewelry. His cover was surely blown. He would soon be known as a traitor to the Dark Lord, if he wasn’t already. He hoped that whatever Albus had done had blocked the connection permanently. He would have enough trouble with every death eater who wanted to make a name for himself trying to kill him. He was doubly attractive to would be murderers with the Boy Who Bloody Lived attached to him.

He picked at the blanket that covered them, light blue and imbued with warming charms, as he thought about the overwhelming amount of ways his life was about to change and found himself dizzy and sick on the edge of the unknown.

Snape stilled as Potter muttered in his sleep and shifted against him. The hand resting against his slid away, Potter twisting his arm around awkwardly in his sleep.
Snape resolutely ignored the odd twinge of loss the movement caused and turned his thoughts back to the problem of the bracelet.

He sat staring at the twisting runes as the hospital wing slowly lit up, turning from pale watery blues, to rosy pink, and finally to a delicate washed out gold that spoke of a cold clear morning. All the while Snape tried to make sense of the runes, but every time he thought he recognized one it changed again. No particular pattern emerged for the changes and he finally fell back with a frustrated huff.

Snape brought his free hand up to rub at his face and froze in horror. He could feel his scars. He must have been completely magically exhausted for his glamor to fall. It never fell, and it was good enough to cover both the sight and the feel of them. Not even the Dark Lord had seen them, despite the torment he had put Severus through. His thin fingers shook as he traced over each scar, a road map of terror and pain etched into his face. He could barely remember the last time he had felt them. He kept them covered so thoroughly he could almost forget they were there.

 

He abruptly dropped his hand and viciously yanked his glamor back into place, his weakened magic burning in protest at the use. They were there, they always would be there and he couldn’t forget it. Just like he couldn’t ever forget the look on his best friends face when she’d seen what he truly looked like. The horror he had expected but the pity had hurt, had made him flee and never willingly show anyone again.

He shot a worried glance at Potter, hoping the boy hadn’t seen. No doubt the whole school would know shortly if he had. He couldn’t imagine Potter keeping a secret like that if given such a golden opportunity to mock his most hated teacher.

He was tempted to shake the boy awake and demand an answer, but that would be counter productive if he hadn’t seen.

Snape lay there deliberating and seething as he imagined increasingly more bizarre scenarios in which Potter called him out in front of the whole school, ripped away his glamor and taunted him. The curtain twitched to the side breaking into his morbid thoughts and admitted a rather sleepy looking Headmaster.

“Severus!” he called quietly but joyfully. “I didn’t expect you awake so soon. I just stopped to check in with Poppy before I went to breakfast.”
His blue eyes twinkled in happiness, a smile stretching wide under his wiry beard. He was wearing a truly hideous sunshine yellow robe today, decorated with golden snitches streaking across at random moments. The overall effect was mildly nauseating and almost guaranteed to cause a headache if you spent more than a few minutes watching it.

“Headmaster” Snape rasped, his voice raw from screaming “I seem to be missing the memory of a few key events. Perhaps you could be so kind as to fill me in” he finished, an eyebrow raised expectantly. Merlin everything hurt. Even raising his eyebrow hurt. A man should never find himself in a position in life in which even his eyebrows hurt.

Dumbledore moved around the bed to perch on the windowsill nearest Snape. “Of course my boy, I can tell you what I saw myself and what Miss Granger informed me happened before hand if you are missing those parts as well,” he said, concern in his voice.

“I remember well enough up till you arrived” Snape answered, reassured that he hadn’t lost more time.

Dumbledore settled back more comfortably and reached out to take a chocolate frog from a frankly absurdly large pile of them on the bedside table. Snape was momentarily distracted by the pile of candy amphibians holding court around what might have been the most Gryffindor bouquet he’d ever seen. He eyed it with disgust before turning back to the Headmaster, who had a distinct glint of amusement in his eyes.

“When I arrived both yourself and Harry were on the floor of your classroom. Miss Granger moved the rest of the class outside and then went to get Poppy.” Dumbledore started. Snape nodded impatiently and waved his hand for Dumbledore to proceed. He remembered flashes here and there. He seemed to lose time just as Dumbledore started looking truly worried and he could feel blood filling his mouth.

“I tried many different blocking spells. Nothing was working and you were getting weaker. Harry asked what he could do to help” here the Headmaster paused, eyeing him with a certain wariness “I told the boy to see if he could push power into you, to help stabilize you to give me time to find a solution.”

Snape gaped at him. “That’s not possible. You know you can’t just stuff power into another wizard, not without the proper preperation, both of their bodies reject it.” he snapped, becoming angry now “what if it had backfired on him? He could have turned his magic against himself.”

Dumbledore looked grave but firmed his jaw. “I knew the risks Severus, but I feared once you were connected and he had killed you he might be able to drain Harry as well.”

Snape swallowed against the thought of Voldemort stuffed full of both his and Potters magic. The damage the man could have done would have been almost incalculable. He might not like the boy but even he couldn’t deny that Potter had a great deal of power.

“While Harry worked on trying to gift you enough magic to keep you alive, I resorted to trying to break the bonds” Dumbledore admitted quietly, sadness in his voice.

If he had succeeded it would have killed one or maybe both of them. Severus nodded in understanding. Better they die than allow the Dark Lord that much stolen power, even if it wouldn’t last for long. Besides, it would have been most likely to kill him, leaving Potter weak but alive, and he knew his worth when stacked against the Savior of the Wizarding World.

A frown stole over Snape’s face “If you had resorted to trying to break the bonds than why are we both alive?” he asked.

“Harry managed to stabilize you” Albus responded “I’m still not entirely sure how the boy did it, but I have a theory that it was only possible because of the bracelets” Albus eyed his incredulous expression for a minute before continuing in an excited tone. “He pushed enough magic into you that you were glowing, I’ve never seen anything like it my boy.”

Dumbledore looked increasingly intrigued as he explained what had happened, as if students turning their professors into a living lumos was terribly interesting and not at all concerning.

Severus cleared his throat “And while fascinating” he said acidically “it does not explain why we aren’t dead”.

“Oh yes of course my boy” Albus came back from his mental wandering “ Poppy had the presence of mind to get Minerva on her way, apparently Miss Granger had managed to get enough across to imply a certain level of concern,” he continued.

“Minerva was able to tell me of a particular spell that a distant family member had once used in the case of an unwanted marriage bonding. We had time to modify it slightly since Harry was keeping you both alive” Albus finished as if this was a perfectly complete explanation.

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, trying very hard to keep his temper. He opened his mouth to ask what exactly had been done and what the repercussions of it were when he was interrupted by a sleepy voice from behind him.

“So what does it do then Professor? the spell that is“ Potter asked, his voice rough and coming from far too close for comfort. Snape could feel warm breathe puff across the side of his neck, causing his skin to shiver across his shoulders.

“Ah, good morning Harry” Dumbledore said cheerfully. “The spell is a blocking one. Unfortunately we were unable to break the link safely, but with the spell in place it should keep Voldemort from reaching either of you” he finished, as if that was all.

Severus narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Spells that blocked a bonding usually had to be tied to someone else, someone close in strength to those involved since the binding fed off the magic of the people in the bond. Since he and Potter were two of the strongest, magically speaking, in the castle then the only person that could be holding the spell together was…
“You’ve gone and tied yourself to it haven’t you, you idiotic old man” Severus accused, enraged. “Have you thought this through at all? What happens later when you.. “ He cut off abruptly at Dumbledore’s stern look.

Potter sat up with interest. “When he what?” he asked.

“Nothing brat, it’s nothing to do with you” Severus snarled at him. Potter puffed up like an offended owl and Snape might have found it amusing if he wasn’t so angry with Dumbledore.

Potter gave him a reproachful look and spoke before Snape could berate the Headmaster further. “What happened last night Professor? The last thing I remember is trying to give Snape my magic.”

“Dear boy, I assure you, you succeeded. You managed to stabilize both of you long enough for us to set a blocking spell” Albus answered.

“Oh, well good, I wasn’t sure if I could do it there for awhile. I couldn’t remember being taught anything about how to share magic like that” the boy said, sounding troubled.

Snape cut in before Dumbledore could answer “There are no cases of shared magic like this Potter” he said snidely “magic is only ever shared briefly after complicated spells, which you would know if you paid any attention in class. Only small pieces of magic can be shared without preparation, anything else is impossible.”

“Well obviously not since I gave you plenty of my magic, you ungrateful bastard” Potter snapped back.

Severus had been accused of many things in his life, and no one who knew him would ever question his intelligence. However, his wisdom in the face of anger was another matter entirely.
“Oh of course that’s what this is, I didn’t thank you properly for saving me” Snape said, sarcasm dripping from his words “always having to be the savior, you just can’t help yourself can you Potter? Just like your father, always needing the attention” he spat out. He knew the moment the words left his mouth that he had gone too far. Green eyes narrowed, darkening dangerously.
He might have been grateful for the sudden show of temper he had been trying to provoke for months if it hadn’t shown up with he was weak and couldn’t properly defend himself. Not to mention the rather thin hospital pyjamas and the fact he was sharing a bed with the boy.

Potter snarled and jerked their bound hands up between them, grabbing a hold of the front of Severus’ hospital shirt.
“If you haven’t figured out by now that attention is the last thing I want you really are an idiot” Potter railed, shaking him far too easily. Snape’s face contorted in rage but before he could get a word out Potter spoke again “I’ll remember next time not to bother saving you, since you were doing such a good job of saving yourself.” he released him to fall back against his pillows.
Severus snapped his mouth shut on his retort, finally managing to stop goading the boy. He was right after all, if he hadn’t done what he had they would both be dead. As much as Severus hated to admit it he owed the obnoxious brat his life.

A hard voice spoke from behind him “I suggest you both learn to curb your tongue with each other. I have had no luck in solving the spells in the cuffs, so you will have to learn to live with each other for the time being” Albus said firmly. Severus couldn’t hide the angry sneer that crossed his face at this pronouncement, even if he could see the sense in calling a temporary truce. Especially since he no longer had to hide his true allegiances.

Potter simply rolled his eyes at Severus, huffing, almost as if he found Snape to be ridiculous.
Snape’s back snapped straight at the thought and he eyed Potter narrowly.
“How are we to manage our schedules like this” Snape asked, raising their linked arms for emphasis.
Potter turned to Albus with reluctant interest.

“For the time being we have rearranged your schedules so that you are both able to be present in all required classes. Unfortunately Severus, you will need to cut down on the time you spend brewing, and Harry you will of course have to give up Quidditch until this is resolved” Albus answered with a mild look.

The thunderous looks he received in return made him raise an eyebrow. “That’s the best myself and Minerva have been able to do on short notice. If the two of you would like to change it to something that works better for you both, we are willing to work with you” he said sternly. Two faces looked back at him from the bed with almost identical expressions of mutinous disapproval.

Albus sighed as he straightened from his place against the wall, running his hands over his ridiculous robe to smooth any wrinkles out.
“I trust that both of you will listen to Poppy” he said as he moved toward the opening in the curtains.
“Wait, where are we supposed to stay when we leave here?” Potter called quickly, alarm filtering into his voice.
Dumbledore stopped and turned to look at them. “Why in Severus’ rooms of course. I doubt either of you would be comfortable in the Gryffindor tower” he answered, a confused look on his face.
“What?!” Snape’s voice sharp as he looked between Harry and Dumbledore in horror. “I’m not allowing him into my quarters” he stated firmly “Besides, Potter is a child and a student, it’s hardly appropriate.”

Dumbledore looked at both of them with barely concealed impatience.”I understand how hard this must be for both of you,” he said, his voice gentle “but you must understand that this is something you will have to work out between the two of you.”

Albus turned to look at Snape “ Severus, Harry is 17 and while he is your student, these are extraordinary circumstances. If you would be more comfortable you may both stay in the Gryffindor dorms.”
When they both looked like they were going to interrupt, the Headmaster continued “ We have more important things to concern ourselves with than where you both sleep. Need I remind you that there is a war on, one that would very much like to see both of you dead” he finished in a tone that brooked no argument.

Both men looked unhappy but didn’t argue further. “Very well Headmaster, we will endeavor to work this... situation... out peacefully” Snape said, distaste twisting his mouth.

Albus nodded to them both as he turned to leave. “Good luck my boys. Please keep me updated on your progress.” he called from beyond the curtain.

Severus and Harry shared an unhappy look, for once in complete agreement.


It was another hour before an elf popped into their room with breakfast, one spent silently ignoring each other. She set trays on their laps without pausing, snapping her fingers to prop them both up.

Harry’s stomach growled as he suddenly realised he was starving, having missed the food that Madam Pomfrey was supposed to have sent yesterday. He adjusted his tray and eagerly reached for a piece of heavily buttered toast, only to pull up short as Snape’s arm was brought along. Harry groaned unhappily as he was faced with the unpleasant fact that his dominant hand was the one trapped.

Snape gave him a smug look as he reached for his own breakfast, maneuvering easily with his free hand.

A thought dawned on him “Oh Merlin” Harry said in quiet horror “How an I supposed to cast like this” a look of panic on his face.

Snape paused, frowning. “It is possible to cast with your off hand, it is just difficult,” he said. “I’m sure if you practice enough you’ll be just as good as you are with your right hand in a year or so.”

Harry turned to him in disbelief “A year? And what happens when Voldemort attacks?” Harry said sharply “Do I just hide behind you and hope you don’t get us both killed?”

“Yes Potter, that’s exactly what you do” Snape retorted “I will not have you gallivanting off and dragging me with you.” he said angrily. “I suggest you start practicing soon if you intend on passing your classes this year” the smug look came back to rest on his thin face.

Harry stared at the man for a full minute, having no idea how to respond to the complete disregard in his answer and trying to figure out a way to use his right hand without Snape’s cooperation. He doubted the git would be willing to work with him, Harry was sure he would take a great deal of pleasure in having the power to restrict his magic.

Finally he turned back to his breakfast, reaching out with his left hand to awkwardly spoon eggs into his mouth. He couldn’t imagine how difficult it was going to be to relearn wand movements, he thought with despair. Charms was going to be a nightmare with it’s careful precision. Harry sighed, resigned to the idea that he might actually beat Seamus’ record for setting fire to whatever they were working with. He hoped Snape was good with aguamenti, he thought wryly.

Snape was ignoring him, resolutely making his way through his breakfast, though Harry noticed that he avoided the sausages and porridge, eating only a small portion of his eggs and tomatoes. No wonder the man was so skinny, he ate less than Lavender did when she was trying to fit into her dress robes in 4th year.

Harry quickly cleared his plate and received an approving nod from the house elf who came to collect his tray. Snape got glared at until he huffed and grabbed a slice of toast from his plate, biting the corner off pointedly. The tiny elf eyed him for a moment before leaving with the half filled tray.

Harry cleared his throat, about to comment on Snapes eating habits, something sure to start an argument, when Madam Pomfrey came around the curtain.

“I see you’re both up and looking better” she said cheerfully. “Albus let me know on his way out that you were awake” she said to Snape. “I already checked Harry over when he woke, hold still for a moment please while I check you.”

Snape sat stock still as Madam Pomfrey ran her wand over him. He had a very odd look on his face, if Harry didn’t know better he would think it almost looked like fear.
“Potter woke before I did?” Snape asked quietly, a strange tightness to his voice. Harry frowned, confused about what could have set the man off.
Madam Pomfrey flicked a look between them and suddenly he knew.

Snape was worried he had seen his scars. Harry’s stomach knotted around his breakfast when he realised the man must think he would use it against him.

Harry met the healers eyes and shook his head ever so slightly. He didn’t need anything to make this situation more difficult than it already was.

“He woke briefly, but wasn’t terribly coherent” Pomfrey lied smoothly. Snape relaxed infinitesimally at this, boney shoulders dropping and thin fingers unclenching to absently smooth the blankets over his knees.
Harry’s eyebrows shot up at her. He knew that Madam Pomfrey was a member of the Order and had been during the last war as well, but somehow he never really considered her a woman capable of subterfuge. He eyed her suspiciously, wondering how often she had lied to him about how concerned she was over an injury. By the way she was avoiding looking at him it was probably a lot.

“Alright boys, it looks like both of you are in surprisingly good condition” she declared. “There’s not much more I can do for either of you right now, so you’re free to go, but come right back if you have any concerning symptoms.” Pomfrey gave them a look that said they had best clear out soon and stop taking up space in her ward.

Harry was caught off guard, having thought they would be forced to stay in the hospital wing for at least another day. Snape looked over at him, his surprise mirrored on the pale face. They both seemed to come to the unpleasant conclusion at the same time that they still needed to work out where exactly there were going when they left.

“Potter, I have no intention...” “Snape, I think we should..” they both started. Snape paused, scowling as he waved Harry to start.
“I think we should stay in the dungeons” Harry said. “I doubt that you’d be able to get much sleep in the dorm.” Harry also privately thought that if he were to show up at the tower with the most disliked Professor at Hogwarts in tow he would likely spend the rest of the term warding off painful hexes.

“I agree” Snape said shortly, face twisted at having to say such a thing. “ I doubt the rest of your idiotic house would tolerate me, nor can I abide more of you than I absolutely have to.”

Harry snorted at Snapes melodrama, which he was coming to see would be a fixture of his time with the man. Snape gave him a dirty look before he turned to call out. “Tippy” he said and was rewarded a moment later by the crack of a house elf appearing.

“Yes Master Snape?” the elf asked, bowing her head low. Harry snorted again, this time in disgust at the elves behavior. He knew most wizards didn’t ask for such obvious shows of obedience from their elves. It figured that Snape would, no matter how much he swore he wasn’t a Death Eater he had been one once.

He was surprised when he received a look of rebuke from the small creature.
“Tippy, there is no need for that. I fear my days as a spy are at an end.” Snape said quietly. The elf let out a relieved sigh, immediately straightening and losing her air of subservience. “That is being good to hear sir” she chirped. “What do you be needing from Tippy then?”

“Mr. Potter will be moving into my quarters until we can solve our current dilemma” Snape said, waving their joined hands in explanation. “Please, could you bring us both clothing and have Mr. Potters belongings moved from the Gryffindor dorms?” he finished.

Tippy gave a quick nod and vanished. She returned a moment later, carefully folded stacks of clothing dropping into both their laps before she snapped away, likely to get Harry’s things settled into Snapes rooms.

Harry sorted through his things, finding jeans, a grey long sleeve shirt and blue Weasley jumper along with a set of pants and socks. The trainers he had been wearing during class sat on the floor by the bed. Harry reached up to unbutton his blue striped hospital top awkwardly with his left hand only to face a problem they hadn’t considered.
“Snape, how the hell are we supposed to get our shirts off?” he asked, looking at where their wrists sat snugly together. “Also, how did Madam Pomfrey get them on?” He finished, completely baffled.

Snape glanced down, a considering look on his face.
“Potter, hold your arm steady, I’m going to see if we have any room to work with” Snape said before raising their arms and pulling straight toward his own chest. Harry braced and a small gap appeared between the bracelets, no wider than a pinky finger, before they snapped forcefully back together. Snape made a small satisfied noise before turning back to his own pile of black cloth.

That problem solved, they both managed to get dressed, though not without a fair amount of pushing and pulling, at one point almost tipping completely off the bed when Snape absently turned and reached for his boots just as Harry was kneeling, off balance and trying to secure his jeans button one handed.

Harry glared at Snape until the man sighed and swung his legs over to Harry’s side so they could both lean over to put shoes on. Snape simply flicked his wand, his boots lacing and tying themselves swiftly. Harry considered it, then decided he didn’t want to accidentally banish his one set of trainers while trying the spell left handed. He slowly started lacing them by hand, dragging Snapes arm toward him. A wand appeared in front of his nose as Snape waved it at his shoes with an exasperated noise.

Harry yelped, snatching his fingers out of the way just in time to avoid having them tied to his trainers. He turned to Snape with a glare, only to find the man looking back at him with an innocent expression.

Harry sighed resignedly as he accepted what his life was going to be like until they were separated. It couldn’t come soon enough.


By the time they made it to the dungeons Snape was ready to admit that the Dark Lord was a tactical genius. There was no way he and Potter were going to survive this. By binding them together the Dark Lord had managed to kill off two of the largest threats in the war, it was only a matter of time before they murdered each other.

Potter had insisted on bringing that horrible bouquet with them, as well as his years supply of chocolate frogs. Hiding under the frogs had been an additional box of chocolates, one that at least looked as if it were of higher quality.

Potter juggled the whole pile on the way down the stairs, somehow managing to hold onto it all without any magic. Of course that meant that Snape’s left arm was involved in the adventure, whether or not he agreed to it. He resolutely ignored the looks of disbelief on the faces of the students they passed.

They finally made it through Snape’s wards and into his sitting room, where Potter promptly dumped the whole lot on his sofa and propped the horrid vase on his mantle. Snape was faintly surprised that Potters ridiculous hair hadn’t caught fire from the scowl the side of his head was receiving. When Potter finally turned from his study of the room and saw the look on his face his only response was raised eyebrows.

The sudden reality of having Potter in his rooms, seeing his shabby furniture, knowing he would be sleeping in his bed, was just too much. Snape felt something constricting clawing at his chest and shortening his breath to quick pants.

“You would do well to remember that this is not your home Potter” he snarled, anger flaring brightly and latching onto the cause of all of his recent problems. “I do not want you here, you are not to make a mess, touch any of my belongings without explicit permission or speak to me while I am working in any capacity, do you understand?”

Potter’s look of surprise melted into one of anger. “So what, I’m to be your silent little shadow?” Potter snorted. “I know I’ve been trying to work on my anger with you this year but if you think I’m going to pretend I don’t exist until we have this fixed you’re a nutter.”

“You’ll do as I say you insolent boy!” Snape shouted, moving closer to Potter, anger making the muscles in his back tighten uncomfortably.

“The hell I will. You think I want to be here? You think I want to be stuck to you of all people?” Potter hissed, the sudden vicious anger making Snape draw back in surprise.

“We wouldn’t even be in this situation if you hadn’t gone and gotten yourself tied with these stupid things” Potter continued, motioning angrily at his wrist. “Besides if you could have just treated your students with even common decency it wouldn’t have been a problem, it’s not like I ever would have touched you otherwise.” Potter was almost shouting the last, making Snape draw back stiffly.

He wasn’t sure if it was just a combination of all of the injuries he had sustained over the last several days, or that he was feeling oddly vulnerable with someone invading his rooms and his glamor having failed for the first time in years, but Potters words hit him in a completely unexpected way. He suddenly felt like he had that horrible day when he had pushed Lily away and found himself so very alone. Perhaps it was just that almost two decades later the same eyes were looking at him with the same mixture of rage and disgust.

Abruptly he was exhausted, he just wanted to take a bath and go to bed, to curl up alone, but neither of those were an option. So instead he simply stood there, back rigid, staring at nothing and wondering bitterly if he had finally found someone who hated him more than he hated himself.

A huff broke his musings “I’m sorry alright?” Potter muttered at his shoes. “I’m having trouble with all of this,” he said, flailing their arms around to indicate the room in general “and you know, coming to terms with you actually being on our side” he finished lamely, looking rather miserably guilty.

Snape looked at him in confusion “I had thought that Albus would have told you of my status as a spy?”

Potter looked uncomfortable “He did, it just always made more sense for you to really be a Death Eater, didn’t it? Dumbledore has been wrong before you know, and you always just seemed like his biggest mistake” Potter finished, rather matter of factly, unintentionally twisting a knife he didn’t seem to realise he had thrust into Severus’ chest.

“I see” Snape said, voice carefully controlled.

“I’ve got homework I need to catch up on. I’m sure ‘Mione packed notes into my bag for me and she’ll be mad if I don’t at least look them over” Potter said finally “Do you have work you need to do? I can wait to start if there was something you needed to do.” He finished awkwardly.

“I have grading to do” he replied, his voice sounding odd even to him, as he moved toward his old dark blue couch. With a wave of his wand the pile of chocolate frogs sailed over to stack themselves neatly on top of Potters trunk, resting in the corner by his own. Tippy had certainly already unpacked it as there was an additional extending charm on his bookcase, now filled with sixth year books and interestingly enough what looked like a fair number of muggle novels.

They both settled onto the couch, Potter dragging out a notebook filled with Granger’s neat writing and Snape summoning his pile of grading from his writing desk. They fell into a tense silence, both muttering softly to themselves as they worked. They only ran into a problem when Potter reached into his bag to pull out a muggle pen, then sat staring at his bound right hand.

Snape looked over and sighed. “I cannot imagine that your writing could actually be worse with your left hand, but for the sake of all of us who have to decipher your work..” here Snape paused before reluctantly shifting his arm so the back of his wrist rested on the side of Potters, giving him enough room to write without interference. He cast a featherlight charm on his own arm and resolutely turned back to his work, but not before he saw the surprised look Potter gave him.

They worked in a false approximation of peace, only briefly broken by a small argument about tea and who got the final biscuit. Snape won, though he was a bit suspicious at how quickly Potter had caved.

By the time dinner came around Snape had finished grading his last essay and was catching up on potions journals as Potter muddled his way through the admittedly useless transfiguration book that the school Governors had decided on, despite protests from the entire staff. He knew Minerva assigned supplemental reading but there were only so many copies in the library.

Potter finally dropped the book in frustration and looked over at him “Dinner?” he questioned.
Snape nodded in wary agreement, but stopped Potter from getting up. “Would you rather stay here to eat? I know that it’s going to cause a stir with the students” Snape asked with careful politeness, tugging on their bound hands in explanation.

Potter shook his head “No, it’ll be out sooner or later. Better to do it now so everyone can gossip in their common rooms instead of in the morning where they’ll just gossip in class” he said, showing a surprising amount of insight into his fellow students.
“Very well” Snape agreed, standing to leave.

They made their way more easily to the great hall, both of them starting to get the hang of walking next to each other. Potter had to extend his stride by a few inches, just as Snape had to shorten his. Stairs caused a brief problem as Snape was used to taking them two at a time and ended up dragging Potter halfway up before they got themselves sorted out.

As they walked into the hall a hush fell over the tables, everyone turning to look at the boy hero and the greasy potions master, stuck side by side. By unspoken agreement they moved toward the high table, Dumbledore waving his wand to summon on extra chair to Severus’ usual spot.
Snape looked over at the Slytherin table in time to see a number of his students looking at him with open disgust. He had known it would happen, but it still stung. Enough of his students had Death Eater parents that he was sure they had known about his supposed betrayal almost before he made it to the hospital wing. His emotions rolled, having received too many blows in too short a time. He wanted to simply spin on his heel and stalk back to the dungeons where he could hide from all of this, where he wouldn’t feel so very exposed.

A sudden gentle brush across the back of his fingers sent a shock up his arm, grounding him, but when he turned to look at Potter the boy was looking at his house table, seemingly not paying attention.

They made it through dinner with little fuss, Snape finally taking pity on Potter and repeating the featherlight charm so he could cut his roast beef without flinging it all over the table cloth. He may have waited until after Potter had had to retrieve it for the third time. Near the end of the meal they had almost gotten the hang of taking turns to use their joined hands, though Snape simply cut everything he needed cut on his plate with a swish of his wand, much to Potters obvious jealousy.

Potter was working his way through a rather sickly sweet looking pile of chocolate cake as Severus enjoyed a cup of tea, watching in mild horror, when Filius spoke. “So, how are you two managing?” he asked cheerfully “I took a look at those bracelets of yours while you were asleep, they’ve some very impressive spellwork” he continued without waiting for an answer.

“We’re fine Filius, thank you for asking” Snape replied, not bothering to comment on the strength of the spellwork. Of course it was strong, the Dark Lord himself built them.
Potter leaned around him, briefly abandoning his dessert. “Did you notice anything in particular about them Professor?” he asked.

Flitwick got a troubled look on his face. ”I’m afraid nothing that could free you Mr. Potter. They seem to activate random portions of the bonding spell at odd intervals, making it very hard to see how the spell as a whole is assembled.” the diminutive Professor answered “Though they are fascinating, I’ve never in all my years seen work change in such a way.”

Potter dropped back into his seat after thanking Flitwick, absentmindedly mauling the remains of his cake as he thought.
He seemed to come back to himself as Snape cleared his throat and got ready to stand. They both pushed their chairs back and moved quietly through the now mostly empty Great Hall, turning left toward the dungeons. Just as they walked past the end of the Slytherin table Severus looked up, meeting the narrowed silver grey eyes of his godson. Draco had such an odd look on his face that Snape almost veered over to speak with him before remembering that he would have to tow Potter with him if he did.

Draco looked down, face flushing, then pushed back from the table and hurried past them, taking the stairs to the dungeon two at a time. A spike of hurt tightened his chest. He had known he would lose Draco some day, either from losing his position as a spy, or what he had thought more likely at the time, losing his life. But he loved the boy, he could still remember holding small hands as Draco took shaky steps, catching the boy as he fell off of his first tiny broom. Draco was the only reason Severus had ever thought he might want children someday.
He was brought out of his memories by that same gentle brush of fingers. This time when he turned to look, Potter was looking back, shrewd understanding in his bright eyes. Snape ducked his head and hurried on toward his rooms, and he hated himself for his weakness when he didn’t pull away as Potter walked a bit closer.


 

Harry had regretted it the second the words had left his mouth. He had been shocked to see hurt flash through Snape’s dark eyes. The man had looked almost human for a moment. He found himself horribly confused and spent the rest of the evening trying to come to terms with these strange glimpses of Snape as someone who wasn’t just a caricature of anger and spite. It left him feeling unsettled and off balance, so when that same pained unhappiness wrote itself over Snape’s face at the glares from the Slytherin table Harry had unthinkingly pressed his hand against the other man’s.

Then on the way out of the Great Hall, running into Draco, his actions had obviously upset Snape, his whole body had gone so stiff Harry would be surprised if he wasn’t sore the next day. Harry had had a strange flash of protectiveness, the odd look in Snape’s eyes during their argument bothering him more than he would have liked. So when Draco had hurried past and Snape had watched him flee with a small stricken look, Harry had carefully pressed his hand tight to Snape’s, moving closer as if he could physically block any further hurt with his body.

To his surprise the man had allowed it, shooting him a searching look then walking silently next to him as they descended to the dungeons. Harry found himself wondering why he cared at all and if perhaps he was still asleep in the hospital wing having a truly bizarre dream. It was a better explanation than him suddenly being concerned about Snape’s feelings.

Harry was exhausted but had been avoiding the idea of bed. Waking up in a hospital bed next to the man, both of them injured and stuck was a far cry from climbing into his Professors bed, magical link or no.
They turned to look at each other as they entered the front room, sharing a mutual look of unhappiness before moving wordlessly toward the bedroom and ensuite. They managed to both get dressed and use the toilet with a few well placed silencing charms. They had been forced earlier in the day to solve that particular dilemma, much to their mutual embarrassment.

Harry looked up as they brushed their teeth, his eyes meeting Snapes in the mirror, pausing as green met black. Somehow this felt more intimate than anything else they had done. It was an act that was reserved for couples, people who willingly shared their routines, their lives, not men who occasionally tried to do bodily harm to each other.

Harry bent abruptly, spitting in the sink and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He caught the look of disgust on Snapes face before the man pointedly patted his own mouth dry with a towel. Harry grinned at him and pulled his wand out. He cast a quick cleaning charm on himself, dragging Snapes hand through the motions before he could protest. He didn’t think either of them were ready for the shower conversation, though he had caught Snape looking rather longingly at his bath.

They moved toward the bedroom, Snape slipping between the surprisingly white and fluffy covers first, Harry carefully following after. A few twists and turns later they were both settled reasonably comfortably. Snape flicked his wand putting out the lights just as Harry finished setting his wand and glasses on the nearest side table. They both settled down wordlessly. Snape was over as far as he could get, their arms stretched out between them, seemingly trying his best to not touch Harry at all. He had even stuffed a bolster between the two of them, their hands now resting under it.

Harry was honestly grateful for the lengths that Snape had gone to to keep them separated. He didn’t particularly fancy waking up with any part of his professor on him. Besides, it must be upsetting to find yourself in bed with not only your student, but the son of one of your worst enemies.
With that disturbing thought, Harry closed his eyes and did his best to fall asleep. Sometime between thinking he would never be able to and hoping he wouldn’t have nightmares he managed to drift off, the soft sound of Snape’s breathing strangely soothing.


The first day of their new schedule was, if you were inclined to look at it charitably, not particularly pleasant. Snape had woken exhausted, after a night of semi sleep, being continually disturbed by pulling on his arm. Potter was apparently completely unable to lie still while he slept and moved around in bed almost as much as he moved when he was awake.

They had elected to stay in his rooms for breakfast, something that the Headmaster could hardly fault them for. Potter was horrifically cheerful once he had woken up fully, which Snape found out was right around sip three of his tea. It was like some terrible, energetic light was switched on and it made Snape slightly more homicidal than he typically was in the mornings. He had spent breakfast drinking his coffee and planning increasingly elaborate accidents that Potter could encounter. At least the boy seemed to have an inkling that his health might be in danger and wisely kept his mouth shut.

Afterwards they had cast a series of cleaning charms before getting dressed. Snape found that Potters things took up a surprisingly small portion of his drawers, and most of them were school clothes. Potter finished dressing first, politely keeping his back turned as Snape finished and ran his wand over his chest, causing the line of small buttons to jump swiftly through their eyelets.

Tippy appeared as they were getting their things together to leave, Potter was already packed and following along in amusement as Snape tried to find all of the various piles of graded homework that had a tendency to wander off.

 

The elf sighed in exasperation and handed Potter a piece of parchment before gathering up their breakfast dishes and disapparating. Snape finished gathering his papers and shuffled them into a cohesive pile before turning to see what Tippy had handed over.

It was their schedule and they both immediately realised that they were about to be late for a first year defense class that previously had started almost an hour later. Apparently they had missed the announcement before dinner the night before, having come in after the food had appeared. Without a word Snape spun toward the door, hauling a scrambling Potter behind him.

They sprinted down the hall toward the stairs leading up, Snape already scowling, when suddenly Potter veered to the side, dragging Snape to a halt in front of a portrait of a young child in victorian era clothes.

“Pyotr, would you mind terribly letting us through, we’ve had a bit of a schedule change and I’m afraid we’ll be late otherwise” Potter said politely to the child, cutting off Snape just as he started to physically move him toward the stairs.

“Harry Potter!” the child said excitedly, a decidedly Russian lilt to his high voice “Yes of course, I heard all about what happened” this last was whispered in a conspiratorial tone, as if Snape wouldn’t hear, standing all of a quarter meter away.

The portrait swung open to show a high arch leading to a dark tunnel. “Thank you Pyotr, I’ll come by soon so we can have another go at your game” Potter called over his shoulder as he walked into the opening.

Something indecipherable was called back as the portrait swung shut, the darkness sudden and complete. Snape flicked his wand to light it and followed Potters quick steps, the narrowness of the tunnel forcing them to walk one in front of the other.

Just as Snape was about to snap and yell at Potter for taking them off on some ridiculous side path and making them even later, the boy turned and pushed on a small door that blended in with the wall so well he couldn’t see it until they were almost past it.

They emerged from behind a ridiculous mermaid statue, just around the corner from his classroom, with several minutes to spare. Potter turned and grinned at him as he grudgingly admitted to himself that the boy had gotten them there much faster than he could have.

“Come along Potter, we need to get set up” he said briskly, pointedly refusing to acknowledge that Potter knew of any hidden passageways that he was unaware of.

Potter rolled his eyes but followed along into the classroom. After some debate Snape extended his desk and drew a second chair up. They settled themselves, Potter dragging his charms book out of his bag, looking like he was planning on ignoring Snape for the class period.

“What do we have after this? I would prefer not to have to take short cuts through the castle just to reach our destination in time” Snape asked stiffly.

Potter reached under his robes and drew out their schedule from his baggy jeans pocket.

“We’ve got some of your second years coming in right after this, and then we have to be over to transfiguration before lunch. Then out to herbology and then you’ve got your fourth year class coming in before we’re free for the day.” Potter finished, looking rather put out at the back and forth. In all honesty Snape wasn’t pleased with it either, but it seemed that Dumbledore had managed to shift his classes very little, which made sense as his schedule was the one that would affect the whole school.

“At least we don’t have the sixth year class today” Potter said wryly.
Snape grimaced in agreement and turned to start his lessons.

 


 

Transfiguration at least went better than he expected. Hermione was camped at his left elbow as they took notes, Snape once again having charmed his hand so Harry could write. Harry felt like he was finally understanding what he had read through the previous week about choosing carefully which objects you transfigured into what.

Mcgonagall was explaining how every object had certain things that if you transfigured it into it would do so agreeably, and might even choose to stay in its new form indefinitely, such as transfiguring a tea cozy into a scarf. They were both made for the same base purpose, to keep something warm, and therefore the inherent intent of the object was unchanged, lending it a particular stability. The further you tried to change something from its original purpose the harder it was and the less likely you would succeed in a permanent transformation.

Someone truly talented at transfiguration wasn’t that way because they were powerful, McGonagall said, they were brilliant at it because they could see ways that objects were related most people wouldn’t notice. Harry felt a great deal of somethings click in his brain at this thought and he had to drag his attention back to Mcgonagall as she sent feathers rushing through the air to land on each desk.

“Now everyone, please think carefully before you begin. There will be 10 points to whichever student manages the most creative and stable transformation.” she announced, already eyeing Hermione “You are free to turn your feather into whatever catches your fancy, but please keep the point of the lesson in mind.”

 

Harry stared thoughtfully at the fluffy white feather as students all around him muttered, turning their feathers into a variety of increasingly strange things with varying success. Across the room one of the Ravenclaw girls shrieked as her feather grew tiny legs and scurried off her desk in a bid for freedom.

Harry tapped his lip thoughtfully with his pen. A feather was a lot of things, soft and light and delicate, but none of those things felt right, they didn’t feel like what a feather WAS. He frowned and found himself thinking of Hedwig and what would happen to her if she were to lose all of her feathers. Other than looking extremely odd she’d be quite cold and wouldn’t be able to hunt or fly at all. To her a feather was warmth and protection. It was freedom and hunting and the strength to keep young safe. Those things were its purpose and Harry thought they captured its feathery-ness well. Harry smiled as it occurred to him what else a feather might be comfortable being.

Harry looked over to find Snape eyeing him with interest. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d rather not risk catching the table on fire” Harry said, indicating their linked arms and Seamus’ still smoking desk in one sweep. Snape gave him a long suffering look but cast an additional sticking charm, sealing their forearms together so his wouldn’t drag and interrupt Harry’s wand movements.

Harry grinned and turned to flick his wand in an increasingly complex series of movements over his feather, muttering the spell and forcing the image of what he wanted to stay in his mind. It lit up, lifting as magic swirled around it. It hesitated for a tense second before flashing brightly and dropping with a resounding clang onto the floor in front of his desk.

The nearest students spun at the noise to stare curiously at Harry, who was leaned over the desk, struggling to pick up an enormous glimmering steel shield that had a moment ago been a delicate white feather. Emblazoned on the front was a huge white owl, wings mantling protectively.

“Of course” Hermione said from his left, holding what looked to be a miniature version of his firebolt. “Of course a feather would be a shield, Harry that’s brilliant!” she exclaimed, too excited about the idea to be upset that she hadn’t thought of it, though she did cast a faintly suspicious look at Snape, as if he would ever help Harry.

“Bloody hell mate, you think it’ll keep?” Ron asked from several desks away. The combination of Hermione and Snape had been too much for his friend, who had grimaced in apology before sitting down next to Dean.

“I believe so Mr. Weasley” Mcgonagall said, coming up to investigate. She raised her wand and poked around the edges of the shield, a satisfied look on her face. “Well Mr. Potter, would you care to explain how you managed to turn a feather into several kilograms of steel?” she asked, eyebrow raised.

Harry squirmed slightly as everyone turned to look at him “Well when you think about it a feather really is just a lightweight shield right?” Harry answered, getting confused looks back from almost everyone “They were grown to be strong, to keep the bird safe, so I figured it wouldn’t mind so much being a different sort of shield” he finished somewhat self consciously.

Snape was staring at him incredulously, his eyes darting to the shield now leaned innocently against Harry’s leg. “I believe that will be 10 points to Gryffindor then” Mcgonagall said rather smugly to Snape, who glared in response and pointedly raised a silencing charm as he bent back over his grading.

Mcgonagall turned to Harry with a slight smirk. “Would you mind terribly Mr. Potter if I kept that? I would rather like to see if it decides to stay in that form and to show the other class” she said, motioning toward the shield.

Harry willingly gave it to her, smiling at having, for possibly the first time, done something that left Snape speechless.

 

Of course the rest of the day couldn’t go well for him. Harry had expected it, transfiguration having been a nice surprise. They ate lunch in the Great Hall, the Gryffindor table watching him with looks of pity as he tried to maneuver spoon fulls of beef stew into his mouth while Snape jiggled his bound arm impatiently, having pushed his plate away after only a few bites. Harry was at this point convinced that the man lived entirely off of biscuits and the despair of his students.

Frustrated, Harry grabbed the nearest basket of rolls and shoved them at Snape. “Here, for Merlin’s sake eat something and stop bouncing us” he snapped, his patience at an end.

Snape glanced at him in surprise and immediately stilled their arms, looking slightly embarrassed. He pushed the basket of rolls away, much to Harry’s displeasure, but he kept his opinion to himself. If the skinny bastard wanted to starve himself that was his business.

When they finally left the Great Hall and headed outside toward the greenhouses Snape leaned down to whisper furiously at Harry, spots of color high on his cheeks. “You’ve no right commenting on my eating habits Potter. In the future keep your ridiculous concerns to yourself” he snarled.

Harry glared back at Snape but lifted his free hand in surrender “Fine, it’s not my problem if you want to starve yourself, but if you wouldn’t mind waiting until after we figure out the whole bonding thing, I’d rather not carry your corpse around” he snipped back.

Snape blinked at him but let it go, lengthening his strides until Harry had to jog to keep up.

Herbology started off poorly and simply careened downhill from there. Since Ron had opted not to take Herbology as it wasn’t on the required list for Auror training it was normally Harry, Hermione, Dean and Neville at a table. This time though, Neville gave Snape one terrified look and turned to sit a table over with two Slytherins. They looked surprised but pleased. Everyone knew sitting with Neville was a guaranteed outstanding for the day and the Gryffindors were regarded with jealousy for having him.

Dean veered off to sit beside Neville, only looking mildly apologetic. “Wonderful” Harry murmured. Hermione looked sadly at the now full table next to them, even though her scores on her own where almost as good as Neville’s. Harry, feeling somewhat betrayed, glanced over just in time to see Draco Malfoy come to a halt at Neville’s new table. Dean was sitting in his normal seat and looking rather like he would defend it to the death.

Malfoy sneered at him and turned to see what was available. He had come in late and the only two spots left were at Harry and Hermione’s table. His face went somehow an even pastier white as his eyes landed on Snape. He stared down for a moment, color rising in his cheeks, before trudging over to drop into the seat furthest from their potions master.

Incidentally this put him next to Hermione, who scooted her stool away from him, a look of distaste on her face.
“Oh shut it Granger, it’s not like I have anything catching” Malfoy snapped. Hermione spun on him, causing him to jerk back slightly before he caught himself.

“I don’t know Malfoy, seems like the Dark Mark is contagious, isn’t it” she retorted, her eyes darting to his covered left arm. Malfoy yanked his arm into his stomach protectively as Snape stiffened and turned slightly away. Hermione seemed to realise what she had said and reached out as if to pat Snape in reassurance that she had not intended the barb for him but halted her hand at the last moment. Harry shot her a mild look. He really didn’t need any help in making Snape’s mood worse.

 

The class didn’t get any better, culminating when one of the Crawling Ferns they were supposed to be trimming fiddleheads from managed to sneak up behind Hermione while she was distracted and coil itself into her hair. It took Harry and finally, after a very pointed look from Sprout, Snape, to get it loose, by which point class was almost over and they had barely scraped an Acceptable. Malfoy had the audacity to complain that he had harvested the requested amount, since he had continued working and ignored the plant attacking his table mate, only to be told by Sprout that while he might have done his portion, grades were based on the success of the entire table.

Malfoy left with a scowl, knocking his shoulder into Neville’s on the way by, earning himself a glare and shout of censure from Sprout.

By the time they made it back to the castle both Harry and Snape were in a terrible mood, and Hermione had stomped off to the library, muttering about white haired gits.

They made it through Snape’s final class, though the group of fourth year Gryffindor girls that broke out in giggles every time Harry looked at them were there. Snape lost his patience the third time it happened, even though Harry had simply looked up when one of the girls dropped a book. 30 lost points later they sat in sullen silence and Harry finished his transfiguration homework while receiving occasional glares from Snape, as if he was somehow to blame.

They finally settled into bed that night, having once again avoided the topic of a shower and cast increasingly powerful cleaning charms on themselves. Harry spent a long time awake, the room lit gently with the dying embers from the small fireplace tucked into the corner of the room, and listened to Snape’s breathing finally even out. As he started to drift off it occurred to him that he hadn’t felt the fog encase him in days.


 

The next two days were a frantic scramble of the two of them trying to keep up with their new schedules. Suddenly adding a whole other life to yours was not the easiest transition, so by the time Friday rolled around they were both strung tight and snapping at everyone, not just each other. The last class of the day was double potions, which Snape had been dreading having to sit through.

He knew how Slughorn taught and he had never liked it, not even as a student himself. On top of that Slughorn had spent the whole term praising Potter and less than subtly suggesting that Snape’s teaching methods were to blame for Potters poor performance. Added to the end of a maddening week and it was a wonder that they made it to potions at all.

Potter had warily walked into the potions classroom, Snape in tow. Slughorn had cheerfully greeted Potter and motioned to the desk in the front row, which Potter pretended not to see as he veered toward the back of the room to sit by Granger and a few seats back from Weasley, who was still avoiding the situation and who quite frankly should never have been allowed behind a cauldron again. He knew he should have given Weasley an acceptable and prevented him from entering even Slughorn’s class.

The classroom looked much the same as when he had taught there, though there were slightly fewer preserved specimens on display and no pile of dirty cauldrons stacked on the back table, waiting for that nights detention. He had stacked them there, in clear view, so that the troublemakers knew what they were risking. Otherwise it was just as cold and dark as he remembered and he had a sudden surge of nostalgia. He might have hated teaching, but he had spent a good chunk of his adult life in this room.

Slughorn wrote the potions name and page number up on the board with no further instructions, much to Snape’s disgust. The instructions for the shrinking potion in the book neglected to mention that if it was dried they needed to add almost twice the amount of shrivlefig, and Snape knew that Horace wouldn’t have bothered to walk all the way to the greenhouses for fresh. He held his tongue as Potter and Granger got their supplies out and looked up the ingredients in their books. Potter’s book was oddly shabby, as if he’d bought it second hand. Perhaps he hadn’t been left as much money as Snape had assumed.

Potter moved to stand, bringing Snape with him “I’ll go get everything ‘Mione” he said. Students cleared out of their way surprisingly quickly when faced with their old potions master in his own domain, much to Potters obvious delight. Potter quickly collected the needed supplies, including the dried shrivlefig. Just as Snape was leaning down to whisper to him to double the amount, not considering why he felt the sudden need to assist, he noticed that Potter had already done so. He looked at the boy in confusion. How in Merlin’s name did he know to get extra? Snape knew potions masters who wouldn’t have remembered to do so.

Snape was lost in thought on the way back to the table and had almost managed to convince himself that Horace was right and he had somehow taught Potter so poorly that some natural talent had been suppressed. The boy had already surprised him during his classes that week, asking intelligent questions and that transfiguration lesson had been honestly shocking.

Snape glanced over to see how they were doing, almost ready to apologize to Potter, when he saw familiar handwriting on the page of Potter’s potion book.

“Potter, where did you get that book?” he asked, deep voice deceptively quiet. At his tone Potter slowly slid it out of reach. The boy had always had excellent self preservation instincts.

“I didn’t have a book at the start of the year so Professor Slughorn found an old one for me.” he explained defensively.

A look of unholy glee was falling over Snape’s face, making both Granger and Potter look uncertain. “I knew it. I knew you were cheating somehow. You’re a complete idiot with potions” Snape said, sounding distractedly happy as he contemplated how many points he could take for this.

Harry scowled “I am not cheating” he hissed quietly “I just took a few suggestions someone wrote in the book is all.”

Snape sneered and dropped his voice “A few suggestions Potter? You’re telling me you haven’t been using someone else’s work for the entire term? “ he said disbelievingly. “You might as well just write Prince on all your vials instead of your name. I’ll see you in detention for the rest of the year for this.”

To Snape’s surprise Potter gave him a condescending look. “ And where exactly will you be while I’m serving every night in detention then?” he responded.

Snape pulled a face, realising his dilemma. While sending Potter to unending detention was a reoccuring dream of his, even he had to admit that it wasn’t worth him having to sit through it as well.

“Wait, how did you know that name?” Potter suddenly asked, alarmed. Snape cursed himself for the slip, but he supposed it would be almost as satisfying to let the boy know who exactly he had been listening to all this time.

“I’ll give you a clue, you idiot boy, my mother’s family name is Prince and my father is a muggle” he said, practically radiating smugness as Granger gasped and Potters face bleached of color, only to flush embarrassed red a moment later.

“But the handwriting looks nothing like yours” Potter hissed with desperation. By now Granger was looking at them both with wide eyes, having caught pieces of the conversation.

 

Snape raised an eyebrow at him before he responded “My hand was broken in several places and wasn’t easily reassembled. My writing changed. You can thank your sainted father for that” he whispered.

Potter just stared at him blankly before turning back to his potion, seemingly having no idea how to address the accusation. Snape reached around him and yanked the book out of Potters lax grip. He was almost disappointed that the boy hadn’t put up more of a fight.

“Let’s see how well Slughorn likes you now Potter” Snape said with satisfaction. If he couldn’t send the boy to detention he could at least take away his means of cheating. Besides, there were dangerous spells in the book, ones he had invented, that he didn’t want anyone else learning.

He spent the remaineder of the class pointedly ignoring Potter and snorting at Horaces poor instructions.

Since Potter had had a chance to read the instructions beforehand he managed to make a passable shrinking solution, much to Slughorn’s vocal approval. As they were packing up a small paper areoplane fluttered up to them, Albus’ looping scrawl visible in the folds.

Snape grabbed it out of the air and read through it quickly. “Come along Potter, the Headmaster wishes to see us.”

The boy looked up hopefully “Do you think he’s figured out how to break it?” he asked. Snape frowned, trying to hide his own hope. “I’ve no idea Potter, that’s why I suggested that we do as we were asked and go see.”

Potter had the grace to flush at his tone and hurry behind him out of the classroom. They made good time through the halls, mostly deserted as everyone trickled toward the Great Hall for dinner.
“Jelly slugs” Snape declared, black robes billowing as they approached the gargoyle, which jumped aside just as Snape walked through, never slowing as he climbed the moving staircase.

Potter followed along behind him grumbling under his breath. As they arrived at Dumbledore’s office, the door swung open before he could knock. He strode in, the boy at his heels.

“Hello my boys” Dumbledore greeted them “how are you both today?” he asked as he motioned them into the deep leather chairs in front of his desk. Falkes trilled a gentle greeting from his perch by the window before swooping down to land on the back of Potters chair.

“Passable Headmaster. Do you have any news for us?” Snape answered, watching out of the corner of his eye as the flame red bird leaned down to carefully groom Potters hair.

“Certainly” Albus responded jovially as he stood to offer them tea, revealing robes a particularly eye watering shade of fuschia. “I believe we have found the spell that Voldemort used, or at least the spell he based it on.”

Snape took the offered tea absently “What spell was it?” he asked.
Dumbledore settled himself back behind his desk, cluttered as always with interesting bits of magical debri. “I believe it to be a version of an old Celtic power sharing spell. It was originally designed to allow those with greater magic to link for a short time and safely work together on feats they would not have been able to accomplish otherwise” the Headmaster explained.

Snape frowned at this. It didn’t explain the unbreakable bond quality to it at all. He was interrupted by a quick knock on the door. Albus waved a hand and the door swung open to admit a bushy haired Gryffindor. “Sorry I’m late Professor, I had to go back to my dorm to get the book,” she said, crossing the room swiftly to settle in the chair beside Potter. To his credit he didn’t look at all surprised to see his best friend and simply greeted her with an easy smile.

“Miss Granger has been kind enough to share her research with me. She is in fact the one that found the book with the spell we believe is the base” Albus continued, approval clear in his voice. “Miss Granger perhaps you could explain your theory to them?”

Granger sat forward on the edge of her seat, the same pose she took when answering a question in class. “Of course. Has the Headmaster told you about the original spell?” she asked them, waiting a moment for their nods “well my personal theory is that Voldemort blended the temporary power sharing charm with the spell he uses for the Dark Mark.” she explained, a small frown marring her delicate features. “Because the Dark Mark already has aspects of power sharing, and it is a bonding spell, I think he likely used parts from both, but changed them enough to work around the portion of the Dark Mark that requires the willingness of both parties” she finished.

Snape sat very still as his mind whirled through the logic behind this and the ramifications if she was right. And it was likely she was right. The Dark Lord was inventive but did not like to leave things to chance, so he would have most likely used a spell he was intimately familiar with. And the Dark Mark was something he had adapted decades prior, from a spell no one recognized. A horrible thought hit him at that “If this is correct, we’ve no way to undo it. As far as we can tell the Dark Mark is unbreakable” Snape said in a choked voice.

Beside him Potter made a distressed noise “Wait, we can’t get rid of it? We’re stuck like this?” he said, his panicked expression somewhat mitigated by the fact that a phoenix was busily rearranging his hair into incomprehensible shapes.

Granger broke first at the ridiculous sight and let out a tiny snort of laughter. She quickly got hold of herself enough to answer when Harry glared at her. “I don’t believe it’s the same spell. I think it has weaknesses, but we’ll need to test them. I think at the very least we might be able to give you both a small amount of space” she said.

Potter sat forward at this, causing Fawkes to give an indignant squawk. “How much space?” he asked, Snape leaning closer in interest as well.

“I’m not sure yet, it’ll depend on how well you can control your magic” her gaze was rather pointedly resting on Potter, which he thought was completely fair of her. “The bracelets are tied to your magic and are actually powered by you, kind of like a magical parasite. If you can pull most of your magic just inside your skin instead of letting it spill over it should negate a fair amount of the effects” she finished.

Snape considered this before responding “What you are suggesting would only work as long as we were both actively concentrating. I hardly think this is much of a solution.”

“Now Severus, Miss Granger has worked very hard and found more than any of the rest of us about this” Albus said, censor in his voice.
Snape waved a hand, interrupting the Headmaster. “I was not disparaging her work, simply mentioning that while more room may be helpful it is not the solution,” he explained.

Granger picked up the book in her lap and handed it to him. “I believe that there are a few solutions to permanently breaking the bond. There are several cases that I marked that show that it should be possible, in theory at least” she offered.

“What kind of ways Hermione?” Potter asked, not bothering to question her conclusions. Truthfully Snape was inclined to take her for her word as well, but he would look through her work anyway.

“Well the most effective is to kill Voldemort” she said matter of factly “that should release the spell since I’m fairly certain he used his own blood to create it. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been able to recognize you Harry.” Potter shuddered at the reminder that his blood had helped to make the body the Dark Lord now wore.

“The second way would be if one of you died. It wouldn’t have anything to connect to so would go dormant, releasing the other person” Granger said, pushing her hair back out of her face.

Snape couldn’t stop himself from turning to Potter and saying “There, see, if I starve to death you won’t have to drag my corpse around” in an oddly victorious tone, making both Granger and Dumbledore shoot him looks of confusion, ones he didn’t notice because Potter was laughing.

He’d thrown his head back, black hair wild and green eyes shining as he laughed. Snape was startled to find that a curl of warmth bloomed in his chest at the sound.

“Well yes then” Granger continued as Potter settled, flustered at the odd conversation. “The third way actually has the most chance of working. If we can figure out the spells at least partially we can likely break it. The only problem with that is that we would need at least a small bit of Voldemort’s blood. Blood curses don’t break without the original blood used.” she said, as if that were an actual option.

“So what you’re saying Miss Granger is that Potter and I are very much suck together and should work on making it more livable unless we want to kill each other or the Dark Lord” Snape deadpanned.

Granger returned his look steadily “That’s about the size of it, yes” she answered. He nodded thoughtfully. “Very well. I will read through your references over the weekend and let you know if I come to any other conclusions. Thank you for your help” he said politely.

Potter looked at him, nonplussed, before turning to Granger “Yeah, thanks ‘Mione. I know how busy you are with class, not sure how you managed to fit all this in too” he said the last with a small measure of suspicion.

“Well then my boys, it looks like we’re all caught up for now” Dumbledore said.

 

“Albus, we also need to speak about the blocking spell you have in place,” Snape said pointedly, not willing to avoid the subject. If he and Potter were truly stuck together until they managed to kill Voldemort then Potter would need to know more than he currently did. A great deal more.

“Yes of course Severus. I am looking into a solution now. Would you be so kind as to put off the meeting until after Christmas?” Albus asked, a note of something that sounded oddly like regret in his voice.

Snape paused, his dark eyes narrowed “Very well, but not any further. Plans must be made” he finished cryptically, catching Potters look of frustration. Unthinkingly he shifted slightly, brushing his hand against Potters in a silent reassurance. Potters face cleared somewhat as he took a deep breath, even though his jaw remained taught, trusting Snape for now.

 

Albus smiled and rose to see them out, his blackened hand tucked into the sleeve of his robe. Snape eyed him for a moment before rising, bringing Potter with him. Fawkes trilled a sad goodbye before fluttering up to his perch and stuffing his head behind his wing as the odd group trooped out.

Potter waved a tired goodbye to Granger as they separated to go to their respective rooms and it occurred to Snape that Potter had not once in the time they had been together demanded that they spend time with his friends, not that he would have agreed, but it was curious. He wasn’t sure if that was for his sake or for his friends, but the end result was the same.

They made it back to the dungeons well after dinner had finished and elected to just ask Tippy to bring them something. Potter had also requested that she ask an elf named Dobby to bring Granger dinner. When Snape questioned why he didn’t just ask Tippy to take her dinner he had muttered something about Dobby being paid wages and Granger not accepting food from any other elf. He chose not to explore further for his own sanity.

When they got into bed that night Snape was so tired he simply stretched out, blankets tucked haphazardly over himself, and was asleep before Potter had even settled.

 


 

They made it almost eight full days of being bound before things finally boiled over. They made it through awkward classes, through trying to work around having a limb restricted, which as it turned out was harder on Snape than on Potter because brewing was almost impossible. They had managed to muddle through meals, bathrooms, and the bolster that Potter had been trying to decide on a name for because “Anything that stands guard between me and you should have the honor of being named.” Snape decided that somewhere along the way, maybe as far back as the killing curse, Potter had lost the plot.

Despite this they had actually managed to be mostly civil to each other, but their Monday had started out horribly and had simply gone downhill.
Snape had been woken in the early hours of the morning by Potter screaming himself awake and thrashing, dragging Snape partially over his carefully constructed separating wall before he had woken fully.

“Potter, what the hell is wrong with you?” Snape growled, his already deep voice sleep rough. Potter was panting too hard, his body shaking the mattress with shudders.

“Bad dreams, sorry to wake you” he finally got out “just go back to sleep, I won’t wake you again.”

“And how can you promise to not have any more nightmares?” Snape asked, sleepy and confused. His own nightmares tended to rise up as soon as he went back to sleep when he was having a bad night.

A humorless laugh came from Potters side of the bed. “It’s a bit harder to have nightmares when you’re awake.”

It took Snape a minute to understand, his brain not yet fully engaged. “You don’t sleep after your nightmares?” Snape asked curiously.

“No, never” Potter answered shortly. “Just go back to sleep, I won’t wake you again.”

Snape was silent for a long moment as he came to terms with his day starting several hours before he had planned. With a quick flick of his wrist he wordlessly and wandlessly lit the candles in the room. Potter was flat on his back looking fairly terrible, skin almost as pale as Snape’s, dark hair so mussed that it wasn’t so much defying gravity as creating its own tiny, messy dimension.

He chest was still heaving under the thin grey material of his over large t shirt, his loose flannel trousers twisted around his legs as if he had been thrashing in his sleep.
Potter gave him a puzzled look as Snape moved their as yet unnamed bolster and tossed it on top of their fairly intimidating mountain of pillows.

“You don’t actually think I’m going to let you just lie there in the dark for the next few hours, do you Potter?” Snape asked, his own long hair decidedly ruffled and somewhat ruining his stern look. The expression on Potters face told him clearly that the boy did indeed think he would just let him lie there for the rest of the night.

Potter gave him a pitifully grateful look as they slid out of bed and made their way onto the couch, both of them wrapping themselves in blankets and thumping down in the middle of the sofa. Snape simply sat staring blearily at the fire, Potters shoulder planted firmly against his own. He didn’t ask about the dream and Potter didn’t talk about it. He knew all too well the nightmares that could haunt a man. Sometimes it felt as though giving voice to them would make them real, bring them out into the harsh light of day and prove them to be true.

So he sat instead, him mind drifting, offering silent comfort in the darkest hours of the night, realising as he did so how much he wished he had someone to sit with him when his nightmares took him. Perhaps Potter would be there for him when he needed it too, he caught himself thinking.

Snape snorted softly at his own ridiculous thoughts and quickly squashed the rising hope. Of course Potter wouldn’t, even if they were stuck together for the foreseeable future it wasn’t like Potter would care enough to sit up with him. He surely would take the out he had given Severus and simply go back to sleep, he thought uncharitably, scowling.

By the time Tippy arrived with tea, surprise making her ears twitch to find both of them out of bed, Severus was in a temper. While he was used to missing sleep, it never put him in a good mood. Additionally, Severus was a solitary man, and between his death eater activities, his personality and his general distaste of most people, he was not a man used to company. Potter had been his constant companion for more than a week, which would have been more than enough to set him off, but all at once he found himself focusing on the gentle touches that were becoming more common between the two of them. It hadn’t bothered him in the beginning, he had in fact even rather pitifully welcomed it, but suddenly it seemed like too much.

He was not a man used to casual touches. People didn’t brush against him or touch his arm to get his attention. They went out of their way to avoid him, the only exceptions the Headmaster on rare occasions and Poppy or Tippy when he was injured. He found himself completely unable to remember the last time that anyone else had touched him until Potter.

He found himself constantly in contact with some portion of the boy, who frustratingly enough seemed to not notice where his limbs were. He was continuously bumping into Severus, knocking shoulders or knees together, reaching over him for something, even tapping him to get his attention.

Severus grumbled through their morning routine, Potter shooting him concerned looks but keeping to himself. They made it all the way through breakfast and were almost to the Defense classroom for their one joint class that Potter was actually in instead of just being a quiet presence at his desk when Potter turned to him and rather sullenly said “You didn’t have to get up you know, it’s not like I asked you to.”

Severus felt anger well up immediately at Potters tone “What are you talking about you stupid boy?” he snapped.

Harry yanked them to a stop, anger contorting his features “I wouldn’t have told you I couldn’t go back to sleep and kept you up if I would have known you’d spend the rest of the day being an utter wanker!” Potter yelled at him, causing several students to halt to watch the spectacle.
Snape snarled and drug Potter into an empty classroom, throwing privacy wards up as he whipped around “20 points from Gryffindor for your language Potter” he said, viciously.

“Oh of course. Of course you would just take points instead of talking to me like a normal bloody person, because you can’t do that can you?” Potter said sarcastically.

“10 more points Potter! Do you want to make it an even 50?” Snape yelled, pushing himself into Potters personal space, forcing the boy to crane his neck back to look him in the eye.

“Why the hell not, it’s not like you’re going to tell me what’s actually got your knickers in a twist now are you?” Potter snapped back.

“You want to know what’s got my knickers in a twist as you so eloquently put it?” Snape asked, his voice going whiny as he mocked Potter, who just stared back at him in challenge, so close now that their chests brushed with each gasping breath.

“You Potter. You and your constant chatter, your ridiculous muggle clothes, the fact you can’t seem to help yourself and just have to clean up everything. You and your constant fucking touching!” he screamed the last directly into Potters startled face. Potter quickly backed away, something that looked surprisingly like hurt crossing his face before a neutral expression masked it.

“I apologize Professor. I didn’t realise I had been upsetting you” Potter said stiffly, moving as far back as he could without stretching their arms unreasonably. Snape deflated all at once, panting after his outburst, his anger gone and confusion slipping in to take its place. The look Potter was giving him told him that his reaction had been telling, but what Potter got from it he couldn’t guess.

“Perhaps we should go to class sir” Potter remarked quietly. Snape simply nodded in response, following Potter from the room.


 

They spent the entire lesson carefully avoiding eye contact, even when Harry had to face off against Ron during the practical portion. Not that Ron was very enthusiastic. He was obviously terrified of possibly missing Harry and hitting Snape instead, earning himself at the very least detention, though knowing Snape a trip to the hospital wing wasn’t out of the question.

Snape seemed fairly subdued though, only taking a few points, even when Seamus managed to throw Dean into a group of Slytherins with a carelessly cast disarming charm.
As the class ended and students began to grab bags, Hermione came up to the front where Harry had a chair set up next to Snape’s desk.

She turned slightly, putting her back to Snape and cast a light muffling charm. “Harry, is everything alright?” she asked, her face scrunched in concern.

“Yeah, ‘Mione its fine, just had a bit of a tiff with the great git.” he responded, angling his head in Snapes direction.

She frowned at his explanation “Oh Harry, what happened? You two looked like were getting along?” she asked, worry in her voice. Harry sighed and cut his eyes to Snape, who was studiously ignoring them in favor of carefully arranging the essays that had just been turned in.

“Apparently we weren’t doing as well as I thought” Harry said bluntly “he let me know this morning how much he hates having me stuck to him.” he sat for a second, then continued in a rush “Not that I’m having a great time with it mind you, he just hadn’t been as terrible as I expected him to be” he finished miserably.

Hermione’s frown deepened, hearing the thread of hurt in her best friends voice. “What exactly did he say Harry?”

“Basically that I talked too much, cleaned up too much, wore too many muggle clothes and touched him too much” he said the last with the same vitriol that Snape had.

Surprisingly this made Hermione’s face clear. “Harry, do you remember when we first became friends?” she asked consideringly.
“Yeah, course I do. What’s that got to do with Snape being a git?” Harry asked, puzzled.

“Well do you remember right before Ron and I left for the holidays first year? We were in the common room and we were both sitting next to you and you just jumped up and yelled at us?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah I remember” Harry said frowning “You know I apologized for that. It was just that I wasn’t used to anyone touching me and...” he trailed off, a look of shocked understanding settling onto his face. “You’re brilliant, you know that right ‘Mione?”

“I know” she responded with a smile as she took down the privacy charm. “Let me know when you can study Harry” she commented.

With that she turned to go, but spun back a moment later and looked at Snape. “Try to remember that he might understand” she said primly to him before she vanished out the door.

Harry’s startled bark of laughter followed her.


 

Snape spent the entire conversation Granger had with Potter trying his best not to stare at them, only partially succeeding. He caught glimpses of Potters expressions, which ranged from the expected anger to shock and finally to warm affection for his friend.

Snape turned resolutely away, something unpleasant curling in his stomach. He knew he had been harsh with the boy, and that he wasn’t truly angry with him but with the situation. He didn’t even really mind Potters presence. They got along surprisingly well now that he wasn’t having to play the closet Death Eater. Potter really didn’t talk all that much, occasionally commenting on something he was reading, or a passive appeal for help when he didn’t understand. Snape couldn’t understand why the boy cleaned up behind them like the castles most diligent house elf, but it didn’t really bother him. In fact he hadn’t managed to misplace his favorite self inking red quill even once this week. It was in its spot on his desk as soon as he went looking for it, as opposed to his normal hunt through the cushions, ending only when he had stabbed himself with the nib.

The boy really did have awful clothes though, he thought with a grimace. They were all several sizes too big, with the exception of the hideous Weasley jumpers, and they made Potter look thinner and younger than he was. Snape was sure that Potter would have been left a fair amount of money by his parents. After all, even James Potter couldn’t have managed to spend all of his fortune before he died.

Snape swallowed heavily as he thought about the last thing he had screamed at the boy. He didn’t know why it bothered him so much. Maybe it was just that he wasn’t used to having someone in such close proximity and it was making him jumpy. Maybe he truly hated being touched, but that idea didn’t feel right. He hadn’t minded the gentle brush of Potter’s hand at first, had even returned it.

Snape stared blankly at his desk as he tried to decipher what about it bothered him so much. He hadn’t managed to make any sense of it by the time Granger dropped the silencing charm.

Snape was opening his mouth the call her back to ask her a follow up question on the book she had found when she turned and spoke, her tone gently rebuking. Snape was so surprised that he just stood there dumbly for a moment before finally turning to look as the still faintly smiling Potter.

Potter sobered immediately and just shrugged at him. He cursed himself for the sudden distance he could see in the vibrant green eyes. Wanting to find a way to erase that coldness was his only excuse for what came out of his mouth, though he did catch himself scowling as he wondered why he cared.

“We should be practicing dueling” Snape heard himself say. Potter blinked at the sudden change in topic.

“Alright, but I assume you mean dueling other people? Cause if you’re looking to duel me I’m afraid I won’t be much of a challenge” Potter answered, raising his left hand and swishing it like it held a wand.

Snape scowled at him “Of course I mean other people. We need to be prepared since the bond will likely be in place for longer than we would like.”

Potter got a considering look on his face. “You’re right actually” he agreed reluctantly “I was thinking about that and we won’t last long if we get attacked as we are” Potter said mildly. “and I think I know a way for us to practice” he added, a devious smile changing his normally pleasant features into something alarming.

Snape just nodded and sighed, wondering what he had gotten himself into. At least Potter didn’t look mad at him anymore.


Four days later Snape found himself following Potter up to the seventh floor, no longer caring what he had agreed to if it would just return them to the wary sort of peace they had before his outburst.

Unlike previously, Potter had spent the last several days being unfailingly polite. He never interrupted Severus, never asked him questions, instead choosing to send poorly folded paper birds through the floo to the Gryffindor common room, questions about his homework scrawled over them for Granger to answer.
Severus had managed to lose his quill three times and still hadn’t recovered it from the most recent misplacement.

And somehow, despite being literally tied to the man, Potter had managed to almost completely avoid touching him. He sat far enough away that there was no possibility that legs or shoulders could knock. He managed to eat with his left hand, keeping his right curled into a loose fist to prevent their fingers from brushing. If Snape didn’t know any better he would have suspected Potter had cast a mild repelling charm on himself.

He had even borrowed a self dictating quill from the Lovegood girl, negating the need for Severus to grudgingly help him write. The quill was working well, except with Potters care of magical creatures homework, which seemed to bring out a strangely fanciful side in it. Hagrid had pulled him aside that morning and asked quietly if Potter was aware that Nargles were not a recognized magical creature. He seemed more concerned that he potentially wasn’t teaching well than with whether or not Potter had lost the plot.

Snape had been horrified to realise that he almost missed the strange relationship that had been forming between the two of them.

That thought had been so pitiful that Snape had ridiculed himself mercilessly and spent half the day snapping at everyone around him. His bad mood had been somewhat negated by Potter giving out apologetic looks after he stormed past, dragging the boy along behind him.

It wasn’t until he woke early one morning to hear Potter gasping quietly on the other side of the bolster, obviously trying to silence himself after a nightmare that he grudgingly accepted that he had made a mistake when he hadn’t tried to apologize.

“Potter, are you alright” he called quietly.

A sharply drawn breath came, then “Yes, of course Professor, I just woke for a moment, please don’t let me disturb you” Potter responded, his voice tightly controlled and carefully pleasant.

“Potter, don’t lie to me,” Snape said warningly.

Potter sighed softly “Professor I’m fine, I’ve no need for you to involve yourself,” he said with a pleasant but hard finality.

Snape had gone quiet and spent the rest of the night staring into the darkness of his room, listening to Potter doing the same and wondering why that dismissive tone in his voice bothered him so much.

Now he found them stopped in front of a blank stretch of wall, Potter giving him a thoughtful look. For a terrible moment Snape was certain that Potter had dragged him up here in some sort of elaborate plot to mock Snape. His insecurities came roaring to the surface as a group of older students, many of them Potter’s friends, came around the corner and halted next to them.

Snape felt his back snap straighter, his shoulders stiffening as childhood memories of Potter, Black and Lupin flooded back; more than a few incidents had started with confusion and a handy group of onlookers.

Just as Snape was working himself up to storm off, dragging Potter with him, the boy spoke.
“Neville could you set us up with our usual practice room please?” he asked Longbottom, who stood near the front of the group, looking warily at Snape. Granger and Weasley stood stiffly side by side, Miss Brown wrapped around Weasley’s arm like a limpet. Granger arched an eyebrow at him, a pointed look of expectation on her face.

“Yeah, of course Harry” Longbottom answered, moving to pace in front of the blank wall.
Potter glanced over at him, a small smile on his face, only for it to fall when he saw the expression Snape was wearing.

“It’s the room of requirement. We used it all last year to practice defense and get away from Umbridge” Potter reassured him softly, his fingers brushing gently over Snapes knuckles for the first time in days. Snape scowled at being transparent enough that Potter felt the need to reassure him.

“You mean to tell me that the army Umbridge accused you of starting was real?” Snape asked, dumbfounded. He relaxed at Potters tone and the touch on his hand, feeling oddly comforted and confusedly angry about it.

Potter grinned at him, laughter coming from those close enough to hear their conversation. “Yes, though maybe less of an army than Umbridge made it out to be.”

“When you mentioned dueling practice I had a word with a few of the DA to see if anyone would be interested in helping us” Potter explained as he urged Snape gently toward a door that had only appeared after Longbottom had paced in front of the wall.

Snape walked into what could only be described as the perfect practice room for defense. There were dummies set up that spun and fired off stinging hexes in all directions as soon as someone got close enough to activate one. Finnigan had already managed to catch a hex across his arm before he scrambled out of range.
There were targets everywhere, hung from walls and the ceiling, even floating lazily past. Huge piles of cushions offered safe landing places and the whole room seemed to be covered in heavy cushioning charms.
“It’s fireproof too” Potter commented rather smugly. “Though that didn’t happen until after Seamus lit the cushions” he finished, looking mildly disgruntled at the memory.

Snape looked at the group of smiling students milling around them “You all spent all of last year working on your defense techniques here?” he asked sternly. Everyone nodded at him in answer. “Then why is it, with all the extra practice, you all are still abysmal in my class?” he snarked.

Complete silence descended, scowls falling over the whole circle, the only exception being Granger, who was wearing a look of mild amusement. A heavy pause, then Potters abrupt laughter cut through the tension, his time spent constantly with Snape letting him see the small curl of the man’s mouth for what it was, a fairly poor attempt at teasing.

Everyone relaxed, a few chuckles making their way through the group before Potter started barking out rapid fire orders, sending some of the younger students toward the targets, pairing up others, and holding a group of six back to work with them directly. Interestingly enough Potter sent the Weasley boy away with a request he work with a few fourth years that had trickled timidly in, but kept the youngest Weasley and Granger with them.

Snape bent down to murmur in Potters ear just as Harry turned toward him, finding himself closer than was absolutely necessary, “Are you entirely certain that including Finnigan and Longbottom in the group is a wise choice?” he asked, eyebrow arched in doubt.

Potter tilted his head up to answer, their cheeks almost brushing as he spoke “Yes because having Seamus is the closest we can come to having completely unpredictable spells coming at us, and Neville has some of the fastest shield work I’ve ever seen” he answered in a conspiratorial voice.

Snape felt something strange catch in his throat at the closeness and the tone that, just for a moment, made him feel included in this strange world of Potter’s. He found himself trying to find something to say just to keep Potter there a moment longer, but Harry was already moving away, his breath ghosting across Snapes jaw as he turned to the group.

Snape looked up just in time to catch the confused look on Ginevra Weasley’s face as her eyes darted between them. He felt his typical sneer twisting his face as he looked back at her. He didn’t know why, but he felt strangely protective of this odd friendship he was trying to fix and he didn’t want the youngest Weasley interfering.

A tug on his left arm brought his attention back to Potter. “Everyone please stick to mild hexes for now, be prepared to face both offensive and defensive spells, and for my sake try not to hit me with too many things when you’re aiming for Snape” he said, gifting the group with a wry smile.

Snape stared down at him, mildly appalled, but couldn’t disagree with Potters assessment. He couldn’t think of a single one of his students, Slytherin included, that wouldn’t gleefully take the opportunity to attack him with no repercussions.

As the group moved back, automatically spreading out far enough to clear each others line of fire, he heaved a dramatic sigh. “Potter may I remind you, if they kill me you might be free but you’ll have to explain it to the Headmaster” he said as he readied his wand.
A snort of laughter was his only answer before Potter gave some sort of starting signal and their corner of the room exploded with hexes.

Chapter Text

I been getting used to waking up with you
I been getting used to waking up here
Anywhere I go there you are
Anywhere I go there you are
There you are
There you are

-Vance Joy, Fire and the Flood

Harry stood awkwardly, every muscle in his back protesting as he stubbornly stayed standing to say a weary goodbye to the DA as they filed past.

He uttered a few words of encouragement here and there as he always did at the end of a session. “Collin, remember to keep your left side covered, Luna wouldn’t have landed that tickling hex if you hadn’t turned in too far” he said as the Creevey brothers limped past, both nodding cheerfully in acknowledgement.

Hermione sidled up to him, a smug look on her face. It had been her that had hit Snape with the body binding curse. That alone wouldn’t have been too bad if Seamus and Dean hadn’t managed to clip Harry with a disarming spell and a jelly legs jinx at the same time. He had gone down when Snapes falling weight had yanked him to the side, wrenching his back as he tried unsuccessfully to catch them both.

Several counter curses and one undignified scramble later he had called a halt. They had made a decent showing of it for the first time working together, but both he and Snape were worn out and sore. He was fairly certain that Snape would have a truly impressive bruise on his thigh from Harry landing knee first on him.

They had taken out both Ginny and Neville in the first round, Ginny having to spend the rest of the practice sitting completely still after Snape had hit her rather viciously with some kind of disorientation hex and she’d fallen over every time she moved her head. Hermione consistently managed to get under their shields and the rest of the group was so used to working together that they took ruthless advantage.

Harry had spent the remainder of the evening walking around the room, correcting stances and walking students through examples when they were having trouble. Surprisingly Snape had remained silent, simply following along behind him and observing. It took almost a full round of the room before everyone accepted that Snape wasn’t going to ridicule them and they started to relax.

As the last of the group wrapped up and started to leave, waving goodnight to both him and surprisingly, to Snape, Ron and Lavender joined them in the hall. Harry felt Hermione stiffen next to him, so he flung a quick arm around her shoulders and pulled her snug to his side. She relaxed, giving him a grateful look as she slid her arm around his waist.

“Well that went better than I thought it would, mate” Ron said, rubbing the back of his neck as he eyed Snape. “You two do pretty well together” he finished lamely.

Snape raised an eyebrow “Indeed, Mr. Weasley” he drawled. “I’m so glad we could live up to your expectations of us.”

Ron’s face went bright red and Lavender frowned at Snape, but before anyone could say anything Harry dug his elbow lightly into Snapes ribs, a silent admonishment.

“You did quite well with the younger students Mr. Weasley. I would not have expected that of you” Snape said grudgingly, stepping slightly out of elbow range.

Ron looked dumbfounded at the backhanded compliment and mumbled a confused “thanks” before grabbing Lavenders hand and fleeing, calling a quick goodbye to Harry over his shoulder.

Hermione gave an indelicate snort of laughter from under Harry’s arm. He turned to look at her with a smile and unthinkingly asked “how are you doing with all that?” vaguely motioning in the direction Ron had disappeared.

He regretted asking immediately, but instead of hurt, Hermione got a thoughtful look on her face. “I think I’m doing alright” she answered slowly “I’m coming to realise that what I thought I felt for him was maybe more my need to take care of him than me wanting an actual relationship” she said wryly.
“I think this thing with Lavender has been good for both of us. I don’t think a relationship would have been healthy for either of us in the end” She continued, looking rather resigned but not terribly sad. “I would however like to have my friend back, I’m just not sure how to go about it at this point.”

Snapes deep voice spoke from Harry’s other side “That’s very wise of you Miss Granger. I rarely see those your age stopping to consider why they are pursuing someone, but I should have expected you of all people to do so” he said gently, with something that sounded suspiciously like approval.

Hermione looked stunned for a moment before she grinned at Snape. “You know, you’re really not so terrible” she said boldly, leaning around Harry.

Harry tensed, waiting for an explosion but his worry proved to be unfounded when Snape just smirked. “Not having to attend Death Eater meetings has done wonders for my disposition” he retaliated.

She just laughed and ducked out from under Harry’s arm, heading off toward the Gryffindor tower. “Make sure you stretch your back Harry, I saw you pull it” she admonished as she rounded the corner.

Harry just looked between the spot where his best friend had disappeared and the man at his side. “What just happened?” he asked, baffled.

Snape just gave him a tiny smile and tugged a confused Harry toward the dungeons.


They had only made it down to the fifth floor when Potter pulled him to a stop, an odd look on his face. He stood awkwardly for a moment, a dull red flush rising in his cheeks before seeming to come to a decision.
“Alright, I know it’s not something either of us really want to deal with, but I don’t know how long it will take for us to work out how to separate more than a few centimeters and I don’t think I can take it much longer” Potter said, all in a rush, a strange mixture of embarrassment and determination on his face.

Snape raised an eyebrow at him as he tried to decipher what strange turn Potter’s mind had taken now. “Perhaps I would have more to contribute to the conversation if I had any idea what you were talking about” Snape said, struggling to keep his tone polite. He was exhausted and knew if he didn’t get bruise paste on his leg soon he would spend the next day limping, but he didn’t want to start another argument just when they seemed to be getting over the last.

Potter looked surprised for a second before answering “Oh, did I not… oh. Sorry, I meant to say that it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had a proper bath and cleaning charms are only getting us so far, so....”

Severus couldn’t stop the surge of longing he felt from showing on his face. One of the worst things about the last couple of weeks had been having to forego his regular baths, but he hadn’t been willing to be the one to suggest it. Even though he knew the situation qualified as extraordinary circumstances and Potter was of age, he still couldn’t find it in himself to suggested bathing together. Now that Potter had broached the subject he was determined that they figure out a way to manage it. It couldn’t be more uncomfortable than the terrible bathroom conversation the first day.

“I agree. Perhaps we should go back to our rooms then?” Snape asked, unable to keep the hopeful note out of his voice. Potter paused, giving him an odd look before continuing.

“Actually, I thought it might not be as, uh, awkward in a bigger bath?” Potter said, motioning toward a door next to a statue of an exceptionally confused looking wizard. Snape realised than that they were outside of the prefects bathroom. He motioned Potter forward with a quick nod, already fantasizing about swimming pools of bubbles and absurdly hot water.

Potter approached the door and muttered “Salazar”, pushing the door open and pulling Snape through. Potter sighed and answered his unspoken question. “Malfoy got here and set the password before any of the rest of us this year” he said, sounding terribly put out.

Snape felt a faint smile tugging at his lips as Potter moved to start turning taps on in the enormous tub. Fluffy towels sat around the edge, with so many soap taps that he wasn’t sure where to start. Huge stained glass windows lined one side of the room, a rather ridiculous looking mermaid sound asleep in the center.

Potter turned on a second tap, letting fluffy, soft purple bubbles into the water. The gentle scent of lavender rose up around them with the steam.

Warm reddish tiles covered the floor, laid out in a widening spiral and radiating warmth. There were dark wooden benches along two of the walls, and the ceiling stretched up almost as tall as the Great Hall. Steam drifted through the room as the bath filled, curling the hair on the back of Potter’s neck and making him uncomfortably warm in his heavy wool teaching robes.

The bath filled quickly and sooner than he was prepared for they were faced with trying to solve how to gracefully get into a bathtub with another person while preserving everyone’s modesty. He knew Potter was used to changing in front of people, with quidditch and dorm living he couldn’t imagine how it would be avoided, but Snape was not. Through careful maneuvering they had managed with minimal embarrassment getting dressed in the morning and evenings, but that involved only a quick shuffle of pants and trousers, arms extended awkwardly behind them.

Potter cleared his throat “I think I’ve had an idea. Given me a moment to see if it will work.”

Snape raised an eyebrow but motioned Potter onwards. Potter pulled a thread from the bottom of his frayed t shirt and held it in front of him with his left hand. He motioned to Snape in a now familiar demand to move with him. With a strange twisting movement and a muttered spell that sounded vaguely familiar a sheet of what appeared to be thickened air appeared, 2 meters long and 3 or so high, thoroughly distorting the view through it.

Potter looked at him and grinned before reaching over and twisting the thread around his right wrist, effectively putting a barrier between them, linked to their wrists.

Snape was rather glad that Potter couldn’t see his look of complete disbelief.
“Where did you learn that?” he asked, astounded.

“Didn’t learn it. I used one of the shield spells you were having us read up on and modified it.” Harry said proudly, his voice echoing oddly.

“You’re telling me you invented this?” Severus was uncomfortably impressed. He’d of course seen Potter practising but he had thought the boy was only going over shields for class.

“Yep. Now I think I would rather like a bath, don’t you?” Potter said, promptly sending any thoughts of spell creation out of his head.

Without thinking Snape flicked his wand twice, untying and unlacing both his boots and Potters trainers. He had gotten used to tying or untying both of their shoes and it was fast becoming habit. He slipped out of his boots and socks, Potter standing still so as not to knock him off balance.

After almost two weeks, and more than a few incidents, they had finally fallen into a routine and moved quickly through disrobing. Snape carefully folded his robes, stacking his waistcoat and matching charcoal grey trousers on top. He shrugged off his black dress shirt, tapping Potter lightly on the hand to let him know he was going to pull against the bracelet between each layer. Finally he stripped out of his pants, standing naked but comfortably secure behind their shield screen.

Snape was waiting for Potter to finish and shivering slightly in the chilly air when he felt a gentle tug on his arm. They carefully moved down the shallow stairs and into water hot enough that it caused painful pinpricks to dance over his skin, barrier following along faithfully. Snape made a small noise of happiness as he sunk down and relaxed back onto the bench that ran around the tub, up to his neck in hot water and wondering if Potter would object terribly if he refused to leave.

They floated in contented silence for awhile before Potter roused himself enough to find a flannel. Snape opened his eyes as he felt Potter moving and blinked in surprise when an arm was thrust through the barrier, a clean flannel held out to him. He took it gingerly with a mumbled thanks before sinking back down.

After several minutes of rather forceful cleaning and an awkward round of hair washing, they both returned to floating.

Potter was humming tunelessly and splashing lightly, casting shadows over the barrier that Snape watched idly as he found himself more relaxed then he had been since before all of this had started.

“I’m sorry” Snape heard himself say, abruptly. He hadn’t realised that he had decided to apologize until that very moment, but now that he had started he felt everything he had wanted to say these past few days trying to escape all at once. It seemed somehow easier since he couldn’t see Potter.

“I’m sorry for yelling at you. You don’t talk too much, and really it has been rather nice to always know where my things are.” he rushed, glad to not be looking at Harry. “Though I really do think you should go buy new clothes, the ones you have are terrible,” he said, pulling a face. He heard a choked sort of laugh from Potters direction. He had to finish this because if he didn’t then he never would and he had an overwhelming feeling that if he didn’t try to explain himself now he would lose something he was only beginning to think he might want to have.

“And I’m sorry for telling you that you touch me too much, it’s just….” he trailed off, frustrated at his inability to articulate what had bothered him so much. He had to explain, he just wasn’t entirely sure he understood himself and he hated it.

“First year was the first time I had had any actual friends” Potter interrupted quietly, tension in his voice. Snape stilled, but stayed silent, leaning against the edge of the bath.
“Ron and Hermione are wonderful, but we had a bit of a misunderstanding, near the end of the first term. They were both getting ready to leave and I was going to spend my first Christmas at school” here Harry paused, swallowing loudly “they came to talk to me before they caught the train and they both sat on either side of me and the next thing I knew I was standing and screaming at them not to touch me.”

Potter stopped for a moment, breathing a little faster “I apologized later, but it took awhile for us to figure out what had happened. Ron and Hermione were both upset and didn’t want to come too close in case it bothered me, and I didn’t understand well enough to explain it to them.” Snape listened, so still he was barely breathing, as if moving might remind Potter that he wasn’t alone.

“In the end Hermione helped me understand. You see, growing up no one touched me, at least not in a way that would have taught me that someone being close was not a bad thing, not dangerous” Potter said the last quietly, as if whispering it would make it less real.

Something that felt entirely too close to rage started twisting around in Severus’ chest, and he ruthlessly tamped it down. Now was not the time and here, in what was possibly the oddest bath he’d ever taken, was not the place. Later, later when Harry was safely asleep he would let it out, he would close his eyes and imagine all the terrible things he had had to do in the service of the Dark Lord visited on Harry’s relatives instead of on innocents. He would plan a visit to them soon, he decided, or he could even call in a few favors from the kind of people you would never willing admit to knowing, he considered rather wildly.

 

Potter started again, a slight tremor in his voice, “It took me a long time to get used to people touching me, and even though I really don’t mind it most of the time, there are only a few people where it almost never bothers me anymore. And sometimes I still have days where I can’t stand it and I feel like throwing up when anyone gets too close. I don’t know if it will ever go away completely.”

Snape sat in silence, trying to get a hold of his emotions. He knew that feeling, knew without a doubt that Harry understood and wouldn’t be upset with him on the days when he couldn’t tolerate anyone near him. Even Albus couldn’t really understand, though he respected Severus’ requests to be left alone. He felt a strange mix of relief at finally being able to define what had bothered him for so many years and a great deal of anger that Potter could have gone through anything that would make him understand Severus so well.

He felt his perception of the boy shifting, his conviction that the things he had seen in the occlumency lessons where exaggerated or false falling away. Potter hadn’t been spoiled. He hadn’t been pampered or told he was the savior of the wizarding world. He hadn’t even been treated like a normal child. Instead whatever had happened to him had taught him to fear touch, to fear other people coming too close.

The feeling of water shifting as Potter moved to stand brought Severus back as he realised that he had been silent for too long, lost in his own thoughts.

In desperation to make sure that Harry knew Severus was paying attention he reached out and twisted his hand around, briefly capturing and squeezing Potters fingers before releasing them. “I’m sorry. I just” Severus paused, trying to gather his thoughts into anything that might make sense. “I did not expect you to know. I suppose Miss Granger was correct, though it might have helped had she been slightly less cryptic” he said with a slight frown, the confusing advice making sense only in retrospect.

Harry startled him with a small chuckle, his hand relaxing, knuckles brushing over Severus’.

“ ‘Mione sometimes forgets that the rest of us don’t have a brain that makes the same weird leaps of logic hers does.”

“Indeed. I am … glad … that you understand, though I would like to know what happened” Snape said, eyes narrowed, wondering if he could get further details on the muggles Harry had grown up with. He remembered ‘Tuny, remembered how jealous she had been of Lily, how much she hated how special magic made them. But they were children and he hadn’t imagined that it was a prejudice that she had kept, especially after her sister had died.

 

Harry stiffened slightly, shifting uncomfortably. “I don’t really feel up for talking about that,” he answered, not outright rejecting the possibility that he would someday trust Severus with those particular memories, but obviously having come to the end of his emotional energy for the day.

 

“Of course,” he said. “Thank you for telling me, Harry” he murmured after a few minutes of comfortable silence.

They floated in a softly intimate silence for awhile longer, until even Snape had to admit he was feeling a bit waterlogged. He sat up fully, sighing a bit at having to leave his watery haven, and called for Tippy.
She arrived with a crack, looking expectantly at them. She didn’t seem at all surprised to find them in the bath and Snape found himself wondering, not for the first time, if she spied on him.

“ ‘Lo Tippy “ Harry said sleepily, the sound of sloshing water the only indication that he was still mostly awake.

“Hello Master Harry” she responded, obviously pleased at being greeted. “What can Tippy be doing for you?”

“Could you please bring us clean clothing? We decided on a bath rather last minute” he said.

Tippy nodded and snapped away, reappearing less than a minute later, soft sleep clothing in her small arms.

Severus’ opened his mouth to protest, but closed it at her look. Most of the students were in their dorms, and the portraits knew better than to gossip about what he was wearing. He huffed, but reached out to shake Harry’s arm gently, rousing him.

They slogged through the water to the stairs, carefully keeping the barrier between them and limbs on respective sides.

They dried off and got dressed swiftly, Snape slipping his boots on with his blue silk pyjama bottoms and a long sleeved black top, creating a decidedly strange look. Harry elected to walk the rest of the way to their room in his stocking feet, poking out from under the folds of worn reddish track pants, a size too big, and a t shirt so worn that the neck dipped down to show defined collar bones and a hint of dark, curling hair.

Harry had dismissed the charm as soon as both of them were dressed and they headed through the remaining steam to the door.

As they snuck quietly out they heard the tell tale sound of Filch talking to Mrs. Norris, drifting down the corridor. Harry turned to smile at him, a glint of mayhem in his eye. He grabbed Snapes hand and took off the opposite direction, ducking quickly down a small side hall and darting down the stairs. Snape found himself crouching down and keeping pace with Potter, even though it made the bruise on his thigh ache.

“You do know I’m a Professor and therefore do not have a curfew, right Potter?” Snape said in a low whisper as they paused so Harry could poke his head around the corner and survey their path down the grand staircase.

“Yes, but do you really want to have a conversation with Filch or whoever is patrolling tonight about why we’re running around after curfew in our pyjamas?” Potter asked quietly, sounding amused.

Snape considered for only a second before shaking his head and motioning for Harry to lead the way. He knew for a fact that Minerva was on patrol tonight and he couldn’t imagine how long it would take for him to live down her catching him in silk trousers and dragon hide boots, sneaking about with a slightly damp and shoeless Harry Potter.

 

They hurried down the stairs, and had gotten halfway across the entrance hall when he caught a glimpse of shimmering white from the corner of his eye. Without thinking he grabbed Potter round the waist with his free arm and swung them into a nook just behind a statue of a heroically posed Godric Gryffindor. They held completely still as Peeves drifted by, no doubt looking for new and exciting ways to make Filch’s night difficult.

He waited a few minutes after Peeves had turned the corner toward the transfiguration classroom before he moved his attention back to Potter. He was startled to realise he had clutched Harry tight to his chest when cramming them both into the small carved space. Potter has his face buried in Snape’s shoulder and was shaking.

Alarmed Severus pulled back slightly, tucking his head to look at Harry. It took him only a second to see that Potter was laughing so hard he seemed to be having trouble breathing.

“You do know that…” Potter gasped, trying to get a hold of himself “that Peeves is completely terrified of you, right?” he finally managed, only to dip his head again, his free hand coming up to muffle his laughter.

“Do you really want me having it out with Peeves in the middle of the entrance hall like this?” Severus said with a disbelieving look, making a sweeping gesture over the two of them. This just set Harry off again.

Snape just rolled his eyes and pulled them both out of their hiding place. The rest of the journey was made without incident, though Potter kept breaking out into small bouts of laughter and Severus couldn’t seem to stop himself from smiling.


The next few weeks passed quickly, things seemingly settled between the two of them. Harry couldn’t have imagined even a month ago being able to comfortably spend time around his potions professor, which Snape would always be, regardless of what he taught. Not only were they managing to be around each other without resorting to violence or yelling matches, but Harry found that he actually enjoyed talking with Snape, who, once you got past the prickly exterior, was a wonderful conversationalist and truly, terrifyingly intelligent.

They spoke about classes, clothes, specifically how Harry had terrible ones and should buy new and how Snape seemed to be almost fanatically fond of buttons, and anything else that caught their fancy. They didn’t talk about the war, or Voldemort, or any of the awful things they still had to do.

They learned about each other, things you only know when you spend more time with a person than without them. Harry learned that Snape liked coffee in the morning, and preferred tea the rest of the time. He only put sugar in either if he had had trouble sleeping, but always took both with milk. He could never find his quill and he loved his sweeping robes, admitting one night after several fire whiskies that they were the first thing that had made him feel like a real wizard.

He got easily angered if he thought he was being mocked and he put small bags of lavender and rosemary everywhere in his rooms. He took up a considerably larger amount of the bed than he should physically have been able to and managed to wake himself up several times each night by lightly smothering himself in the bolster.

He had a dry, morbid sense of humor that was easy to misunderstand, and refused to admit that he found anything Harry did amusing, even when he was chuckling softly.

In short, after so many years of hating the man, Harry finally actually met him. And he didn’t hate him. He couldn’t. He found him strange and predictable, frustrating and hilarious, and oddly endearing in an entirely unexpected way.


They spent the weeks leading up to the holiday break trying to extend their separation range, which they had very little luck with, managing only a few inches before snapping back together. With final term projects and papers coming due Potter was too busy studying, and Snape was too busy trying to keep up with grading and adapting last minute lesson plans. They hadn’t even managed to practice dueling.
After seeing the way Harry taught when he was with the DA, Snape had finally recruited him to help with the younger years. If Potter wasn’t busy trying to study or finish homework he would join Snape in walking around during the practical lessons, carefully correcting the children. He quickly became a favorite, his presence soothing to all of the students who found Snape too intimidating to talk to.

Potter never corrected him in front of the students, but occasionally he would mention something he had observed or been told that Snape had missed. Severus was loath to admit it, but he found Potters help almost invaluable and he dreaded having to go back to teaching without a second set of eyes. Potter even helped with his fellow sixth years, many of them a part of the DA and considerably more capable than even his seventh years. Not that he would tell them that.

The closer the end of term got the more frantic and sleep deprived Potter got. He was used to studying in groups and now that he spent his evenings in Snape’s quarters instead of the common room he was having to work that much harder. He didn’t complain, but he was getting more and more frustrated and the small paper birds to Granger were becoming so frequent that Snape had taken to unlocking his floo and just leaving the connection to the Gryffindor tower open.

One night, a week shy of the end of term, Potter had settled in to study after dinner, curled up in the center of the sofa with Snape settled by him, grading the unending flow of essays.

Potter broke his thoughts with a frustrated noise and moved to send yet another bird to Granger, dropping his open book in the process. Instead of picking it up he threw his pen down and started cursing, finding impressively creative things to call the Board of Governors and the authors of most of his textbooks.

“While I appreciate the sentiment, and mostly agree with you, perhaps there is a better solution?” Snape said, eyebrows creeping toward his hairline.

“Like what?” Potter snapped, hair more wild than usual from his habit of running fingers through it, looking like he was considering the merits of book burning.

Snape huffed at Potters tone but set aside his second years essays, getting up and pulling Harry with him. “Come on, you need to study and we’ve hidden in here for long enough” he said briskly, packing up both their bags with a quick flick of his wand.

“Will everyone be in the common room then?” he said, trying for unconcerned and likely missing by a bit if the look Harry was giving him was any indication.
“You don’t need to do this. I just got frustrated, I’ll keep sending questions to Hermione, it’s not a problem” Harry answered, smiling tightly at him.

“No. No, we’re going. It’s not been easy for you to revise this way and I would prefer if the other teachers didn’t accuse me of deliberately ruining your grades.” Snape responded wryly.

Harry frowned slightly “It’s been fine. I mean I miss working with Hermione and Ron of course, and Neville hasn’t really spoken to me much since all this but I expected that. Otherwise it’s actually been nice to be somewhere quiet at night.” he said with a small smile. “You’re really not terrible company either you know.”

Severus felt himself flush slightly and turned away, busying himself with packing quills in his bag and a few extra muggle pens he had owl ordered when he noticed Harry had run through most of his.

“Come on, we’re going and you’re going to revise. And I will not needlessly terrorize your housemates” Snape promised as he pulled his robes on over the black waistcoat and dark grey shirt that Harry had deemed his ‘Almost a funeral’ outfit. He would never have criticized Potters clothes if he had known how much return judgement he would get.

“Who exactly gets to determine whether it was needless or not?” Potter asked, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.

Severus rather pointedly didn’t answer, instead pulling Harry through the door of their rooms and out toward the Gryffindor tower.


Harry paused in front of the Fat Lady and turned to Snape in a last attempt to convince him how awful an idea this was. Snape gave him a flat look before he could speak and turned to the portrait; “fizzing whizbees” he said firmly. The Fat Lady’s eyebrows rose as she swung open in response to the master password for all common rooms.

Harry gave him a mildly resentful look before pulling him through the hole in the wall. People nearest turned to see who had come in and he saw brief looks of welcome cascade into horror as Snape stepped through behind him. He paused awkwardly as talking stopped and silence spread around them. Harry was getting ready to turn on his heel and forcibly push Snape back through the wall when his name was called. Hermione hurried up, shoving people out of the way and looking harassed.

“It’s about time Harry, I mean honestly I was about to just throw my notebook through” she chidded as she grabbed his free arm and pulled him and Snape along behind her like reluctant children.

Harry glanced over his shoulder to find Snape wearing a stoic expression, black eyes filled with mild disquiet. He snorted at the man. He had gotten them into it, and they were well and truly stuck now. At least he would have company in the oncoming Hermione induced revision marathon.

She let go of Harry as they arrived at her normal area, just to the side of the fire, one that not even the seventh years studying for NEWTs would try to take from her. She’d defended it successfully as a first year and everyone was too scared to see what would happen if they tried to infringe on her territory now.

Ron was propped against a pile of bright red cushions he had taken from the surrounding couches, his long legs covered in rumpled and unorganized papers. Neville was sitting against the wall, a somewhat manic look on his face, surrounded by an army of tiny plants in thimble sized pots.

Ginny was, if possible, looking worse than Neville, sprawled out on the sofa to the side of Ron and mumbling frantically to herself as she flipped through rolls of parchment.

Ron looked up and grunted in greeting, not even bothering to look worriedly at Snape anymore. Neville was too focused on carefully rearranging his plants into incomprehensible patterns to notice anyone had arrived.

Ginny looked at Harry and smiled briefly before she focused on Snape and got an odd look on her face before turning back to her papers.

Hermione pointed at the pile of cushions across the low table from her and started systematically stacking notes in front of him. Harry smiled slightly and dropped gracelessly into his normal spot, dragging his Professor down with him.

Snape grumbled but pulled his grading out of his bag to pile it next to Hermione’s careful notes. He dug around for a moment before pulling several of Harry’s favorite pens out of his bag and dropping them unceremoniously onto the table. He didn’t notice the startled look Harry gave him or the surprise that crossed Hermione’s face. Severus came up again a minute later, red self inking quill held rather triumphantly.

“Managed not to stab yourself, have you?” Harry teased very quietly, a smile quirking the edge of his mouth.
“Quiet you” Severus hissed, earning himself a small chuckle.

They settled in and began working on their respective piles of parchment, hours melting away as Harry finally felt like he might pass at least a few of his classes. They were eventually interrupted by Seamus arriving, carrying a tray so full of food that it was a wonder he had made it up from the kitchens. He was greeted with cheering and divested of his supplies immediately.

Dean and Seamus wandered over, bringing a pile of pasties and mince pies, the former pointedly sitting away from Ginny. Hermione rolled her eyes but grabbed a pastie and sunk back down into her book fort.

Snape took absent minded bites of the mince pie that Harry set at his elbow, while frowning at the overly long essay he was reading. He turned to Harry and asked “How did he get hinkypunks and red caps mixed up again?” an exasperated look on his face.

“Barlowe?” Harry asked, suspecting the third year Hufflepuff boy who couldn’t seem to keep anything straight.

Snape nodded, returning to the already heavily marked essay with a grimace. Harry glanced up and noticed Ron staring at him with a confused look on his face. Harry quirked an eyebrow in question, and Ron just shook his head, motioning vaguely between him and Snape. Harry just raised the other eyebrow at him and turned back to his work.

He knew that it must be odd to see them together. His friends hadn’t spent much time around them lately, so they hadn’t had a chance to see how the two of them had been moving steadily away from the way they had treated each other for the last five years. He was sure it was a bit disturbing to see them chatting, casually working together, when they had spent so many years actively hating each other.

Hermione seemed to take it in stride, though she was the one who had always argued for Snape. Considering it now Harry thought she was really being rather good about it when she could be reminding him how very wrong he had been.

They worked late into the night, until Snape eventually pulled both of them up and ushered him toward the door after packing their bags. They slipped into their rooms after a sleepy walk down to the dungeons and were brushing their teeth when Harry noticed Snape looking sadly at his shower. It had been a couple of days since they had last managed to get up to the fifth floor, having wordlessly agreed on their mutual bathing chamber.

Harry sighed heavily. “We should be working on separating further.”

“We will. We’re almost to winter break and we should have sufficient time to work on it without distractions.” Snape replied as they crawled into bed. A cleansing charm ruffled over both of them as they settled down, identical sighs of unhappiness filling the room.


The next few days were spent in their normal routine, the only change being that every night they went to the Gryffindor tower so Harry could revise with his friends. Snape found it uncomfortable at first but eventually people started mostly ignoring him.

Surprisingly, it had been the Weasley boy that had broken most of the tension. Snape had been going over his final lesson plans and deciding on what to assign over break when Weasley had groaned dramatically and thrown his book down. As much as he hated to admit it, he understood the sentiment. He really just wanted to chuck his whole pile into the fire and give all the students a free pass during break.

“Anyone for a game of chess?” Weasley said hopefully. Everyone ignored him, apparently used to his attempts to distract them from their revision.

He spoke before he thought it through fully “I would not turn down a game Mr. Weasley.”

Harry started and turned to him, wide eyed. He suddenly grinned, green eyes bright with glee. “Go on Ron, I have a feeling that Snape could give you a good run for it.”

Harry leaned closer and whispered, “No one wants to play Ron because no one can beat him. Take him down and you’ll win the undying loyalty of everyone he’s ever trounced,” he paused “Also you should know, if you do play him I will absolutely put money on you to win.”

Snape felt a completely unwarranted amount of warmth in his chest at this declaration and gave Harry a small smile.

“So, a game then Mr. Weasley, or will you be returning to your revision? I fear, as your Professor, I should tell you that your revision doesn’t appear to have aided you in the least” he said with a vicious grin.

Harry shoved his fist against his mouth to muffle his laughter and Weasley narrowed his eyes before summoning the chess board with a bit more force than strictly necessary. It clipped Finnigan on the way past, who turned and yelled abuse in Weasley’s general direction, his accent almost indecipherable in his anger.

Snape elected not to rebuke him and simply started setting the board up. He unthinkingly gave Weasley white, as he always gave the starting advantage to his opponent. He got a ginger eyebrow raised at him for his trouble before they settled down and started playing.

Two hours later Ron tipped over his white king in surrender, a wildly pleased look on his face.
“Good game Professor. I’d be up for a rematch soon if you are?” Weasley said happily. They had drawn a small crowd as the end of the game drew nearer, and his victory had been met with a surprising amount of cheering. Harry had indeed bet on him and had come away with a tidy sum, good natured groans filling the room as he held out his hand to collect, looking rather smug.

Severus was entirely certain that as a Professor he should have forbade gambling, and absolutely should not have been a central part in it, but he couldn’t help but be pleased at the look of mixed triumph and pride Harry had given him when he’d won. Besides, it wasn’t like there was a teacher that wasn’t aware that Finnigan was a half step from a bookie and had betting pools for everything.

“Of course Mr. Weasley. You were an unexpectedly challenging opponent, I would not mind a rematch; perhaps after the holidays?” he asked pleasantly. He really did have fun. No one had given him that much of a challenge since the last time he had convinced Flitwick to play, years ago. The diminutive professor was kind enough but he did not lose gracefully and had refused to play him again.

“If you’ve got time I’ll play you over the holidays when you and Harry come to visit” Weasley said, not noticing the narrow eyed look he shot Harry at this. Harry looked far less alarmed than Snape thought he should have and just shrugged.

“I hadn’t gotten around to talking to him about the holidays yet Ron” he said, leaning around Severus to speak with his friend.

“Oh well, if you don’t come I think Mum might just come get you both, fair warning” Weasley said cheerfully, as if his mother abducting a former Death Eater and forcing him to attend Christmas dinner was entirely normal.

“Don’t fight it. There are other battles you can pick with Mrs. Weasley. This is probably not the one” Granger said from across the table, looking at him with pointedly raised eyebrows. He was sorely tempted to use legilimency just to understand what the girl was trying unsuccessfully to convey to him.

She rolled her eyes and a few minutes later, as they were packing up to leave, she slipped a small note into Snape’s stack of parchments when Harry wasn’t looking.

It wasn’t until after they had gone through their evening routine and Harry had just drifted off that he was able to look at it. He took it out of his sleeve where he had secreted it and pulled the covers over his head before lighting his wand with a silent lumos.

The note was short and scrawled hastily, less neat than Granger’s usual writing.

Harry won’t tell you, but he hadn’t had a real Christmas until he came to Hogwarts. Getting to spend Christmas with his family, which the Weasley’s are, is very important to him. Molly knows and will come get him if she thinks she needs to.

Severus read through it twice before folding it carefully and tucking it into his pillow case. He hadn’t thought much about the holidays as he typically ignored them, except to buy the required presents for his colleagues. He didn’t have great memories of Christmas, and his birthday being shortly after and only celebrated very quietly with perhaps a single piece of candy, had not added to his enjoyment of the season.

It looked like this Christmas season would be a bit different for him. He shuddered slightly as he considered what kind of holiday party the Weasley clan was likely to have.


The term finished with less fanfare than Harry felt it should have. The last class before break was potions, which Snape, if possible, hated even more and typically spent the whole class grumbling from under his overly strong silencing charm. Slughorn had made the mistake of trying to get Snape to second his opinion to the class one afternoon and Harry had been vaguely surprised that the portly man hadn’t been evaporated on the spot.

It didn’t help that Harry was performing better in potions, even though he no longer had the Prince’s book. Snape seemed to take personal offense to his decent grades and regularly mumbled suspiciously about cheating. They had settled down in their usual seats in the back, Hermione flustered as she made last second changes to her final essay. Slughorn wandered up in a poor imitation of casual and stopped beside their expended desk. Snape was sitting back, relaxed after finishing his final class and not needing to start grading for at least a few days.

“Harry! How are you?” Slughorn cried in a voice far too cheerful for the dank atmosphere. Harry saw Snape wince out of the corner of his eye. “Fine sir, just getting ready for class” he answered, hoping to hurry the man along before Severus turned him into something unfortunate.

“Wonderful, wonderful” he paused, ignoring Snape’s less than friendly expression. “Well I’ll let you get on with it, but I’ll see you at the party tomorrow yes?” he finished, starting to sidle away.

“Party?” Harry asked, confused. A foot landed solidly on his a second too late to prevent him from speaking.

“Are you quite alright my boy? You’re looking a bit peaky” Slughorn said, a frown marring his features. Harry nodded quickly, trying to smooth the pained look off of his face. He shot Snape a look that promised retribution and turned back to Slughorn just as he started to speak.

“Yes, the annual Slug Club Christmas party! I’m sure we spoke about it already” Slughorn looked mildly upset at the idea that Harry hadn’t been counting down the days until his party.

Harry had a vague fuzzy memory of Slughorn mentioning a party and nodding along without paying much attention. “Right, yes of course Professor, it must have slipped my mind.”

“Of course, of course, easy to do with everything that’s happened” the portly man said, eyes cutting to their bound wrists, resting on the table. “Glad to hear you’ll be attending! You know many of my old students will be there as well. You never know who you might meet, just the other day…”

Severus broke in, snarling “For Merlin’s sake Horace, no one cares, just get on with the lesson.” Slughorn looked taken aback before he gathered his dignity and retreated to the front of the class.

“Really Harry, you don’t remember agreeing to go? He asked us both at the same time” Hermione leaned over to whisper. Snape gave him a disgusted look before resolutely snapping his silencing charms into place and pointedly opening his newest edition of Potions Monthly.

Harry slumped in defeat, staring morosely at his desk. He truly had forgotten and now he was going to have to spend his first Saturday free at some ridiculous party where he was sure to be paraded around as one of the main attractions. At least Snape would have to suffer with him.


“How do you not own dress robes Potter?” Snape yelled the next morning, his head buried in the wardrobe.

“If Ms. Granger hadn’t mentioned it you would have been attending in your school robes” he said darkly, pulling his head out of the racks of clothing, hair rumpled. It gave him the look of a rather flustered stork and Harry couldn’t help laughing at the sight. He calmed quickly at the look on Severus’ face and gave a long suffering sigh.

“Snape it’s a party being held at the school that I am a student of, what could possibly be wrong with me wearing school robes?” Harry tried to ask reasonably.

Snape spluttered “Because it’s a formal event. I won’t have you showing up in ill fitting clothing. As much as it pains me to admit it, Horace will have invited influential people, people who might help you in your career later. It would do to dress the part.”

Harry stood staring in shock and said the first thing that came to mind “Do you honestly think I’m going to live long enough to worry about career prospects?

Snape had been flipping through the wardrobe as if he was expecting to magically find a set of dress robes that would fit Harry. He froze, his shoulders tense. “Don’t. Don’t you dare give up before we’ve even started” he said in a voice that Harry almost didn’t recognize.

For possibly the first time in his life, Harry could hear the plea underlying the harsh words. “It’s alright, I’m not planning on giving up. I won’t.” Harry stuttered, caught entirely off guard by the conversation.

“Right, let’s head to Hogsmeade. I’m certain they’ll have something that will work at Gladrags.” Snape said, moving on from the awkward moment.

Harry just nodded, no longer protesting, and moved to swing his robes on.

They were halfway down the long road to Hogsmeade before he spoke again. “Why is it that you’ve such opinions on clothes?” Harry asked curiously. It was something that had bothered him because it didn’t fit with his idea of the man. Snape cared about a great many things, but Harry knew he wasn’t at all vain.

“Potter, I’m a spy. Or I was at least, for a very long time.” Snape said, a thread of amusement in his voice. A gust of frigid wind blew pieces of his long hair into his eyes and not for the first time Harry wondered why he didn’t just tie it back.

“If you don’t look the part people will doubt you. Clothing can have just as much of an affect as good acting.”

Harry frowned, considering. “I hadn’t thought of it like that” then, as a thought occurred to him “What in Merlin’s name is Dumbledore trying to convince us of then?”

Severus burst into startled laughter, his face lighting up, onyx eyes shining. Harry stumbled slightly at the sight, realising he hadn’t ever heard Snape truly laugh. He was rather disturbed to find it was a good look on him.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he got out between chuckles. Snape calmed after a few moments, walking along beside Harry, looking rumpled and happy in his fuzzy scarf and Harry’s just stared, feeling confused and somewhat unsettled.

They reached Gladrags and spent the next several hours finding Harry a new wardrobe after he assured Snape that he could indeed afford it, he just hadn’t bothered. He’d gotten a mildly horrified look at his admission and had promptly been stuffed into the changing room with a pile of Snape approved outfits. Severus stood outside the curtain, arm stuck through as he tried on what seemed to be a never ending stack of both wizarding and muggle clothes.

 

Snape finally called a halt when they had a stack of clothes twice as large as he currently owned and Harry was wearing a mutinous look. They left with their purchases, bundling up against the late December chill. In revenge Harry had harassed Snape into buying a dark blue dress shirt, saying that since he didn’t need to cultivate his feared dungeon bat persona anymore that he could branch out and wear colors. Snape had given him a decidedly unhappy look but had hesitantly bought the shirt when Harry had held it up and declared that it was a good color on him.

They stopped briefly at The Three Broomsticks, Harry unashamedly buying them both butterbeers, much to Severus’ disgust. They were just finishing and getting ready to head back up to the castle and see if they could make it in time for lunch when Romilda Vane walked up, a small herd of giggling forth years behind her.

“Hi Harry” she said, looking at him from under thick lashes. “I was wondering, do you have a date to Professor Slughorn’s party yet?” she asked, steadfastly ignoring the rather menacing man looming over them both.

Harry was caught flatfooted and for a moment had no idea how to respond. “Erm, no I don’t?” he said as if he wasn’t entirely sure. He felt Snape tense beside him “And I don’t intend to take anyone, sorry Romilda” he hurried to finish.

Romilda pouted at him in a way he was certain she thought looked appealing but really just made her look like a child. Harry drew further back from her, unconsciously moving closer to Severus. Snape stepped forward, drawing the girls attention to him. “I believe you have your answer Ms. Vane. I suggest you and your friends move along” he said with slightly more bite than was warranted.

The girls hurried over to a large table, Romilda giving him a disappointed look as she trailed after her friends.

Severus swept out, pulling Harry with him. They were walking through the gates when Harry pulled them to a halt, finally fed up with having to jog every few steps to keep up with Snape’s long stride.

Snape spun on him, all trace of the relaxed laughing man of earlier having vanished. “What Potter? Did you want to go back and fetch the girl to keep you company tonight?” he spat.

Harry’s eyebrows rose but he had gotten too used to Snape to be bothered by the tone. “Did that upset you?” Harry asked, surprised. He was fairly used to being approached in public, and frankly he had been pleasantly surprised to find that once he was attached to Snape, propositions and declarations of undying love had disappeared.

“Of course not. But you shouldn’t turn down someone just because I’m here. Like you said, we will likely be stuck together for a while. I wouldn’t want to inconvenience your love life.” Snape said, looking pointedly away from Harry.

Harry snorted at him, shaking his head. “You really think I want to go chasing after Romilda Vane?” he asked incredulously. “Look, it’s not like she’s the first girl to ask me on a date. Do you see me dating anyone?”

“I don’t know Potter, I don’t keep up with the sordid love life of The Chosen One” he said nastily.

Harry jerked back slightly and considered Snape with narrowed eyes. He hadn’t gotten that particular tone for well over a month now. Previously he would have snapped back, sure that Snape was just being his normal bastard self. And honestly he was being his normal bastard self, it was just that Harry now knew that there was a reason, something that had upset him and made him lash out. Besides, Harry had found, to his horror, that he actually liked the complete bastard side of Severus, he just preferred it turned on others while he watched from a safe range.

So instead of making it worse Harry sidled closer, bumping their shoulders lightly together. “Given that I literally spend all of my time with you, I think you would be the one to know.” He leaned against the other man, noting that while Snape was still looking away he had relaxed slightly into Harry.

Severus gave him a searching look before grunting noncommittally and starting back toward the castle.

They arrived in time to have just missed lunch and had to call Tippy to bring them something from the kitchens. As usual Severus only ate a few bites, and Harry had to bite his cheek to prevent himself from saying anything. He didn’t want another argument and he remembered how badly it had gone last time he had suggested that Severus should eat more.

They spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around on the sofa reading muggle fiction novels, only speaking when one of them shared a particularly ridiculous part. By the time the fire flared with a firecall they had both calmed and were cackling over a muggle authors depiction of magic.

Hermione’s head popped through and immediately focused on them. “You two aren’t ready yet? The party starts in twenty minutes!” she said, outraged.

She got two guilty looks in return and glared at them both. “I’ll be down in fifteen minutes for you to walk me to the party, be ready” with that the fire flared and her head vanished.

They shared a look of reluctance before Snape closed the book they had been reading and extracted himself from the comfort of the fire and worn couch.

They grumbled their way through getting dressed, turned away as usual. Harry was fiddling with the button on the cuff of his dress shirt and turned to Snape for help, ready to admit defeat, only to find the man looking owlishly at him.

“What?” Harry asked, looking down at his outfit, afraid he had somehow already managed to stain it, despite having never worn it. He was dressed in dark charcoal grey slacks with a matching waistcoat, a deep forest green dress shirt and new heavy black boots. It had been one of the first outfits he had chosen, rather liking the way the shirt made his eyes look.

“Nothing” Snape choked out. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Nothing, did you need something?”

Harry gave him a confused look but held his wrist out in explanation. Snape quickly closed the button, long deft fingers shaking slightly, and straightened his own black waistcoat with a sharp tug. He had put on the blue shirt Harry had bullied him into buying and he felt rather smug about it.

His thoughts were derailed by a sharp knock on the door. They picked up their dress robes on the way into the front room, opening the door to greet Hermione. Harry’s eyes widened at her and he immediately broke into a smile.

“ ‘Mione you look beautiful” he said, looking at her delicate pink dress and her hair falling in loose curls over her shoulders.

She smiled and reached out to tug the edge of his robe straight. “You look very handsome Harry” before she turned to look at Snape and nodded approvingly “So do you Professor Snape. That color suits you.”

Snape simply raised an eyebrow and motioned them forward, but Harry smiled to himself when he saw the faint flush in his cheeks.


They arrived just after the party started, filtering in with groups of mostly sixth and seventh years, though more than a few prominent members of the Ministry appeared to be present. Snape curled his lip at them, disbelieving that they would still jump at Slughorn’s summons. Horace had tried to collect him years ago. Even as a child he had shown a particular affinity for potions, quickly outstripping his Professor. He had joined briefly simply because Lily had been in the ‘Slug Club’ but had found it distasteful.

Severus frowned and leaned down to speak with Harry during a lull in the greetings that Snape was steadfastly ignoring. “Potter, why exactly are we here?”

Harry gave him a quizzical look before answering “Because I accidentally agreed to it? You were there, you stomped on me. I remember it clearly.”

“I put bruise past on it, stop complaining. No I mean why are you a part of the club?” Snape asked “I know you must be Horace’s Holy Grail but why are you going along with it?”

He knew now that Harry really truly hated attention and avoided it if he could, which explained wonderfully why he had always reacted in such a satisfactory way to Severus’ taunts, but did not explain at all why they were suffering through this.

“Because Dumbledore asked me to” Harry answered in surprise “I had thought he would have told you?”

Snape’s lips thinned as he shook his head. He didn’t know if it was a recent development or if Albus had been hiding things from him for years, but he did not like it.

Harry was glaring at the floor, obviously upset. Severus brushed his fingers lightly over Harry’s, drawing his gaze up. Harry got a stubborn look on his face and tugged Severus over behind a curtain and onto a thin balcony.

“I went with Dumbledore to get Slughorn. I think the Headmaster knew that he wouldn’t come unless he thought he could collect me” Harry said in a low voice. “Dumbledore told me that Slughorn had been one of Riddle’s favorite teachers and that he thinks that Slughorn knows something important about Voldemort. He wants me to try and convince him to tell me.”

Snape blinked at Harry in astonishment. “Does he do this often? Assign you tasks?”

Harry shrugged and looked away, telling him clearly that perhaps some of Harry’s more notable escapades had, if not been facilitated by, at least approved by the Headmaster.

Severus pushed down the anger that was trying to take over his attention and instead focused on Harry. “And have you made any progress?”

Harry shook his head in frustration, looking out into the brightly decorated room and watched Longbottom of all people walk by with a tray of sparkling drinks.

“We will talk about this later and see what might be done,” Severus said, pulling Harry back into the room.

Harry nodded at him and sent him a distracted smile as he was almost immediately engulfed by the Head of Magical Artifacts ridiculously dressed wife. Severus was standing to the side, contemplating his new in depth understanding of what an anchor must feel like, when he saw Zambini pouring something into the punch bowl. His lip curled into a gleeful sneer and he tugged urgently on Potter.

Harry muttered a quick goodbye as he was pulled across the room, stumbling slightly. He turned to glance at Severus and snorted with laughter as he looked between the quickly paling Slytherin and his head of house.

“Mr. Zambini” he paused, reveling in the obvious discomfort it caused “I believe we both know why I’m here,” he said in a dangerously silky tone. Zambini’s dark skin went an unappealing shade of ash before he swallowed and nodded shakily. Severus savored the fact that he could still reduce most of his students to stuttering fear, with a few notable exceptions.

He glanced over, fully expecting Harry to be wearing a smug look, but instead found him staring Zambini down disapprovingly. For some reason this made Zambini shrink further into himself and he looked away. “I’m sorry Professor. It wasn’t much, I swear” the boy said.

“Detention Mr. Zambini. Two weeks with Mr. Filch and 20 points from Slytherin for your ill conceived spiking of the community punch bowl.”

Harry flicked his wand, banishing the punch, a frown still on his face.
“That was stupid, there are children here” he said, anger threading through his voice.

Zambini nodded miserably and slunk out, passing Slughorn, who was headed to intercept Harry and only shot a cursory glance at the guilty looking Slytherin.

“Harry my boy, I’ve been wanting to introduce you to Mr. Worple, a previous student of mine and a very successful author.” At this Slughorn pulled a small man forward from behind himself, making him appear like some kind of muggle magician and practically thrusting him at Harry.

“Harry Potter! I’m delighted to finally meet you!” Severus immediately tuned out the man’s enthusiastic conversation, turning instead to survey the room. Several of his current and previous students were carefully avoiding his side of the room, and Longbottom appeared to have dropped his second tray of horderves. Snape smirked as he watched him sliding several pieces of what appeared to be Dragon Tartar under the line of curtains he and Harry had been hiding behind. Fairies were twinkling obnoxiously on the ceiling and there were entirely too many bundles of mistletoe hanging about for unsuspecting passerby.

Granger was on the other side, looking distinctly uncomfortable as McLaggen crowded closer and closer to her. He narrowed his eyes dangerously at the boy, but the idiot didn’t have the good grace to notice. Granger however did glance up and turned on her heel, darting across the room to him, stuttering some excuse to the boy.
“Professor! I had a quick defense question for you” she rambled, much too loudly. Snape winced but reached out to grasp her arm and pull her to stand on his left, effectively flanking her with himself and Harry.

She smiled brilliantly at him and he found himself somewhat unsettled. None of his students smiled happily at him, and certainly not Gryffindors. He briefly mourned the days when Granger stared at him with loathing.

“Are you quite alright Ms. Granger?” he asked, concerned by her reaction. It seemed disproportionate to the effort he had put into assisting her and made him suspicious. He already disliked McLaggen and would take a great deal of pleasure in finding something that he could punish him for without Harry grumbling about house favoritism.

“Fine, just McLaggen has been rather insistent in getting my attention this year.” she answered, voice strained.

“I see. Perhaps Mr. McLaggen needs something to distract him if he has so much free time.” he said, glaring across the room at the tall young man.

Granger squeezed his arm gently, a small smile on her face. Harry chose that moment to drag himself away from what sounded like the pitch of a book deal and absently tucked Granger closer to his side, as if he could feel her discomfort and his subconscious wanted to ease it.

Snape felt the tiniest well of what simply could not be envy, because if it was envy it was of the Gryffindor know it all and the care that Harry Bloody Potter took of her. Severus let the squeaky voice of the small man still chattering at Harry wash over him as he considered exactly where his life had gone so wrong. He wasn’t even entirely certain it was Death Eater related at this point. He had a sneaking suspicion it might just be Potter related.

Severus sighed and resolutely pushed the thought away. Tonight could not finish quickly enough.


Hermione felt her eyes glazing as she listened to the drone of the small man trying hard to convince Harry that he should allow him to write an autobiography, of all things. She had to stifle the urge to tell the man he it was a lost cause. Though she was sure Snape would appreciate it Harry would give her that disapproving look that said she was being rude.

She sighed and sank further into her best friends side. He had shifted slightly to bring her in closer after Professor Snape had pointedly placed her between them, all while glaring daggers at McLaggen. She had never had the animosity toward Snape that either of the boys had, and she had correctly assumed his behavior had more to do with his work as a spy than personal feeling. Though that information hadn’t come about for years she had chosen to believe Dumbledore when he told Harry that Snape was to be trusted.

A small petty part of her had wanted to remind Harry that she had been right but she had suppressed it. Initially she hadn’t wanted to make anything harder for Harry with his forced proximity to Snape. Now she didn’t want to mention it because she was afraid it might disturb the odd friendship they seem to have found. Even Hermione couldn’t have guessed that would form, and certainly not as quickly as it did.

Hermione came back from her musings and looked around to see if McLaggen had cleared off. She knew that if Snape had given her the look he had been leveling at McLaggen she would have.

Hermione couldn’t find him, so she took the opportunity to head to the loo. Harry gave her a questioning look as she moved away and Snape started to move with her, as if he planned on being a looming shadow all night, but she stayed him with a quick smile and a wave of her hand. He looked bored, but there was a glint of concern in his eyes as settled back next to Harry.

She smiled to herself as she ducked out of the room, dodging what appeared to be a vampire, who was looking far too familiarly at two 5th years. She unobtrusively flicked her wand, silver from the candle holders swirling down to twist around both of their necks in delicate filigree chokers. Both girls squealed excitedly and looked around, trying to find their benefactor. The vampire looked disgusted and glided off closer to Harry and Snape.

She made it down the long dark hallway, lit with only a few flickering candles, and around the corner to the girls loo.

Hermione was coming out of the loo, still a ways down the corridor from the party, when a hand clamped around her mouth and dragged her toward a shadowy doorway.

She didn’t even try to scream, instead planting her feet and shoving as hard as she could towards the tall body behind her. McLaggen was going to pay for this. She’d been polite, she’d told him no in every way she could think of, including flat out saying that she wasn’t interested and he should go find someone else to bother. She’d give him to Snape and Harry after she was done with him, she thought with a certain grim satisfaction.

The man behind her staggered, not expecting her to throw their joint balance off in that direction. She took the opportunity to slam the wedge of her heel into his instep and sling her elbow back as hard as she could.

He released her with a hard ooof of breathe, falling into the wall.
“Merlin’s beard Granger, what is wrong with you?” A voice that was definitely not the coarse grate of McLaggen’s wheezed.

Hermione spun and found Draco Malfoy crouched against the wall, arms wrapped tight around his middle.

“What the hell is wrong with you Malfoy?!” she shrieked, her voice echoing on the stones and making the stupidly well dressed idiot kneeling at her feet wince.

“Who just attacks people in corridors? You weren’t even good at it! What kind of Death Eater are you?” Hermione realised she was getting hysterical, but she had been startled badly and the last person she had expected to grab her in a shadowy corner was Malfoy. He was a git but weirdly enough he had standards. She expected a higher level of villainy from him these days.

“Merlin Granger, shut up. I needed to talk to you.” he groused, still doubled up against the wall.

“And instead of approaching me where I could see you you just decided attempting to abduct me was the solution?” she said, voice sharp.

He finally managed to straighten, pulling himself up the wall, and Hermione had a moment to realise exactly how tall he had actually gotten. She wasn’t near him often enough to pay attention, but he must have been almost as tall as Professor Snape. She wasn’t certain how she had mistaken him for McLaggen, and was frankly surprised she had landed her elbow anywhere useful when it was just as likely for her to have hit his hip bone. He must have been bent over, she thought absently, recognizing that her brain was scattering off track.

“So what’s so important that you felt the need to assault me in the hallway?” she asked waspishly.

He glared at her for a minute, rubbing his stomach absently before answering. “I have information for you.” He looked suddenly nervous before stepping back and motioning her toward the door he had been trying to drag her through originally.

“This is the moment in horror movies that I tell myself I would run” Hermione muttered to herself “I’m not an idiot, I really shouldn’t follow that bad guy into the dark room.”

She just shook her head and followed him, at least confident that she could hold Malfoy off long enough to get her patronus to Harry and Snape if needed. Besides, she reassured herself, they had already established that Malfoy was terrible at this.

Candles flickered to life as Malfoy closed the door behind him. The small room lit up, showing a space that she could not have begun to guess had been here once. There were no markers, just empty space and blank wall. She turned to ask again what she was doing wasting her time with him but froze when she saw his face. He was thinner than she had seen him and had almost black circles under his eyes. He had not looked good this year, but he seemed much worse than even a few days ago.

His face was pulled into a pinched expression, anxiety practically flowing out of him.

“Malfoy what did you do?” she asked, her mind jumping to what could possibly be horrifying enough for him to come to her.

He glared at her, “I didn’t do anything Granger” he snapped “That’s the problem actually” he continued, voice much quieter.

She gave him a sceptical look but motioned for him to continue.
He sighed and closed his eyes tight. “I need your help” he got out through clenched teeth.

Hermione had a brief moment when pure spite rose up in her before she tamped it down and forcibly stopped herself from walking out the door laughing.

“And what would little Lord Malfoy need with a filthy Mudblood like me?” she responded, biting the words off viciously. She might stay but she sure as hell didn’t have to be nice about it.

To her surprise Malfoy winced, ducking his head and looking away. It surprised Hermione so much that it derailed any further taunting.

“I don’t..” he started, hands coming up to run through his icy blond hair, ruffling it out of its perfect style.

“I can’t do this anymore. I need out” he said, looking up at her through a curtain of his hair, voice suddenly firm. “I need out and I need the Order to help me.”

Hermione stood, completely frozen as her brain tried to process the words she was hearing and make them fit into some reality that made sense.

“You want out… out of Voldemort’s service?” she said with uncertainty.

He flinched at her use of the name but nodded rapidly. “I need to get my mother out. He’s going to kill her.” His voice began edging toward panic and Hermione had a brief and insane urge to pat him and tell him it would be fine and to please stop turning her world upside down.

“Alright” she said slowly, feeling her way carefully “Why are you asking me though? Why not Snape?”

He gave her a much more Malfoy-ish look of condensation “And how exactly do you think the Dark Lord will react to me talking to a traitor?”

She felt her face fall into grim lines and she nodded in understanding. Of course he couldn’t be seen approaching Snape, or really any other member of the Order. But her, no one would ever suspect a Malfoy of willingly conspiring with a muggle born.

“What do you need?” she asked, her brain turning to organizational mode.

“That’s it? I don’t have to prove that I’m being honest? That I’m not just telling you a sad story to infiltrate your ranks?” he said, looking almost angry.

She blinked in surprise “No Malfoy you don’t. You don’t have to prove anything to me. You’ll have to prove yourself to Harry and Snape and the rest of the Order.”

He went white at this “I assume there’s no way to keep Potter out of it?”

She raised an incredulous eyebrow “I can’t imagine that even you managed to miss the whole they come as a matched pair fiasco.”

“Of course not. I just assumed that they were using silencing charms to get around having to talk to each other or to have private meetings.” he said, looking down at the toes of his shoes, the perfect shine broken by a scuff in the shape of Hermione’s heel.

Herrmione felt her lips pulling into a smile. “No, they don’t use charms to keep separate from each other.”

Malfoy gave her an odd look but continued “Could you ask them then? If they would be willing to at least talk to me?”

She knew how much it must have cost the man in front of her to swallow his pride and utter those words, particularly to her.

Hermione gave him a considering look before saying decisively “If you’re telling the truth Malfoy and you actually want to get out, we’ll help you.” Even if the Order chose not to help him, if he was really being honest she knew that Harry would do everything he could to get him out.

“And Mother. I’m doing this for Mother” he added quickly.

She nodded warily “I’ll tell them, then I’ll find you” she said as she turned to leave when he spoke again, his voice laced with desperation in a way she had never imagined it could be. “I have information. I can give you information about his plans, just please get her out. Please”

The last was whispered and Hermione grimaced as it unwillingly tugged at her heart. “Malfoy if either of you wants out we will do our best to get you out. It won’t be contingent on the value of any information that you can give us. We don’t weigh peoples worth like that.” She heard a thread of accusation enter her voice at the last, but didn’t bother to correct it.

His face was tight again and he nodded sharply to her as she slipped out the door.


Hermione moved thoughtfully down the corridor as she considered Malfoy. She was less shocked than she felt she should have been. He had just looked so horrible this year, like he hadn’t slept at all, and other than the incident on the train he hadn’t even really been bothering Harry. Maybe since Snape’s true allegiances had been revealed he was reconsidering his options?

Hermione wasn’t sure what to make of it, but she had told him the truth. At the very least she would tell Harry and Snape, and there was no way either of them would ignore it.

Distracted by the accumulating amount of Slytherins turning from Voldemort she was barely paying attention and was just about to turn back into the party when a hand darted out and grabbed her arm.

“There you are you little minx” McLaggen said, trying to pull her toward him. He didn’t have the fear fueled strength of Malfoy though and she easily yanked her arm away. Before she could consider the possible ramifications, her wand snaked out and a stunning spell hit him dead center in the chest.

He dropped with an extremely satisfying thud, limbs falling loosely and his shoulder smacking into the wall and scraping down the stone, leaving threads of over priced robe in his wake. Her somewhat guilty happiness was broken by a throat clearing pointedly behind her.

She turned, already knowing who would be there. She had heard that exact noise too many times to mistake it, though typically it was aimed at Harry and not her.

Snape stood staring at her, looking terribly dignified in his dress robes, Harry standing beside him and obviously trying to hide his amusement. Hermione’s eyes darted between them, huge and guilty.

“Ten points to Gryffindor for a perfectly executed stunning spell Ms. Granger” Snape finally said, with great aplomb.

She blinked at him a few times and lost her battle with a confused smile when Harry broke and threw his head back, laughing uproariously.

Snape held himself together admirably, only a small smile flickering over his face when he gazed down at Harry.

She flicked her wand and scooted the now unconscious Gryffindor behind a conveniently located decorative wall hanging. He would wake in twenty minutes or so, only slightly worse for the wear and hopefully having learned not to touch people without permission.

She turned back to the two men who were watching her with varying levels of amusement and briskly continued as if she hadn’t just been found assaulting her house mates in the corridor.

“How soon are you leaving? There’s something I need to talk to both of you about, as soon as possible.” Her tone set Harry’s face into a concerned frown.

He glanced at Snape and said “We can leave now ‘Mione. Back to your rooms?” the last was addressed to their professor, who nodded quickly and swept off down the hall.

Chapter Text

Those bright crooked stars, man they’re howlin out
Thought you read them all right, had them all figured out
Learned every constellation, just to find where you’re at

-Gregory Isakov, Wings All in Black


They made it back to Snape’s rooms without encountering anyone, Harry for once dragging Snape along instead of the other way round. He hated that particular tone in Hermione’s voice, it never preceded anything good.

They shuffled in quickly after the wall had shifted away at Snape’s touch. Harry peeled his dress robes off and tossed them onto the back of the nearest chair. It said something about Snape’s distraction that he didn’t complain, instead calling for Tippy and ordering tea.

Hermione settled onto the far chair, sinking down into the soft cushions with a slightly alarmed look as they sat in their normal spots on the couch just as tea arrived with a soft clatter.

“What has happened Miss Granger?” Snape asked, impatiently.

“Malfoy pulled me aside tonight when I left the party” Hermione said without preamble.

Snape’s head jerked up in surprise. “Is he alright? What’s happened?” concern colored his words, his fingers going to carefully straighten the edge of his robes to lie perfectly along the fold of his trousers, the only indicator of his anxiety.

Harry gently brushed his knuckles along Snape’s, watching as he took a deep breath and let go of his robes at the touch.

He knew just as well as they did that Malfoy wouldn’t willing speak to Hermione unless the situation was dire.

“He didn’t give me many details, but he seems convinced that You-Know-Who is going to kill his Mother and he wants the Order to get them both out,” Hermione grimaced as she relayed a shortened version of her conversation.

Harry frowned deeply and opened his mouth to argue that trusting Malfoy was about as smart as hugging a blast ended skrewt, but saw the look of naked hope on Snapes face and closed his teeth with a snap. Instead he began preparing tea for everyone. He put a small spoonful of sugar in Severus’. He looked like he’d need it.

Harry passed tea around, receiving a raised brow and a small quirk of the mouth from Snape for his presumption, but no complaints.

“Did he say anything specific? Like when he could expect something to happen?” Snape asked, frustration leaking into his voice, shifting uncomfortably in his dress robes.

“No, he just offered information in exchange for their safety. For her safety.” Hermione looked uncomfortable. Whatever she had seen had obviously convinced her that he was worth listening to and Harry had long ago learned that if Hermione believed it to be true he should pay attention. His days of being convinced of his own rightness above anyone else were over. His best friend had proved her instincts to be considerably more reliable than his.

“He asked to meet with you. With both of you.” she said, looking down into her milky tea in thought.

Silence reigned over the small sitting room for several minutes as they all contemplated what it could mean that the Malfoy’s where fleeing. Firelight flickered over the troubled look on Hermione’s face as she brushed her hair back, the loose curls having reverted to their normal bushier version from her running her fingers through it.

“We’ll need to tell Dumbledore and set a meeting time. We just have to make sure it’s safe. No one in the castle that isn’t part of the Order can know we’re meeting with him.” Snape said.

Harry nodded absently, considering where they could meet safely. He had his cloak and the map, so that would help them against anyone following or spying but it’s not like they could meet in the room of requirement, it was the worst kept secret in the castle.

“The bathroom,” Harry suddenly declared, startling Snape enough that he sloshed his tea onto his hand and the worn blue fabric of the sofa. Harry shot him an apologetic look and hurried to explain.

“The prefects bathroom. We all have a valid reason to be seen coming and going from there, we’re all either prefects or quidditch captains.”

Hermione was nodding quickly. “Yes, that should work, and we can use the cloak and the map.” she said absently, not seeing the suspicious look that Snape shot Harry.
“I think I should be the one to set up the meetings. People will never suspect that he’s meeting with me, even if they are watching him.”

Snape gave her an odd look. “You would be willing to do that? Draco has not exactly been kind to you over the years.”

Hermione pursed her lips, “Trust me, I know. But I wouldn’t leave anyone to suffer like that, not even Malfoy. Besides, if he’s trying to do the right thing shouldn’t we help him? Everyone should get a chance to prove what kind of person they are, and I don’t think Malfoy has really had one, what with his father.”

If Snape was surprised by her words he didn’t show it, instead giving his small paper strewn coffee table a troubled look.

While Harry didn’t trust Malfoy as far as he could throw him he did trust Hermione to know what she was doing and to make the right call if he did anything suspicious.

“I think it’s a good idea ‘Mione. Just try not to punch him again, yeah?”

Snape gave him a startled look but nodded after a moment. “We will inform Dumbledore. We should also set the meeting as soon as possible. If he’s desperate enough to reach out to the Order this is not something we can delay.”

Hermione nodded quickly before turning to Harry. He sighed but rose wordlessly, bringing Snape with him as he moved to his trunk. He popped it open, sorting through his few possessions quickly and pulling out what Hermione would need. A faint flush stole over his face at the look Snape gave him when he handed the map and cloak over to his friend.

She bundled everything up and carefully placed it all in her small clutch before leaning forward and kissing Harry on the cheek.
“I’ll keep you informed. I’ll try to set everything up in the next day or so. I don’t know if Malfoy is leaving for the holidays or not.”

“Well see if you can get him to agree to a time to meet before then if possible.” Harry said, wanting to get all of this started now that they were dedicated to it. Maybe Malfoy would be less of a git now he was switching sides. Probably not.

Snape stood off to the side looking concerned and uncertain.

“Thank you Ms. Granger, for not only bringing this to me but for being willing to help. I know that Draco is difficult but he is not a fundamentally bad person, and I don’t believe that he truly believes the things his father does. He’s too much like Narcissa and she was never a fanatic.” he finished, looking like he might like to say something else in his godsons defense but he wasn’t sure what would work.

‘Mione just nodded and shot him a quick smile before ducking out and heading back to the Gryffindor tower.

They stood in silence for several minutes before Snape seemed to shake himself out of it and moved toward the bedroom, pulling a set of ridiculously worn sleep clothes from his wardrobe. They were at least as bad as some of the ones Harry had, and Harry hadn’t imagined that the otherwise immaculately dressed man would own such things.

Harry gathered his own sleep clothes and they turned wordlessly to change out of their dress outfits. Harry slipped quickly into his pyjamas and drew his thumb down the side of Snape’s hand to let him know he was dressed. They had developed a set of silent signals over the last month, entirely by accident, but they made life easier somehow.

Snape turned and drew him back into the sitting room, his dark eyes troubled. Harry didn’t think either of them would be able to sleep anytime soon, so when Snape picked up the book he had been reading before they left and settled onto the couch, Harry willingly joined him.

He sat watching the fire for a long time, and when Harry looked over and met the onyx eyes of the man beside him they held a puzzled warmth he hadn’t imagined they could.


It was very early in the morning when they finally made their way to bed, Harry having fallen asleep and slid slowly sideways until he was resting against Severus’ shoulder. Severus had woken him and herded him to bed, settling in next to him, eyes gritty with lack of sleep and head pounding with worry.

He still couldn’t believe the Golden Trio, or duo as the case may be, had agreed so easily to help Draco. He knew his godson, the child had a list of faults as long as the quidditch pitch, but he loved him regardless. He knew that for most every fault he had a redeeming quality.

Draco loved fiercely and was rabidly protective of those he thought of as his. He could be almost as stupidly brave as the man lying next to him, and he had the kind of burning intelligence that Severus had very rarely seen matched. But that didn’t negate the way he had treated Potter and Granger over the years. He was grateful, horribly so, for their willingness to help. He knew how much weight it would carry with the Order to have two of the Golden Trio on his side when he argued for Draco and Narcissa.

If Draco was suspected he would never make it out, and he knew with intimate detail exactly who was residing at the manor. They needed all the help they could get.

His stomach rolled uncomfortably as his mind turned to what else this meant for him. He had been resolutely ignoring it since he had found out the bond would not be easily broken, but tonight had brought it to the fore. He had known what would happen since that day Dumbledore had sat down with him and planned out his death with such utter disregard for what it would do to Severus to have to kill him. He knew how to would destroy whatever bits of a life he had managed to scrape together and he had reluctantly agreed to it anyway. At the time his life wasn’t something he fancied anyway.

Even though it didn’t matter now as far as securing a trusted position in the ranks of Death Eaters, he couldn’t avoid his unbreakable vow. He’d only given the vow on Belletrix's instance when he had already promised to go through with the murder. It had seemed like such a good way to build trust for no real price. He should have known better. Nothing in his life came without a price.

He swallowed heavily as he looked at the ruffled head of black hair buried in the pillow beside his. Harry had been such a shock. Everytime he expected the boy to turn from him he pulled him closer. He was nothing like Severus had thought, and he could admit he was still struggling to adjust his perceptions. But even when he was awful Harry still somehow managed to be kind. It was as if once Harry decided to like someone he did it without reservation, like he did everything else. Severus had no idea where he got it.

Neither of his parents could claim the kind of understanding or forgiveness that Harry had, not even Lily. For Merlins sake he hadn’t even hesitated to hand over his most prized possessions in the effort to help a boy he truly hated.

Severus felt his breath catch as he finally admitted to himself what had to happen. He wouldn’t allow Harry to die. He had promised to keep him alive that awful night when he’d lost Lily, but he had never really been invested past that. He knew it was wrong and petty but some small part of him had blamed Harry for Lily’s death. If he hadn’t been there the Dark Lord would never have targeted her with such determination. He knew the bulk of the blame was on his shoulders and he would spend the rest of his life trying to pay for that mistake, but he hadn’t put his distaste for Harry far enough away, using the excuse that it made playing his part easier.

His long fingers tangled in the edge of the soft white comforter, his eyes tracing shadows on the ceiling cast from the dying flames of the fireplace in the corner of their room.

But now… Now the idea of Harry being hurt, of him dying, it made his chest constrict. So he would do what he had to, he could give him that much. When Dumbledore died and the block was broken, the Headmasters magic no longer standing between them and the Dark Lord, he would have to act fast. He had to break the link before Voldemort could pull enough of Harry’s magic through to hurt him. The only way to guarantee that Harry survived was to make sure that Severus himself did not.

He felt a bitter smile lifting the edge of his mouth. Just as his lonely and miserable life had been invaded with chaos in the form of a ridiculous Gryffindor, making him feel like he maybe wasn’t as alone as he feared, he would have to leave.

He lifted a trembling hand and very carefully touched just the tips of that wild hair. He might never forgive him, but he would be safe. As safe as Severus could make him.


Hermione had barely managed any sleep the night before, sitting down to work through as many plans as she could. She had opened the map to sit on the bed in front of her while she worked out her thoughts in one of her locking notebooks she kept for Order business. Her eyes kept drifting to the dot labeled Draco Malfoy, pacing across the Slytherin common room.

He had finally sat down on what she can only imagine was one of the couches and perhaps fallen asleep just as she had drifted off. She woke only a few hours later, covered in paper, her quill stuck to her cheek and all of her dorm mates still asleep. The red curtains around her bed were drawn tightly, the silencing spells she’d put up the night before holding strong.

Hermione sat up and checked the map only to find Malfoy missing from the Slytherin areas. She scanned the map quickly, eventually finding him in the kitchen of all places. She frowned, but got up and quickly dressed, sneaking from her dorm with the map and the cloak tucked under her arm.

She slipped out of the portrait hole quietly enough she didn’t wake the Fat Lady. She flipped the cloak over herself, having used it often enough with Harry to know to muffle her footsteps, and headed down to the kitchens.

When she arrived at the painting with the pear she checked the map and saw that Malfoy was still there. She trusted the Hogwarts house elves but she still wouldn’t risk it, so she sat down in the corridor and cast a warming charm on the stone, settling in to wait for Malfoy.


Draco leaned over the small table in the corner of the kitchen he found himself at more and more often. If someone had told him a year ago that he would spend most of his time hiding with house elves and consorting with Granger he would have laughed himself sick then probably hexed them.

He sighed heavily, cradling his coffee against his chest. He knew he couldn’t expect to hear back from Granger so soon but he needed to know if he would really be getting the help he needed or if he would have to try to make it in the muggle world with Mother. He shuddered at the thought. It was a last resort since he was fairly certain that one of them would accidentally break the statue of secrecy within the first few days, resulting in them being dragged right back in front of the Dark Lord.

He would give anything at this point. He had known as soon as the Dark Lord had marked him and in the next moment given him an impossible task, that he wouldn’t make it out of this war alive. He had stopped fighting it sometime in the last few months and had turned his attention to trying to save his mother instead. When Severus had so abruptly gone from the Dark Lords trusted inner circle to traitor he had had a moment of hope, wondering if perhaps Severus could get them out. He knew his Godfather loved him. He suspected that Severus loved him more than his own father did.

But when they couldn’t get Potter off of him, he knew that he’d never be able to plan their escape with the Savior hanging on every word. He had gone back to planning, ineffectively but hoping he might stumble across a better idea than trying to murder one of the strongest wizards of the last several centuries.

Then the letter had come. Just a few innocent sentences to cause so much panic.

Draco,

I’ve decided to remodel the East wing and I fear it will not be done until after the new year. I will be staying to supervise the crews, but it will not be fit for you to be home over the holidays. Please plan to remain at Hogwarts.

I love you, more than the all the stars,

Mother

He had known then that she didn’t expect to live much longer. She wasn’t remodeling anything, she was simply trying to keep him out of harms way. He didn’t know what was going on at home, but the last time she had said those particular words he had been so sick with Dragon Pox that they had kept him at St. Mungos for almost a month. It was something they had said when he was very small and started when she had taken him out onto the manor grounds to look up at his constellation. He had trouble finding it and was amazed that his mother always could.

When he had asked her how she always knew just where it was she had told him it was because she loved him more than all the stars, so his shown the brightest to her.

A sharp clank brought him abruptly back to the kitchen and he realised he had dropped his coffee. He sat watching the cooling liquid spread across the table, not particularly inclined to do anything about it.

A small elf came up a moment later and cleaned it with a snap of their fingers, giving him a concerned look. He cleared his throat and nodded quickly in thanks before he got up and slid silently out behind the portrait.

He took a deep breath, looking up and down the empty corridor before turning slowly toward the entrance hall. He wasn’t dressed for it, but a walk around the lake seemed like an excellent idea. Anything to get out of the suddenly oppressive walls.

He had only taken a few steps when everything went slightly hazy and a small but strong hand wrapped tightly around his arm.

He tried to jerk back but the hand clung tighter, and was joined by a voice he recognized hissing at him to hold still before he knocked something off.

He froze and turned to look down at the small bushy haired witch who had a death grip on him and was in the process of dragging him to what appeared to be a nearby broom closet.

Granger stuffed him in and followed quickly, snapping the door shut and casting privacy charms around the small room. She stared for a moment at a ratty piece of paper before she gave a satisfied nod and placed it in her pocket.

The room appeared to be primarily occupied by a bucket, several rags and the saddest mop Draco had ever seen. Otherwise it was barely big enough to hold both of them, the stone walls scraping Draco’s elbows on either side.

Draco just stood there, his brain trying to catch up with the last few minutes. It appeared he had been abducted by Granger and she had been significantly more successful at it than he had been last night. He glared at her when she gave him a smug look, seeming to know exactly what he was thinking.

“What the hell Granger?” he hissed, throwing his hands out as far as he could, indicating the whole situation.

“What? It’s a broom cupboard Malfoy. I know your people don’t have a basic understanding of cleaning tools but I would have thought you would at least know what one was.” She smiled at him, her hair floating around her head in an alarming sort of way.

Draco sputtered but found he really didn’t have the energy to take on Granger this early in the morning. He’d already been abducted by a muggleborn for Merlins sake.

“Funny Granger. What are we doing here?” he said instead.

She frowned at him but seemed to take pity. “I’m here to set up a time for you to meet with Snape and Harry.”

He stared at her, shocked. “You mean they already agreed to meet with me? You already talked to them?” he was horribly confused. He would never have expected Potter to agree so quickly, or possibly at all. Severus must have pushed the issue.

“Of course I already talked to them, you sounded like it was urgent. And yes, they both want to help. I’ve been making possible plans but we’ll need to go over details and call in a few favors with some of the Order members.” She frowned at him.

“Did you decide you don’t need us after all?” Granger sounded suddenly suspicious and Draco saw her subtly slide her wand into her hand.

“No!” he shouted, his hand coming up. Granger startled and brought her wand halfway up before she clenched her jaw and slowly lowered it.

“No,” he said more softly. “I just didn’t expect to hear from you for a few days at least. I didn’t think any of you would jump at the chance to help me.” he tried for sarcastic but he was afraid it just came out as tired.

“Well we are. Are you leaving for the holidays?” She asked, unknowingly making his stomach roll.

“No, I’ll be remaining here,” he responded stiffly.

“That’s actually good, we can try to get a plan into place faster,” she muttered. “Can you meet tomorrow night? Most of the students will be gone by midday tomorrow.”

“Of course. Where should I meet them?” he asked, hoping that the Gryffindors might have an actual plan.

Granger gave him a look before she said “Here, just meet me here and I’ll take you to the meeting spot.”

He clenched his teeth but nodded anyway. It’s not like he had much choice.

“Fine, here 10 tomorrow night.” he said, trying to regain some semblance of control of the situation.

She gave him a knowing look but nodded before turning to the door and disappearing entirely. He watched in shock as the door opened and closed again quietly without ever seeing Granger again.

He knew it. He fucking knew Potter had an invisibility cloak. That utter bastard.


Harry woke slowly for once, no Tippy shaking him awake. An actual Sunday lie in was not something he had gotten since the whole bonding incident. Since they had such little time during the week Snape typically tried to brew for a few hours on the weekends, and he preferred to get started early, which meant that Harry was being dragged back and forth to the greenhouses at completely unacceptable hours.

Harry stretched, enjoying the warmth of the heavy blankets and the warm press of Snape against his side. His groggy brain took several minutes to solve why this seemed like such a problem. When it finally did his eyes snapped open and he jerked his head around to see Severus still deeply asleep, and the bolster shoved to the top of their pillow collection and not currently serving its duty as neutral territory.

Harry looked at it with mild alarm, then carefully scooted himself over until he had a few inches of clearance before he reached to shake Snape.

The man came awake as if he’d been hit with a particularly nasty Weasley product, like he always did, and sat bolt upright in bed, his hair a fuzzy black halo around his head and dark eyes blown wide.

He looked down at Harry, a comically surprised look on his face. “Where’s it?” he muttered, awake but obviously confused.

“The bolster elected to move to higher ground for the night,” Harry said, motioning to the top of the pillow pile. Snape looked at it with bleary interest before he stretched and reach for his wand for the time.

A flick of his wand projected fuzzy numbers that Harry couldn’t quite make out without his glasses. He grunted in a vaguely questioning tone from his position under the blankets and received a disgusted look he could just decipher, but Snape answered him anyway.

“Half past nine” he grumbled before falling back onto the bed.

Harry was just starting to struggle upright, ignoring Snape’s noise of disapproval and the insistent tug on the bracelet that came with it and was considering whether there would be any breakfast left by the time they made it to the Great Hall when a silvery otter slid onto the end of the bed. It turned a quick circle, bounding around like its real life counterpart before speaking in Hermione’s voice.

“I spoke with Malfoy. We have a meeting set for 10 tomorrow night. Expect us by a quarter past.” The otter faded away as the message ended, form dissolving into a silvery mist and sweeping over the bed like smoke before dissipating.

Snape blinked a few times before raising his eyebrow at Harry from his position flat on his back in an uncoordinated sprawl. “Ms. Granger does not delay, does she?” he asked, his face betraying his pleasure at how quickly they were moving to help his godson.

“Nope. She’s a terror when she’s got something that needs doing. I reckon she’d have him put away somewhere safe within the month if we left her to it.” Harry responded, completely seriously.

Snape just shook his head before finally dragging them both out of bed.


They were just finishing breakfast, having found most of the rest of the castle had elected to laze around as well and were getting just as late a start, when a nondescript tawny owl swooped in and dropped a small scroll over Severus’ tea mug.

With a speed that would have rivaled most professional quidditch players, Potter snatched it out of the air before it could finish its dive, holding it out to Severus with his left hand while he yelled in rebuke at the retreating owl.

Severus gave the scroll a pinched look. He knew exactly who it was from, he’d had to dry off similar messages more than once. He had upset the owl the first few times it had delivered to him by refusing to take the missive and now it refused to be bribed back into compliance.

Harry turned back to his breakfast, carefully rolling his pancakes into thin tubes, smeared heavily with jam, as Severus opened his post.

He frowned in distaste at Lupins neat script, politely inquiring as to whether he would have time to complete the wolfsbane potion this month and if so when would be a convenient time for the werewolf to stop by.

It had been several months since he had heard from the wolf since Lupin had been spending so much of his time with the packs, trying to convince them to join the Order.

Severus looked up at the sound of Harry pointedly clearing his throat and realised he had been sneering down at his tea for the last several minutes. Potter raised his eyebrows in silent question.

Snape handed over the slip of paper, watching Harry’s face as he read through it quickly. Surprisingly, unhappiness crept over the young man’s expression. Severus had fully expected Potter to be ecstatic to find he would be seeing his father’s pet wolf again.

Potter glanced up and caught his look, flushing uncomfortably. “I haven’t really seen him since Sirius died,” he said softly, toying with the handle of his mug of tea, aligning it exactly parallel to the edge of the table.

Severus gave him a sharp look, wondering at the odd mix of guilt and anger on Harry’s face.

“It hasn’t been easy to talk to people who knew Sirius. Besides, I haven’t really wanted to talk to him since I saw what I did in your pensieve.” Potter finished, face flushed.

Severus shifted uncomfortably but couldn’t think of a response that wouldn’t start an argument or reveal the odd emotions suddenly churning in his chest so instead he pushed his chair back, Harry scrambling to follow him.

“Come on Potter, we need to start the potion if you want Lupin to remain mostly sane this month.” Snape said as he briskly moved through the Hall, eyeing the enormous Christmas trees that Hargrid had brought in with distaste.

The castle was festooned with its normal Christmas decorations, which seemed to multiply and spread the closer to the holiday they got. He had seen one of the portraits walking past with a Santa hat that clashed awfully with his stuffy Victorian era dress robes and someone, he could only assume Flitwick, had charmed several suits of armor to sing off key carols when you approached closely enough. He’d been startled badly by one earlier in the week and had hexed it before he realised what it was, much to Harry’s amusement.

They made it down to their rooms and were walking into Snape’s personal lab when he glanced over at Potter just in time to see him stuff what appeared to be the remainder of a jam filled pancake into his mouth. Severus gave him a look of complete disgust before hitting him with an overly powerful scourgify.

Harry yelped, the unrepentant grin falling off his face to be replaced with a scowl. “Merlin Snape, I’m not a child, you don’t need to forcibly clean me after I eat.”

Severus sneered at him “Do you have any idea what adding jam to a wolfsbane potion would do to it?”

“No, what?” Harry asked, looking intrigued despite himself.

“I’ve no idea and no intention of finding out,” he responded with a smirk.

Harry rolled his eyes at him but huffed a small laugh before heading toward the large lab table.

One of the first things he had done when he had gotten these rooms was to have a small lab added. Over the years the lab had been expanded several times, and while it wasn’t the size of some of the labs that other professional brewers or researchers had, it served him well.

The dungeons walls had been coated and sealed in the muggle fashion. While he did of course use charms for safety and containment, the fewer pieces of active magic he had in the room the less interference with the brewing process there would be.

The room itself was filled with shelves and cabinets tucked tight to the walls, carefully labeled ingredients packed away on each shelf. The center of the room was dominated by a large L shaped table, completely clear and scrubbed clean.

His lab was the area of his life that had seen the least amount of change at the introduction of Potter, the only discernible difference was now instead of one small stool, he had two.

Severus quickly assembled the ingredients needed and pulled the base of the potion from his locked cabinet. He kept it stored under layers of stasis spells, allowing him to expedite the brewing process. He had found that if he added a single drop of phoenix tears to the potion that it not only reportedly helped with the pain of the transformation but allowed him to brew large amounts of the base at once as it kept the potion stable.

Since it made the cost of the already expensive potion soar to unattainable levels it wasn’t a practical addition for other brewers, but he was in the fortunate position of having direct access to a phoenix who had a deep love of black fly larvae and who was willing to be bribed.

He set the ingredients down, shoving a pile of lacewings in front of Potter’s stool. Harry sighed but sat down without any complaints, picking up a small wooden bowl to place the delicate wings in after he had separated them from the rest of the bug.

They worked in a comfortable silence, broken only by Severus when he pushed a new pile of ingredients over and gave terse instructions on preparation.

Sooner than Severus had expected he was running through the first steps of the potion, Harry standing quietly at his side, their forearms stuck together and a featherweight charm cast on Harry’s to keep interference as low as possible. Truthfully he found that having Harry there bothered him much less than he had expected it to. Not that he would ever tell him that.


Harry watched with interest as Snape carefully stirred the brown glop. He would never admit it but one of the things he had come to enjoy the most were the days when Snape brewed. Oh, he hated having to get up early and immediately go fight with whatever exceedingly vicious plant that Severus just had to have a bit of that morning, and he wasn’t terribly fond of the beratings he had gotten the first few times he had chopped something instead of sliced it, but after a few rather loud conversations Harry had eventually just shouted at Snape, asking him why he couldn’t bother to teach the way he wrote in the 6th year book.

Something seemed to have clicked for the surly potions master that day. He was still brisk with Harry, but he was more informative, and when he did berate Harry he helpfully added on the bits about why what he had done was wrong. Harry still managed to muck something up, typically once a week, but the instructions were helping hugely, both in his school work and when he helped Snape.

As embarrassing as it was to admit, Harry enjoyed watching the man so focused. It was the only time he seemed to let most of his guard down. Snape would get so engrossed in a project that he would absentmindedly answer any of Harry’s questions about it, on several occasions going so far as to halt his brewing so he could draw small diagrams and excitedly explain why whatever experiment he was running should theoretically work.

After the third exploded cauldron Harry had started brushing up on his more unusual shield spells and was getting almost as fast as Neville at them. He also discovered that he actually found potions theory fascinating, and he couldn’t help but be swept up in Snape’s unexpected enthusiasm.

Brewing the wolfsbane was interesting to watch but Harry found himself less engrossed than usual, probably because Snape’s typical muttering had taken on an unhappy edge and didn’t hold the sarcastic excitement typical of him when he was in his lab.

“Potter, would you hand me those vials please?” Snape’s low voice interrupted his internal wandering.

Harry reached over and quickly grabbed the vials that Snape had indicated. “Is it done?” he asked as he handed them to the other wizard.

“It needs to sit until it reaches a stable temperature, which will take four or five hours. We will know it is ready when it turns a silvery white and the wolfsbane precipitates to the bottom. Drinking it before that would result in poisoning as the amount of wolfsbane needed to brew it successfully is larger than is safe to ingest. The lacewing bonds to it as it cools and pulls most of it into a solid at the bottom, leaving the traces left in the potion enough to be effective but no longer deadly.” Snape explained as he finished filling the second bottle.

Harry frowned “I thought that it had to be brewed fresh and taken each night of the week leading up to the full moon, right?”

“Correct” Snape answered, turning to Harry with a faintly surprised look.

“Then why did you brew two doses tonight?” he asked.

“Because I have made a small addition to the potion that stabilizes it. It still loses its potency quickly, but it doesn’t begin to degrade for just over 24 hours, letting me brew two days worth at once.” Snape responded, tuning to clean up his work bench.

Harry absently began scrubbing the table as Snape moved the cauldron to the sink and started putting ingredients to the side, carefully lining them up but not bothering to put them away since he would need them again in a couple of days for the next batch.

“I thought that the wolfsbane potion was difficult to brew?” Harry asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had descended as they cleaned.

“It is one of the more difficult things to make. It is quite easy to kill your charge instead of taming him if you are not careful.” Snape said.

“But it couldn’t have taken you more than an hour and I’ve seen you make stuff that seems a lot harder.” Harry said, confused now.

“Ah, that would be because I premade the base which is the more volatile portion, and admittedly most of the things you have seen me brew were highly experimental and therefore both more difficult and more dangerous.” Snape explained.

Harry rather reluctantly felt his respect for the man increase as he realised that one of potions regarded as most difficult in the world took Snape all of an afternoon to make and he had gone and improved it.

“Why do you teach here?” Harry suddenly blurted out, having wondered for years why someone who appeared to hate children so much surrounded himself with them. The last month had only made it more of a mystery as Harry became more and more convinced that Snape could make considerably more money and be a great deal happier if he went into research.

Snape gave him a sour look. “Because Potter it would have been difficult to convince the Dark Lord that I was a worthwhile spy if I couldn’t get close to Dumbledore.”

Harry considered this for a moment, the hard bristled brush he was scrubbing with slowing.

“Alright, but that’s not something you have to worry about now. Do you think you’ll stay on?” Harry asked, honestly curious.

Snape got the strangest look on his face, like he was both ecstatic and depressed all at once.

“I suppose it would be possible for me to move on now. Though if we cannot get you off of me I’ll have at least one more year here.” It was said with a resentful air, but Harry could see sadness lurking in the dark eyes and he couldn’t begin to guess at its cause.

 

Suddenly looking uncomfortable Snape tugged at his arm. “Come, I need to respond to Lupin and we should take advantage of our free time. I believe it’s far past time for us to resume our dueling practice.”

Harry followed eagerly, thoughts of next year scattering at the promise of physical activity. The last month and half had been difficult for him in many ways, but what had bothered more than he expected was how little exercise he had gotten. Harry was used to flying most days, and he had a strict exercise regimen to keep him in shape for quidditch and also for his irritating habit of finding himself running at full speed from groups attempting to murder him.

They successfully got a note delivered to Remus, the process eased considerably by Snape simply calling for Tippy and asking her to take it to Lupin to avoid the delay in time that owl post would have. When Harry asked why Tippy didn’t simply take the potion itself he had been informed that it did not do well with any sort of magical travel, its properties changing unpredictably.

They moved easily up the stairs toward the seventh floor, flocks of students dodging them as they ran back and forth between common rooms, making plans for the holidays and searching for last minute misplaced items. Portraits called out to various students of their previous houses, trying to help but mostly just adding to the mayhem.

The staircases seemed to be more active than usual, the castle itself joining in the excitement, railing festooned with tinsel and evergreen, several having come loose to trail merrily through the air behind the shifting stairs.

Harry grinned up at Snape, the pre holiday madness strangely comforting in its familiarity, only to have Snape give him a small but genuine smile in return. It sent an odd shock of pleasure through him and startled him enough that he stumbled over the last stair to the seventh floor.

A wiry arm looped around him as Snape reached across his chest and caught him before he could fall. “I have no idea how you ever managed to stay on a broom Potter.” The deep voice murmured into his ear and he barely suppressed the shiver that tried to run down his spine.

Harry pulled back quickly, apologizing as he flushed what he was sure was a very unbecoming splotchy red. He was confused and unsettled by his reaction, but decided that it must simply be that he wasn’t comfortable with Snape touching him that much, even as he ignored the small voice in his head calling him a liar, turning to hurry down the corridor.

They made it to the room of requirement without further incident and set themselves up with multiple practice dummies after prompting the room to appear. It had created itself to be smaller than the room they used for DA practice sessions, and there were considerably fewer cushions, though more dummies and these ones looked slightly different, more sinister somehow.

After a short discussion Harry agreed to handle shielding while Snape tried to take out the dummies that would move around them.

Harry flicked his wand, triggering the magic in room, then immediately stepped back out of Snape’s way and threw a shield up around them.

Several stunners hit the shield at once, making it flex inward alarmingly until Harry pushed more power into it, thickening it.

“You’re making it too hard to get through the shield Potter, thin it out.” Snape commanded, his attention on the dummies that were sliding around them at an alarming speed.

“If I make it thinner the stunners will get through.” Harry responded, teeth gritted as yet another volley of hexes hit them.

“Then figure out how to make it thinner where I need it to be.” the other man snapped, irritation clear.

Harry huffed and tried to thin it out just in front of Snape, but he couldn’t keep track of where the man would be firing next and didn’t want to weaken too much of the shield. Snape seemed to be getting more and more irritated until finally Harry accidentally thickened part of the shield and thinned another, just in time to watch Snape spin toward the thicker portion. Harry had just opened his mouth to warn the other man when the stunner Snape sent off rebounded and slammed straight into Harry’s chest.

Harry came to lying on his back and looking up into the unfocused face of an extremely irritated potions master.

“I see you’ve decided to rejoin me, you idiot.”

For a moment Harry was certain that he had added the insult on in his own head since it was what he always imagined Snape saying whenever he spoke to Harry in that tone. His eyes narrowed as he realised the older man had in fact called him an idiot and didn’t look in the least sorry for hitting him with a stunner.

“That was awful and we are certain to die if we have to take on anyone other than perhaps Longbottom. Though I would remind you that Longbottom was part of the group to take us out last time.” Snape continued, his voice so dry it was almost painful as he handed him the glasses he seemed to have lost when he went down.

“I couldn’t figure out where you were going to move next.” Harry grumbled, hauling himself to his feet. He was surprised that nothing really hurt. He must not have hit the ground as hard as he usually did when he was stunned.

“Come, let us start again.”

Harry sighed but moved to take his place beside Snape.


Severus finally called a halt two hours later in the interest of not being murdered by the castle. Their practice session had degraded as time went on, both of them managing to get in each others way more and more often. Potter couldn’t seem to anticipate where Snape would be aiming, which was actually fairly predictable with the dummies, and would be even worse when facing people.

Severus had to admit that he had on more than one occasion misjudged where Potter would be and had tripped him. That one had resulted in Snape waking up half sprawled over the other man’s lap, his back aching where he had obviously landed on Harry’s knee.

The last two times that Harry had tripped over him he had managed to save his balance, but lose his glasses. They had had to firm up the shield to prevent anything coming through and Severus had to find them before they could continue.

“Why do you insist on keeping those infernal things Potter?” Severus snapped, sitting down on a low bench the room had conjured for them as the dummies retreated to stand against the wall, several of them still lightly smoking.

“On keeping what? My glasses?” Potter asked, looking up in confusion from where he had been studying a scorched hole in his trainers.

“Yes. They’re a liability. I will not be able to stop and ensure that you have them in the middle of an actual battle,” Snape said, frustration at their poor performance bleeding through.

 

“I keep them because I need to see. I think if all I can see are some blurry blobs running at me I’ll probably be even more of a liability.” Harry responded, looking at him like he’d lost his mind.

Severus frowned “Do you have some kind of particular objection to taking an oculus potion?”

Harry just stared at him, a completely dumbfounded look on his face. “You mean to tell me that there’s a potion that will fix my eyesight and I’ve spent the last five years wearing these stupid things?” Potter was almost shouting by the end, looking somewhat hysterical.

“Of course there’s a potion that will fix your eyes. For Merlin’s sake Potter, we have one that can regrow your bones in a night. You have in your own possession a potion that will give you something as completely undefinable as luck.” Severus said, disbelief in his voice. Did the man really not know that his eyes could be corrected?

“Where can I get it? Can we go now?” Harry started to stand, as if he were planning on dragging Snape through the castle until someone gave him the information he wanted.

“Calm down Potter. It’s not that simple. You’ll need an examination to determine what sort of issues you have with your eyes before the potion can be brewed. We can go by and ask Madam Pomfrey on the way back to our rooms. As soon as she gives me the report I can start brewing it. It’ll take a few weeks, but isn’t terribly difficult.” Severus reassured him, more amused than upset by that point.

“You would do that? You would make it for me?” Harry was looking at him with something undefinable in his eyes and a quiet sort of vulnerability in his voice.

Severus shifted, suddenly uncomfortable. “Yes, of course. As we’ve just established I may very well be killed by those absurd glasses. Consider it an act of self preservation.”

Harry stared hard at him for a moment, and he was afraid of whatever might be in his eyes, because it certainly wasn’t the detached self service that had come out of his mouth.

“Thank you.” Harry said it softly, but with a great deal of feeling behind it.

Severus shook himself and stood, bringing Harry with him. “Come along Potter, we need to get bruise paste on pretty much all of us and see Poppy before dinner.


In the end the exam only took Harry about 30 minutes and Madam Pomfrey handed the results to Snape before they left. She had looked appalled that he hadn’t known it was an option and had apologized profusely for not discussing it with him. Apparently it was something that was taken care of very early in wizarding families and usually any health concerns were addressed for muggleborns during the months before Hogwarts started.

It had come up that Hagrid had been the one to take him to diagon alley, at which Snape looked rather murderous and had immediately asked if he had gone to St. Mungos for the standard first year checks. Harry had admitted that he hadn’t, which had sent the mediwitch into a panic. Four vaccinations and a scan for hereditary diseases later they were headed back to the dungeons, Snape grumbling about incompetence.

Harry was feeling rather warm and dizzy, an apparent side effect of the Dragon Pox vaccine, and barely noticed when Snape leaned over into the fire and called for Dumbledore to join them, before he turned and forcibly settled Harry onto the couch, wrapping him efficiently in a blanket and tucking him against the couch arm. Harry gave him a confused but happy smile and sunk comfortably further down, eyes drifting shut.


Severus watched Harry’s eyes slowly close and his head fall back, cricking his neck into an awkward angle. He sighed and leaned over, pushing a small pillow behind the other man’s head and settling him more solidly on it.

Between the amount of magic that Harry had used that day and the vaccines, he had fully expected to have to carry Potter to their rooms, only to be pleasantly surprised to see him stagger in on his own. Today had once again reinforced that Severus had to stop taking anything about Harry for granted. How he had been in the wizarding world for this long without knowing he didn’t have to keep his glasses was alarming. Had he just not noticed that no one else wore glasses? Except Albus, but that was strictly for reading, and Severus was fairly certain to help him cultivate the friendly old wizard look.

Glasses were a fashion statement and had fallen out of favor until Potter had started school. Even then it took several years for it to catch on, so the only people who wore them were adults he would not see regularly or children more than a few years his junior.

Severus grimaced as he remembered the look on Poppy’s face when she heard that Potter had been running around the school for five and a half years with no vaccinations. Hagrid was going to hear about that.

Their practice today had been a complete disaster, enough so that he was half convinced that they might be more of a hazard to each other than who ever tried to attack them. The amount of power that Harry had thrown into his shield had been frankly impressive though. If Severus had used that much magic he would have been out after 45 minutes, an hour at the very most. Harry was still going strong when they quit two hours in, only small signs of magical fatigue showing.

His thoughts were interrupted by the fire flaring, Dumbledore stepping gracefully out of it a second later.

“Severus my boy what can I do for you?” Albus said cheerfully and far too loudly, midnight blue robes with small silvery stars swirling around him.

“Keep your voice down, Harry just fell asleep.” Snape said sharply but quietly, turning to check on the man beside him and entirely missing the dumbfounded look on the Headmasters face.

“Is he quite alright?” Albus asked, worried now. Harry must have been injured to have Severus fussing over him. Though even that would be a shock.

“Yes he’s fine, he just spent a great deal of energy in dueling practice and we found out today that he had not been taken to have his first year health checks.” Severus paused here, looking pointedly at Dumbledore. “He had to have several vaccinations, including Dragon Pox, and he’ll be receiving the oculus potion.” The last was said with a certain amount of challenge, as if anyone could be foolish enough to suggest otherwise.

“Of course my boy. I’ll have to have a word with Hagrid about that. I should have made sure that proper checks had been done.” Albus at least looked troubled by this, but kept shooting Severus puzzled looks.

“Is that all you called on me for? I’m afraid I have several pressing matters” Dumbledore said, starting to turn toward the fire again.

“Draco came to me. Well to Granger actually.” His words halted the Headmaster. “He believes that the Dark Lord intends to murder Narcissa and wishes to come to our side. He has asked for our help in removing her from danger.”

Albus’ eyebrows had risen almost to his hairline by the time he responded “How very interesting.” he said, a contemplative look coming over his face. “I suppose we should call an Order meeting as soon as possible. I would like to help the boy Severus, but you know that with Narcissa involved we will need both the help and the approval of the rest of the Order.”

Severus felt a brief moment of rage, even though he had expected this response. He knew why Draco wouldn’t be trusted, just as he knew that his godson would have an uphill battle for the rest of his life, needing to constantly prove that he wasn’t a Death Eater. Severus knew that battle far too well and wished desperately that he could spare him it.

“We are meeting with him tomorrow night to get further details. How soon can you set a meeting with the Order?” Snape asked.

“Give me two days and we will see if we can get them approved and a plan in place. You mentioned that Ms. Granger was involved?” Albus asked curiously.

“Yes, she was the one Draco came to. Clever of him actually.” he responded, absently tucking the blanket more firmly around Harry, making sure to cover his feet, which currently bore his favorite socks, horrible bright things with snitches all over them. One had a mild burn mark and Severus grimaced at the complaints he was sure to hear for it.

Harry muttered something softly and turned toward Severus, tucking himself deeper into the couch and wrapping a his free hand around Severus’ left arm, pulling it close to his chest.

Snape grunted slightly at the abrupt tug but allowed himself to be dragged closer, simply shifting to get comfortable. He glanced up to see Albus staring at him as though he’d grown another head and stiffened as he realised how he had been behaving in front of the Headmaster. He had gotten too used to it just being himself and Harry in their rooms with no one to question the oddity of them.

He had started to disentangle himself and move away, hoping not to wake Harry, when Albus spoke softly.

“It’s alright Severus. I’m very glad to see that the two of you are managing to get along. I take it things have been going well?” he inquired, a distinctive twinkle in his eye the Snape was almost entirely certain he did not want to place.

“Better than could be expected.” Severus paused, his face taking on a tinge of pink. “I’m afraid I may have been unnecessarily hard on him over the years.” He admitted grudgingly, but he settled back against Harry without further attempts at escape.

“Well it appears that he has forgiven you, so I wouldn’t worry terribly. Harry has a unique capacity to love, and I hardly think a rough start would dissuade him.”

Severus blinked at the word choice but mentally waved it away.

“I will endeavor to get a meeting set quickly. I will send you the details when I have them, but please let me know if anything changes.” Albus finished as he turned and tossed floo powder into the grate, vanishing a second later with a flair of green.

Severus leaned back on the sofa, thinking of Draco and allowed himself to drift, the warm press of Harry lulling him into a fitful sleep.


By the time the meeting with Malfoy came around Hermione was a bundle of nerves, having spent the time planning and sending an owl to her parents to let them know that she had elected to remain at Hogwarts for most of the break instead of going to the Burrow. They had taken a small vacation in France when she had let them know she had intended to remain in the wizarding world for breaks this year.

Ron had put up token resistance when she had let him know that she would only be joining them at the Burrow for the two days that Harry and Snape would be going. Lavender had spent the entire conversation awkwardly clinging to Ron and glaring daggers at Hermione.

Ginny had been considerably more upset, declaring that Hermione was abandoning her to a household full of men with almost no reinforcements. She’d stopped complaining when Hermione had threatened to tell Mrs. Weasley that Ginny didn’t consider her adequate reinforcements.

Hermione had helped them with their trunks and waved them off in Hogsmeade before trudging back through the slushy snow to the castle and spending the rest of the day in the library writing out possible plans and looking up any spells she thought might help.

She snuck through the corridors on the way toward the kitchens, the castle so silent after the bustle of the day it was almost like she could feel the leftover energy still swirling around, making it seem somehow emptier and lonelier than usual.

She made it to the broom cupboard in record time, arriving several minutes early and ducking in to find it empty. She upturned the bucket and with a flick of her wand turned it into a perfectly serviceable stool.

She had only a few minutes to wait before the door creaked open and admitted Malfoy, who was looking painfully groomed. His hair had grown out considerably and he had taken to wearing it styled in a carefully casual tousle, like a neater and more intentional version of Harry’s complete disarray. His robes were pressed within an inch of their lives and his trousers had a fold so sharp it looked like it could cut.

Hermione felt suddenly rather under dressed, in her comfortable jeans and a worn Weasley sweater of Harry’s from several years prior that he couldn’t fit anymore, a bit loose but convenient since they had the same first initial. Her hair had been tied up in a messy bun to get it out of her face while she worked and she hadn’t bothered to fix it before she left the tower.

Malfoy looked her up and down, a sneer flickering over his face before he got it under control and she was abruptly reminded that no matter how well he dressed he was still a git.

“Come on then.” She said quickly as she got up, raising the edge of the invisibility cloak in silent invitation.

He hesitated for only a second before ducking under with her, allowing her to loop her arm through his, though she got a grimace for her trouble and was sorely tempted for a moment to abandon him to roam the halls for a bit.

They slipped out of the cupboard without a sound, moving through the halls silently. Hermione kept an eye on the map but they didn’t encounter anyone. She could see both Harry and Snape listed on the map, already in the prefects bathroom. Snape appeared to be pacing, dragging Harry along behind him.

They got to the door without seeing anyone or speaking to one another. Malfoy made a small noise of surprise when she uttered the password and pulled him in. He stepped away as soon as she had removed the cloak.

Both Harry and Snape had spun toward the door when it opened, raising their wands. To Hermione’s surprise Snape flicked his wand, a silent incarcerous snapping out and wrapping tightly around Malfoy.

She stepped away, alarmed. She wasn’t sure what they knew that she didn’t but she wanted to be out of the firing line. Hermione moved immediately to Harry’s side, her own wand coming up to point at Malfoy.

“What did I say to you the day before you left for Hogwarts?” Snape asked, voice hard.

Malfoy seemed to calm at this, the panicked expression falling off of his face. “You told me that the most important thing I could learn at Hogwarts was to think for myself.”

“And have you? Or are you simply looking for anyway out?” Snape had relaxed slightly but he had not removed the bindings on his godson. Hermione looked at Harry but he kept his wand trained on Malfoy, body angled slightly so he could put a shield over all three of them if needed.

“I’m learning.” Malfoy said finally, his face pinched.

“Good.” Snape flicked his wand again, releasing Malfoy, who immediately started smoothing his robes.

He finally looked up, his blond hair slightly mussed and nodded grudgingly to Harry before he walked over to sit on one of the benches that ran along the wall. The bathroom looked as she remembered it. She didn’t choose to use it often since it was out of the way and the mermaid frankly disturbed her. The normal piles of fluffy towels were piled along the bench and weak moonlight streamed in through the windows. The tiles radiated heat up, making her uncomfortably warm in her sweater and one look at Snape in his heavy wool robes confirmed he looked slightly flushed.

Hermione put her wand away, looking curiously at Harry. He met her eyes and shrugged, letting her know that he wasn’t sure but had been following along with Snape. He frowned suddenly, giving her a suspicious look.

“ ‘Mione is that my sweater?” He muttered quietly, his hand darting out to tug the left sleeve down from where she had rolled it, revealing a hole he had torn in it during their scramble through the tunnel to the shrieking shack in third year.

“It doesn’t fit you and it’s comfortable” she said with more than a bit of a challenge in her eyes, pulling her sleeve from his grip. He put his free hand up in surrender, not willing to argue about it.

She glanced up to find both Slytherins watching them, Snape with amusement and Malfoy with barely disguised impatience. She colored slightly but straightened her back, not willing to look in the least cowed by Draco Malfoy of all people.

Snape cleared his throat before speaking, drawing everyone’s attention. “Draco we were told that you believe that your mother is in immediate danger?”

Malfoys face lost its rigidity, distress making him look like a child for a split second before he got control of himself. “Yes, she sent me a note, asking me not to come home over break.”

Snape frowned at this. “While I admit it is strange there could be several reasons for it.”

Malfoy flushed, color rising high in his pale cheeks “She signed it with that thing she used to say. When I was little.” He looked mortified but glared at Harry and Hermione, as if daring them to say something.

Snape had gone pale, which looked more like a delicate grey on him, obviously understanding what Malfoy was alluding to, and making Harry move closer with an alarmed look.

“I see. I expect you are correct then. We will need to move quickly. Albus is hoping to assemble an Order meeting within the next two days, and you will be expected to come. Be ready to answer any questions fully and truthfully. I do not need to remind you to keep yourself civil Draco.” Snape’s voice carried a heavy note of warning.

“How soon can we get her out?” Malfoy’s face was pinched, looking thinner and pointier than usual.

“We will need to speak with the Order before we begin to make plans, we do not yet know who will help.” Snape responded, sounding apologetic.

“Actually, I have a few plans, depending on what we think is best.” Hermione interrupted, reaching into her bag to pull out her locking notebook.

All three men moved forward, crowding around her to see what she had come up with. For just an instant she felt like a child, surrounded by looming adults. Why did all the men in her life have to be so bloody tall? Even Harry had finally gone and found the height he had misplaced throughout their early years, though he wasn’t anywhere near as tall as the lanky Slytherins, he could still tuck her under his arm and did so often.

She quickly flipped to the last entry, running over her list of options, carefully organized and numbered.

“Alright so it depends on what we want to do. Malfoy do you just want her to disappear?” She asked.

He looked at her, puzzled. “What other options are there? She certainly can’t stay there.”

“Well we could make her disappear, which has the advantage of making it easier for her to re-enter society after the war but leaves open the possibility that someone will try to find her. Or we could fake her death, which switches the previous pros and cons.” Hermione finished matter of factly.

Malfoy stared a her, startled. “Fake her death. Father will chase her. If anyone believes that she ran the only way he can save face will be to bring her back.”

“Alright. And you? I assume you’ll be going with her?” Hermione asked, checking off one of the options in her notes and underlining a number sitting beside it.

“No. It would look too suspicious. I’ll have to stay and sell it.” Malfoy responded after several moments of deliberation, his voice sounding tired and sad.

Snape jerked his head up to look at his godson, his long hair flipping over his shoulder, his temples soaked with sweat. “Draco, if you stay you know what will be done to you to insure that you’re telling the truth.” His deep voice held a thread of panic.

Malfoy swallowed heavily but nodded. “I know Sev, but if that’s what I have to do to keep her safe then I will.” He sounded terribly young but determined.

Snape nodded rapidly, looking sick. “We will need to practice. You know that don’t you?” His voice was thready and full of pain.

Malfoy just looked resigned as he acknowledged whatever plan that was making all three men look ill. Harry seemed to have caught onto the meaning quickly and Hermoine wasn’t certain she wanted to think too hard about it.

“I think I have a plan that should work, we just need a safe house for her to stay and a house to destroy.” Hermione said quickly, hoping to distract them.

Harry raised his eyebrows at her. “Somewhere to destroy? What are you planning ‘Mione, to blow up a house?”

“Yes. Or a shop. Really any building should work” She answered matter of factly. All three men looked at her with alarm, so, sighing heavily, she launched into her explanation.

Chapter Text

"there's no poetry between us"
said the paper to the pen
"and I get nothing for my trouble
but the ink beneath my skin"

-Gary Jules, No Poetry

Harry twisted his neck to the side in an effort to release the built up tension. He had slept on it awkwardly the night before and it had bothered him all day. He flushed slightly at the memory of waking up with his head leaned against Snape, Remus looking down at him in complete shock.

They had fallen asleep in front of the fire, both having forgotten that Remus was suppose to come through to collect his wolfsbane potion that evening. Harry had jerked upright when he’d seen the other man, wincing as a muscle in his neck had protested, only to have Snape come awake, flipping his wand up to point at Remus before he recognized him.

Remus’ face had hardened dangerously and it had taken several minutes of explanation before he finally relaxed. Remus had been working with the werewolf packs and had not gotten any updates from the Order for several months and so had no idea about their incident, or about Severus having lost his status as a spy. He had only been at Grimmauld place since that morning and hadn’t run into any other Order members.

He accepted their explanation after several rounds of questions but his eyes kept darting between the two of them, a puzzled look on his tired face. He had eventually taken his dose of wolfsbane, calling for an owl to transport the other dose to Grimmauld Place for the next night. Since Severus had managed to stabilize it he could just make one batch per night from there on and send it by owl post, so they wouldn’t see Remus again until the next Order meeting.

He had awkwardly hugged Harry goodbye, Severus standing stiffly at his side, obviously uncomfortable with Remus being near him. Harry had ended the hug quickly, stepping back and drawing Severus with him, angling himself between the two. He had felt it when Snape relaxed, his breathing quieter, and Remus had given him a disapproving look for his trouble.

They had made their way to bed after that, Harry feeling cold and achy. He had shivered miserably for several minutes before Severus had sat up in the dark and cast a warming charm over his whole side of the bed, letting him finally fall asleep.

When they woke the next day Severus had insisted that they try to extend their separation range, leading to one of the most frustrating days of Harry’s life. He had spent most of the day meditating and trying to feel the edges of his magic, whatever the bloody hell that had meant.

They had learned several things, the first being that Harry had a much larger amount of magic than Severus had expected him to, which seemed to trouble the already irritated man. The second was that, seemingly due to the first, Harry had a massive amount of difficulty when trying to pull his magic in under his skin. The third was that Severus should never attempt to lead a meditation lesson. While Harry found his voice strangely soothing it was ruined by the occasional biting remark halfway through and the man’s complete lack of patience with the exercise.

They had finally given up after Harry had lost his temper and sent a pillow sailing into the side of Snape’s head. He’d gotten a stinging hex and two hours of cold silence for his trouble. He finally managed to get a small look of mild tolerance after his fourth apology and second offering of tea. He had no idea where the first had been vanished to but he suspected that particular teacup had met a grim end.

They had filled the last few hours before their meeting with Malfoy by working on Harry’s Oculus potion, much to his delight. He had probably irritated Snape with the amount of questions he had asked, but as usual the man was strangely accepting of potions related inquiries, at least outside of an actual potions classroom.

By the time it was almost complete it was soft, delicate green, with a strange opal sheen appearing after Snape had added carefully minced clover leaves to it, and it made the whole lab smell slightly of wild mushrooms and smoke. They had gotten the potion to a point where it needed to sit undisturbed for the next fortnight before they had to leave for their meeting with Hermione and Malfoy.

Harry spent the meeting trying to remember that even though Malfoy was still a git, he was on their side. His brain was having trouble adjusting to the change and he had to bite his tongue several times in order to prevent himself from saying something that was sure to get a less than positive reaction from everyone.

He’d been jerked roughly back to reality and got the first inkling of how serious Malfoy was about leaving Voldemort when the younger Death Eater had agreed to be tortured in order to insure his shields would hold when they had to. Harry had felt a tiny spark of grudging respect flare in him, much to his horror.

Harry had been gratefully distracted by Hermione’s carefully organized plans. She seemed to have thought of almost every scenario and even color coded them for levels of perceived risk. Not even Malfoy could find anything to complain about by the time they were ready to leave. He swept out first, only sparing a brief goodbye for his godfather and ignoring Harry and Hermione entirely.

As Harry got ready for bed that night, handing Snape a towel when he groped blindly for it after washing his face, it occurred to him that of all of the things that had happened to him over the years at Hogwarts, this year might be the weirdest.


They spent the following week dueling poorly, brewing potions with considerably more success and trying to push the limits of their ability to separate with mixed results.

Their record was almost a full meter before Potter’s concentration broke and they snapped back, both of them gaining a handful of new bruises when they collided. Severus was happy with their small progress, mostly because it was progress. Their dueling was going so abysmally that he was becoming concerned that they wouldn’t make it through any confrontation, and certainly not one with a Death Eater.

By the time the Order meeting came around, almost a full week after their meeting with Draco and just a few days before Christmas, both he and Harry were strung tight, snapping at each other more than they were talking and having gone through two full batches of burn salve while treating the mild scorch marks from the training dummies.

They had taken a small break several days prior to venture into Hogsmeade in an effort to complete all of their Christmas shopping, which in no way helped either of their attitudes, but did briefly unify them in their complete desire to avoid as many crowds as possible and to actively hide from members of the press. They seemed to have a sixth sense for where Potter was located at any point in time. Snape had enjoyed his brief opportunity to take his pent up anger out on someone deserving, and was almost looking forward to the article that was sure to result from the confrontation with the terrified Witch Weekly reporter.

The day of the Order meeting finally came, prompting them to abandon the room of requirement earlier than usual and clean up before leaving. Potter reverted to his standard muggle clothes, though at least they fit him now, pulling on a snug pair of jeans and a t-shirt, quickly covered by a dark blue Weasley jumper with a silver H emblazoned over the front. Snape, with a fair amount of help from TIppy, had managed to make most of Potter’s ratty, over-sized clothes slowly disappear. Once they were dressed and had smeared the last of their most recent batch of burn salve over themselves, they moved to leave and were both faced with the realisation that they would need to try to go through the floo together.

“Is it even possible? I’m not going to ask if it’s safe, I just assume it’s not.” Harry asked, a resigned look on his face.

“Theoretically it should work. We can send items through a floo that have a greater mass than ours, but I suspect that it will not be comfortable. Perhaps a shield would be in order.” Severus responded.

Harry nodded and stepped forward resolutely, grabbing and tossing a handful of floo powder into the fire. They ducked under the mantle and Snape wordlessly wrapped himself tightly around Harry, trying to keep both of their elbows tucked in as closely as he could. Harry seemed to get the idea and tightened his own hold after casting a thin flexible shield. Two voices blended as they both yelled their destination, eyes meeting in brief horror just before they shot off.

Snape snapped his eyes closed, the spin of grates flying past making him dizzy as he hoped that their combined command got them within at least the correct region of floos. He was fairly certain you couldn’t be splinched during floo travel, but he knew if two people side along apparated each other instead of letting one lead, they were very likely to end up in two, possibly even three places at once.

Surprisingly they tumbled out of the floo and into the sitting room of Grimmauld place, Severus barely keeping his feet as Harry pitched forward, having somehow gained momentum during the trip and come out of the floo at a considerably higher speed than they’d gone in.

He used their bracelets to prevent Potter from slamming headlong into a curio cabinet filled with dusty Black heirlooms and the taxidermied bodies of some small fairy like creatures. Snape grimaced at it before turning his wand on them to clean the soot off, and in Harry’s case, blood from where he’d scraped his arm in the floo despite their precautions.

Harry gave the fireplace a dirty look “We’re apparating back. I was completely sure we were going to come out of more than one fireplace.” Severus huffed but didn’t disagree, he was fairly certain his stomach was still somewhere near the bottom of his throat.

They moved back as the fireplace flared again, announcing the arrival of Dumbledore, who climbed out gracefully and turned just in time to offer his good arm to Granger, who took it and stepped out of the green flames carefully. Draco came moments behind them, all of them obviously having flooed in from the Headmasters office.

Before Severus could address his godson, Lupin came into the room and ushered them toward the kitchen, looking particularly jumpy. Severus felt the skin across his shoulders crawl as he was reminded that the man only had one night before the full moon and would be feeling the effects already.

Once they had all settled around the deeply pitted kitchen table, Kreatcher worked his way around the room, handing out tea with shaky resentment, until he got to Draco, where he made such a fuss over him that Harry finally rolled his eyes and sent the old elf away.

“We’re waiting on just a few others before we begin.” Dumbledore said as he stirred several lumps of sugar into his tea and leaned back comfortably in one of the large kitchen chairs. Draco was standing stiffly against the counter behind Severus’ chair, looking like he was fighting to keep his typical sneer off of his face, but the almost silent rattle of his tea cup on the saucer told a different story.

They all turned as they heard the floo open several times in rapid succession and moments later the ministry group came through the kitchen door, chatting loudly and greeting those already there. Molly Weasley must have met Arthur at work since she had arrived with them. She immediately bustled over to Harry and Granger, wrapping them in quick hugs and fussing with Harry’s hair.

She gave Severus a surprisingly warm smile before she turned and noticed Draco, her dark brown eyes raking him up and down. Severus felt himself tensing, and was getting ready to stand and move the woman away from his godson when Harry brushed their fingers together, pulling his attention away for an instant.

Harry gave him a small reassuring smile and nodded toward the pair, indicating he should watch.

Molly finished her examination, Draco standing straighter and straighter under her scrutiny until you could have used his back as a writing board. They made an odd dichotomy, two purebloods, but perfectly opposed. Draco stood in rich tailored robes of the latest fashion, a neat grey waistcoat and sharply pressed trousers showing. His hair was cut perfectly and his hands bore the marks of a recent manicure. Molly stood in robes several years out of date, her hair needing a trim and brushed carelessly back, a smudge of flour sitting just above her ear, but managing to look just as dignified.

She huffed, her bright red hair falling loose from its bun and her hands resting on her hips. “Well, with that hair, and those eyes, you must be the Malfoy boy.” Her words drew the attention of the rest of the kitchen, the older Weasley boys narrowing their eyes at Draco and moving to stand.

Arthur shoved his eldest and one of the twins back into their seats with a firm hand on their shoulders, sending a warning look to the twin he couldn’t reach. They subsided with soft grumbles, shooting suspicious looks at the Death Eater speaking to their mother.

Draco had shifted back until the counter was surely cutting into his spine and was trying to hide the discomfort in his pale eyes. Severus again tried to get up and was halted, this time by Harry grabbing his arm and firmly pulling him back down. He shot a glare at the man and had started to angrily pull his arm free when Molly spoke again.

“You had best get seated young man, you don’t look like you’ve eaten and this lot will go through dinner faster than you can get to it if you don’t take a spot.” With that she turned and opened a small picnic basket she had brought with her, levitating dishes out onto the table in rapid succession. Draco deflated slightly, looking confused and a bit uncertain, so when Granger reached out and dragged him to the spot beside hers with a put upon air, he went without complaint.

Severus let himself slump back in his chair, shooting Harry a questioning look.

“There is no world that exists where Molly Weasley doesn’t try to feed every person she comes across, particularly if they look thin or are younger than her. Malfoy is both, it was only a matter of time. Besides it was better that Molly invite him in than for you to have to force the issue.” Harry answered very quietly.

Severus had to give himself a moment to get over the shock of Harry showing sudden Slytherin tendencies before he could focus on the rest of the room. He wasn’t sure how Potter had come up with that plan before he had, but he had been entirely right, if Severus had defended Draco it would have established a pattern he did not want. He nodded to Potter with grudging admiration.

A plate landed in front of him, making him jerk his head up in time to meet the determined eyes of the Weasley matriarch. He sighed as he acknowledged that he would not get out of here without eating until Molly was satisfied, which was sure to be a horrifying amount. With all of their extra activity recently, particularly having added dueling in, Severus had managed to lose weight he really could not afford to. He had even caught Harry’s concerned looks at his plate more than once but had managed to keep him quiet so far with a withering glare.

Severus grimaced as Molly approached him, the woman holding a spoonful of mashed potatoes out like a weapon. A quick movement came from the corner of his eye as Harry suddenly stuck his plate over the top of Severus’, catching the heaping pile with a grin at Mrs. Weasley.

“I think Remus is looking a bit thin, don’t you?” Harry asked, voice low and face very serious. Molly gave him an alarmed look before narrowing her eyes at Remus and turning to stalk him with the bowl of potatoes.

Harry gave him a mild look “You had best pick out something before she remembers you.” he muttered softly. Severus was afraid the look on his face might be somewhere in the range of pitifully grateful as he reached for a few things on the table he felt he could tolerate. He had known of course that Harry had noticed his aversion to eating, he just hadn’t realised that Potter had noticed that he avoided some food more than others.

The noise at the table dropped to small stilted conversations as everyone tucked in, while Draco looked at his towering plate with something between fear and awe but valiantly tried to make inroads. Granger gave a small snort of laughter at him as she made her way through the typical Weasley dinner with practiced ease. She got a vicious look for her trouble and Draco attacked his roast beef like it had insulted him.

One of the twins was watching the spectacle with amusement, and absently reached out to steal a roll from Harry’s plate, it being closer than the full basket of them. Moving faster than Severus imagined she could, Granger planted her fork into the back of the redheads hand, halting him scant centimeters from her best friends food.

The boy yelped and yanked his hand back, only to be pelted with a roll from the opposite end of the table seconds later as Granger flicked her wand, a bored look on her face. “Keep your hands off Harry’s plate” she said mildly as she turned back to her own food.

Potter shot her a grateful look and bumped her shoulder gently. The twin rubbed his hand with an alarmed look at the bushy haired witch, but took his roll and quietly buttered it. No one else at the table seemed to find the exchange particularly odd, but Severus shared a brief look of bewilderment with Draco.

Finally, Albus stood with a short scrape of his chair, firelight glinting off of his snowy beard where it rested against his appalling pumpkin orange robes.

“As I’m sure everyone has noticed we have a new face here tonight. Draco has kindly agreed to join us this evening and can hopefully answer any questions you have.” Albus said with a dreamy smile, for a moment looking alarmingly like the Lovegood girl.

A sharp snort from the other end of the table drew everyone’s attention to Madeye, who had spent most of the evening so far glaring at Draco with both eyes, something even Severus had to admit was unnerving.

“I’ve got a question Albus. Exactly how many more Death Eaters are ye planning on bringing to the Order? Just so I’ve got an accurate count you see. We seem to be getting a bit crowded” Moody shot a pointed look at Snape and sounded angrier than he typically did, which surprised Severus. He had thought the Alastor operated at a full rage at all times. Nothing else could explain why the man had made so many decisions that resulted in the permanent loss of body parts.

Albus started to answer, a frown bringing his bushy brows down to hover over his eyes like small disapproving clouds. Before he could, a cold voice spoke from Snape’s side.

“And what exactly do you mean by that?” Harry had tensed and sat up straight, his vivid green eyes narrowed dangerously at the old Auror.

“Watch your tone boy, I know you’ve gone and gotten yourself tied to one of them but that just means you should be more vigilant, not defending the bastards!” Alastor said, a wild look in his eyes.

Harry opened his mouth to retort, anger clear in the tense line of his jaw, when Albus managed to get a word in.

“Boys, that is more than enough. I suggest we all set aside our preconceived notions for the evening, it’s sure to make everything much easier. Alastor, please do try to remember that Severus is on our side, and unless I am very much mistaken, young Mister Malfoy is planning to join us as well.”

Severus tried to ignore the warm feeling that had bloomed in his chest at Harry’s outburst and addressed the table. “Draco is here because he wishes for the same opportunity that I was offered. I would remind those that are… hesitant… to recall the value of what I brought in return.”

“And what kind of information do you imagine a boy could bring us? Unless I’m mistaken, he’s still at Hogwarts and certainly isn’t in the kind of position you had.” Kingsley spoke up from the end of the table, his voice hard but not antagonistic.

“I know some of his plans. At least what he asked me to do.” Draco spoke up, his voice rougher than usual but loud enough to swing everyone’s attention to him.

“Oh yeah? And what super secret very important job did You-Know-Who give to the baby Death Eater?” One of the twins mocked. Severus was fairly certain it was George but since he hadn’t been able to tell them apart for almost 7 years of potions, he wasn’t likely to figure it out now.

Draco’s face tightened with anger and Severus could see him building up to a typical retort, something sure to drive a wedge into the very tenuous acceptance he was receiving. The twin that had spoken had a particular glint in his eye and abruptly Severus understood that it hadn’t been reactionary at all but a calculated move.

Draco leaned forward, a sneer on his face, then jerked, letting out a small undignified yelp. Silvery eyes shot wide and his godson swung around to give Granger an utterly offended look before he dropped back down in his seat, ruining the lines of his neatly pressed robes. Severus subtly looked around the table and noted that Grangers fork wasn’t visible. He had a strong suspicion that it might be currently planted in Draco’s thigh. “He told me that I had to kill Dumbledore” the boy muttered, drawing gasps from around the table.

The old man looked completely undisturbed by news of the assassination order, which he would be, given that Severus had told him of it last summer.

Everyone else looked stunned, sitting in silence until Granger broke in, her voice higher than usual. “Did you do something to make him want to kill you? Because that’s just suicide with extra steps.”

Draco turned to glare when Harry snorted a small laugh before responding. “My father fell out of favor when he was arrested.” he said rather pointedly. Harry pulled a face and surprisingly gave Draco a small sympathetic look.

“I was also ordered to find a way to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts. I’ve been delaying where I can, but he will expect progress soon. I think he might be planning to make an example out of Mother if I cannot give him something” Draco trailed off into silence. Even the Weasley twins looked horrified.

“I believe that brings us to the heart of tonight's meeting” Albus broke in, his voice soft. “I believe that Mr. Malfoy is telling the truth, but I understand that many of you may not. Mr. Malfoy and I discussed the possibility before we came this evening and he has agreed to veritaserum should it be asked of him.”

Severus snapped his head up to glare at Albus. He hadn’t been told this. Albus should have told him, should have gotten the serum from him. Albus seemed to anticipate his concern though and silently held up a small container that Severus recognized as one of his own preferred bottles.

“Well we can hardly trust anything he says. It’s not like Snape wouldn’t change something in the potion to save the boy.” Moody said, a distasteful mix of anger and smugness on his face.

“Ah yes, not to worry Alastor, Severus had no idea of our plan and this particular batch has been in my possession for several months. If you like I would be happy to allow you to sample it for your own peace of mind.” Dumbledore offered, his voice taking on a hard edge.

Moody looked rather ill and shook his head quickly, falling silent.

“Wonderful! Well then Mr. Malfoy, if you would. Ms. Granger perhaps you would be so good as to administer it? Three drops only, if you please.” Dumbledore handed the vial over to the surprised looking Gryffindor, but she took it after only a moment's hesitation, apparently coming to some sort of conclusion judging by the arch of her brow at her Headmaster.

Draco looked wary but tilted his head back when she indicated. She dropped precisely three drops into his open mouth before stoppering it and handing it back to Dumbledore.

Everyone sat in uncomfortable silence for several minutes as they waited for the potion to take effect, the only sounds the slow scrap of Arthur's fork over his plate. Kingsley spoke first, asking the standard Auror opening questions for an interrogation.

“What is your name?”

“Draco Lucius Malfoy” his voice had taken on the monotone edge typical of veritaserum.

“What is your age?”

“Seventeen”

“Are you a Death Eater?” Moody broke in.

Draco looked over at Severus in panic, not able to properly answer the question but feeling the overwhelming compulsion to. Since he bore the mark the answer was yes, but since he had betrayed the Dark Lord the answer was also no.

“Do you consider yourself loyal to Voldemort?” Granger asked quickly, shooting a glare at Moody.

“No, I’m not loyal to the Dark Lord” Draco answered, his shoulders relaxing.

“I might take this time to remind those who appear to have forgotten that individuals under the influence of veritaserum are to be questioned carefully to insure questions that are impossible to answer are not asked.” The bite in Severus voice made anyone who had ever had the misfortune of being his student wince.

Moody grunted as he leaned back and crossed his scarred arms, his magical eye finally giving up its focus on Draco and spinning around in its usual nauseating way.

The questioning continued, both about his loyalty and of what plans had been put in place. It turned out that Draco really only knew of the two pieces that the Dark Lord had entrusted to him. He wasn’t aware of much else, but didn’t bother trying to resist the potion, answering easily even if it was a simple acknowledgment of ignorance.

“Well Mr. Malfoy I believe that answers everything rather neatly.” Dumbledore said, smiling around in a general sort of way when they had confirmed that Malfoy had been telling the truth and really had come to them only in a bid to save his mother’s life.

“Now hold on Albus. I can think of a few things I’d like to ask the boy.” Moody said, glowering at Draco.

“Hey ferret, are the rumors true, did you actually sle..” One of the twins started, a gleeful look on his face. He was interrupted by the sharp crack of Harry’s hand connecting with the table.

“George, not ok. How would you like it if I made you answer personal questions in front of everyone?” Harry’s voice was low but hard, his disapproval clear. George flushed an unbecoming red, a sheepish expression coming over his face.

“Sorry Harry” he said quietly, shrinking away from the glare his mother was sending him.

Before Severus could think it through he shifted, pressing the back of his hand tight to Harry’s in thanks. Potter started slightly before pressing gently back, a tiny pleased smile curling just the corner of his mouth.

Harry’s interference served a twofold purpose, managing to stop any further questions as well. It seemed that a rebuke from the Savior was enough to reign in even Madeye, who subsided with a grumble.

“Ms. Granger, now that unpleasantness is settled, perhaps you could walk us all through your plan.” Dumbledore said, motioning to the notebook sitting in front of bushy haired woman.

No one said anything but all of the Aurors gave Dumbledore troubled looks at the amount of trust he was putting into an 18 year old girl. Granger straightened and pulled out her notes with a muttered password, too quiet for anyone to hear. She opened the book, which kept opening, spreading out and unfolding into a huge poster of carefully detailed steps and an excruciatingly exact timeline.

Harry grinned as he leaned over to get a better look, his shoulder pushed tight to Grangers, dragging Severus closer as well.

The room echoed with the scrape of heavy chairs and benches as everyone stood up to get a better look at the paper. Granger sighed before moving her wand in a complicated twist and muttering a soft “simulacrum”, making the images on the paper jump up and project themselves onto the kitchen wall, considerably larger than they had been and easy for everyone to see.

Severus had an odd flash of nostalgia, remembering his childhood before Hogwarts, sitting in the back of the classroom in his muggle primary school, the teacher droning on as he was lulled to sleep by the buzz of the old projector.

Everyone settled back down and fell silent as they read through Grangers careful notes.

“We could use that jewelry shop, the one at the end of Knockturn Alley” Tonks said quickly, having gotten to the part that detailed the destruction of an unknown property.

Kingsley was slowly nodding. “I know the owner. He won’t be needing it again, he was sentenced to life in Azkaban back in June. Trafficking in illegal potions ingredients.”

“What kind of potions ingredients gets you life in Azkaban?” Bill Weasley asked, his face showing his confusion.

“The kind that you can only get from a murdered child.” Kingsley answered sharply, his dark eyes haunted.

Bill turned a sickly green under his freckles and sat back, shrinking into himself.

No one protested about taking out the man’s shop, and several people offered up new ways to destroy it more thoroughly.

It was past midnight when they finally wrapped up, everyone having agreed to the timeline despite a few initial protests. The only point of true contention that was brought up was Severus being assigned with the task of escorting Narcissa. Since Harry would have to be with him it had caused a small uproar when Lupin stepped in, his eyes flashing gold as he snarled about Severus putting Harry in danger.

Harry himself had put a stop to it, calmly pointing out that they needed Narcissa to go along with them and there was no one else she would even pause to listen to in case Draco was unable to give her any warning. They agreed that Severus and Harry wouldn’t be part of the group that would grab her, but they would be along with her the remainder of the trip to the safe house.

Everyone slowly filtered toward the floo, except for Harry and Severus, who walked out into the barren back garden, Harry waving their goodbyes before linking hands and apparating back to Hogwarts with a sharp crack.


Harry twisted the intricate knob, shoving the heavy wooden door open, and was immediately assaulted with the smell of Molly’s cooking. He dragged Snape in behind him, clearing the way for Hermione to slip in and slam the door quickly against the cold. They had apparated in since the Weasley’s had locked their floo several months before. Their family allegiances were well known and Arthur had received several threats at work, prompting Kingsley to set up extra precautions.

A small shuffle later and they had peeled off their heavy outer layers. Harry divested himself of a heavy wool pea coat that had somehow made its way into his side of the wardrobe. He wasn’t certain where it had come from but was fairly confident it wasn’t Snape’s since it actually fit him and didn’t make him feel like a child playing dress up. The one time he had accidentally put on one of Severus’ button up shirts the man had snorted with undignified laughter and spent the rest of the day making subtle height related puns. It wasn’t like Harry was short either, he just wasn’t freakishly tall like some people.

A loud tangle of greetings was shouted from the living room as they made their way in and started piling up presents around the already overwhelmed tree. Snape had shrunk all of them and put them in his trouser pocket, but Harry found himself trying to awkwardly balance the newly enlarged pile of gaudily wrapped packages on top of a veritable hoard of other similarly wrapped presents. The theme as usual appeared to be primarily red and gold. The Weasley family was Gryffindors to the last, something Severus had obviously noted by the look of mild revulsion on his face.

Once they and Hermione had gotten everything successfully settled they were swept up in the whirlwind of Weasley Christmas. Hermione was immediately abducted by Ginny and taken off to lands unknown while Harry and Snape were forcibly placed on the couch and attacked by Arthur and his overenthusiastic questions about electricity. Snape gave him a pitiful and rather baffled look and eventually Harry took pity, catching Ron’s eye and motioning subtly to him before pointing at the nearby chess board.

Ron was perched on the edge of an ottoman with his chin resting in his hand, which was slowly tilting to the side as his eyes drifted shut. At Harry’s small wave Ron’s face lit up and he quickly escaped from Luna’s father and his detailed explanation of exactly where one might find crumple-horned snorkacks. The Lovegoods had arrived earlier in the day and Ron had obviously been put on guest duty.

“Good afternoon Professor” Ron said cheerfully, making every Weasley in the room look over sharply. The only time any of the Weasley children ever spoke about Snape, ‘Professor’ was far down on the long list of things he was called.

“Good afternoon Mr. Weasley” Severus responded, his eyes lighting up when he spotted the chess board Ron was carrying. “I suppose you would like a rematch?” he said hopefully.

“If you’re willing” Ron answered, already setting the board up on a side table he had dragged over for the purpose. Snape nodded and sat forward, pulling Harry with him. Harry moved as soon as he felt a tug on his arm, absently resettling himself against Severus as he tried to remember exactly what the purpose of the test button on a hair dryer plug was for. He wasn’t certain he had ever known and he rather wished that Hermione had been roped into this. He would have taken crumple-horned snorkacks had he been given the choice.

An hour later and Charlie had taken Arthur's spot after Molly had called her husband into the kitchen to help with extension charms. Harry was in the middle of discussing the temperament of a welsh green verses a chinese fireball when an eruption of cheers dragged his attention over to the board, just in time to watch Ron’s face fill with dismay when his king threw down its crown.

Harry smiled, for a moment completely forgetting his conversation in favor of sending Ron a smug grin. “I’m starting to think you aren’t nearly as good at chess as you keep telling everyone mate.”

Severus smiled in a predatory sort of way as his pieces reset themselves on the board, the look ruined somewhat by the faint flush that colored his cheeks at Harry’s words.

Charlie was looking at Snape with something close to wonder and eventually smiled widely “You might just be my hero Professor. I haven’t seen anyone beat Ron since before he started Hogwarts.” Harry felt an odd twist in his chest at the way Charlie was looking at Severus and shifted uncomfortably, bizarrely wanting to drag the other man away.

Severus flushed a darker shade and seemed more embarrassed than pleased as he sat back into the couch and settled comfortably against Harry.

Ron glowered good naturedly and looked as though he was getting ready to suggest another game when Molly shouted for him and Harry to come help. Severus turned to him in question but he just shrugged his shoulders and stood, stretching his back out.

They spent the remainder of the afternoon in the kitchen chatting with whoever else Molly managed to catch and put to work. Hermione eventually joined them, rolling her eyes at Harry’s questioning look and muttering something about Ginny and ridiculous crushes.

After the typical mayhem of Weasley Christmas Eve dinner they found themselves back in the front room, everyone having said their goodbyes to the Lovegoods before settling in with their drinks of choice. Harry cradled his cup of tea close to his chest in an effort not to spill it. He had learned over the past two months that even with practice he tended to lose track of the angle of his tea when he had it in his off hand. Severus held a glass of fire whiskey balanced on his knee and had grudgingly splashed a small amount into Harry’s teacup when he held it out insistently.

The twins were crammed into an armchair that hadn’t been extended far enough to fit them both comfortably but they seemed content, having brought a mysterious glowing blue liquid out and were in the process of convincing Ron to try it. Ron, for his part, was hunched protectively over his mug of hot chocolate and had flanked himself with a wall of presents.

Small conversations floated around the room, Severus having gotten caught up in the details of a recent cursebreaking case that had been giving Bill trouble, Fleur and Hermione chatted softly by the fire and Molly chided the twins about testing out new products on their siblings.

Harry found himself drifting, full of food and pleasantly warm from the whiskey and tight press of Severus and Charlie on either side of him. For the first time since Sirius had died he felt like he was truly surrounded by family and the contentment lulled him into a light doze.

He woke a while later, noting groggily that the room had mostly emptied out. Severus pulled him up and guided him toward the stairs up to Charlie’s room, where they had been assigned for the night. Charlie was bunking with Ron instead, no one wanting to try and force Severus to share a room with anyone other than Harry, which he didn’t have much of a choice about.

They got changed silently and finished up in the bathroom across the hall, almost tripping over Ginny on their way out. She gave Harry a weirdly bright smile before darting around them and closing the door with a snap.

They climbed into bed, Harry noting that it was considerably smaller than Snape’s but neither of them seemed to care enough to do anything about it. Harry wiggled around until he was comfortable, making Severus grumble, before he buried his head under the soft quilts and fell asleep.


Piercingly bright sunlight woke him, having snuck through a small gap in the pale blue curtains. Severus blinked painfully and turned his head to the side with a groan. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had to worry about how dark his room was in the morning, the only light in his bedroom typically came from his fire or candles.

He shifted slightly and froze, his whole body tensing at the feel of another person pressed tight to him. He pried open his eyes against the light only to find his view filled with tangled black hair.

To his complete mortification, sometime during the night he must have rolled over and wrapped himself around Potter, pressing his chest the other man’s back. His right arm was looped around a warm waist and one leg was tangled loosely with Harry’s. Snape breathed out quietly and moved slowly, trying to extract himself without waking the younger wizard, but when he pulled on his left arm he found it stuck and very numb. Harry must have rolled toward him at some point in the night and now had his arm pinned under his side.

Severus flopped onto his back and spent several minutes staring at the ceiling as he listened to the house coming awake, trying to delay what was sure to be an awkward start to his morning. In the months they had spent sleeping next to each other they had managed to stick to their respective sides without any real issue. It was only recently that he had been waking up to find both of them in the center of the bed, snugged tight to either side of the bolster. He should have considered that before they went to sleep last night but he’d had perhaps one more whiskey than was wise and Harry had been so tired he was surprised he’d successfully made it to the bed.

Just as he shifted to wake Harry and accept the inevitable looks of horror, the bedroom door slammed open, crashing into the wall behind it and sending the mirror hanging there to the ground, pieces of glass spraying out. Without thinking, Severus grabbed Harry and heaved toward his side of the bed, furthest away from whoever was coming through the door. He hadn’t counted on Harry waking up and having a similar reaction and shoving off hard from the bed, toward Severus.

They tumbled off the side of the bed, slamming into the floor in a tangle of limbs and blankets. Both had managed to grab their wands, but Harry was trapped under Severus and couldn’t get up to do anything but throw a quick shield around them. Severus was stuck on his side and managed to get his wand raised as he looked over the edge of the abandoned mattress for their attackers.

Cursing filled the room from the direction of the door. “Are you blokes alright? I forgot I hung that mirror up.” Charlie Weasley’s voice called as he carefully entered the room, stepping over the shards of glass that littered the floor. “I forgot to grab Mum’s present, I hid it in my desk.”

Footsteps thundered down the stairs toward them, yelling coming closer as the whole Weasley household converged to see what had happened. Severus lowered his wand and dropped his head down to rest against the edge of the mattress where he had the perfect view of a wild eyed Harry.

“What happened? Is everyone alright?” Granger’s voice came from the hall, followed seconds later by a murmured “reparo” as she cleared the glass from the floor.

“Yeah, we’re fine but Charlie has exactly as long as it takes me to get up before I start hexing him.” Harry replied, a murderous look taking over his face.

Severus raised his head in time to see alarm cross the dragon tamers face as he turned to flee, a small wrapped box clutched in his hand. Snape flicked his wand, hitting the redhead square in the back with a stinging hex. He got a yelp from Charlie and a snort of laughter from Harry before he collapsed back onto the tangle of Potter, pillow, and blanket. If this was a typical Weasley Christmas he wasn’t sure he would survive it.


Hermione walked around the bed, Ron following sleepily behind in a bright orange Chudley Cannons shirt and a pair of worn flannel pyjama pants. He’d come into the room just after Charlie fled through the crowd of gathered redheads. Once she had seen that no one was in any actual danger she had waved everyone off, sending the family trooping down toward the kitchen and the promise of Christmas presents.

Squished into the thin walkway between the bed and the wall she found a confusing pile of her best friend, her professor, quilts and all but one of the pillows that had been on the bed. Harry raised his hand in a lazy wave from half under the bed, looking like he wasn’t opposed to just going back to sleep where he was. Snape had buried his head under a pillow, from which she could almost make out a steady stream of muffled threats and expletives.

Ron leaned around and kicked Harry’s ankle with his bare foot, eliciting a questioning grunt. “Up mate, before mum comes up and gets you.” With his warning delivered he shuffled out and could be heard thumping his way down the stairs.

“Are either of you hurt?” she asked.

Harry cracked open one eye and squinted at her, shaking his head no before he dug an elbow into the tangle of limbs beside him. Snape mumbled a negative before sitting up abruptly, night dark hair almost as wild as Harry’s and a scowl painted over his face.

Snape dragged himself up, towering over her and pulling a surprised Harry partway across the floor before he halted and glared down at the sprawled teenager. Harry made a small noise of complaint and held his arms straight up, wordlessly requesting assistance.

The only warning Harry got was a flash of malicious glee over Snape’s face before the floor under him was coated in slushy snow from the garden.

Hermione back away as her friend shrieked and came off the floor like he’d been summoned. She decided that retreat might be the better part of valor as she beat a hasty path to the hallway, closing the door on shouting and the sound of deep laughter.

She smiled as she made her way downstairs and was immediately roped into help set up breakfast, along with anyone else that wandered through.

Twenty minutes later and the whole clan had gathered, most everyone looking like they had just rolled out of bed with the exception of Harry and Snape. Since her best friend typically stayed in his pyjamas until the last possible moment she could only assume he had been badgered into dressing. His worn out jeans and loose holey t shirt that she was fairly certain belonged to either Ron or the twins stood out in silent protest against the tide of Snape’s neatness.

Snape had put on a button up and pressed trousers but had left his robes off, which seemed almost indecent to her. Hermione wasn’t sure why but seeing him without his trademark sweeping robes made him weirdly human, and she had a bright moment of insight as to how Harry had made such a quick turn around about him. Seeing someone without all of their self imposed barriers up did strange things to people.

Charlie was sitting beside George and looked like he was trying to sink into his chair at the glare Harry was leveling at him. Fred was busily chatting with Ginny about her charms homework while Ron single mindedly make his way through a huge plate of eggs and bacon while his skin turned a vivid shade of neon green and tiny pink flowers sprouted from his hair.

Hermione raised an eyebrow at the twins when she noticed a distinct blue glow about Ron’s teacup but remained silent after checking her own cup. She watched a surprisingly unhappy expression cross Snape’s face before he carefully set his fork to the side and cast several revealing charms on both his and Harry’s coffee.

Molly bustled in with Arthur as Bill and Fleur came down the stairs, both looking rather flushed. They managed to finish breakfast with only a small outburst from Ron when leaves started falling onto his plate from his hair, the tiny meadow having grown and changed with rapid seasons. Otherwise he seemed mostly unbothered by his new skin tone and just shrugged in a placid sort of way.

They all heard the front door open and a few minutes later a very tired looking Remus Lupin joined them at the table, gratefully taking a mug of coffee and a full plate from Molly. He smiled a greeting around the table, nodding to Harry.

They all eventually made their way into the front room and settled down with coffee or tea as the twins started passing around presents. A new pile had appeared near the front door, having been dropped off by owl that morning.

Hermione sat back and watched the family happily, her mound of presents creeping slowly higher. She glanced over at Harry in time to see him ruffled Ron’s hair and send a shower of pink petals all over the couch. Ron had seemed more comfortable with her when he wasn’t with Lavender. She wondered briefly if it would help to speak with her and let her know that she had no plans on poaching Ron. It had been nice spending time with the boys the last two days. This term had been rather lonely for her, having spent the last 5 years in almost constant company with both of them during the school year, only the first few months of first year had been more isolating.

Her train of thought was interrupted by Fred pulling a small muggle water gun from his pocket and squeezing the trigger, making a puff of smoke and a crack like a starter pistol come from it.

Snape jumped in alarm, only Harry’s hand clamping down on his arm kept him in his seat at the twins particular way of declaring that everyone should start opening presents. The potions master glared at them before turning to give a confused look to the large stack of gifts sitting in front of him. Most were wrapped in some form of silver or green in festive acknowledgement of the lone Slytherin of the household.

He turned and said something quietly to Harry, who leaned closer to listen before giving him a very soft smile and nodding slightly to the gifts as he answered. Snape flushed a rather startling pink as Harry waved a hand to indicate everyone in the room and muttered something else before turning back to his own small mountain of bright red and gold.

Hermione felt her heart squeeze a tiny bit at the look of baffled pleasure on Snape’s face as he reached hesitantly for the first box. He had obviously not expected anyone to get him anything and suddenly she found herself fiercely glad that he and Harry had ended up bound, even if it was a bit of a mess.

Hermione turned her attention to her own gifts and had just gotten to her annual Weasley jumper, having noted that the lovely new quill and stack of rare books Harry had gotten her bore both his and Snape’s name on the tag, when a burst of laughter drew her attention to Ron, who was holding what looked to be a piece of jewelry and was looking like he wished he could be anywhere else.

Harry was laughing so hard he had fallen over onto Snape, and the twins looked like they had received the best Christmas present they could have imagined. Ron tried to stuff whatever the gift was underneath himself but lost it after a small tussle with Bill, who held it up for the rest of the family to see.

A glittering gold necklace stated clearly that the wearer was “my sweetheart” which sent everyone except for Molly into fits of laughter. Molly looked around disapprovingly and declared that it was very sweet that a girl had gone to all the trouble of getting Ron such a nice present and reminded him that he should thank her when he got back to Hogwarts.

Ron had nodded numbly, shaking his head with resigned horror. Everyone eventually settled down, the rest of the present opening finishing up with only the usual minor hitches of booby trapped gifts from the twins and one disgusting box of live maggots sent to Harry from Kreacher. Luckily Snape had grabbed them while saying something about them being useful in the lab.

After gifts and more than a few rounds of both wizarding and muggle games the afternoon had faded. Everyone was making their way through the enormous amount of food that Molly had set out when she asked Remus rather pointedly where Tonks was.

Lupin flushed and quickly mentioned that she hadn’t been able to make it this year, despite the invitation and that he was fairly certain she was spending it with her family. For some reason this made Molly frown at him. She was just opening her mouth when she froze, an expression of shocked happiness coming over her face.

“Arthur look! Look it’s Percy!” she cried, pointing out the window.

Chairs scrapped as everyone pushed back to lean around and look through the window. It was indeed Percy Weasley, with none other than the Minister of Magic walking up to the back door.

Molly hurried through the house and flung the door open, throwing herself into her son’s arms. Percy looked mortified and set her back at arms length after a quick hug.

“I’m terribly sorry to disturb your Christmas, we were just in the neighborhood and Percy mentioned how it would be nice to stop by and say a quick hello to his family. I do keep him for such long hours and it is the holidays after all.” Scrimgeour said instead of an introduction, his smile deeply insincere.

“Oh well of course, how kind of you Minister. Would you like to come in? We have more than enough..” Molly trailed off as Scrimgeour shook his head.

“No no I wouldn’t want to impose, and we have a great deal to get back to. I’ll just leave you for a few minutes to catch up shall I? Perhaps one of you wouldn’t mind showing me around your lovely garden?” the Minister said, his eyes falling on Harry. “Maybe you young man, you seem to be finished” he said, making everyone at the table narrow their eyes at him, except for Molly who was still busy fussing over Percy.

“Yeah, alright” Harry said, an assessing look on his face. He stood, Snape moving with him without complaint.

“Oh I think just the boy will be enough of an escort, Professor Snape is it?” Scrimgeour said, motioning for Snape to sit back down.

For the first time since they had arrived at the Burrow, Hermione saw Snape’s face fall into the cold mask she had gotten used to in years of potions.

“You will have to pardon me Minister, but I’m afraid that Potter doesn’t go anywhere without me. I’m sure someone else would be more than happy to show you around if you were set on only inconveniencing one of us.” Snape’s voice had gained a dangerously silky quality that made the Minister give him a sharp look.

Scrimgeour frowned and leaned forward just as Harry carefully pulled their linked wrists back and hid them in the folds of his new Weasley jumper. Without a word Bill stood and walked around, drawing the Minister’s attention.

“I’d be happy to show you around Minister. Perhaps you could tell me a bit about Percy’s job. I’m afraid we haven’t gotten to speak with him much lately and with my travels I’ve no idea what he’s up to these days.” Bill said cheerfully as he guided the Minister outside.

Scrimgeour glanced back once, a frustrated look on his face as Bill towed him along. Harry and Snape sat back down, casually putting their wrists under the table and away from Percy’s view.

The trip around the garden was cut rather short, as the Minister returned after only a few minutes and collected an uncomfortable Percy from Molly. The rest of the family stood by silently as Molly said a tearful goodbye and an obviously irritated Minister apparated away with a sharp “Come now Mr. Weasley.”

The rest of lunch was spent with Arthur gently patting Molly’s hand and the table subdued.

Before Hermione knew it everyone was waddling out to the front lawn, full of a Christmas feast and carrying bags of shrunken presents. After a full round of hugs everyone began apparating away, Harry waving a jaunty goodbye before turning on his heel, his hand tangled easily in Snape’s. Hermione was just stepping over to follow them when a small hand landed on her arm. She turned to meet the worried eyes of Molly Weasley and immediately stepped back inside the wards.

“I’m sorry to delay you dear, I know that Professor Snape and Harry are waiting so I won’t keep you, but I just wanted to know, do you really think that the plan with the Malfoy boy is a good idea?” She asked very quietly, obviously not wanting to give any fuel to anti Malfoy campaign that her son’s were running.

“Yes” Hermione answered instantly. “I know he doesn’t have a good history, but I believe him. He’s just too desperate and too…” she trailed off, unable to quantify exactly what it had been that had so convinced her of his intentions.

“It’s alright dear, you’ve spent more time with the boy and I know how much you all have disagreed. If you think we can pull him out of the mess his father has got him into than I believe you.” the older woman reassured her, patting her briskly on the arm. “Well you had best be going, we don’t want you upsetting Severus.”

Hermione leaned over and brushed a quick kiss across Molly’s cheek before she stepped away from the wards, making the woman blush and bat gently at her. “Happy Christmas Mrs. Weasley” she said as she turned and disappeared with a loud crack.


They got back to Hogwarts just after the feast was ending and passed a trickle of students on their way to the dungeons. When they had gotten back and divested themselves of their bags, Harry had pulled out his gift for Severus, wrapped rather clumsily in blue and white paper, covered with snowmen.

Severus had given him a small set of very nice, very sharp knives of all different metals, much better than the ones in his current potions kit. Harry had complained more than a few times about his own after he had gotten used to using Severus’ personal set when he was helping in the lab. He had also gotten Harry a lovely leather wand holster that strapped to his arm, the kind that professional duellers and Aurors wore.

Harry was doubly glad that he had put some actual thought into Severus’ gift. During the last of the term when he had been sending notes through the floo to Hermione he had slipped a few in that had nothing to do with homework and instead centered around Christmas presents and potions texts.

With her help he had managed to assemble a small box of exceedingly rare ingredients, several of which he had just asked Hermione not to tell him how much they had cost and instead had written authorization for her to charge his Gringotts account.

His true victory had been finding a very rare potions text written in the early 1500s by a German wizard that many had regarded as a bit mad, but actually had just turned out to be ahead of his times. He didn’t pretend to have any idea what it was about, but the man’s great granddaughter had parted with it happily enough for a generous sum and an autographed picture of Harry.

Harry had waited until they returned to Hogwarts to give them to him since he wasn’t sure how some of the ingredients would tolerate shrinking. Severus’ hadn’t seemed at all surprised when he didn’t find a gift from Harry at the Burrow, which made Harry that much more determined to make sure that he got him a good gift for his Birthday as well.

Severus took it, looking surprised but pleased.

“I’m sorry I didn’t bring it with us, I just didn’t know if it would travel well.” Harry explained.

Snape waved him off and sat down to carefully unwrap it. He pulled out the flat box of ingredients first, opening it and sorting through with a stunned look on his face.

“These are Egyption mummy wrappings, how did you get these?” Severus asked, incredulous.

“Bill. Gringotts has had him down there curse breaking in the tombs for almost two years now. Don’t worry, it’s legal. They’re allowed to take some of the treasure as payment and try to sell it for more than they would typically get in wages. Bill grabbed some for me when I asked.” Harry explained.

Severus reverently put the small box to the side before he turned back to the larger gift box. Harry had put more than a few protective charms around the book, and Hermione had done him a favor and placed just about every preservation spell she could find on the delicate text, going to far as to recruit a rather excited Madam Pince.

Severus carefully lifted it out and set it on his lap, frowning when he saw the blank leather cover. He opened it and read the title before turning an alarming shade of white and immediately yanking his hands away.

“Why did you let me touch this? Do you have any idea what this is? You cannot handle a book like this without protection spells in place, even the oils on your hands can damage it.” he looked positively panicked as he held his hands awkwardly away from the book in his lap.

Harry relaxed as he realised what had set the man off. “Calm down, I wouldn’t have given it to you if it didn’t already have every preservation spell known to literature on it. Both Hermione and Madam Pince have gone over it.”

 

Severus’ shoulders slumped, all of the tension pouring out of him at Harry’s reassurance. His slender hands shook with a fine tremor as he opened the book, reading through the German easily.

“How did you get this?” he asked softly.

Harry shifted, suddenly uncomfortable with the strangely vulnerable look on Snape’s face. “His great granddaughter is apparently a fan” he muttered. “She agreed to sell it to me if I sent her a personalized autograph along with the payment.”

Harry cringed, some part of him still expecting Snape to make a scathing comment about him and autographs. Instead he felt Severus’ fingers wrap around his and squeeze.

“Thank you. I can only imagine that this did not come cheaply. It means a great deal that you would go to such lengths for me.” Snape said, his fingers curling around the book as if he expected Harry might decide to snatch it back.

Harry could feel a pleased blush rising in his cheeks and looked away as Severus gave a soft happy hum and settled back onto the sofa to read through his new treasure.

 

Boxing day was spent in their rooms, lazily sifting through Christmas gifts. Harry had spent the previous day watching happily as Severus opened gift after gift. He had even received his very first Weasley jumper, a plush black with a dark green S across the front. He had snorted at it when they got back to Hogwarts and put it to the side, but Harry had seen him gently stroking it later that evening.

Severus had planted himself rather firmly onto the floor in front of the scuffed coffee table, his new book spread out in front of him and a thick journal to the side where he was keeping a running litany of notes and comments. Harry could suddenly picture a much younger Snape scribbling in his sixth year potions book with the same focused determination, though the new book seemed to be receiving much less sarcasm.

Harry had summoned a small mountain of pillows and cushions and had stuffed them around them both before sprawling out on his stomach, a cooling cup of tea at his elbow and the newest book in a muggle detective series propped against Severus’ leg.

Hermione had as usual gotten him a small stack of books, but over the years she had gotten much better at picking books he either enjoyed or would find useful. She had gotten him hooked on the muggle author two years prior and always seemed to be able to find the newest installment before he could.

She had also gotten him a muggle book on meditation after he had shared his frustrations about controlling his magic. He’d given it a distasteful look but had promised himself he would read at least a little of it each day.

They spent a pleasant day silently absorbed in their own books, pausing only for snacks and the occasional cup of tea, supplied by Tippy. Neither bothered to get dressed and by the time evening was coming around and the dungeons were getting chillier, Severus had rather furtively put on his Weasley jumper, a look daring Harry to say anything.

Harry finished his book just as Tippy popped in to ask if they would be taking dinner in their rooms. Severus waved his hand in dismissal, not actually answering, and Harry wasn’t entirely certain that his brain had fully processed the question or if he was just too caught up.

Harry gave her a quick smile and nod before turning to the meditation book. He spent all of dinner reading through it and couldn’t find anything revolutionary. It pretty much just told him that he had to relax and isolate his focus, which was exactly what Severus had yelled at him in a much less flowery way.

Harry settled down and made himself comfortable, thinking that he might as well try some of the exercises since Severus didn’t look likely to move for anything short of a fire. He closed his eyes and tried to think only of his power, the familiar surge of it easy to find in his chest. He reached mental hands toward the edges of it, only to find that it curled around and slipped through his grasp like water, just like every time he had tried to pull it back. Harry shifted, his frustration making him want to get up and pace, and dislodged Snape’s hand from where it had been resting on his leg.

Severus jerked slightly and drew in a startled breath, and quite suddenly Harry was thrown back to the memory of the day they had gotten tied together. He could almost feel the sharp wrench of pain as Severus pulled and seized on the floor; could hear the struggling breaths and the sharp burn of magic flowing down his arm as he desperately tried to save them both.

Harry focused on the feeling his magic had given him, remembering how he had pressed it hard into a thinner part of natural barrier that seemed to exist to stop witches and wizards leaking their magic everywhere. He could feel that same thin area he had found months before and abruptly realised that it was located just under the bracelet. Instinctively he tried to reinforce the area, but magic just seeped through like he was pushing jam through cheesecloth.

Harry could distantly feel his leg going numb from his awkward position and his fingers getting stiff with chill, but it was far away, almost like a memory. He mentally pressed around the weak area, feeling for edges but finding that the fragility tapered off rather than ending cleanly.

Frustrated, Harry unthinkingly created one of the adapted shields he had been playing with since he had started working around Snape level potions. He tugged it tight to his skin, feeling it wedge under the bracelet almost like thick piece of wool and spread over the back of his hand and almost halfway up his arm.

A sensation like pressure changing in his ears made him shake his head. It felt almost like there had been some kind of low level noise that he hadn’t realised was there until it disappeared. Harry opened his eyes with a grin to find Severus still completely engrossed in his book, not having noticed that his companion had been utterly still for at least an hour.

“Snape! I think I figured it out” Harry said, shaking their linked arms. Onyx eyes blinked in confusion at him as the other man surfaced fully into awareness.

“What are you talking about Potter?” his voice was rough from having spent much of the last day in silence.

“Blocking the bracelet. I think I blocked it. Pull your magic back and lets see.” Harry said excitedly.

Snape blinked in surprise but obligingly put his quill down and closed his eyes for a moment to concentrate. Harry felt the instant the bond went loose, his hand fell to his side and there was no pull at all, unlike their previous attempts.

Harry leapt up with a whoop, almost immediately falling back down as his numb leg burst into painful pinpricks. He hopped in an awkward limping dance around the coffee table, Severus watching with amusement.

“What did you do? I can’t imagine that you managed to solve all of your magic control problems with a few hours of a muggle meditation book.” Snape asked, slowly climbing to his feet and stretching.

Harry waved dismissively “No it was pretty much useless. I just chucked the whole idea and put a shield up instead.”

Severus just blinked at him, confusion clear on his face “But that shouldn’t be possible. A shield is made of your magic. Putting your magic, in any form, against an artifact that operates off of your magic would not negate it.”

Harry shrugged “I used one of the shields that I was playing with when I was trying to figure out how to contain that horrible dragons blood concoction you made.”

Snape got a thoughtful look on his face “If I recall correctly you were trying to layer a nullifying field over a fireproof shield. The fireproofing shouldn’t matter at all, but if you’ve managed to successfully create a shield with a buffer on it that will nullify magic it should theoretically work with the bracelet.” Harry got a raised eyebrow and a small smile. “Well done Potter, despite years of evidence otherwise you appear to have some actual grasp of magic.”

Harry pulled a face at him but was too happy with himself to take any real offense.

“Let’s see how far it’ll let us get apart” Harry said, grabbing his robes and tossing them over the top of his pyjamas.

Snape sighed but snagged his own robes and put them on over his Weasley jumper and track pants before slipping on his heavy black boots.

“Why is it that since you came around I keep finding myself outside of my rooms in pyjamas?” the potions master asked mildly as they stepped into the dark corridor.

Harry shrugged again, glancing at the other man with a grin. They were walking side by side, close enough for shoulders to brush when he realised that they didn’t have to. Slightly giddy with freedom, Harry moved several steps to the left, leaving a large gap between them. Severus started to move with him absently before he stopped and smiled back in dawning realisation.

They both raced up the stairs toward the great hall, Harry laughing softly as Severus pulled ahead, taking the stairs three at a time. Once they reach the darkened hall, still twinkling softly with fairy lights that hadn’t been brought down yet, Severus kept walking until reaching the far wall behind the high table while Harry leaned comfortably against the door jamb.

Harry began moving back the way they had come and started feeling a slight pull as he passed the grand staircase, ending up almost at the top of the stairs to the dungeon before his arm was pulled awkwardly behind him.

He made his way back into the great hall and ambled up to Severus.

“How far did you make it?”

“Just to the top of the stairs to the dungeon” he answered.

“That’s further than I thought it would allow us. That should make things considerably easier. We won’t be able to attend different classes but we should be able to at least shower in peace” Snape said with a pleased look.

Harry smiled back as they wandered back to their rooms, already dreaming of everything he would be free to do without a surly Professor attached to him. Maybe he could fly again. Or even tie his own trainers.


They spent they few days before the start of the term buckling down and getting ready for classes. Severus had reluctantly put aside his Christmas gifts and started lesson plans, eventually roping Harry into helping him. He was having to rewrite the entire curriculum since the Defense course had been changed so often and he was thoroughly tired of it.

Their ability to separate had thrilled both of them, letting them have some much wished for privacy and allowing Harry to write and cast without having to involve a second person. Since they lost concentration and Harry’s shield refused to be anchored to anything they still slept with their wrists connected, but as long as they were awake they had a comfortable buffer available.

More often than not though Severus found himself falling in easily next to Harry, or sitting down beside him without thinking about it. Harry did the same, and he was loath to admit that it felt strange to not have the warm press of the other man against his side after his constant company. Neither of them said anything about it, but after the first day or so the novelty seemed to wear off and they stayed settled against each other most of the time.

The day before term started Harry’s Oculus potion was finally complete, Severus having finished the last adjustments for his particular prescription the week prior. Granger had come down to their rooms to spend time with Harry, something that surprisingly didn’t bother Severus, and so she was present for his first clear sight without glasses.

Harry had given him a nervous look, but downed the potion when Severus motioned towards him impatiently. He blinked several times, his eyes watering, before he yanked his glasses off and looked around with a gasp.

“Merlins beard, I can see everything!” he exclaimed, his eyes an almost unnatural green now that they weren’t hidden behind bulky glasses.

“ ‘Mione, I don’t think my glasses where the right prescription” he muttered, face shocked. “You have freckles!”

Granger blushed, making her faint freckles stand out more “Oh Harry, I had no idea about the potion!” she burst out, distress obvious.

He just smiled and shook his head “I know, don’t worry about it. I really should have asked someone.”

Harry had spent the rest of the night looking around the room in awe. Severus had run a quick spell on his glasses, only to find that they were less than half the strength they should have been. He had no idea how the man had ever managed to catch a snitch, or avoid semi large objects for that matter.

They made it through the first few weeks of the term without incident, Harry watching everything in wonder and Draco looking more and more tense as they got closer to rescuing Narcissa.

Severus had come out of the bedroom on his birthday to find a stack of gifts waiting for him. His typical present of Highland Scotch from Minerva and a set of socks with steaming cauldrons on them from Dumbledore weren’t a surprise, though the last did send Harry off into a fit of laughter.

The presents from Granger, the Weasley’s and Harry were all completely unexpected though. Granger had gotten him a standard self dictating quill, but had enhanced the charms to include words he used most often and changed the color of the ink to bright red.

The Weasley’s had given him an incredibly odd assortment of things and it was only after Harry mentioned that they had likely all added something to the same box that it made sense. He assumed the pitch black chess pieces that drawled sarcastic insults were from Ron, and the self guided sewing needles were from Molly. He was fairly certain Arthur had given him an electric razor, which he put carefully to the side, uncertain if it had batteries and how it would react to the magic in the castle.

An assortment of quick getaway products from Weasley Wizard Wheezes were obviously from the twins and even the two older boys had added something, a few dragon scales from a rare albino green welsh and a tiny glass vial of sand, labeled as having come from the bottom chamber of an ancient wizarding tomb.

Harry had gotten him a small selection of fancy coffee beans, apparently having heard his muttered complaints about the quality of coffee available for purchase in Hogsmeade. Under the assortment of fragrant packages was a long slender stirring rod, a handwritten tag declaring it to be made of highest grade moon quartz, something that Severus had always wanted but he had been stuck somewhere near the bottom of the waiting list for years after insulting the son of the only man who had access to the material and the skill to make them. He had no idea how Harry had known about it.

They had been late to Harry’s transfiguration class because Severus had simply sat on the couch staring at the pile of more birthday gifts than he had ever gotten in his life, all of them carefully selected and completely perfect. He hadn’t known how to handle the overwhelming surge of emotion that had caught him and spent the remainder of the day snapping at everyone who wasn’t Harry. He did manage a polite thank you to both Granger and Weasley near the end of the day, promising Weasley a game with his new pieces soon.

As January drew to a close they began getting more and more frequent coded owl messages. Harry was able to sit at the Gryffindor table now, but since most Order messages were labeled for both of them he had taken to sitting with Severus for breakfast to spare the poor owls any confusion, and to make it less obvious that they were getting joint post.

They managed to finish securing and setting up the safe house after the initial two locations had proven to be less secure than they needed. They actually ended up using a small isolated house on the ocean in Dover, surprisingly owned by the Potter estate. If had come into Harry’s possession on his 17th birthday, along with several other properties. Since he was the last surviving Potter and so many of his family members had died during the first war he had inherited bits and pieces from all over.

Harry had pulled out a huge scroll from Gringotts when the second safe house fell through and had spent the evening sitting in front of the fire and muttering with Granger. In the end Harry went ahead and gave access to 3 houses over to the Order, in addition to Grimmauld place.

All they had left was for Draco to attempt to give his Mother warning, for which he would need a reason for Voldemort to call him to the manor. After several days of planning sessions, all spent huddled in the prefects bathroom, they had set up a series of what appeared to be nearly successful assassination attempts. Dumbledore had been tickled and willingly gone along with it.


Over the course of two weeks the Headmaster was “poisoned” by a brew that mimicked an exceptionally deadly snake venom, only to be miraculously saved by Ron, armed with a bezoar. They had finally sat Ron down and informed him of what had been going on, having left him out of the planning previously due to both his history with Malfoy and his temper.

He had taken it rather well all things considered, only bothering to call Malfoy an utter wanker once before everyone settled down. It appeared that even the infamous Weasley temper stood no chance against someone just trying to save their Mum. He had willingly helped with planning after that, his alarmingly tactically driven mind easing several of their plans considerably. Hermione found herself absurdly happy to have both of the boys back, especially in the midst of all the stress.

Dumbledore had been “cursed” with a necklace, this time being saved at the last moment by Professor McGonagall, who had shaken her head at the gaudy thing before they put on their show in the entrance hall.

Finally an actual magical snake, one with exceptionally potent venom, had been let loose in the Headmasters office. Dumbledore had been terribly lucky that Harry just happened to be meeting with him and had prevented the snake from killing him. The small brown serpent had been only too happy to go along with whatever Harry wanted of him, having been very excited to meet a speaker. It had been her idea to ask Hagrid if he knew anyone who could lend them a venomous snake, they had just gotten lucky when the over friendly one had arrived.

Harry had charmed a small pillow to radiate heat and the tiny snake had napped happily until it was time for Harry to carry him out of the office while loudly proclaiming that the snake had told him that someone with light hair had put it there.

The snake had obligingly twisted and hissed at passing students, making himself look very fierce all the way to Hargrids hut, where he promptly settled down into a box for his trip back to his owner and fell asleep curled up on the heated pillow that Harry had gifted him.

By the time Malfoy went home for the weekend, having been called to the manor suddenly, the entire castle was convinced that he had nearly killed Dumbledore and only luck had saved the man. The Golden Trio had gone out of their way to start several small fights in the hallways, always conveniently far enough away from other members of the DA that they didn’t get involved.

Malfoy ended up in the hospital wing twice, once on purpose when they had planned for her to hit him with a nasty vomiting hex and once on accident when Ron had missed hitting Malfoy with a stunner and instead clipped Harry, sending him crashing into the Slytherin and breaking his wrist. Snape was just far enough away to have not seen the action but must have felt the sudden yank on the bracelet as he had come running down the corridor trying to get to Harry before the magic yanked them back together, regardless of whether there were people or walls in between.

Just before Malfoy had left she had cornered him in the courtyard and started a yelling match, screaming abuse at the tall young man. Draco hadn’t had any idea what was going on since they hadn’t planned anything, but had gone along with it. Hermione had eventually whipped her wand out and hit him with an incarcerous. When she approached him to ostensibly gloat she had carefully folded a small black button into his hand and told him the activation word for the portkey, telling him under the guise of whispering abuse that it would take two people directly to the safe house if everything went wrong.

She had been surprised when his hand had very gently squeezed hers in thanks, even as he screamed obscenities and threats. She’d fled the courtyard then, a knot of worry settling itself in her stomach just as Snape marched in, having given her just enough time to duck back into the castle.

She hated to admit it but she was actually a tiny bit concerned about the git.

What followed was one of the longest weekends of her life. She had tried to go see Harry and Snape in their rooms, but one look at Snape, hair was standing up from his fingers running through it and deep shadows under his eyes from having not slept well in days, and she had turned around. Harry had given her an apologetic look before he had gone to intercept Snape in his round the room pacing, having obviously settled the man onto the couch more than once if the mess of tea cups and nervously crumbled biscuits were any indication.

She left her best friend to his damage control and walked the castle, restless. She had ended up on the Astronomy tower and stayed there for the evening and well into the night. Sometime after dinner Dobby had appeared with a tray for her, Harry obviously having known she likely wouldn’t go to dinner.

With an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for her closest friend she wrapped warming spells around herself and settled in to watch the great Dragon constellation drift across the sky.


Malfoy arrived back at the castle late on Sunday, looking pale and tired but unharmed. He made sure to make a fuss in the front hall, shoving a seventh year Hufflepuff and starting a loud row in order to have his head of house called. Harry and Severus had walked down together, all the tension in Snape having fled as soon as the second year Ravenclaw had arrived at his office and told him that Malfoy had started a fight and one of the prefects had sent her to fetch Snape.

By the time they arrived everything had been settled, McGonagall having beat them there. She had seated Malfoy off to the side for Snape to deal with, and they collected him with a sharp motion from Severus.

Keeping up appearances for the gathered crowd, Malfoy spat on the floor at Severus’ feet and bit out a scornful hiss of “traitor”, his face twisted in a hateful sneer. Just for an instant, Harry saw a shocked look flash over the older man’s face before he hid it, and so he felt completely justified when he waved his wand and sent the ball of spit off the floor and directly onto the stretch of pristine robes over Malfoy’s chest.

“Looks like you dribbled a bit there Ferret. Maybe keeping your mouth closed will help.” Harry said, a note of warning sliding through the bored tone of his voice.

True rage flashed in Malfoy’s eyes before he suppressed it and sneered at him. They marched back to Snape’s office without another word, Malfoy’s back and shoulders stiff with anger.

As soon as Severus finished putting up a veritable wall of privacy wards, Malfoy spun on him.

“What the fuck Potter?” he yelled, the old anger making his face into a familiar mask.

“Just playing my part Malfoy,” Harry replied pleasantly, “but if you spit at him again I’ll send it back down your fucking throat.”

The blond blinked in shock, clearly having expected Harry to have done it simply to be an arse. He didn’t seem to know what to do with a Harry Potter mad on behalf of his godfather.

Snape sighed before flicking his wand and cleaning Malfoy’s robes.

“Please play nicely, both of you.” His voice was filled with exhaustion and Harry immediately felt bad for making him deal with anything else. However, as Severus moved around to take his seat behind his heavy desk, he brushed long fingers over Harry’s hand in silent gratitude.

“Were you able to warn her?” Severus asked as he settled slowly into his worn leather chair.

Malfoy perched on the edge of one of the stiff wooden chairs that were positioned for guests.

“Mostly. I wasn’t allowed to see her for long. Most of my time was spent going over plans to break into Hogwarts. You’ll be happy to know that while the Dark Lord isn’t pleased that I haven’t succeeded he was surprised enough by my attempts that it’s bought me more time.” the younger Slytherin answered.

Now that Harry got a chance to actually look at him, Malfoy looked awful, like he hadn’t slept or eaten in days. His tall frame had lost some of the rigid pureblood posture and the dark circles under his eyes rivaled the ones the Severus sported.

“I asked her to pick out an appropriate present for Pansy’s birthday for me and suggested she find something at the newest perfume shop in Diagon. She knew something was going on but I couldn’t risk telling her anything further. She told me that she would go in two weeks.” Malfoy said, any residual anger having leaked from his voice.

“So, we have two weeks then. Draco, you know what this means.” Severus said quietly.

Malfoy nodded rapidly as his face drained of color and he looked like he might be sick.

“Yes I know. We can’t let them know that she’s still alive.” the blond said, looking down at the floor.

“We’ll start tonight. I’ll send Granger to collect you at your normal meeting place at midnight. Be ready.” Snape said, his voice suddenly brisk.

Malfoy nodded before turning and walking quickly out of the office, the sharp click of his boots echoing down the hallway and around the room. Harry slumped in his own chair, wordlessly meeting a pair of black eyes filled with a resigned sort of misery.

With another sigh he conjured up his patronus and sent it to Hermione, with strict instructions for privacy before it spoke and their request for her to ferry Malfoy around with the invisibility cloak.

All they could do now was wait.


Hermione moved quickly toward the kitchens, her breath coming in quick pants as she hurried to her meeting with Malfoy. She wasn’t sure what had happened but something was wrong. Even with the addition of the strange echo that a patronus message had she could tell from his tone that Harry was upset.

She made it to the broom cupboard and flung herself inside, something in her relaxing when she saw the lanky form perched on the stool she had made. The look of terror he barely managed to hide had her tensing up again.

She flung Harry’s cloak off and put her hand on his arm without thinking “Are you alright? What happened?”

He jerked back like he’d been burned, yanking his arm away from her touch. “I’m fine Granger, no need to grab at me.” His lip had lifted in a disgusted expression and she was abruptly reminded that this man hated her for no other reason than the blood in her veins.

She backup up until her shoulders hit the door behind her “Right, sorry Malfoy, are you ready to go?” she said briskly, her jaw tight as she tried to create more space between them from sheer force of will.

He snorted slightly but shuffled to his feet and shifted so she could throw the cloak over him. They made their way silently up to the fifth floor, slipping into the bathroom without seeing anyone.

Hermione drew back as she looked around the room. It looked nothing like the prefects bathroom, the stained glass window and the sunken tub the only indicators that she was in the right room. The open space in front of her was covered with cushions and thick layers of muffling charms had been added to the room. A table stood against the wall where the benches had been, large knives gleaming on the surface and rows of potions lined up along the back edge.

Both Harry and Snape stood in front of it, looking ill. Hermione felt her breathing speed up as a horrible thought occurred to her. Surely not. They couldn’t have been talking about torture.

Malfoy stepped away from her side and pulled off his robes without a word, hanging them carefully on a hook on the wall. His shirt and tie quickly followed until he was standing in front of them in just his trousers and boots, shaking with a fine tremor but a hard look on his face. The inky blackness of the Dark Mark on his pale forearm stood out like an accusation, the rest of his skin unmarred.

“You can’t…” she heard herself whisper, only to fall silent at Harry’s hard look. Her voice seemed to break whatever spell had been holding Snape frozen as he wordlessly motioned for Malfoy to stand in the middle of the cushions.

“I will begin by trying to break into your mind. Remember, you must show me what the Dark Lord expects to see, it will not work if you just block him out. He will know you’re hiding something and eventually he will break you or he will kill you.” The older man said, his voice matter of fact.

 

Twenty minutes later Malfoy was kneeling in the middle of the room, sweat pouring down his face and his head cradled in his hands. Snape didn’t look much better, but some of the tension had left his shoulders. Despite his best efforts he hadn’t been able to get past whatever inner Occlumency shields his godson had erected.

They both stood breathing harshly for several moments before Snape stepped forward, making Malfoy jerk his head up and meet his godfathers eyes with a terrified look. Snape visibly swallowed and raised a shaking wand “Cru..” he was halted abruptly by Harry’s hand wrapping around his, covering his grip on his wand.

“Don’t. Just don’t. You’ll need to try and get into his mind.” Harry looked sick but continued resolutely. “I’ll do it.” he finished, gently pushing Snape’s wand down.

So quickly she could almost have imagined it, she saw relief flash across the potion master’s face, followed immediately by guilt. She stepped forward to try and stop it, to stop everything because it was awful and it didn’t matter that Harry didn’t like Malfoy, her best friend wasn’t the kind of man that could just torture someone.

She froze at Harry’s sharp “Crucio” and the horrible raw screaming that came from the man at the other end of his wand.

What followed was something she knew she would have nightmares about for the rest of her life. She watched as her best friend threw curses so dark she was fairly certain that not even most Death Eaters knew them. She watched as Malfoy was imperiused, cut open, fed truth serum and burning poisons. By the time they were done, she was seated numbly on the floor next to Malfoy, who Snape had mercifully knocked unconscious after forcing a battery of healing potions down his throat.

Blood was soaking into the bright white cushions and her mind tangled up around how absurd it was that they hadn’t spelled them black. Black hid blood so much better. Then she wouldn’t have to look at it pooling in garish splashes across all of that white; would only have to smell the awful coppery bite in the air, tinged with sour sweat.

Before she realised what she was doing she was scrambling for the huge tub and heaving into it. Quick footsteps followed her and warm hands pulled her hair back, stroking soothing circles over her upper back as she emptied her stomach of everything she’d eaten.

Eventually nothing else came up, and she knelt there, still gagging and coughing, and just stared blankly at the pile of sick in the bottom of the otherwise gleaming bath. A small cup of water was thrust into her hand, which she gratefully swished around her mouth and spit. Harry helped her back up, her legs shaky as she leaned heavily into her friend.

Snape was kneeling over his godson and running long fingers through his pale sweat soaked hair. He had vanished the blood and tucked a soft dark blue blanket tightly around the blond man. There was something fragile and pained in his dark eyes and she abruptly realised why Harry had stopped him from casting, why Harry had been the one to pick up the knives and the poisons.

She felt a huge wave of guilt crash down on her as she saw the haunted look in Harry’s emerald eyes. She should have helped instead of just standing there. She shouldn’t have made Harry go through it alone. She knew why he had done it and what it must have cost him. He had cut pieces of his own innocence off, let his soul blacken just a little in order to save Severus that pain. It would have hurt the older man so much worse to have to do it, to have to hurt a boy he considered his family.

She felt the first niggling suspicion, watching the gentle way Harry helped Snape up and ran a reassuring hand down the taller man’s back. She dismissed it quickly, not willing to dwell on impossibilities, no matter how likely they seemed for a moment.

She knew Harry would have done the same for her or the Weasley’s had they been put into such an awful position. She felt like crying when she watched how Harry refused to look at the table, still strewn with empty bottles and sharp metal, and some tiny part of her settled then, as she promised herself that for the rest of their lives, if she could save him even the smallest bit of unhappiness, she would.

Snape waved his wand and a groggy Malfoy slowly stirred. He sat up carefully, like he was expecting pain, but relaxed when he found nothing but a soft blanket. Grey eyes gazed warily at Harry before he gave him a small respectful nod.

Snape had to clear his throat several times before he finally spoke.

“You did well Draco. I should think that the Dark Lord will likely not employ such extremes. The only thing I fear you need to work on is resisting veritaserum. While the potion I gave you helps, it does not neutralize it completely. You must remember to take it every twelve hours, and you need to practice lying with both in your system. I’m unsure if the Dark Lord will use veritaserum on you, simply because he will have a limited stock now that I am not brewing for him. He will likely ration it, but we must be prepared regardless.”

Malfoy just nodded, reaching out to take the two bottles that Snape handed him before climbing to his feet. He swayed slightly, the night having taken its toll on him. Hermione stepped forward and wrapped an arm around his waist, and instead of the complaint she half expected he simply leaned heavily on her.

“I’ll get him back to the dorms. Neither of you can risk being seen with him, if someone sees me they’ll just think I hexed him” she said quietly.

Harry nodded and reached over to grab his invisibility cloak before tossing it over both of them. He held out Malfoy’s clothes for her take before he cast a quick muffling charm on them and held the door open like he was simply waiting on Snape and not letting two invisible people out.

The corridor was empty, as were the stairs. They stumbled past a suspicious looking Filch and made it to the Slytherin dorm entry just in time. Hermione could feel Malfoy getting heavier and she was afraid she might need to levitate him shortly. She couldn’t let go of him to reach her wand or else she would have already cast a featherweight charm on him.

“Malfoy, we’re here.” She hissed, shaking him lightly. She got a small grunt for her trouble and a sinking feeling that even if she got the door open she couldn’t leave him. He’d likely just fall over in front of it and be found in the morning.

“Malfoy, the password damn it” she said, slightly louder. He roused abruptly and mumbled “callidus” before slumping against her again.

The wall slid open and they stumbled in. She turned toward the fire, fully intending on dumping him onto one of the plush leather sofas, only to see several of the Slytherin seventh years sprawled across them, sound asleep.

“Bloody hell” she cursed “Malfoy, which is your dorm? Come on, we’re almost there” she begged, jiggling him slightly. She could feel the small tremors of overworked muscles in her arms and knew that she was going to have to set him down soon or else they were both going to end up in a heap.

He muttered something, but turned and half fell, half stumbled down the nearest hallway, eventually coming to a dark wooden door, which they managed to get through by some miracle of Merlin and muggle physics. She spied the only bed with open curtains, of course at the far end of the long room. Her arms gave out just as she gave a final heave and got the surprisingly heavy Slytherin onto his bed.

He flopped feebly in an attempt to get in, but gave up, his legs hanging onto the floor. Luckily Hermione had two boys for best friends, one of which was almost a professional at collecting injuries and being too drugged up to get himself put away without help.

She waved her wand and cast silently, the cloak only covering her now. She very much hoped that none of the other boys were looking out of the beds right now. Malfoy’s shoes and socks came off and neatly lined themselves up at the end of his bed, and she tossed his robe, shirt and tie after them. She left his trousers alone, figuring that he had willingly stripped down that far earlier so he wouldn’t likely be too embarrassed.

Hermione floated him gently into his bed and tucked his green and silver striped comforter around him before closing his bed curtains and silently sneaking out of the Slytherin dorms.

Chapter Text

Hope was a word, just a glimmer of the blade
Man, how it sang like on old serenade

- Gregory Isakov, Wings All in Black

They made their way back to their rooms in silence, neither able to find words to break the quiet tension. The castle held a particular darkness, Harry thought. It felt like all the shadows were a little deeper, that the whispers of the portraits held a hint of accusation.

Harry went straight to the bathroom when they arrived back, shutting and locking the door behind himself.

He felt numb, had felt numb since he had raised his wand and cast an unforgivable curse against a man he had been convinced that he hated. Watching Malfoy writhe on the floor, screaming until it sounded like his throat should bleed, Harry had realised that everything he had ever felt for the other man was nothing more than the petty childishness.

Malfoy’s position was just as awful as Harry’s, maybe more so now, and he hadn’t gotten years of practice getting used to life hurting him like Harry had. Several times that night Harry had felt himself hesitate, felt his body seem to physically resist continuing. But one look into Malfoy’s grey eyes had firmed his resolve. Determination blazed out of them, even when they ran with tears, and he knew if he stopped that the blond would demand they keep going, and Severus would step in.

Fear, fear of having to stand aside and watch Severus cut open someone he loved was what finally convinced Harry to keep going.

He let his head fall back against the door with a soft thump. Every time he closed his eyes he could see the pool of blood spreading out across the bathroom floor, seeping from the deep slices Harry’s shaking hand had carved into his chest. It had looked almost fake, like a cheap muggle Halloween decoration, meant only to scare children, not the life of a man intent on saving his family.

Harry jerked his eyes open, flinging his wand out to start the shower with a snarl as guilt fueled rage spun through him, his motion violent enough to send all of their soaps crashing onto the shower floor.

He stripped down, almost tearing his shirt as he yanked it off and stumbling out of his trainers, shoving them away when he noticed a bright, accusing smear of scarlet on one. Harry stepped into the scalding hot water and grabbed a flannel to scrub himself, bare feet sliding across a smear of spilled soap on the slick floor.

Harry caught himself with a hand against the wall and leaned in to press his forehead to the cool tiles. The bathroom echoed with his harsh breathing, sounding exactly the same as Malfoy’s had in between his bouts of screaming. He could almost smell the stink of fear; could see the twisted pain on the Slytherin’s face as he felt his insides being eaten by a potion Harry had to forced down his throat when he was too delirious to take it willingly.

Abruptly Harry doubled over and threw up. His stomach cramped around nothing, making his torso ache but relaxing a sliver of his guilt, like his body was giving him exactly what he deserved. He stayed bent over, his shoulder scraping against a rough line of grout, watching the small bit of bile that had come up swirl down the drain.

He eventually pulled himself up and automatically continued washing, his mind faraway and hazy. He knew distantly that he wasn’t handling this well, that he had to get ahold of himself before he saw Severus again or he would undo at least some of what he had tried to spare the man.

A sharp knock on the door brought his attention up.

“I noticed you didn’t get clothes. I’ve brought you a few things, I’ll leave them on the counter.” Severus’ deep voice drifted through the steam, and a second later he heard the door open and close again quickly.

Harry shut the water off and climbed out, toweling himself roughly. It was only when he glanced at the towel he’d dropped on the floor that he saw the streaks of vivid red and noticed that he had scrubbed the skin on his arms raw. Sluggish trails of blood dripped down his wrist, deeper scratches from his blunt nails seeping thin beaded lines of ruby.

“Shit” he whispered softly, the sight of the damaged skin bringing him crashing back into himself. He pulled open the cabinet and found one of the healing salves that Severus kept there. He quickly smeared it over his arms and a small raw patch on his hip, the warm tingling of it almost as soothing as the smell of bay and aloe that it gave off.

He dressed hurriedly in the clothes that Severus had left for him, casting a fast cleaning spell on the towel and his trainers before he left the bathroom.

The bedroom was empty, a pile of black robes left where Severus had changed and the book he had been reading the night before balanced on the edge of the night stand. Harry walked past their bed slowly, not feeling ready to face the other man just yet, but he knew that if he didn’t it would make it worse.

He could smell the distinct scent of his favorite tea wafting in from the front room and so braced himself with a slow breath and walked out.

Severus was sitting on the couch, his back to Harry, the thin blue t shirt he only wore to bed when he needed extra comfort molding to the scars on his back. He turned when he heard the scuff of Harry’s foot on the rug, and Harry froze.

His dark eyes were red and puffy; misery etched itself into the harsh angles of his face, making him look older than he was. His hair was a tangled mess that only happened when he twisted his fingers in it in stress. Seeing Severus Snape, a man who would have sneered at a life threatening injury, who never let anything but anger get the better of him, seeing that man fall apart broke something in him.

Harry could feel something awful clawing in his chest at the sight and just for an instant wished that he hadn’t taken the Oculus potion, if only to dull the horrible clarity of this moment a little.

Harry’s back slowly curved, collapsing his body around the monster tearing its way through him. He had tried so hard to mitigate this, to spare the other man as much of this as he could but maybe he hadn’t done enough. He should have told Severus to leave, should have asked Dumbledore to test Malfoy’s mental wards, should never have let him see it, to have to live with it.

Harry blinked, trying to figure out how he had ended up on his knees, his breathing shallow and pained.

“Harry?!” Severus’ panicked voice came from across the room, making his head swim. “What happened, are you alight?”

Harry could feel laughter bubbling in his throat at the question. He remembered when he had landed outside the maze in fourth year, fingers clutched so tightly into the arm of Cedric’s shirt that they’d had to pry him loose before they could move either of them. They’d asked him if he was alright then too. He’d laughed then, just a small high pitched giggle that had sounded so unlike him that it had taken him days to realise that the person laughing in his memory was himself.

He swallowed hard, never wanting to hear that sound again. It haunted him almost as much as the high pitched voice that had commanded Wormtail to kill the spare.

The grasp of warm hands pulling him upright jarred him back to the present. Severus was kneeling in front of him, looking frantic and shaking him. He only stopped when he saw that Harry had finally focused on him.

“Harry I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Harry blinked in confusion at the older man, Snape’s face twisted up with horror and guilt. Strands of his long dark hair were stuck to dried tear tracks on his face and up close he looked even worse, the blackness of his iris highlighting the irritated veins in the whites of his eyes.

“What?” Harry asked faintly, thrown completely back at the lack of accusation in the other man’s voice.

“I should never have allowed you to do that. I should never have stood aside while you took on a task that I should have dealt with. I shouldn’t have even allowed you or Granger to stay in the room.” Snape was almost panting as the words spilled out, dark eyes blown wide with panic.

“I was a coward to let you hurt Draco in my place, to make you hurt him because I wasn’t strong enough to.” Fresh tears leaked down Severus’ cheeks as his long fingers dug into Harry’s upper arms, as if he could sink his apology in deep enough to make a difference if he just clutched Harry tightly enough.

It took Harry’s overwhelmed brain several minutes to process what was happening, but when he did, he felt the creature clawing through his chest wither and die. He didn’t know what to do with this man kneeling in front of him, begging with an apology for something that Harry would have done a thousand times had it been necessary.

This man was so far removed from the hateful potions master that Harry had known for so many years that he barely resembled the same person. Which was why it didn’t feel strange at all when Harry leaned forward and wrapped his arms around him. It felt right. It felt like holding family. It felt like coming home.


Severus stilled, his breath catching in his throat at the warm clasp of Harry’s arms. His mind had gone blank, the morass of guilt ridden thoughts falling away at the feeling of the younger man holding him close. He knew he should back away, that this man of all people should never want to comfort him, to touch him. He couldn’t seem to make himself leave though, just as he’d been too weak to stop Harry earlier, even when he had seen the pain in his green eyes.

Without his permission his arms came up to carefully slide around Harry’s shoulders, pulling him in tighter.

They sat like that for a long time, neither saying anything, but not needing to. Harry eventually released him just long enough to pull him to his feet and walk them slowly to bed.

Harry waved the lights off and banked the fire, all without his wand, which had been forgotten on the bathroom counter where he had flung it. In the flickering darkness of their room Harry crawled over and pulled himself around Severus without any hesitation.

Severus looked down at the mess of black hair tucked tightly under his chin, a small tremor running through him. His hands brushed over Harry’s back and settled, spreading over the knotted muscles in his back and shoulders.

“You’ve nothing to be sorry for, you know that right?” Harry mumbled into his chest.

Severus felt his chest tighten “I could hear you throwing up. I know the smell of my own healing potions. I have a great deal to be sorry for.”

Harry pulled back slightly, not letting go of him but leaning far enough to try and make out his face in the dark.

“Just because I didn’t enjoy what I had to do doesn’t make it your fault. And I scratched myself by accident is all.”

Severus made a small noise of disbelief. He could just make out the glare that was aimed at him.

“If it had been Hermione in Draco’s place would you have let me be the one to do what had to be done?” Harry asked softly, honest curiosity softening his voice.

Severus felt his stomach roll at the thought of what it would do to Harry; to have to point his wand at the woman who was his sister in all but blood would kill something in him.

“No” Severus breathed “Of course not.”

“Then why should it be any different? Would you let me blame myself for not hurting her? Let me call myself a coward for not fighting for the chance to hurt my family?” his voice was harder, more sure of itself than it had been since that afternoon.

“It’s my place to protect you, what good am I if I’m too much of a coward to do even that?!” Severus pushed himself away, his breathing as sharp as the sudden spike of anger and fear.

The same thought had been spinning through his head all night, and it had gotten so much louder when Harry had locked himself in the bathroom. Severus had stood in the bedroom, listening to the other man fall apart and not knowing how to fix it but knowing deep down that it was his fault.

He curled himself up on the edge of the bed, knowing that he would have to move closer to Harry again before they fell asleep but needing the space for now.

“Who told you it was your job to protect me?” Harry’s voice came from the far side of the bed, respecting Severus’ need for distance but not letting the argument go.

“Albus. Albus made me promise” he whispered it, not really knowing why he was telling him at all. It was dangerously close to other truths, ones that would drive Harry from him.

“When?” came the choked question.

There was a long pause before Severus answered, the only sound in the room the soft crackle of the fire and slow shift of burning logs.

“Just after your parents died. When he knew that the Dark Lord wasn’t truly gone.” He couldn’t seem to stop himself and he wondered idly if this was going to be it, the night he lost everything good that had come into his life. He had expected it of course. He had known that it was just a fluke, to have been included in the Weasley family almost like he belonged, to have a small group of oddly faithful Gryffindors sending him birthday gifts, to have Harry.

“He had no right to ask that of you. No wonder you always got so mad at me when I did something that nearly got me killed.”

A small snort of laughter escaped Severus before he could stop it. “I think you might have given me a mild anxiety disorder.”

Soft laughter came from the other side of the bed and Severus felt himself relaxing from the tight ball he had rolled into.

“Are you ready to come back over here and discuss this with me like the completely irrational adults we are?” Harry asked, laughter lingering in his voice.

He hesitated for a moment before deciding that he didn’t feel the overwhelming need for distance still. He rolled slowly back to the middle of the bed, meeting Harry there. They settled onto their pillows facing each other, their breath mingling in the space between.

“I’m sorry that he asked that of you. It’s not your job to protect me anymore than its mine to protect you.” Severus made a small noise of disagreement at Harry’s words but didn’t interrupt when he continued.

“I did what I did tonight because I couldn’t stand the thought of you having to hurt someone you love, just like you would have done for me. I hated it, every second of it and I’m not handling it well.” Harry said bluntly, making that voice in Severus’ head scream louder.

“But it would have been so much worse if I had to stand there and watch you do it. I picked the lesser of two evils. It’s not my job to protect the people that I care for, but it is my choice to do so. You don’t get to decide that for me or carry the guilt for my decisions” Harry finished, hard won wisdom in his voice.

Severus felt like his heart had stopped. A little of the crushing guilt he had felt all night started to trickle away and something almost frantic took its place. Harry cared for him. Of course he knew that, you didn’t spend weeks hunting down the perfect gifts or learning what the other person ate or, for Merlin’s sake, toture someone for a person you don’t care for, but it was the first time it was acknowledged out loud and it made him feel a tiny bit crazy, like he would do anything to keep his standing in Harry’s life.

Severus took several deep breaths before reaching hesitant, shaking hands out for the man in front of him. Harry willingly curled back into his chest, strong arms wrapping close around his waist.

“Thank you. Thank you for doing something horrible so I wouldn’t have to, for doing what had to be done to keep Draco safe.” Severus whispered into the top of Harry’s head, the warm scent of cinnamon from his shampoo surrounding him.

Harry’s arms tightened and he felt him jerk, just a little bit. It took Severus a few seconds to realise that Harry was crying, stifling his sobs in the older man’s chest.

Severus just held him tighter, realising that he must have held off his own breakdown to deal with Severus’. He stroked gentle circles over Harry’s back and ran soothing fingers through his hair, trying to remember the few times his mother had tried to comfort him. He had no other baseline and he desperately wanted to be able to offer Harry something.

Eventually Harry fell silent and it took Severus some time to understand that he had dropped into an exhausted sleep. He let himself relax and tucked Harry closer before his thoughts finally stilled and he drifted off.


The two weeks leading up to the rescue seemed both interminably long and gone far too quickly.

Hermione spent the time trying to find any possible risks she had missed. She spent most nights awake in her dorm, curtains closed tightly against the soft globes of conjured light. Years before she had perfected a spell that allowed her to pin notes all around the interior of her bed hangings, something Harry said made her look like a muggle serial killer, but she found it comforting to surround herself with everything that was circling in her head.

As the weekend drew closer she found herself spending more time researching in the library, having brought out newspaper clippings from the first war to look over potential patterns or habits in the way that Death Eaters attacked.

Most nights she snuck in after curfew and hid in the back corner, her research spread out around her and a small lamp glowing softly. The large table she claimed sat in a far back corner, tucked in between shelves that held books on Goblin history and an odd assortment of what appeared to be cookbooks from several centuries past. The wind rattled the glass of the bay window that faced the chill darkness of the Black Lake and swept cold fingers into the warmth of the stacks.

The first night that Malfoy had found her there she almost hexed him before she realised who it was. She considered hexing him anyway just on general principal. Instead she had waved him over, letting him sit across from her and in as few words as possible explained what she was doing.

He stayed there with her until almost dawn, and by the time they both slipped out into the silent halls her notes with potential connections and individual Death Eater habits were considerably larger than she would have managed alone.

After that night Malfoy joined her most evenings. They usually only spoke a few words and he always handed over whatever he had managed to compile just before he disappeared back to the dungeons.

The night before the group was to leave for Grimmauld place and wrap up the last parts of their strategy Hermione planned on staying in her dorm. There was nothing more for her to work on and it would be far better for her to manage a decent nights sleep. Even Ron, who had all the observational ability of a blind newt, had begun commenting on the bags under her eyes.

So she was surprised to find herself tracing her normal path down to the library, wrapped in several extra layers and Harry’s cloak. It had been particularly cold in the last week, enough so that she had taken to wearing finger-less gloves almost everywhere and Harry had found an old hat of Ron’s to wear out to Herbology and Potions since the dungeon classroom seemed to be particularly resistant to warming charms. She was completely certain that if he could have managed it Snape would have put a warming charm over the entire school if only to have a reason to throw the awful knobby brown hat away.

She shuffled into the library and had just gotten to her normal table when she realised she’d forgotten her bag entirely. With a heavy sigh, she turned back toward the doors, thinking that she really would just stay in her bed this time.

She’d only taken a few steps when Malfoy appeared out of the darkness and crashed into her. He yelped, jumping back and brandishing his wand in her general direction.

“Granger?” he hissed, pale eyes narrow.

“Who else would it be? Are you meeting more than one invisible person around the castle?” she said quietly, flipping the hood of the cloak off.

She couldn’t tell in the dark but from the tilt of his head she assumed he was glaring at her.

“Where are you going anyway? Not planning on going over every single detail of the cobblestones in Knockturn Alley tonight?” his voice held an edge of mocking.

“As a matter of fact I was planning on going to bed. Goodnight Malfoy.” She moved to sweep past him, not at all appreciating his tone since she’d only been missing so much sleep and working so hard because of him.

His hand snapped out just as she was passing him, correctly gauging where her arm was under the cloak and wrapping long fingers around it.

She paused, waiting long moments for him to speak.

“I’m sorry. I know how hard you’ve worked to save her, I did not mean to sound ungrateful.” The words came out a bit choked but loud enough for her to hear.

She just nodded without looking at him. His grip on her arm went loose and she was just moving to leave when she caught his expression from the corner of her eye. Faint moonlight glinted in through the window and created shadows across the sharp lines of his face, drawn into a naked expression of fear.

“I’m going to the astronomy tower. I don’t think I can sleep tonight and I can’t sit in the library right now either.” She said it quickly, not knowing where the idea came from but feeling the tightness in her neck relax at the idea of spending time outside.

“I could use some company, if you’re not planning on staying here and going over the cobblestones of course” her voice had a gentle edge to it, just shy of teasing.

He snorted but turned without a word and tucked the cloak she held out over himself.

They made their way through the quiet halls, only a few torches left flickering to show the way. The portraits were all sleeping and the cold of the castle was keeping any young would be adventurers in their dorms.

The Astronomy tower was bitingly cold, but the air was thankfully still. The moon was a thin sliver, barely outshining the brilliance of the stars and the huge stones that made up the balcony held a thin sheen of ice.

Malfoy ducked out from under the cloak and strode to the waist high wall that guarded the edge. His boots moved over the top of the ice easily, never sliding, and the cold starlight washed his already pale hair out to an icy silver.

Hermione paused at the sight of him, leaning against the wall, head thrown back to gaze at the night sky. He looked like he belonged here, in this frigid place halfway to the stars. His black robe blended into the night, his pale skin and silver of his hair a shining relief against the darkness, the sharpness of his features just as cutting and remote as the cold lights above. He looked like a fey creature, something beautiful and dangerous.

“My Mother used to bring me out on nights like this, when it was cold and clear enough that you could see everything in the sky” his soft tenor broke her free of her strange musings.

Hermione moved carefully up to his side, barely keeping her feet. Her trainers didn’t have whatever anti slip spells his boots obviously did and she was fairly certain if she fell he would just laugh and leave her to struggle upright on her own.

“Does she like Astronomy then?” she asked.

Hermione got a raised eyebrow that looked far too reminiscent of Snape for her comfort.

“If you hadn’t noticed most of my Mother’s family are named for constellations”

“Yes I had actually. I’ve seen the Black family tree, I know the tradition” Hermione responded rather sharply.

“Have you now? I suppose you would have access to it now that Potter owns one of my family's ancestral homes. I’m sure Great Aunt Walburga adores you.” a small smile curled his lips.

Perhaps it was the stress of the last several weeks, perhaps it was that she had seen more sides of Malfoy than she could have guessed existed in a very short amount of time, or perhaps it was just a general lack of sleep, but his words struck Hermione as absolutely hilarious.

She burst out laughing, her gloved hands flying up to muffle the noise.

“Oh Merlin, you have no idea how much she hates me!” she got out between undignified giggles. “Sirius wanted to experiment and see if a portrait could have a stroke. He kept having me drink tea from her favorite china.”

Here she lost it and couldn’t manage to keep her feet. Hermione slipped slightly and let gravity carry her down until she was leaning with her back against the wall, still giggling.

A body dropped down next to her and it took her a moment to realise that Malfoy was laughing quietly.

“I think I would have liked to have seen that. Mother always said she was a terrible old bat. I think I only met her once or twice when I was a child. All I can remember is yelling and that she smelled overwhelmingly of sandalwood. I still despise sandalwood.”

Her giggles eventually tapered off and they sat in a surprisingly comfortable silence. Finally the cold of the stones started seeping into her and she shivered, getting ready to get up and head back to her dorm.

“Here” Malfoy said, pulling his wand out and spinning it with a fast flick of his wrist. A soft warmth started radiating up from the ground around them, melting and steaming the thin layer of ice.

She gave him an appreciative smile and settled back down, tilting her head back to look at the sky. A graceful hand moved into her line of sight and traced lines between the stars.

“That’s Ursa Major” Malfoy said, ignoring the fact that she most certainly knew the constellations since she had taken Astronomy with him. She kept silent, letting him carefully trace each of the major shapes for her, adding in bits and pieces about his family members that were named for them.

“And that’s Draco... my Mother used to tell me that it shone the brightest to her.” the last was said in a whisper before his hand dropped limply into his lap.

Slowly, so he would have time to pull away, she reached over and wrapped her small hand around his much larger one. His was freezing cold and trembled slightly.

“We’ll get her out safely. I promise.” she said.

He jerked his hand sharply away, anger crashing over his expression. “And how can you promise that? How do you know?”

She gave him a look of mild rebuke. “Harry’s going to be there, and so is Snape. Have you ever in all of our years known Harry to give up on what he was trying to do?”

He relaxed somewhat at this, having been on the losing side of Harry’s determination one too many times.

“Beside do you really think Snape would let anything go wrong?” she pointed out, reasonably.

“No, I don’t suppose so. But there are always accidents. I just wish I could be there.” The anger had left his voice, nothing but a tired worry in its place.

She didn’t try to reach for him again, not wanting to infringe on his space when she’d already been rebuffed.

“I can understand that, but try to trust that we do know what we’re doing. You’ve seen enough of the safety precautions, you know we’ve done everything we can to keep her safe.” Hermione finished, hoping to ease a little of his worry. She knew that she would be a complete mess if their positions were reversed.

They were silent for a long time, the stars progressing above them as the warming charm slowly weakened until they were both shivering. Malfoy was the first to move, pulling himself stiffly to his feet and after a seconds hesitation, turning to offer Hermione his hand.

She gave him a mildly suspicious look before taking it and letting him draw her to her feet. She held out the invisibility cloak silently, letting him tuck himself close to her side. The set off down the tower steps which had only a few torches left burning, creating more shadows than they abolished.

They made it down without breaking their necks and set off toward the stairs. When they reached the seventh floor, instead of heading to the dungeons, Malfoy steered her to the portrait of the fat lady. She gave him a puzzled look, having intended on helping him sneak back to his common room.

“I can make it just fine on my own Granger. Besides, you look like you’re about to fall asleep and the last thing I need is Potter trying to murder me for letting you fall down the stairs.” he said gruffly, but his hands were gentle when he turned her toward the entrance to the common room.

“Just let me know what happens. Please?” The last was uttered with a pained rawness.

She frowned slightly and snagged his arm as he started to leave.

“Wait here for a second, I have an idea.” Hermione turned and prodded the fat lady, giving the disgruntled portrait the password before she could start lecturing. She flew up the stairs to her dorm and sorted quickly through the trunk at the base of her bed, her illuminated wand held between her teeth.

She came up a moment later with two identical muggle notebooks held in her hand. Her dad tended to buy her a whole pile of them before she left for each term, knowing how many notes she took.

She hurried back down the stairs and out of the portrait hole, finding Malfoy tucked up against the wall and waiting for her.

“Here, I think this should work.” She brought out her wand and cast several fast charms on both notebooks, the final one being a locking spell that would burn the notebook if someone tried to break into it, the same one she kept on all her notes for the Order.

“It’s a spell I use in case I want to put notes into one of my notebooks but I don’t have it with me. It just mirrors each other, so whatever you write in yours will show up in mine and vice versa. I can tell you what happens as soon as I know.” She finished happily, proud that she had found another use for her small charm.

“Thank you” it was said so quietly that for a second she thought she had imagined it, but the look of gratitude in the Slytherins face when he took the notebook from her convinced her that she hadn’t misheard.

“You’re welcome. Try to get some sleep, I’ll keep you updated… Goodnight Malfoy” she gave him a small smile before she ducked back into her common room. Just as the portrait swung shut her heard a whispered “Goodnight Granger.”


They arrived at Grimmauld place late Friday night, apparating into the back garden, still wet with dingy piles of grey melting snow. Harry pulled Severus out of the way as Hermione apparated in behind them, landing a few lengths from where they had appeared. The air was tinged with exhaust and a scent that was somehow uniquely London. It was warmer there than in the Highlands and a light rain drizzled around them.

They hurried into the house, ducking quickly through the french doors and into the kitchen. The huge battered table held several of the Weasley’s and Tonks, looking tired but cheerful.

“Wotcher Harry?” she said as they divested themselves of their damp layers. Severus gave Harry’s hat a contemplative look and Harry quickly tucked it into his back pocket, having discovered the other man’s fervent hatred of it when Severus had tried to nonchalantly knock it into the fire.

“Hey Tonks, how’s Auror business then?” Harry asked as he settled onto the bench across from her and reached out to pour himself some tea. He frowned when he discovered the pot was empty and was getting up to start a new batch when Severus took it from him, pushing his gently back into his seat.

Harry shot him a quick smile of thanks and turned back to Tonks. Her eyebrows raised and did a crazed little wiggle as she pointedly looked between the two of them. Harry started to clear his throat, uncomfortable, when Hermione sat beside Tonks and murmured something too quietly for him to hear. Her face cleared but something devilish took it over and she spun back toward Severus, a glint that promised nothing good in her eyes.

Hermione very calmly raised her wand and flicked it, sealing Tonks’ mouth shut.

“Don’t. I will absolutely keep this in place all night if I need to” Hermione said, accepting the cup of tea a confused Severus handed to her.

“I’ve no idea what you’ve done to incur her wrath Nymphadora, but I would listen to her. She’s not been in a particularly forgiving mood of late.” Severus said genially, both of them having watched her lose her temper with Ron several days before, leaving him stuck to the wall outside the transfiguration classroom.

Tonks nodded rapidly, holding up her hands in surrender to Hermione. The bushy haired witch flicked her wand again, but kept a suspicious eye on her as her mouth was released. Tonks just sighed and shook her head.

“No fun, kids these days.” she muttered but took her own tea without further complaint.

Severus grunted but sat down next to Harry, sipping his own tea and looking through a small notebook he had pulled from inside his robes.

The quidditch discussion from the Weasley end of the table was interrupted by Kingsley and Arthur coming in through the kitchen door, having flooed in from the ministry.

“Well, we’ve got the shops on either side of the jewelry store closed down for the weekend. Cursed object was found and the area got cleared. Won’t be able to get a curse breaker in until Monday.” Arthur said, pleased.

“Convenient that” Fred said, raising his glass of firewhiskey to his father.

“We’re all set then?” Harry asked, leaning forward to see around Bill.

“As set as we’re going to get. Is everyone ready here? Tomorrow is likely to be a long day, we have no idea when she’ll show. Hopefully it will actually be tomorrow and not Sunday.” Kingsley answered.

Hermione broke in “Malfoy said she almost always goes shopping on Saturday’s. She isn’t likely to change that since she knows something is going on and he wants her there.”

Kingsley nodded seriously. “We’ll be out and set up before the first shops open. I know he told us afternoon was more likely but we don’t want to miss her.”

“Right, since we’re all up early I’d say try and turn in soon everyone. Molly will be here in the morning to send everyone off ” Arthur added.

Everyone nodded in acknowledgement before people started drifting off. Harry finished his tea and got up with Severus, calling his goodnights to everyone as they trudged up the stairs. Harry hadn’t been able to make himself go into Sirius’ room since he had died, and he wasn’t about to ask Severus to sleep there, so they claimed a small mostly empty bedroom on the second floor, the sheets having been recently changed and a small bathroom directly across the hall.

They settled in after changing into the pyjamas Severus had shrunk and put into his pockets.

“Do you think it’ll go alright tomorrow?” Harry asked once they had arranged themselves comfortably. Neither had bothered to suggest trying to find an extra pillow to put between them. They hadn’t slept with the bolster in their own bed since that night when Harry had woken wrapped up in Severus.

“Ms. Granger has planned everything to an extent that I believe even the Auror force would be strained to meet. I think that even if it does not go well we have enough in place to fix it quickly.” Severus answered from the dark beside him.

Harry made a noncommittal noise, stretching himself into a more comfortable position and dropped his shield as his wrist came into contact with Severus’. They joined with a soft click and before he knew it Harry had drifted off.


Morning came too quickly, the buzzing alarm of Severus’ wand waking him from a dead sleep. A noise of complaint, followed by an arm flailing into the side of his face convinced him to grope around under the pillows to try and locate where the other man’s wand had gotten off to.

Harry pulled out the length of wood rather triumphantly and without thinking flicked it while muttering the charm to shut it off. It obeyed easily, silencing itself. Severus stopped trying to ineffectively locate it and buried his head back under the pillows.

Harry was halfway back to sleep, Severus’ wand clutched to his chest, when the other man jolted upright, bringing him back awake with a small snort.

“Did you turn off the alarm?” his voice was rough and scratchy, so low it sounded like he had spent years smoking.

“Umm? Oh yeah, here” Harry held out the wand sleepily, curling himself back into the warmth of the covers, bringing Severus’ arm with him since he hadn’t yet put his shield up.

“Potter get up” the sharp tone made him sit up in alarm.

“What? What’s the matter?” the cold bit into Harry’s previously warm torso and he shivered, trying feebly to pull the covers up around himself again.

“You cast with my wand” Severus said, his voice tight.

“I’m sorry? I didn’t think about it, just was trying to turn the alarm off” Harry answered, not wanting to have an argument this early in the morning.

“Merlin Harry I don’t care that you used it, I care that you can” he sounded troubled and confused. “We’ll need to look into this further. Typically a wand only works for another wizard if its allegiance is forcibly won or possibly if they have close family ties.”

“Uh. Well I don’t know anything about it. Here, give mine a go.” Harry grabbed his holly wand from under his own pillow and stuffed it into Severus’ hand.

Severus looked shocked for a moment before carefully gripping the lighter wand and silently casting. Candles all around flared up and the whole room warmed by several degrees.

“It responds as well as mine does. I wonder if it has something to do with the bracelets. Or perhaps with sharing your power initially.” Severus sounded interested and Harry could see the glint in his eye that he got when he was working on some new theory.

“No magic theory this early. You can study all you want when we get back to Hogwarts.” Harry muttered, falling back onto his pillow. He felt a bony finger press into his side a second later.

“Up before Molly comes to fetch us. I would prefer to avoid that if at all possible.”

Harry grumbled but rolled himself out of bed, throwing his shield up at the same time so he didn’t drag Severus half off the bed.

They made their way downstairs and through the impressive breakfast that Molly had made before bundling up and heading to Diagon Alley.

 

Harry and Severus took up their positions inside the abandoned jewelry store, the dingy windows affording them a limited view. They could hear the wizarding district coming awake and watched as the occasional witch or wizard strolled past in the early morning light. It was surprisingly clear for a winter day in London and weak sunlight traced its way through the dusty, empty shelves.

They wiled away the time playing muggle cards, not wanting to use magic and accidentally draw notice to the shop.

Harry was just standing to stretch the kinks out of his back when he heard shouting from down the street. The loud bangs of curses slamming into buildings drew closer as Severus stood, coming up to press his shoulder against Harry’s as they watched the door to the shop closely.

A sudden flash and the front window blew in, glass flying toward them. Harry threw a shield over both of them just as a man Harry vaguely recognized came rolling across the floor, having been thrown through the now mangled front door.

“Rowle” Severus snarled as he stalked toward the man that was scrambling up from the floor. He was dressed in the typical Death Eater cloak, his previously shiny shoes scuffed from his roll over the floor. He had a handsome aristocratic face that was contorted into an expression of loathing.

“Snape. Won’t the Dark Lord be pleased when he finds out I’ve killed his little traitor” Rowle said, recovering quickly and throwing a wordless bright blue curse at Severus.

Harry unthinkingly slammed a shield up just long enough to deflect it off in the wall.

“And he’s brought along Harry Potter! I didn’t think even you were stupid enough to bring the Chosen One out into the light of day Severus” Rowle taunted as his wand slashed out, a curse hitting a wooden shelf and sending sharp splinters flying through the air. Harry felt a painful sting on his cheek, followed by the warm trickle of blood.

“Oh please Rowle, you couldn’t take him even if he lost his wand. You’re truly an idiot if you think you’re going to get out of here with your freedom. I tricked your lord, despite his best efforts to break my mind, for decades.” Severus said, his dark eyes fiery, “And he managed to send your lord running how many times now Harry?”

“Oh I think we’re at six now Severus” Harry answered, amused despite the situation.

Rowle looked uncomfortable for an instant before his face twisted and he raised his wand. He stayed in exactly that position as he toppled forward, petrified by a grinning Tonks.

“Wotcher boys” she declared as she stepped over Rowle, leaning down just long enough to press a portkey into his hand that would transport him to a holding cell in the ministry. The man vanished with a snap, Tonks tucking his wand into her belt.

The sounds of a scuffle brought their attention to the front of the shop, a bleeding Kingsley backing in with his wand held on Narcissa Malfoy, who looked somewhat worse for wear.

The twins followed behind her, Bill facing the street as he guarded his brothers backs.

“You think you’ll get away with this? I’ve not done anything, you’ve no cause to arrest me” she spat, her head held high.

“No one is arresting you Cissy” Severus said, stepping forward into her line of sight.

“Severus? What are you doing here?” She looked confused and suspicious, but there was a tiny glint of something that looked like hope in her eyes.

“George, Fred can you get the wards up?” Harry stepped forward and addressed the twins when it became clear that Kingsley had been hit harder than he had thought and was barely keeping his feet. Narcissa lowered her own wand as the attention in the room shifted to the others.

“Bill can you get Kingsley out of here? He’s not going to do any good and it looks like he needs a healer.” he continued, following mostly along with Hermione’s guidelines.

“Yeah Harry. I already triggered my part. You sure you’re good?” Bill asked as he moved to grab the swaying Auror.

“Yeah, we’ve got it. See you back at headquarters.” Harry waved to Bill as he apparated away before joining Severus in front of Malfoy’s mum. They really did look alike. Despite everyone saying he was a copy of his dad, Malfoy had more of the Black family looks than people seemed to think.

“Severus what’s happening?” Narcissa asked again, her voice tight.

Severus held up a hand to pause her as they waited for the wards. With a muffled thump the spells that had been put in place for today all came up, falling thickly around them.

“Draco sent us to get you. We’re taking you to a safe house, but in order to insure that no one tries to follow you we need to fake your death.” Severus answered as soon as they were shielded.

It said something about the woman that she only took a second to process all of it. “And Draco? Will he be coming as well?”

“No. He has elected to remain and ensure that our ruse is believed.” Snape answered.

“No. Absolutely not. You know what they will do to him Severus. You cannot allow this. I will not go. I will not put him through that,” she was almost shouting by the time she finished, panic clear in her face.

“Narcissa…” Severus started, only to have her cut him off with a sharp wave.

“Mrs. Malfoy you need to listen” Harry broke in. He could see her digging down on her determination not to leave her son and he knew if they didn’t convince her now that they wouldn’t be able to get either of them out.

“He came to us to get you to a safe place. He knew what was going to happen and we’ve done what we can to prepare him and make sure that he survives.” she gave him a horrified look, correctly interpreting what he wasn’t saying.
“If you don’t go he won’t stay on our side. He will go back to Voldemort because he’ll believe it’s the only way to save you. He will die when he fails to kill Dumbledore. He’ll die after he watches you tortured to death and he knows it. He made the best choice he could in all of this.” Harry finished, his voice firm.

Tears gathered in the woman’s eyes at Harry’s words and she turned to look helplessly at Severus.

“He’s right Cissy. This is the best chance for both of you. I’ll do everything I can to keep him safe, you know I will.” Severus promised, his voice rough.

She took several deep breaths, her eyes screwed tightly shut and tears running down her face before she slowly nodded.

“What do you need from me?” she whispered.

“Blood and hair. We need enough of you to create the imprint of you magical signature and we figured we wouldn’t go as far as Wormtail did.” Harry answered.

She gave him a thin look but nodded. Now that she had agreed she seemed more sure of herself and she reached into her boot and pulled a knife out, swinging her long hair around and cutting through it just at the base of her skull without any hesitation.

Harry reached out and took the offered bundle. It was still warm and silky soft, sliding through his fingers like liquid.

Severus held out a small bowl, which Narcissa filled with blood from a cut on her forearm, made with the same knife. Tonks stepped forward and healed it with a flick of her wand.

Narcissa gave Tonks a startled look. “You’re Andromeda's girl aren’t you?”

“Yes Auntie Narcissa, I am” she said, her hair flashing neon blue before streaking back to her normal eye watering pink.

“Alright, let's get this done before reinforcements show” Severus interrupted, moving over to the area they had cleared. He spilled the bowl of blood over the ground, motioning for Harry to spread her hair over it.

The pale locks soaked into the blood, turning a light pink as Severus chanted the spell that would magnify the magic left in her blood, making the magical signature large enough to be a whole person, not just the small amount in the blood and hair.

He finished with a final twist of his wand and turned to the other three. He held out a small nut cracker he had pulled from inside his robes, the portkey to the safe house.

“Fred! George! Start the countdown!” Harry yelled as he reached out to grab the shiny black boot of the soldier.

A yell of acknowledgement came, prompting Severus to give the trigger word for the portkey. Harry felt the sickening hook in his navel as he was pulled through nothing and the next instant landed hard in a bush in front of one of his own houses.


She heard the thump from the front yard and hurried to open the door. When the rest of the group had left that morning Hermione had taken a portkey to the safe house, hoping she would be able to help if needed. She had lunch going and the stock of healing potions that Snape had left her with just in case.

She looked out into the damp front garden and watched Harry struggle out of the rosemary bush, snagging his jumper and nearly losing a trainer when Snape got tired of waiting and reached over to yank him the rest of the way free.

“You’ve defeated and thwarted the most powerful dark wizard of our time but you can’t manage to drink your tea without wearing it or get yourself free of a bush.” Snape said, a put upon look on his harsh face.

Harry just grinned at him as he straightened himself, pulling bits of rosemary from his hair and jumper. Mrs. Malfoy was watching them with a nonplussed look and finally turned to the house, belatedly noticing Hermione.

A small sour look came over her face as she looked her up and down, taking in Hermione’s muggle clothes and loosely braided hair with a sneer.

Hermione was briefly tempted to point out that the Malfoy matron had no room to judge since she was wearing torn robes and her hair looked like it had been sawed off with a knife. Which given Hermione’’s plan it very likely had been.

“Why don’t you come in Mrs. Malfoy. You can dry off and get changed. Malfo.. Draco arranged to have clothes sent over for you.” she finished, having realised for the sake of less confusion she would need to drop her use of the younger Malfoy’s surname.

A thin blond brow arched at her but the woman marched in, holding herself with stiff dignity as Hermione pointed her towards the stairs that led to three small but comfortable bedrooms, the largest overlooking the sea cliffs and already having been filled with things Draco had sent along for her.

Snape stalked in after Narcissa, followed by a cheerful looking Harry who wrapped an arm around her as soon as she had closed the door.

She reached up and pulled several twigs free of his unruly hair, noticing that he had blood smeared over his cheek and jaw.

“Is that your blood or someone else’s?” she asked as she moved to grab some of the healing supplies from her bag.

Snape spun around at her words and crossed the room in quick strides. He reached Harry and carefully tilted his head to the side, a frown etched on his face.

“You did not mention that you had been injured.”

Harry gently batted the other man away “Because it’s a small splinter, nothing to fuss over. I’ve gotten much worse playing quidditch.”

“Since I seem to recall a quidditch incident in which you lost all of the bones in your arm that’s hardly reassuring.” Snape said as he reached for the clean cloth and antiseptic Hermione was holding.

“That was a Lockhart incident, not a quidditch incident.” Harry retorted, but he tilted his head and allowed Snape to clean off the wound and pull a fairly large splinter out before he healed it with a few murmured words.

Hermione stood back and watched the two of them, her previous suspicions welling up again. She had never imagined that Severus Snape, the dungeon bat and greasy potions master, could be so gentle with anyone and certainly not with Harry.

And Harry. She knew her best friend, knew him better than he knew himself some days, and anything that had ever resembled animosity toward Snape had vanished, leaving something else entirely in its stead.

She wasn’t sure what was going on but she felt fairly confident that neither of them had any idea either. She would try and speak with Harry soon, if only to reassure herself that her friend wasn’t walking into something he didn’t want by accident.

Footsteps on the stairs brought her out of her musings, and she looked up to see a much more put together Narcissa Malfoy descending into the room. She had evened out the ragged cut of her hair, making it into a sophisticated bob and wore clean dark blue robes that were cut in the latest fashion. She glided over to a chair upholstered in a lovely grey blue fabric and perched on the edge, surveying the room.

The entryway was a short hall, just long enough for a small table and a cloak rack. Straight ahead dark rich wood stairs climbed to the next floor and the bedrooms. To the right was a small but comfortable sitting room, a sofa and two chairs arranged around a low coffee table carved from a single piece of huge driftwood.

A fire crackled merrily in the hearth, dispelling the chill that radiated off of the glass in the huge front windows, which looked out over the small garden with its low white fence and out to the crashing ocean.

A comfortably sized kitchen, painted a cheerful light yellow with a small two person breakfast table tucked under another window sat across the hall. A nondescript white door under the stairs led to an expanded basement which held a large library with another fireplace and a small room to brew potions.

The whole house smelled like heather and salty sea air and was hidden under so many protection charms that it was virtually invisible.

Hermione had fallen in love with it as soon as she had seen it and made Harry promise to let her stay there sometimes when he wasn’t using it. He had just laughed and kissed her cheek, telling her that if she liked it so much he would just give it to her when the war was over.

The rest of them trouped in to join Narcissa in the sitting room, Harry and Snape sitting down next to each other on the couch, their wrists with identical bracelets absently touching.

Hermione took the other free arm chair nearest the fire and relaxed into it.

“I assume everyone made it out safely?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah, Kingsley got hit pretty badly, but he was still upright when Bill took him for healing. We had a bit of a surprise, a Death Eater came in with her.” Harry answered, motioning to Narcissa.

“The Dark Lord insisted that I be escorted. I fear that he suspected I might try to run. I can only assume he has someone watching Draco to see if I tried to leave with him.” Mrs. Malfoy added stiffly.

“I am not surprised. Draco was quite sure that you were going to be made an example of.” Snape said.

Narcissa looked uncomfortable, her slender fingers twisting together in her lap.

“Yes well, he wasn’t wrong. My husbands name hasn’t afforded me as much protection as I might have hoped. I’m afraid that with Lucius in prison the only thing that was keeping me safe were the manor wards.” she went a little pale as she said this, making Hermione wonder how she had found out that Malfoy Manor would defend her.

“I’ll key the wards here to you before we leave, and we’ve got just about every protection spell we can think of on the house. You won’t be able to send or receive post, or really communicate in any way with anyone outside of the house since it would leave a trail. Severus stocked up the library for you, and I think Malfoy sent along a few things he thought you’d want.” Harry scrubbed his hand through his hair as he spoke “We’ll have someone stop by once a week with groceries and to check in. If something goes wrong there’s a necklace on your bedside table that’s a portkey. Just grab it as say “Phoenix” and it’ll take you straight to headquarters.”

Narcissa was giving Harry an unhappy look by the time he finished. “I hardly think I’m going to spend the next how ever many years it will take to defeat the Dark Lord hiding in a small cottage on the sea like some kind of hermit.”

“Cissy you cannot be seen. You must know that it will be just as dangerous for Draco as it would be for you.” Snape broke in, a frown of disapproval on his face.

“Hush Severus, I’m hardly talking about flouncing around Diagon like some idiot. I intend to help with the war effort.” she declared, leaving the other three speechless.

“And how exactly are you hoping to do that?” Hermione blurted out, knowing she had offended the other woman when the blond turned to look down her rather pointy nose at her.

“While I understand that some people believe that a pureblood witch just sits at home and directs house elves I do have some actual skills.” Hermione felt herself blush at the tone and the fact that she had on occasion wondered what witches in Narcissa’s position actually did with their days.

Hermione shook her head slightly, a small voice that sounded rather like her mum reminding her to not make assumptions about people. Hermione knew that if she were in the same position as Narcissa she would be insisting on doing something useful as well, not just sitting by like some damsel in distress.

“There are a number of potions that we need that I simply do not have enough time to work on building up a stock of. If I remember correctly you have some skill in brewing.” Snape said to Narcissa.

“Yes, just send me a list and ingredients.” she answered quickly, the skin around her eyes relaxing at having something concrete to do.

“Portkeys” Hermione said quickly, hoping to recover a bit from her earlier blunder. “We need emergency portkeys, as many of them as we can get. Since they typically have to be registered with the Ministry and are so time consuming to create not many people can make them.”

“I can make portkeys. I’ll need a list of destinations, and junk to use.” Narcissa seemed pleased at this.

“Good. We will get you the lists and items you need. Ms. Granger has offered to be your point of contact as most of the Order is closely watched while she is not simply by virtue of both her position as a student and her blood status.” Snape said as he rose to his feet.

Mrs. Malfoy looked at her, her lips pursed and a clear look of superiority on her face.

“Yes I suppose they would not suspect Draco of consorting with a muggleborn.” A note of distaste had entered her voice and Hermione felt her spine stiffen.

“Right. I started lunch for you, it’s on the stove. I’ll be back next weekend with supplies for you.” Hermione spun before the other witch could say anything else and marched out the front door, grabbing her cloak from the hook on the way by.

She heard a scramble before Harry jogged up to her, pulling his own cloak on as the halted just beyond the small gate at the apparition point.

A sharp click of the front door a moment later and Snape strode up to them, his robes billowing particularly well in the wind off the cliff. He nodded to her, indicating that she should head back first.

Hermione arrived in the small back garden of Grimmauld place and immediately moved out of the way for Harry and Snape to land.

They found the Weasley twins seated at the table, regaling everyone with their darling rescue, which had turned into something that sounded rather single handed.

“Shot off the curse that took Rowle down did you?” Harry said, making the twins jump and give him identical looks of sheepishness.

“Well maybe not entirely….”

“....but we helped” They responded.

Snape gave a small snort at their antics but just shook his head as he ducked out of the room, no doubt going to change. Harry made an aborted move to follow him and seemed to correct himself at the last instant and sit instead. He looked strangely uncomfortable and kept shifting his right arm restlessly, as if looking for something.

Hermione sat beside him, unconsciously leaving the space to his right open for Snape, and pulled her notebook out.

She opened it to find the first page half filled with Draco’s neat writing, asking for updates. She quickly pulled a muggle pen from her pocket to write with.

Sorry, I couldn’t update you, I was at the safe house, the magic can’t get through the wards there. Everything went fine, she’s safe.

Hermione watched as words appeared under hers, the ink smearing a bit at his haste.

No problems? She didn’t get hurt?

Rowle showed up with her but they took him out fairly quickly. Kingsley got the worst of it from what I hear. Your mum didn’t get hurt at all. She’s settling into the safe house. I’ll be heading back to see her next weekend if you want me to take anything for her.

Thank you. I’ll leave a few things stuck to the back of the statue of Boris by the bathroom. We can’t risk being seen meeting for awhile.

Has anyone reported on what happened yet?

No, but Theodore Nott has been stuck to me all day. I suspect his father told him to watch me. It looks like I’ll get another day before I have to start the act.

You still have your portkey right?

Yes Granger, don’t worry, I won’t forget the one thing that could save my life if the Dark Lord decides to use me as snake fodder.

That’s not funny.

It’s a little funny.

Hermione was brought back to the room when Harry cleared his throat, looking at her notebook pointedly. She snapped it shut and put her pen back into her pocket.

“I was just updating Malfoy on what had happened. Apparently it hasn’t gotten around the school yet, but Nott has been watching him.” Her words distracted Harry from the notebook.

“I’m not surprised. They’ll want time to make sure she is actually dead and not just on the run. Malfoy probably has a couple days before they bring him in.” Harry said in what she thought was a far too casual way to talk about another wizard being tortured.

They table finally settled down, Snape rejoining them with his long hair still dripping from his shower. They made their way through an early dinner that Molly had set out before heading back to Hogwarts. They apparated into the edge of the forbidden forest just as the moon was starting to appear and made their way into the castle.

Hermione waved goodbye to them as she turned up toward the Gryffindor tower, thinking tiredly of what the next week would bring. She nodded to everyone in the common room, stopping only long enough to update Ron, who had stayed behind. The last thing she remembered thinking was that she would read a little before bed as she settled into her sheets.

Chapter Text

I held the better cards
But every stroke of luck has got to bleed through
It's got to bleed through
You held the balance of the time
That only blindly I could read you
But I could read you

-Flora Cash, You're Somebody Else

They got up late the following morning, having gotten into an argument the night before about dueling practice. Severus felt he was being very reasonable trying to schedule more time given that between the two of them Rowle shouldn’t have even had time to speak, let alone cast.

Harry had complained that they were already practicing regularly and that if he wanted more exercise he should start going for runs with Harry and join him in his quidditch training since he was falling out of practice.

Severus hadn’t bothered to dignify that with an answer.

They were late getting out to breakfast, even for a Sunday, but they didn’t want to miss the morning paper coming in, sure to have some mention of yesterday's exploits.

They were just walking up the stairs from the dungeons when Severus turned, trying again to make his point from the night before. Harry was a few steps behind him and had just lifted his foot when he went stiff; alarm and pain flashing over his face. His bright green eyes rolled back and he uttered an awful choked scream before he fell backwards down the stairs.

Severus lunged for him but missed, the tips of his fingers grazing Harry’s jumper. He threw a wordless and wandless cushioning charm, trying to stop the other man from cracking his skull open. Harry landed with a muffled thump, immediately curling into a ball, his fingers digging into his forehead.

“Harry?!” Severus scrambled down the stairs, for an instant his mind completely blank under the roar of absolute panic. He looked down to see blood pouring from Harry’s nose and the sight snapped him back. He conjured his patronus, yelling at it to get Poppy without actually looking at it while he flung a web of spells over Harry, trying to see if he could diagnose what was wrong.

They hadn’t eaten anything differently, Harry hadn’t been around anything without Severus, he couldn’t think what would do this. Severus crouched over where Harry was shuddering on the floor, tears streaming down his face and small whimpers escaping him.

The clatter of shoes on the stairs brought his wand snapping up, his face twisted into a snarl. Poppy paused for an instant, her dark eyes assessing before ignoring Severus and running to Harry. Albus came down seconds behind her, his face alarmed, robes swirling around him.

“Did anything happen before this?” Poppy barked.

“No, nothing out of the ordinary. He was fine this morning.” Severus had fallen over from his crouch and sat at Harry’s side, his fingers digging into the younger wizards arm.

“Poppy I believe I know what’s wrong. It would be best to put him to sleep for now.” Albus interrupted. Poppy gave him a narrow eyed look but waved her wand, Harry going mercifully still and silent.

“What the hell was that?” Severus snapped, turning on the Headmaster.

“I believe Voldemort has found out about your activities and was using his bond with Harry to try and dig for information.”

Severus felt the blood drain from his face. “I had thought it was an issue of planting false images, not disabling him. This should not be possible at a distance, why wasn’t I told this was possible?”

“My boy you were, you just chose to ignore it at the time, I believe in favor of deciding that Mr. Potter was exaggerating his headaches.” Albus responded sharply, making Severus shut his eyes in shame. So the fault for this too lay with him, as he was finding more and more often the case where Harry was concerned.

He’d had no idea the level of mental attack that Harry was subject to. He didn’t care what they had to do, as soon as Harry was better they were working on his Occlumency shields.

“I had best get him up to the hospital wing. I believe you’ll still need to come along Severus.” Poppy said as she waved her wand and lifted Harry, levitating him ahead of her. She passed Dumbledore on the stairs and sent him a reproachful look, obviously not happy with the situation.

Severus got to his feet and scrambled to follow, watching Poppy float Harry up the stairs. his hand twitching on his wand as he stopped himself from taking over. Dumbledore hurried along behind them, not bothering to try and speak with Severus yet.

He wasn’t sure what the look on his face was, but the few students they met in the halls scrambled to get out of the way, one small third year going to far as to plaster himself against the stones of the corridor as if their small group were taking up the width of the hall.

Just before they got to the hospital wing Granger and Weasley ran up, obviously having heard that their friend was once again injured.

“Professor, what happened?” Granger asked, quicker to catch her breath than the tall redhead.

“The Dark Lord decided to share his displeasure with Harry.” Severus explained shortly, his long strides getting him to the doors faster than the others. He put up a hand, the doors slamming open as he strode in. Harry was quickly settled into a bed, Granger and Weasley taking up posts on one side without words. After nearly six years they were both used to it and had their Harry-is-in-the-hospital-wing pattern down well.

Dumbledore grabbed his arm as he moved to sit beside Harry, halting him.

“Severus the boy will be fine, but you must make certain that Voldemort did not get any information out of him” the grey haired wizard whispered.

Severus just nodded, pulling his arm away from Albus perhaps a bit more sharply than was warranted. He moved over to settle on Harry’s right, the chair having been left open for him.

Poppy bustled back in a moment later and stopped to stare at the small crowd of people around Harry’s bed.

“This is hardly necessary. Mr. Potter will be up and around in a moment, no need for everyone to stand around like he’s dying. Mr. Weasley, Ms. Granger back to whatever you were occupying your Sunday with.” The Mediwitch waved the other two off despite the thin glares she got for her trouble.

“These three, they’re worse than any set of siblings I’ve met. You’d think they were raised from the womb together the way they behave.” She shook her head slightly, grey curls flying, as she moved toward Harry with a bright yellow headache potion.

“For all intents and purposes they are siblings Poppy. It would do well for you to remember that” she gave him a surprised look. “They’re the closest thing to family Harry has, and consider that they’ve been through more than most Auror partners.”

“Umm. I suppose so, though I never imagined I would hear you advocating for the Gryffindor Golden Trio.” The last was said with some sarcasm and he gave her a thin smile.

“Yes well, my perspective has been changed rather dramatically over the last three months.” He replied, watching as Poppy spelled the potions into Harry’s stomach before flicking her wand to wake him up.

Green eyes snapped wide as he arched up off of the bed, his back curved so hard that Severus was already assessing how much muscle relaxing salve he had on hand. A moment later and the younger man collapsed with a groan, his body falling loose like someone had cut his strings.

Severus bent over him before Poppy could, meeting pained eyes. “You alright?” he asked quietly.

“Yeah I think so. Bastard came out of nowhere.” Harry muttered, rubbing a hand over his inflamed scar.

“Did he get anything from you? Do we need to move people?” Snape asked quickly, wanting to let Harry rest but needing to know if he should have Draco on the first train out of England.

Harry shook his head. “No, that’s part of why it was so bad. I didn’t let him have anything and the madder he got the more it hurt. He wasn’t letting me pass out.”

Severus sighed, relaxing back into the hard chair and running his fingers through his long hair.

“How are you feeling Mr. Potter?” Poppy asked, finally approaching, sparing a small disapproving look for Severus.

“I’m alright, bit of a headache but not too bad. Do I need to stick around or can I go?” Harry asked, pushing himself upright.

Snape sat forward, ready to tell him that he was mad if he thought he was being released from the hospital wing right after something like that.

“You’re free to go. You know the procedure.”

Harry nodded “Headache gets worse, nausea, vomiting, anything that seems off, come back” he recited from memory.

Poppy nodded and waved him off, turning back to her office before Severus could protest.

Harry groaned again but pulled himself out of the bed, pausing for a moment to stretch his back out after the abuse he had put it through.

He glanced back, eyebrows flying up in surprise to find Severus still sitting at the side of the bed, staring at him.

“Well come on, if it’s all the same to you I haven’t had any breakfast yet and I’d like to see if there’s any left.”

“You’ve lost the plot Potter. You were bleeding from your face because of a mental attack from who knows how far away. From your face Harry.” Severus declared as if the other man hadn’t noticed the severity of his injury and needed informing.

“Yeah? If you haven’t noticed yet this is pretty typical for me. I mean in the grand scheme of things nothing has tried to eat me, possess me, or otherwise murder me so I’m actually doing better than I usually am when I wake up here,” Harry responded rather matter of factually.

“And look, I still have all my bones, it’s a good day” Harry shot him a cheeky smile as his wiggled his fingers at him, demonstrating that he did indeed have all of his bones.

“This Harry. This is the reason I have anxiety issues.” Severus just shook his head and got up to follow his ridiculous Gryffindor.


They made it all the way to dinner before the news hit, the paper having been suspiciously sparse, only mentioning an accident in an abandoned shop. A very solemn Dumbledore walked in and collected Malfoy, leading him out with a firm hand on his back while curious students craned their necks after him. Harry took a deep breath from his spot at the Gryffindor table, seated between Hermione and Seamus, and let his eyes flick up for an instant to meet Severus’ across the hall.

Hermione reached down and squeezed his hand once, hard. The next few hours would dictate whether or not they would be trying to smuggle two Malfoys out of the country.

He heard the yelling long before Malfoy got back into the hall, his voice making the headache that Harry hadn’t quite gotten rid of flare up.

“Merlin he has some lungs on him,” Hermione muttered under her breath, meeting Ron’s wide eyes across the table.

“POTTER!! YOU BLOODY FUCKING CUNT I KNOW YOU WERE INVOLVED!!”

If Harry didn’t know better he would actually be a bit worried at this point with the amount of rage in the Slytherin’s voice.

A wild looking Malfoy ran into the Great Hall, skidding to a stop near the Gryffindor table. His normally perfect hair was disheveled, his robe was half hanging off of his shoulder and his eyes were a terrifying blaze of silver.

Harry shoved himself off the bench, backing up to try and get enough room between himself and the rest of the students to avoid any accidental hits.

“I’ll fucking kill you for this Potter. I’ll fucking kill you!!” Malfoy screamed in rage and instead of throwing curses like everyone scrambling out of his way was obviously expecting, he ran and launched himself over the table, sailing almost gracefully before crashing into Harry.

Harry had a split second to notice Malfoy’s eyes assess the people flanking them, creating a ring of innocent bystanders and then to brace himself as he watched Draco make the executive decision to jump and hope that Harry had figured out enough to play along.

Harry caught him, trying to stop both of them from hitting the floor too hard while making it look like he had tried to dodge.

The next thing he knew Malfoy was on top of him and his fist was coming toward his face. Harry had just a second to appreciate the poetic justice that he was going to have to take whatever Malfoy decided to give him before the punch connected and snapped his head back hard.

The next few minutes were long and painful as Harry tried to fight back without actually doing anything terribly effective. He knew he needed to look bad at the end of this to sell it and if it looked like Draco had gone into such a rage that he couldn’t fend him off then it was more likely the students with Death Eater parents would report back what the Order wanted them to.

The weight on his chest suddenly lifted, the screaming Slytherin suspended in midair, twisting to shout threats and abuse at his godfather, who was levitating him several feet above Harry.

“Stupify” Severus uttered, a rolling silence following his deep voice. Malfoy lay suspended in the air, his limbs flopping and blood smeared over his knuckles.

“Potter are you alright?” he asked, a thin black brow raised in question. Harry tried to answer and instead rolled over and spit a mouthful of blood onto the floor, coughing out more as he choked a little.

Harry glanced up through watering eyes to see the concern hidden in Severus’. Harry waved him off weakly, still coughing feebly.

“Granger please make sure he doesn’t drown. Finnigan go get Madam Pomfrey.” The Irishman shot off to follow any instructions that got him out of range of the blood around Harry, his face an alarming pale green.

Hermione rushed over, carefully pushing his hair back. She sucked air in through her teeth when she got a good look at him. He could already feel his face swelling; the vision in his left eye was restricting to a thin slit and a cursory poke with his tongue confirmed at least two of his bottom teeth were loose.

“Not quite so pretty right now uh?” Harry said hoarsely, trying to get her to smile.

“Merlin Harry shut up, I think he broke some of your ribs.” Worry creased her face as she felt along his side, sending a lance of pain through him when she brushed his ribs.

A flash and a snick made Hermione spin around and glare at Colin Creevey, who backed away rapidly at her look, his camera clutched tightly to his chest.

The mediwitch arrived a moment later and stopped to look down at Harry with a completely unimpressed expression.

“Mr. Potter if you really wanted to spend the night in my ward there are easier ways.” She shook her head and cast several spells over him. He recognized a few from previous run ins, standard stabilizing charms and a monitoring spell for his vitals.

A sharp look from her cut off his protest that he could hardly be at fault for getting beaten. Though really he kind of was. He gave up trying to figure out who was to blame in the case of a planned injury and just focused on moving his ribs as little as possible.

“I’ll just assume for all our sakes that you cannot walk,” Madam Pomfrey said as she levitated him for the second time that day, motioning impatiently for Severus to join them.

Severus nodded and passed his stunned godson off to the newly arrived Headmaster, waving McGonagall to explain before he hurried out after Harry.

 

Six potions, three healing spells and a great deal of prodding later, he was declared mostly healthy. Harry took one look at Severus and knew he wasn’t getting out of there a second time so easily. Even Madam Pomfrey had just given him a flat look as she passed over his hospital pyjamas.

Severus sent for Tippy, getting his own sleep clothes and a muggle book he had been meaning to start, completing his nightly rituals in the large hospital wing bathroom.

Severus extended the bed before he slid in, trying to prop himself up with one pillow and failing. Harry took pity on him and silently summoned several from nearby beds. He’d get hell for it tomorrow but he had learned that Severus didn’t sleep well without a small mountain of the damn things.

Harry got a small smile for his trouble and felt himself drifting as Severus settled down, the pain potions making everything a little fuzzy.

Twenty minutes later and he was still awake, now shifting around restlessly.

“What’s wrong?” Severus asked quietly.

“Nothing, I just have trouble sleeping when I’m here. Not the best memories you know” Harry answered.

They fell quiet again, Harry slowly counting the tiles on the ceiling, a habit he had developed during second year when he had spent so much time there with a petrified Hermione. He shifted again, pulling the thin blankets up to his chin and wishing for the heavy weight of the comforter on their bed. He hated light weight blankets, even in the summer, and had found that the extra thick one that Severus had to combat the chill of the dungeons was perfect.

The sound of a throat clearing brought his attention to the man beside him. “Would you like a book?”

Harry just shook his head “The pain potion makes everything hard to focus on. It’s fine, I’ve developed a riveting system of tile counting for these occasions.”

A small snort of laughter came from Snape before he asked with some hesitance “…would you like me to read to you?”

Harry could hear the embarrassment in the other man’s voice and for an instant considered teasing him, but he had learned over the past few months when Severus would respond well to it and when he wouldn’t. Instead he just rolled over to face the other man and gave him a tired smile and a nod.

Severus cleared his throat again and thumbed back to the start of the book, a murder mystery set on the dark streets of Chicago. Harry was unwillingly captivated, staying awake for far longer than he thought he would. When he finally drifted off their hero was prowling a back alley, trying to find the killer that might really be the victim and Severus’ deep voice sent him drifting into strange dreams of snowy streets and lakes as big as oceans.


Draco woke with the faces of his Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress far too close to him. He sat up with a jerk and scooted back, leaning up against the arm of a couch that hadn’t been in the Headmaster’s office last time he’d come in. Its pattern was suspiciously similar to the rug that was usually under the stand for the phoenix, which was now rather conspicuously absent.

“Did that go alright then?” he asked, eyes darting between the other two.

“Did it go alright, he says. Well I should think that the entire school and by now half of the British wizarding world is convinced that you not only tried to kill Potter but nearly succeeded.” McGonagall responded, her voice going a bit high.

“Is he alright?” Draco asked reluctantly. He almost felt bad for enjoying the first few hits he’d gotten on Potter, years of pent up frustration finally taken out on his erstwhile enemy. After that though… his stomach turned a little when he remembered the exact feeling of Potter’s nose breaking under his fist. He’d met the green eyes of the man on the floor and had been dismayed to see that they held no hatred, just a resigned kind of patience.

It had gone from beating the hell out of Potter and maybe enjoying it, to beating the hell out of a man who was just trying to help him, which had really rather sucked the fun out of it.

“Yes Mr. Malfoy he’s fine. Poppy got him put back together and Severus is with him.” Dumbledore answered reassuringly. “You did an excellent job of convincing everyone, though I fear I have already received an owl from your solicitor, requesting a meeting.”

Draco felt a lump form in his throat. He knew logically that his Mother was fine but there was something both morbid and a bit alarming about going through the motions to establish himself as head of the Malfoy family and planning his Mother’s funeral.

“Yes of course. I’ll leave first thing in the morning then?” Their plan had been for Potter to graciously pardon his actions as those of someone who had just learned of the death of a parent, thereby releasing him from any unfortunate detainment for having attacked the Savior of the Wizarding World.

“Yes, but I think it would be prudent for you to remain outside of your House tonight. I believe it makes more sense for us to have kept you than to release you before Harry can speak for you.” Dunbledore said, motioning for Draco to follow him.

Draco pulled himself off the couch, wincing a little at how stiff and sore his hands felt. A spot on his side felt like a mix between a bruise and burn, telling him exactly where Severus had hit him with the stunner.

They left the Headmasters office and turned, only walking a little ways down the hall before the old wizard ducked into a smaller door almost hidden by a greek statue of a woman with a vase of flowers.

The interior looked like a smaller version of the teachers quarters. It held a bed and a small en suite, just off of a tiny sitting room with a fireplace. Everything was decorated in dark browns, burnt oranges and deep maroon, keeping well away from any House colors.

“One of our guest rooms for visiting faculty. You’ll be here tonight, just call for one of the house elves of you have need of anything. I believe your trunk has already been brought up.” Dumbledore smiled at him, eyes twinkling before leaving, shutting the door softly.

Draco sat down on the bed and dropped his head into his hands. This would be one of the few nights he would have before he had to take on the role of enraged Death Eater full time. A small reluctant sliver of gratitude for Dumbledore welled up.

Eventually he pulled himself up and sorted through his trunk until he found a general healing potion and a bruise salve that Severus had started leaving for him after he had gotten his seeker position.

The notebook Granger had given him fell out along with a small shower of quills. He scooped it up and unlocked it to find that Granger had written to him. He read through as he tended to his hands, eyes tracing over her now familiar writing.

Are you alright? Harry is in the hospital wing for the night, you managed to break three of his ribs and Professor Snape thinks you may have fractured his eye socket.

Draco huffed, dropping onto the bed beside the notebook and slamming it shut angrily, trying to ignore the guilt fluttering through his chest. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. If Mother really had died and he thought Potter was involved he would have done far worse. He wouldn’t have cared who was in the way and he certainly wouldn’t have used his fists.

Draco found himself pacing alongside the bed, muttering to himself before finally grabbing the notebook and a quill.

So what was I supposed to do then Granger? Give him a slap on the wrist like the rest of the world does? It’s not like I did any lasting harm, besides should I remind you what HE did to ME?

He stared angrily at the book for a minute, eventually reaching to slam it shut just as words started scrolling across the page.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to make you feel guilty, I just worry about Harry. Really though, are you alright? Snape stunned you and they moved you before any of us could tell.

Draco paused at the words, some of his anger seeping away.

Yes, I’m fine. Only some bruises and scrapes. Dumbledore put me in a guest room for the night to keep me out of the Slytherin dorms.

That was smart of him. Are you leaving the castle soon?

Draco sighed heavily at the reminder. He really didn’t want to deal with this, with any of this. When all of this was over he would have more than a few things to say to his father.

Yes. My solicitor called for me already, and I’ll need to arrange an appropriate funeral. Plus of course whatever amount of time it takes for the Dark Lord to decide whether he should kill me or not.

There was a long pause and a small spot of ink spread at the top corner of the page, as if Granger were resting her quill there while she thought. He shifted uncomfortably, kicking his boots off and moving to stretch out on the bed, trying to relax some of the tension that had started as soon as he saw Dumbledore walk into the Great Hall.

It can’t be easy to have to do all of this. I know I can’t really help, and honestly you probably wouldn’t want it anyway, but if you have time could you try and keep us updated? And just know that I’m around if you need something.

Unwillingly the ball of stress and loneliness he had been carrying around since that summer eased just a fraction. There wasn’t anyone else he could talk to, just Order members, and it wasn’t like he was going to have a nice sit down with Potter. Though really, was talking to the mudblood any better?

Yes, I’ll keep the Order informed of what I can. I left several things for Mother, please remember to take them.

He snapped the notebook closed before he could read her reply, feeling uncomfortable with his line of thought.

It wasn’t like he needed one of the overconfident idiots to confide in, it was just that no one in his house could be trusted and it was good to have someone who could give him feedback on his ideas. That was all. It wasn’t like he needed the Know-It-All to spill his feelings to or some such nonsense.

It was ridiculous. The whole idea.


For the second time in his life Severus woke in the hospital wing in bed with Potter. The light was thin and grey, somewhere between cloudy and early, and the odd mixture of scents from healing potions mingled with Harry’s soap. He couldn’t help but flash back to that first morning and how very different everything felt; he had never imagined that so much could change in just a few months.

Severus glanced over to the man beside him, the small smile that Harry seemed to inspire falling immediately into a look of sour disgust as he spied a string of drool the other man was leaking onto Snape’s shoulder.

Severus cast a wordless scourgify, making Harry twitch but mercifully drying out the damp spot on his pyjama shirt. The younger man shifted around until he had settled more firmly onto Severus, sighing as he sunk back into sleep.

With a few grumbles he moved until he was comfortable, tucking the blankets around both of them a bit tighter and pressing back into the mound of pillows that Harry had stolen for him.

A rustle drew his attention just as he was drifting off again, his wand suddenly in his hand and pointing at the head of snowy hair poking around the edge of their curtain partition.

“Albus” Severus whispered in greeting, dropping his wand down to rest on his chest. He started to shift away from Harry, not comfortable with anyone seeing him with a Gryffindor wrapped half around him, but stilled when Harry made a small noise of complaint. He gave in with a small huff, not wanting to wake the other man.

“Good morning my boy” Albus responded quietly but cheerfully. “I thought I would stop by and check on Harry, and perhaps take a moment to speak with you.” He wandered closer and took a stiff backed chair next to Severus, his robes an almost tolerable shade of robin’s egg blue.

“Harry is fine, he was just a bit drowsy last night and Poppy wanted to monitor him since he had been in twice in one day.” Severus replied, wondering if the old man would finally stop dodging him. He had been trying to get Dumbledore cornered since they returned from break but the man was alarmingly hard to locate for someone who was typically dressed in neon.

“Good, good, I’m glad to hear. Mr. Malfoy was concerned he might have injured Harry more than intended.” Albus raised bushy brows at him, as if he needed any help understanding the significance of Draco being worried about Harry.

“I believe I owe you a meeting or two my boy” the old man said, studiously ignoring the look irritation he was receiving. “There are several things I would like to discuss with you and Harry, not the least of which is your vow. You haven’t told him of it yet have you?”

“No. I was rather hoping I might be able to convince Narcissa to release me since she’s not particularly invested in your death these days.” Black eyes narrowed in suspicion. Severus didn’t enjoy it when Albus hid things from him, and he had been doing so more and more of late. This sudden forthcoming attitude set alarms ringing.

“Well that’s certainly a worthwhile thought. I’ll ask Ms. Granger to take a letter when she goes next. Perhaps we can get that off of you sooner than later” A smile peeked through the thick beard. “I have things I need to share with the two of you when Harry is feeling up to it. Something that will hopefully win this war.”

“Anything to do with that?” Severus nodded toward Albus’ hand. The Headmaster had refused to tell him exactly what happened, only that he had run afoul of a trap guarding a valuable magical item.

“You always did have a way of seeing right through everything” Albus said, his smile turning a bit sad. “Yes it is something to do with this. I know you also wished to speak about the bond-”

Severus threw his free hand up sharply to stop Albus talking. He had forgotten he had his wand in his hand and the resulting surge of magic pushed the Headmaster back a few lengths.

Severus flushed and lowered his wand quickly.

“My apologies. That was not intentional.”

“No trouble my boy, that was certainly more effective at waking me than my tea was” the cheerful response came as Albus moved himself and his chair back to the bedside.

“I do not wish to speak of the bond. Particularly what will happen when it is no longer there.” His voice had dropped lower as he spoke, his neck stretching away from the mess of black hair using his shoulder as a pillow.

“Oh Severus” Allbus said softly, sorrow filling his tired eyes, having correctly guessed his Potion Master’s plan. “So, after all this time, you’ve finally come to truly care for the boy.”

Severus just swallowed around the lump in his throat, his eyes darting away and settling, as they so often did, on Harry.

“I will not let him die Albus. I will not.” His voice was a fierce whisper as he reached out to grasp the Headmaster’s healthy wrist, shaking it for emphasis.

“No I don’t suppose you will. The choice is yours Severus, but I will do what I can to try and find a solution before the time comes. You may be willing to die on his behalf but I suspect that he would very much object.”

Severus just nodded, knowing better than to hope “We will come find you after Poppy releases him so we can discuss whatever else you’ve been hiding. But please Albus, do not tell him. I have asked very little of you over the years, at least grant me this.”

Dumbledore nodded slowly in reluctant agreement “Very well. I will leave it to you. Send a quick note when you’re ready to meet and I’ll come find you.”

Severus waved as absent goodbye as the Headmaster swept out, turning instead to shift himself a little closer to Harry.


The day seemed to pass with a supernatural speed, moving from Hogwarts, to his solicitors office in Diagon Alley, to the funeral specialists with their ingratiating group of men dressed in somber black who tried to tell him that only the very best marble would be acceptable for the Malfoy matrons tomb. Watching them try to hold their sympathetic expression when he asked exactly which nonexistent parts of his mother they were planning on entombing had been the highlight of his morning.

Draco finally called a halt, the musty room with its silence and awful red velvet couches making his skin crawl almost as much as the fake smiles from the short proprietor with his thinning hair and poorly fitted suit. Draco chose a tomb and arranged to have it picked up since it really wouldn’t do to have a group of people showing up to the manor.

Draco drew in a deep breath as he escaped out onto the cobbled street of Diagon Alley, the cold February wind biting into his face and clearing the smell of age and death from his nose. He checked his watch, seeing that he had managed to miss lunch by a wide margin just as his stomach growled.

Ambling down a small side street, Draco ducked into a quiet French restaurant, one of his Mother’s favorites. He hadn’t been for several months, but they knew him and knew better than to pester him. A server lead him through the small space to a quiet table by the window, looking out onto the overcast street. The restaurant was small but well appointed, everything made with minimal clean lines in mind. The decor was primarily monochrome with small tasteful splashes of color and the lack of clutter made some of the tension in Draco’s shoulders release.

 

He was just finishing his very late lunch and trying to decide if putting pressure on the spot of pain between his eyes actually made it any better when a man sat down across from him.

Draco glanced up, his face twisted into a sneer, ready to tell off whatever idiot had elected to harass him now. He had already scared off three separate reporters and one fairly obvious conman that very morning.

His mouth snapped shut as he recognized Mcnair, his dark eyes just as cold as Draco remembered. He was dressed in a plain robe, several years out of date, that looked like it had been subject to a mending charm a few too many times. His dark hair was thinning and his ragged nails left small snags in the fine linen of the tablecloth.

The older man smiled, revealing yellow crooked teeth “Young Master Malfoy, our mutual acquaintance would like to extend his condolences for your terrible loss.” Mcnair leaned over the small table, bathing it in his sour breath as he reached to take the last of a rather excellent red Draco had been drinking.

Draco stiffened his back, waving off the server who was watching anxiously, not having known whether he should have stopped a ministry official from approaching his patron.

“Please extend my gratitude to him for thinking of my family in this trying time.” Draco responded, his lip curled in distaste.

“Oh no Master Malfoy, you misunderstand. He would very much like to extend his condolences in person. He’s sent me along to escort you.” Mcnair responded with a false smile.

Draco’s mind flew into overdrive, running down his internal checklist even as his nodded and climbed to his feet, dropping several galleons too many onto the table.

Mcnair’s fingers twitched toward the money before he stopped himself, a look of anger and envy crossing his face. Draco categorized the information away for potential use later on even as his fingers brushed carefully over the button stuck to the interior of his trouser pocket, ready to snatch him away if the Dark Lord got through his defenses, or if Potter had been wrong and the Dark Lord had seen something when he tried to break into the Gryffindor’s mind.

They exited at a sedate pace and walked to the nearest apparition point in silence. Draco had stored a vial of the serum that helped him to resist veritaserum in a tiny expanded compartment in his watch. Someone would have to know that it was there and the password if they hoped to retrieve it. He had taken it that morning, just before leaving Hogwarts and needed to dose himself again just in case questioning ran into the night.

When they arrived at the brass circle inlaid in the ground Draco waved Mcnair forward, indicating he should apparate first.

“You’ll be apparating on a side along with me boy, I don’t want you running off now.” Mcnair demanded, stabbing a dirty nail at the ground in emphasis.
Draco pulled on his best Malfoy look of disdain. “Do you honestly believe I would be so stupid as to wait until the Dark Lord called me before running? If I was intending to flee it would have been this morning, with a large sum of money from my solicitor.” Draco shook his head, his height letting him look down his nose at the ministry lackey.

“You’ve done your part, run along and let your betters discuss what needs to be done to handle our current situation.” Draco motioned Mcnair off, dismissing him sharply.

The shorter man made a noise of incoherent rage and yanked his wand out. Draco had been expecting it though and cast a wandless and wordless levitation charm, throwing Mcnair back into the brick wall of the alley.

“You dare to attack a pureblood? You with your filthy muggle mother?” Draco spat, trying to hide how much his arm was shaking. He could do a fair few spells silently and without his wand, as long as it was still on him, but that didn’t mean it didn’t cost him.

Mcnair stared down at him, his arms spread out to either side and his wand fallen at his feet. Fear warred with anger in his eyes and Draco pushed just a tiny bit more power through his fatigued muscles, putting a heavy pressure on the other man’s chest.

Dark eyes widened and fear overtook the anger, Mcnair shaking his head rapidly, unable to draw a full breath.

Draco let up just enough for him to speak.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean no disrespect Lord Malfoy, I was just tryin to do as the Dark Lord said.” A whine had entered his voice, grating on Draco’s already tightly strung nerves.

“Of course, we all obey our Lord, but do not ever presume to give me orders. Now, go back to the manor, I will be just behind you.” He pulled his arm back, dropping Mcnair with a thump.

The man scrambled to grab his wand and hurried into the circle, avoiding the younger man’s eyes. He disapparated with a sharp crack, giving Draco a few precious seconds to dose himself.

He had gotten into his watch, taken the serum and re-secured everything in the time it took for him to walk into the brass circle himself and straighten his cloak. He dragged in a deep breath and twisted away with a snap.


Malfoy didn’t return to the castle that week. He hadn’t taken the notebook with him, obviously not wanting to risk it being found. Hermione spent the week glued to the papers, reaching for the post owl with almost as much speed as Snape did.
The Monday morning that Draco left the paper finally showed the full story, a picture of the jewelry store in flames, the fire burning a sickly green. The twins had set up most of the destructive charms and had somehow created a fire that acted like a guardian, lashing out at anyone that approached too closely.

They had designed it to give themselves a bit extra time before anyone could investigate, and according to the twins it was only supposed to last 2-3 hours. When it was still burning Sunday morning they had just shrugged, unconcerned.

By the time Aurors had gotten in barely any evidence, magical or otherwise, remained. They finally found the magical signature that the Order had left for them, causing them to declare Narcissa Malfoy dead and a victim of a homicide. An investigation was ongoing with no leads, the Profit had reported with an air of glee.

The following two days gave no new clues, the paper doing small articles on Narcissa and her life, mentioning that her son had left school temporarily to deal with the loss. The Slytherin’s weren’t offering any clues either, though their hostility toward the Gryffindors had gone up considerably and Hermione had started having to walk to class with groups.

It wasn’t until Thursday that they got any real updates, a picture of Malfoy appearing on the front page of the Profit, looking tired and pale but otherwise intact, and walking through the gates of Malfoy manor with a huge marble tomb levitating ahead of him.

According to the article he would be having a small private funeral for family and close friends the next day and would return to Hogwarts to resume his schooling the following week.

Hermione looked up over the crowded hall and met her Defense teachers dark eyes. They gave each other quick looks of relief before turning back to their respective tables.

“So what’s the news Mione? Is the Ferret still in one piece?” Ron asked around a mouthful of scone, spraying small pieces all over the table in front of him. His Gryffindor tie was slightly off center and his robes looked like he had crumpled them into a small ball and played quidditch with them before putting them on.

“Sshhh” Hermione hissed, glancing around to see if anyone had heard. The nearest person was Harry, who looked like he was contemplating whether or not porridge would make a decent pillow. In contrast his outfit was perfectly clean and pressed, his red and gold tie precisely on center and black boots polished to a shine. Snape had been a good influence on his dressing habits, though it had likely taken a few threats and several spells to get Harry that tidy.

Hermione flicked her wand, putting up a silencing spell and cleaning the wet crumbs off of the table and her paper in one movement. She gave her friend a look of disgust before she replied.

“Yes, he looks like he got through it. It says he should be back by Monday. They’re holding the funeral tomorrow.” She answered, Ron steadily making his way through his fourth sausage, Lavender strangely absent.

“Good. Be terrible to put all that work into helping the twat just to have him go off and get himself killed.”

Hermione shot the redhead a thin look, not bothering to respond. A hand landing on her shoulder startled her enough that she bumped Harry, sending him tilting a bit sideways.

She glanced up to see Ginny motioning at the bubble of the silencing charm with a puzzled look, her long red hair curling over her shoulders in a new style. Hermione quickly dismissed it and scooted over to make room for the younger woman.

Ginny smiled and sat down in the small space between her and Harry, pressing tightly to both of them.

“What was that about Hermione? More Golden Trio secrets?” Ginny said in a teasing tone, but the look in her eyes was suspicious.

“Hardly. I just wanted to yell at your brother without making a spectacle of it. He spit baked goods on my book. Again.” Hermione responded, only feeling a tiny twinge of guilt at the lie.

Ginny arched her brow at her brother, who smiled sheepishly back at her.

“So Harry, do you want to study soon? I hardly see you anymore” the redhead asked, her voice taking on a cajoling tone as she turned away to her address her target.

“Erm.. Well I mean I can’t really can I? We’ve got a little room but not much and Snape doesn’t have time to be in the common room every night.” Harry responded, looking more awake and considerably more uncomfortable.

“But couldn’t he come up even once a week? It’s not like he has to talk to any of us and it’s not fair that you can’t spend anytime with your friends, you’re just stuck in the dungeon with him all the time.” Ginny had rounded fully on Harry, her voice angry now.

Hermione had reached out to stop her tirade but just dropped her hand and scooted back a bit, knowing that whatever was coming wasn’t going to be particularly pleasant. Even Ron seemed to have an inkling as he gulped the last of his pumpkin juice and sat back, arms crossed over his chest.

“And what Ginny, have him sit off in the corner while I gossip with everyone about the latest school scandal?” Harry’s retort was sharp, his dark brows drawing down over his vivid eyes. “Has it occurred to you that maybe I don’t care to sit in the middle of all that? That he’s not holding me hostage and I actually like being in the dungeon where its quiet and no one bothers me?”

“Oh is that what we are then Harry? Just a bother to you? Great to know that you haven’t really wanted to spend time with any of us, you just had to.” Ginny’s face had twisted in anger, her voice turning nasty.

Harry looked taken aback, a small flash of hurt crossing his face.

“Oi, what’s got your knickers in a twist then?” Ron broke in, his own expression unhappy.

His sister spun on him “Nothing Ronald, I’m just tired of being ignored by you three. You’re all always off running around, and now that Harry’s had to move in with the greasy git I don’t see any of you anymore.” A thread of hurt was in her voice as she looked down at the table.

Hermione started to speak, hearing the hurt and wanting to reassure her friend that they weren’t purposely ignoring her when Harry broke in.

“Don’t call him that.” His voice had dropped and he said it quietly but very seriously, staring the younger woman down. He stood abruptly, nodding to both her and Ron before he strode off toward the high table, Snape standing to meet him with a concerned look on his face. They turned and walked together out of the hall, falling into step easily, Snape’s long hair swinging forward as he bent to speak quietly to Harry.

Hermione just sighed, looking tiredly at Ginny, who was staring after Harry’s retreating back with a baffled look on her face. This was the last thing they needed. She had tried to convince the youngest Weasley that her crush was a bad idea and that she really should let it go when they had spoken over the Christmas holiday.

“Ginny I told you to leave him alone” Ron said suddenly, his pale blue eyes sparking with anger. “I know you’ve had that stupid crush on him since you were six or something but I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that he’s not interested.”

Hermione felt her brows raising. She hadn’t realised that Ron had spoken to Ginny as well. It made her feel considerably better about telling the other woman to let go of her dream of marrying the Boy Who Lived. The sad part was that Hermione could almost see Harry agreeing to it, even if she didn’t make him happy, if only to make himself feel like a real part of the Weasley family.

But that was before Snape, before he had spent every waking and sleeping moment with someone who, strangely enough, actually balanced his personality out startlingly well.

Now Hermione couldn’t imagine Harry settling for anything less than the kind of connection he was forming with the Potions Master. Frankly she was beginning to think that he wouldn’t settle for anything less than Severus himself, but that was something to think about a different day, with a fair amount of alcohol readily available. And maybe Malfoy to represent the Slytherin side and commiserate with her.

“It’s not like I’m trying to trap him Ron, I just want to spend time with him, he’s my friend too you know.” Ginny’s face was flushed, the pink in her cheeks making her look more attractive, unlike Hermione, who always just looked a bit splotchy.

“And your sudden need to spend time with your friend has nothing to do with Dean not speaking to you does it?” her brother asked in a knowing tone.

Ginny glared at him and pushed away from the table, tilting the bench slightly in her haste.

“That’s not fair Ron. You don’t have to be such an arse about everything” she snapped before marching off, anger making her stride stiff.

 

“Bloody hell, why couldn’t she have been closer in age to any of the others? Why do I have to deal with her?” Ron asked plaintively.

“Well really normally she’s much more reasonable than this. I just think she’s spent a lot of years waiting around for Harry to notice her and she’s finally figuring out that he’s not going to, no matter what she does.” Hermione responded.

Ron gave her a shrewd look, reminding her abruptly that he wasn’t as absent minded and bumbling he so regularly came off as.

“You see it too then?” he asked quietly, nodding his head toward the doorway that Harry and Snape had walked through.

She just nodded, eyeing him warily. She knew that the wizarding world was different, that they couldn’t care less about who you married as far as gender or race were concerned, only blood status and money played a part, and even then only with the old families. But Ron had hated Snape for years and she couldn’t imagine him being overjoyed that Harry wanted to spend time with the older wizard.

Ron sighed heavily, slumping. “I had hoped I’d gone a bit mad. He just can’t make anything easy on himself can he?” he suddenly gave a small snort of laughter “At least it’s not Malfoy. I don’t think I could handle having to see the Ferret that often.”

Hermione felt her face flush, inexplicably uncomfortable. She got a narrow eyed look of suspicion as she quickly stood and gathered her books for class, turning to hurry away without looking back. She wasn’t sure she would know what to do with the assessing look she could feel aimed at her.


Harry marched along, anger still rolling through him, Severus matching him stride for stride. The ended up in the Defense classroom faster than he had anticipated, a good half hour before the class was supposed to start. They had a fourth year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw class coming in first that morning, and didn’t need any real set up since they would be having a quiz.

Severus turned him slightly, aiming him toward the attached office. He walked in, still upset but calming somewhat when he saw that somehow Tippy had known and already had a pot of strong coffee waiting for them. Neither had been sleeping well, partially from worry about Malfoy, but mostly from their visit to Dumbledore on Monday after his release from the hospital wing.

 

Severus had mentioned that the Headmaster had stopped by and wanted to see them. They had gone up to his office after a quick exchange of paper aeroplanes to confirm.

When they arrive Dumbledore already had the pensieve out, a small vial of silvery memories sitting beside it. The Headmaster had proceeded to explain that they would be looking into the memory of Morfin Gaunt, Voldemorts uncle. When Dumbledore turned to Severus to explain further the tall man had held up a hand to stop him and turned to Harry instead.

Harry had gone through the previous two memories briefly, knowing he would be going through them in detail later and explained that Dumbledore had wanted him to understand Voldemort better. Severus had given Dumbledore a positively suspicious look but had gone willingly into the pensieve with them.

After watching the memory of Gaunt being framed for the murder of Tom Sr. and Voldemorts grandparents, along with the theft of the family ring, which Severus had startled when he saw, they surfaced and he barely had time to wave goodbye to the Headmaster before Severus dragged him out of the room.

They had spent the rest of the night awake, going over the previous memories and patching together what they could. Severus had been shocked to find out that Riddle was a halfblood and had murdered so many people so young. Harry had mentioned that he had actually murdered Moaning Myrtle with the Basilisk to create the diary before that.

Severus had gone a little mad at that, apparently having been told about the diary having some kind of imperius spell but not anything about it trying to kill Ginny, and Dumbledore had conveniently not mentioned the Basilisk at all, letting the staff believe that Ginny Weasley had been imperioused by a cursed artifact and had petrified students herself.

A ward over the door to prevent Severus from marching out to find the Headmaster and several glasses of firewhiskey later Harry had told him the full story, Severus’ long fingers returning again and again to trace carefully over the knot of scar tissue on Harry’s arm from the Basilisk fang.

They stayed up most of the following two nights as well, trying to work out what information they each had, and correct anything they had missed. It seemed that the largest issue had been the Basilisk, though Severus hadn’t gotten the full story about the final chamber in his first year either.

Harry also learned about Severus’ vow about Dumbledore, which caused a small round of yelling in the early hours of Thursday morning. Harry was still mad about it, but had been too tired to keep up the argument at the time. They’d only gotten a few hours of sleep before dragging themselves to the Great Hall.

“Harry..” Severus started, exhaustion in his voice.

Harry held a hand up, anger warring with his need for more sleep, blinking himself back into the present. His eyes felt gritty and everything seemed oddly surreal.

“No, I’m allowed to mad at someone right now, you should just be grateful it’s not currently you.” he said, cutting the older man off.

Severus gave him a considering look before raising his hands in surrender and pouring them both coffee, dropping cream and a spoonful of sugar into each cup.

“What did the Weasley girl say?” Severus asked after he had settled into his chair behind his desk.

“Nothing important, just got on my nerves. Ginny is my friend but she’s been pushing to spend more time with me and honestly I don’t have time for whatever it is she’s after.” Harry cradled his mug to his chest, taking small sips of the hot liquid.

Snape gave him an incredulous look “Whatever it is she’s after? Come on Potter, you’re not that dense.”

Harry just blinked at him in confusion and shrugged.

“You, you idiot, she’s after you. To date. I imagine to take home and marry if she had her way. Wife of the Boy Wonder.” Severus responded, a vicious edge to his voice.

Harry just stared at him, the words taking a moment to process, the look on Severus’ face getting darker and darker.

Harry burst out laughing, putting his coffee down on Severus’ desk and resting his forehead on his knees, trying to get a grip on himself.

It really wasn’t that funny, but it did explain a few things. Frankly, it was a relief to know what was wrong with her. She’d been odd with him for months now and even if it was inconvenient he could at least address it now.

“Are you quite alright? You seem to have gone a bit hysterical on me.” Severus said, leaning over the desk to look down at Harry.

Harry sat up, waving him off as he grabbed his drink and settled back into his chair.

“I’m fine, that just explains a lot about how weird she’s been this year.”

“You honestly didn’t realise? Are you still blind, I had thought we corrected your vision.”

“Hilarious. You’re a real riot you know?” Harry said sarcastically, getting a smug look in return.

“Can we talk about something that doesn’t involve awkward romantic notions from my best mates sister?” he asked a bit desperately.

“Certainly. But I’m surprised. I assumed you would be thrilled to learn that the one female in the family you are already practically adopted into was interested in you.” Snape’s voice was carefully casual, his eyes fixed on the small ring his coffee had left on the desk.

Harry snorted “Hardly. Ginny is perfectly nice, but I’ve always seen her as more of a sister. Besides, if we did date and it didn’t work out can you imagine the fallout of that? Even if I was interested, which I’m not, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near that mess.”

Severus looked oddly pleased at this, and Harry was just opening his mouth to ask why it was that he was so interested in Harry’s non existent love life when they heard the classroom door open and realised students were filing in.

Severus sighed but got up, downing his coffee before straightening his robes and heading toward the open door.

“Are you joining me for this lesson?” he paused in the doorway, looking back at Harry.

Harry shook his head as he got up to steal Severus’ seat behind the desk and draw out his charms book.

“No, I’ve got to get through the essay Flitwick assigned if I’m going to have time for anything else.”

Severus nodded and swept out, shutting the door behind himself to give Harry a quieter space to work in.

 

They made it through the rest of the day without incident, dragging themselves back to their rooms after dinner. All Harry wanted to do was sleep, but he couldn’t stay silent any longer about the ridiculous vow Severus had finally admitted to early that morning.

They settled onto the couch, neither bothering to get out work or grading, too tired to do anything but sit for a moment.
“I’m not going to just ignore this you know.” Harry broke the silence. “I can’t believe you agreed to kill Dumbledore and didn’t tell me. And then you went and made it where you had to or you’d die? What were you thinking?”

Severus stiffened at his side, scooting forward to the edge of the couch.

“I would remind you Potter that I’m hardly answerable to you. I did what was best at the time. I ensured that I would continue to be trusted,” his voice was tight and cold, black eyes angry.

“And a fat lot of good that did you. You got found out anyway and now you’ve got to murder the Headmaster just to stay alive.” Harry felt his tiredness fading, the same burning anger he’d felt last night taking its place.

“You say that like it’s some kind of revelation. Do you think his will be the first murder I’ve committed? This is at least a mercy and it saves Draco from tainting his soul in such a way.” Severus had turned away, his voice wavering only slightly.

Harry sat there, a horrible feeling in his chest. He had known of course that Severus was once a willing Death Eater. He’d seen the man’s Dark Mark often enough not to forget it. Severus had stopped trying to hide it from him months ago, and he was almost used to it now.

Harry was just having trouble making the connection between Severus as a Death Eater and the man he actually was, now that Harry had gotten to know him. He didn’t doubt that Snape could kill someone, had killed someone, but it seemed wrong to him on a visceral level that he could have done so to an innocent. The man had a streak of honor he kept carefully hidden, and for the first time Harry found himself wondering if that hadn’t always been the case.

“You seem to have forgotten who exactly I was” Severus broke into his thoughts, turning to face Harry with a bitter look. “Perhaps I should remind you more often in case you start getting too comfortable.”

Harry pulled away from the taller man, his jaw clenched tight. He knew well enough now that this was exactly the response he should expect when he pushed too hard, or on something that made the other man feel guilty. It took very little for Severus’ self hatred to well up and Harry had seen him push people away too many times not to know what it looked like, he was just too angry and confused to care at the moment.

“I know exactly who you are Snape. You think that I’m what, just ignoring all the horrible shit you’ve done over the years? To everyone? To me?” Harry stood, anger making him need to move.

“It doesn’t mean I like it, but it’s not something I think about constantly either. Do you want that to be all I think of you? Is that what you’re aiming for here?”

“Maybe it should be. As you said, it’s not as if you could ignore all of the horrible things I’ve done.” Snape stood abruptly, his robes swirling around him as he stalked into his lab and slammed the door shut, wards snapping into place so rapidly that a small wave of magic swept through the room, shoving Harry’s hair back.

“Shit.” Harry muttered into the sudden silence of the room. He slumped back onto the couch, trying to get a hold of his anger. He had tried so hard this year to keep it restrained, and for the most part he had done better than he expected, but he shouldn’t ever have let himself forget that no one in the world could set him off the way Severus could.

He could feel the swirl of rage trying to well back up as he thought of the last few conversations they’d had and tangled his hands in his hair in frustration. Why would he do something so stupid? Was he trying to get himself killed?

Harry stared at the ceiling, his head tilted back at an awkward angle as he listened for any indication that there was another person in their rooms, but Severus had obviously put up strong silencing charms. With a groan of frustration Harry finally gave in and got up to toss a handful of floo powder into the fire.

“Gryffindor Tower” he said into the now green flames. The chatter of a large group drifted through the fire as he knelt and stuck his head through, turning to look for Hermione in her normal spot but finding it empty.

“Harry! You coming up soon?” Neville smiled at him from one of the overstuffed red chairs, a textbook open on his lap.

“Yeah maybe. Hey, have you seen ‘Mione around?” Harry asked, looking for bushy hair in the nearby groups.

“Yeah she was just here. I think she went up to the dorm, let me go see.”

“Thanks mate” Harry replied as Neville got up and wandered over to yell up the staircase to the girls dorm. A second later his best friend appeared, coming down the stairs to chat with Neville before turning to look sharply at the fire.

She hurried over, kneeling in front of the grate so he didn’t have to strain his neck.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Why does there have to be something wrong?” Harry responded, slightly indignant.

Hermione just looked at him, eyebrow raised.

“Fine, there’s something wrong. Can you come through?”

Hermione didn’t bother responding, just shooed him back out of her way. She stepped through the fire just as he sat back on the couch, the spot at his side conspicuously empty.

Her eyes flicked up to the closed lab door before she sighed and sat down beside him.

“What happened?”

Harry dropped his head into his hands but explained, telling her about everything that had happened from the point he had woken in the hospital wing.

Hermione looked thoughtful at the end, tapping her blunt nails against her knee as she considered how to respond.

“So why exactly are you so angry?” she finally asked, breaking the silence of the room.

“Because he should have told me. Because Dumbledore is making him murder him and he went and swore a fucking vow that could kill him” Harry burst out, his head snapping up to look at her.

“And what would you have done differently if you had been in his place?” she said mildly.

“I- I don’t know, something.” Harry felt some of his anger fall away, realising how ridiculous he sounded. He didn’t know what he would have done differently. He probably would have sworn that stupid vow too, and really he’d already gone and promised Dumbledore he would kill Voldemort? He really didn’t have much room to judge.

“Fine, I probably would have done the same thing, except maybe gotten myself killed when Bellatrix showed up” Harry muttered.

“Were you really upset about him taking the vow or are you just upset he did something that could get him killed?” she asked it quietly, the gentle understanding in her eyes reminding him why he had called her in the first place.

The same desperate anger welled in him at her words, anger that he could show that kind of disregard for his life, that he hadn’t even told Harry that he could die.

He sighed heavily, finally feeling like he had a grasp on himself, his rolling emotions settling down.

“Thanks ‘Mione” he said quietly, leaning into her shoulder. She patted his arm gently, sitting with him for a few minutes before she stirred.

“You should talk to him. I’ll speak to Narcissa when I see her in a couple of days. I know Dumbledore wrote a letter, but I’ll see if I can get her to agree to dissolve the vow before I leave.”

“Thank you. I don’t know what I would do without you.” Harry said, grateful beyond words for the woman that had willing shared so much of his life.

“Fail a lot of classes and die horribly I suspect.” She answered cheerfully, climbing to her feet as Harry shot her a reproachful look.

The smile that had graced her face fell for a second, a serious look taking its place.

“Harry I meant to speak with you” she looked suddenly uncomfortable, something that he rarely saw.

He motioned for her to keep talking, not knowing what could possibly make her uncomfortable. She had once sat him down and had a safe sex talk with him and had looked less bothered.

“It’s just that I know that you and Snape are getting along, most of the time at least, and I know that you care for him, and I think he cares for you just as much, and I just don’t want anyone to get hurt,” she said in a rush, not making a great deal of sense.

“Of course I care about him ‘Mione. I’d hardly be upset about him doing something that could get him killed if I didn’t, and if he wasn’t at least a little fond of me he’d have probably smothered me by now” Harry responded, confusion clear in his voice.

She gave him a frustrated look but just shook her head. “Just be careful Harry. From what I gather he’s not had many people in his life and not anyone as close as you are.”

He had a sharp flashback to that first day in the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey’s cryptic warning about scars, and suddenly felt like he understood a little better what the mediwitch had been trying to tell him.

He knew of course that Severus was a lonely person, had known it in an abstract way for years and with much more certainly since he had been around him. It just hadn’t struck him until that second exactly how alone he really was.

Harry had gotten upset and immediately reached out to someone he knew could help and would be there for him. Severus had retreated, locking himself in his lab, isolating himself further.

Harry’s musings were interrupted by a kiss across his cheek as Hermione gave him a smile and a small shove toward the closed lab door before she turned and ducked back into the Gryffindor common room.

Harry sighed and moved toward the lab to see if he could pry a certain stubborn Slytherin out.

Chapter Text

Now I see you, 'till kingdom come
you're the one I want
to see me for all
the stupid shit I've done.

-Blind Pilot, Three Rounds and a Sound

Severus paced restlessly back and forth along the L of his work table, not able to make himself sit still and not trusting himself to correctly brew anything in his exhausted state.

He shouldn’t have argued with Harry. Severus knew that he wouldn’t take news of the vow well, he had expected him to yell, to throw accusations. If nothing else he had learned how much Harry hated having the people in his life put themselves in danger, as much of a hypocrite as that might make him.

Severus ran his hands over his face in frustration, his palms scraping over his stubble. Harry hadn’t even focused on the part he had assumed would cause the most issues, the whole Dumbledore and his round about suicide. Perhaps he was just in denial and refusing to acknowledge it, though that really wasn’t how Potter operated.

Severus had gone so far as to promise himself that he would deal with whatever fight started in an adult manner, only to fall into snapping at each other as soon as the issue arose.

The cold of his lab was seeping through the thin button down shirt he wore, having discarded his robes when he got back to their rooms. He never applied warming charms to the lab as a whole, wanting no interference for the times he needed to control the temperatures on his cauldrons absolutely. His boot heels cracked with sharp echoes, the sound seeming crisper in the chilly air.

He didn’t like Harry telling him what he should or shouldn’t do. He’d never had anyone take him to task quite like that, neither Dumbledore or the Dark Lord ever truly questioned his methods, only the results.

A fresh surge of bitterness made him pause, the look on Harry’s face just before he had left the room flashing up. Of course Harry hadn’t just forgotten what he had been like, what he had done. He was a fool to have let himself believe for even a moment that his past could be overlooked. His face twisted into a sneer, disgust at himself welling up.

His jaw clenched as he pulled his left sleeve up and stared down at the Mark that had defined so much of his life. It was incredible how small decisions snowballed, sweeping away all the possible versions of himself that never would be. Instead of the greatness he had once imagined for himself he had come out tumbled and worn, nothing left of him but rough edges and dust.

 

Severus was so lost in his thoughts that he almost missed the push of magic against his wards. He spun with a snarl, raising his wand to reinforce the door if needed, but paused when nothing else happened. He knew that Harry was strong enough to break through with brute force, though with Severus working on repairs it would take him hours to get in.

He stood there, thin chest rising and falling rapidly, waiting for the shove against his magic that was sure to come. He waited until his heels started to go a bit numb and he finally sat down on his stool.

Severus frowned. If Harry wasn’t trying to break in then what the hell had that been?

He almost hexed himself when he realised how much of an idiot he was being. He had silencing wards up, he couldn’t hear anything, including a knock, so Harry had knocked the only way he could and was likely waiting around outside for Severus to stop throwing a fit.

Severus just sighed, slumping down as weariness made his head ache. Maybe Harry would just let it go for tonight, would just let him sleep if he asked nicely.

He moved to the door, warily, and slowly opened it. The front room was dim, the fire already banked, and it was later than he had thought. He looked around but didn’t see Harry and moved to walk silently to the bedroom, hoping to find the other man already close to sleep.

“Hey” a soft voice came out of the darkness, making Severus freeze. He turned to look and found a shadowy shape sitting up on the couch.

“Can you come here for a minute, please?” Harry asked when it was obvious that Severus was possibly planning on remaining in the middle of the room for the rest of the night.

Severus walked reluctantly over to Harry, perching stiffly on the edge of the couch and staring straight into the dying embers of the fire. He wasn’t going to apologize, he still felt like he had done exactly what he had to, even if he did regret the outcome.

“I’m sorry” Harry said quietly. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you and I shouldn’t have tried to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. I’m sure if I had been in your position I would have made the same choices.”

Severus turned to look at Harry in surprise, unconsciously shifting slightly closer, the soft plaid couch blanket bunching up between them. The fire illuminated one side of Harry’s face, throwing the stubble on his wide jaw into relief and creating pools of shadows in his eyes.

“It scared me. It scared me that you had made this deal that could have gotten you killed and you hadn’t even told me about it. I know it sounds stupid but I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done if you just dropped dead in the middle of the day, if your vow killed you before you could do anything about it.” Harry was running his hands along his thighs, his hair messier than usual and the sleeves of his sweat shirt stretched where he had pulled them over his hands again and again.

“I imagine you would have been rather overjoyed to be free” Severus said before he could stop himself, wincing slightly as soon as the words left his mouth. He just couldn’t damn well help himself, could he?

Harry tilted his head and looked at him, green eyes looking almost as dark as his own in the low light, an inscrutable expression on his face.

“Do you truly believe that? That I would be happier without you?” Harry asked, no hint of anger in his voice.

Severus shifted uncomfortably, his long fingers pulling at a stray thread on the edge of the couch cushion.

“I don’t know Potter. It’s not like this has been a vacation for you, and I’m hardly someone you’d choose to spend time with.”

“Would you be happier without me?”

There was something terribly vulnerable in the younger man’s voice, and he knew in that instant that if he told him yes, whatever confusing thing it was that they had been slowly piecing together over the last several months would vanish like smoke. He would go back to his safe distance, his lonely life for as long as he had it, and at the end perhaps Harry wouldn’t be all that upset to lose him.

Severus opened his mouth to give Harry a sharp yes, decision made, and heard his treacherous voice scratch out a small and defeated “No.”

“And I wouldn’t be happier without you. I am sorry I started a fight over all of this, but you’re going to have to get used to someone else worrying about you, alright?” a gentle hand landed on his arm, fingers tightening slightly.

Severus just nodded stiffly, horrified by his own selfishness. He had let his opportunity slip past, unwilling to lose Harry any sooner than he had to and surely making it worse for him in the end.

Harry sighed and stood up, stretching before heading in to get ready for bed. Severus watched him, not for the first time wondering what exactly he had gotten himself into. He constantly found himself baffled by the other man and he had started to suspect that whatever they had between them was heading in a direction he wasn’t comfortable considering.

He climbed to his feet and flicked his wand, changing his robes to pyjamas. He was too tired to change and just didn’t care right then. He slid into bed and barely managed to hang onto consciousness long enough for Harry to join him. The last thing he could remember was the warm press a body against his and the soft click of metal meeting.


Hermione landed in front of the safe house, the wind off the ocean sweeping her cloak to the side and pinning her robes against her jean clad legs. She hurried up the rock path, holding her flyaway hair back from her face with one hand and noting that the rosemary bush had been trimmed back slightly after its run in with Harry.

She rapped sharply on the door, waiting impatiently for the woman to answer it. She was half tempted to just walk in since Harry did say she could have it. Really it was more her house than Narcissa’s anyway.

 

The heavy red door swung open, revealing the Malfoy Matron standing stiffly in the entryway. She stepped back, wordlessly clearing room for Hermione to come in. She hung her cloak and scarf up before following Narcissa further into the house.

They settled into the living room, Narcissa floating in a tray of tea and setting it on the driftwood table. Hermione was happy to see that the woman hadn’t redecorated anything; she would have been upset to see the little house lose its charm to cold sterile decor.

Hermione dug through her backpack, carefully removing a bag full of dented and broken items for portkeys. Next came the carefully packed boxes of ingredients Snape had sent along, a small notebook with the requested potions and his person recipes landing atop them. Food for the next week was sent sailing into the kitchen to be put away later.

Lastly she pulled out the small care package that Draco had left for her to take, and handed it directly to Narcissa.

“From Draco” she explained at the woman’s puzzled look. Her pale blue eyes softened immediately and she carefully opened it, an excited look crossing her stern features.

A roll of parchment came out first, obviously a letter, followed by something made from a silk so fine that it flowed like water. Finally a tiny gold box that looked to hold several very fancy truffles was set down beside the cloth.

Narcissa carefully tucked the parchment up her sleeve before turning to look at Hermione.

“Here, these are about as many updates as we have right now. He’s supposed to be back at Hogwarts by Monday.” Hermione held out a stack of Daily Prophets, the latest on top showing a full color front page picture of Harry, beaten and bleeding on the floor of the Great Hall.

They had carefully leaked Colin’s photo to the press via the sixth year Slytherins, who were only too happy to steal it from Colin and take it directly to Skeeter. The article below was speculative trash, mostly angling to blame teachers for allowing Harry to get hurt, as if a few bruises and broken bones was the worst he’d had happen at Hogwarts.

Narcissa raised a white blond eyebrow at them but set them to the side anyway.

“Do you have any other news?” her cool voice was detached, obviously hoping to get rid of her unwelcome guest as quickly as possible.

Hermione pulled out the letter from Dumbledore and handed it over. Narcissa looked at it curiously but set it down in her small pile.

“There is a request we’re making of you, and I believe you’ll find it in Dumbledore’s letter as well, but I wanted to address it too.” Hermione took a deep breath before continuing.

“You currently hold an unbreakable vow from Snape to assist Draco in his task for Voldemort. We want you to release him.”

Narcissa sat very still, her eyes widening slightly before they narrowed dangerously. The only sound in the room was the lonely whistle of the wind whipping around the corner of the house and battering a loose shutter. The welcoming scent of tea and burning wood seemed out of place in the cozy house with this cold woman.

“No”

A long pause followed as Herrmione tried to process her refusal of what should have been a simple request.

“No? What do you mean no?” Hermione said, her voice incredulous, her fingers twitching across her wand.

“No I won’t release him. He agreed to it to keep Draco safe and I’m hardly in a position to help my son. I won’t strip away any of his protection” the older witch answered sharply.

“It could kill him” Hermione just stared, unable to wrap her mind around the woman’s refusal.

“Not if he adheres to it. You will not convince me otherwise. If I need to leave this place and flee in order to not be beholden to the Order I will do so, but I refuse to give up any of Draco’s protections.” Her voice held a frightening finality.

“If he dies it won’t matter if you’re hiding with the Order or not, Harry will find you.” Hermione said it without thinking, her mind spinning.

Narcissa snorted delicately “I hardly think threatening me with a teenage boy is going to cow me.”

“I’m not threatening you. I’m telling you that if that vow kills Severus, after Harry wins the war and gets rid of Voldemort, he’ll come throw whatever is left of you into the sea.” Hermione answered, her voice flat.

For just an instant Narcissa looked uncertain before her cold mask fell back into place.

“While I regret the necessity, I will not agree to anything that could harm Draco.” She looked almost guilty for an instant.

“If you could take this to my son please.” The pale woman picked up a sealed scroll from the table beside her and handed it to Hermione, who tucked it into her bag without any sign of interest, her mind still reeling.

“You should reconsider,” Hermione said, getting up and straightening her robes with a careless flip of her hand, magic running with tight control despite having her wand tucked into her pocket.

“I believe that is all Ms. Granger. I appreciate you taking the time to come and I look forward to your visit next week.” Narcissa said with perfect pureblood manners, no hint of feeling in her voice.

Hermione paused for an instant, her jaw tight, before turning on her heel and leaving. Harry was not going to be happy about this.


They made it through the weekend and all the way to Valentine’s day with only minor incidents, mostly revolving around Harry threatening to go have a conversation with Narcissa about her poor choices. He had been livid when Hermione had come back and told him what she’d said.

It had taken Severus reasoning with him and finally a glass of firewhiskey before he subsided into grumbling instead of actively planning ways to sneak out, which were considerably more difficult when you had a Professor attached to you.

They had resumed their occlumency lessons, with only slightly more luck than they’d had the previous year. Harry was at least able to keep Severus out of the parts of his mind he didn’t want anyone seeing, but wasn’t able to block him completely. Severus was making them run through the drills every night with a near militant attitude, not wanting a repeat of the last incident.

Draco had returned with a surprising lack of fanfare, the only real notable change being the close to constant hexes they all sent flying at each other anytime they passed in the hall. Harry had gotten excellent at dodging and his shielding had never been better. He’d actually had a fairly good time with Hermione and Ron, digging out little known hexes that looked flashy but didn’t actually do much harm.

His personal favorite was the one that made all of the victims limbs fall asleep at once. Malfoy had dropped like he’d been stunned and had to sit in the hall, shaking the pins from his arms and legs until well after class had started. It only took one of the other students of their year flapping their arms in a parody of him to make his cheeks pink and bring a scowl crashing over his face.

Valentine’s came around with its typical fanfare, ridiculous singing balloon hearts and cards that roared out bawdy songs based on whoever opened them seemed to be everywhere, courtesy of the Weasley twins.

Harry spent the day dodging overzealous girls and boys alike, and mostly managed to avoid everything, though he did get cornered in Herbology by a small pack of balloons, all from different people but grouped together like hunting wolves.

Severus had thought it was hilarious for the first few minutes before he realised that they wouldn’t stop singing. After dispatching them with a bit more violence than was warranted he had made it his personal mission for the remainder of the day to do away with any he encountered.

The whole castle was decorated in red and white, a seemingly endless amount of lace, glitter and giggling girls spread throughout every room. Lunch saw no less than three students dosed with mild love potions and the spectacle of Pansy Parkinson attempting to climb into Draco’s lap, only to find herself forcibly removed by the scowling blond.

Harry finally gave up and dragged Snape to the dungeon after he made a third year girl cry when he exploded the singing balloon from her boyfriend.

They took refuge, electing to eat in their rooms and chat about Severus’ defense classes. Most were doing well, though his seventh years were having trouble with the patronus charm. Unlike the sixth years and below, none of the seventh years had been in the DA and so hadn’t had a chance to work with Harry on it.

Typically Harry stayed out of the seventh year classes since technically he was supposed to be behind them. In reality he was easily well into first year masters work for defense and they finally agreed that Harry would try to help with a couple of classes.

Harry was comfortably reclined, sifting through the candies he had gotten from Mrs. Weasley, Ron, and Hermione. He was carefully avoiding the package from Fred and George, and making a pile of bits and pieces he knew Severus liked. His whole package of black licorice wands was suspiciously missing, which he knew were one of Severus’ favorites, but he had fully intended on taking at least one for himself before he handed them over.

He got up to search, just in case. He was leaning over the edge of the couch when he spotted a small box of chocolates that had fallen over. He frowned, not remembering them being in any of the packages, though they did look familiar. He shrugged and set them on his pile before resuming his search.

“Severus have you seen my package of licorice wands?” he finally called.

Silence greeted him from the open door the potions lab.

“No?” The hint of question in the older wizards voice was all the confirmation Harry needed.

He launched himself over the couch and through the door, bursting in to find a very guilty looking Severus stuffing something into his robes.

Harry grinned at him before lunging for his pocket. Severus twisted away with a sharp yelp and ducked behind the table, looking alarmed.

Harry shivered a bit, the cold of the stone floor making his sock clad feet ache. His thin t shirt and comfortable worn jeans weren’t helping either. Severus was dressed in his heavy black wool robes and had both the advantage of height and boots. Harry narrowed his eyes, candy retrieval plans forming and being discarded almost as quickly.

“Potter, this is completely undignified. I demand you stop.” Black eyes were wide but he had shifted his weight, firming his stance.

“Says the man who stole someone’s candy” Harry replied with a smile before he launched himself over the table, missing tackling Severus to the floor by a fingers width.

Harry spun, seeker fast, and snagged the sleeve of the other man’s severe robes, their momentum throwing them into the dungeon wall.

Harry took ruthless advantage of his better position and wrestled the opened package from Severus’ pocket. He danced away, waving it triumphantly and smiling widely.

Severus lightly shoved the chortling Gryffindor when he danced back into reach and took back the candy when Harry held it out to him.

Harry had snagged a single piece and handed the rest over, never having intended to keep it. Severus gave him a dirty look but took a long piece out to chew on.

“Was that completely necessary?” Snape asked, looking rumpled.

“Yes, it absolutely was. You don’t just steal a man’s sweets and not expect him to fight back” Harry answered cheerfully, his t shirt slightly askew and his hair sticking up in every direction.

“I’ll remember that the next time the chocolate biscuits go missing” Severus replied darkly.

Harry just laughed and wandered back out to the sitting room, flopping onto the couch and picking up the small fancy looking chocolates that had tried to escape under the table. He grabbed one, noticing it had an oddly sickly sweet filling before his whole world vanished into a soft haze.


He only noticed something was wrong when he felt a tug on his bracelet. Severus frowned down at it, wondering if Harry had dozed off on the couch. He set down the bundle of angelica he had been prepping and went to investigate.

He opened the door he had closed after he had been assaulted for his purloined licorice and found the sitting room empty, his wrist tugging more insistently toward the outer door.

Alarmed, he called for Harry, not getting a response as he looked quickly in their bedroom and bath, but couldn’t find the other man.

Truly worried now he hurried out into the hall, following the tug of his link to Harry, and was almost running by the time he had gotten to the Great Hall. There was some kind of commotion, loud voices and a group of people all huddled around the Gryffindor table pointing him toward who he could only assume was Harry. Wherever there was chaos there was a fair bet Harry was nearby.

He frowned, uneasiness creeping through him. Harry wouldn’t just leave without him and he didn’t like the large crowd blocking his view of the other man.

“Move you idiots” his voice cracked out, louder than he had intended but effective. The crowd parted quickly, worried faces looking at him as Harry was revealed, kneeling at the feet of a fourth year Gryffindor who looked completely thrilled.
It took him a moment but he recognized her. She was part of the chattering group that giggled whenever Harry was in the Defense room helping. And she was the one who had asked Harry to Slughorn’s party that day in Hogsmeade. Vane, Romilda Vane, his confused brain supplied.

Harry was muttering something and it took the crowd quieting down for him to finally hear.

“You’re so beautiful Romilda. I don’t know how I didn’t see it before. You should marry me, I promise I would make a good husband.” Harry said, his green eyes glassy and fixed on her face.

Severus felt his skin crawl, realising exactly what must have happened.

“You dare to dose a fellow student with something as dangerous as amortentia Ms. Vain?” he hissed, stalking closer. Nothing short of amortentia would do this to Harry. The man was shockingly resistant to mind control.

The idiot girl finally looked away from the sight of Harry Potter on his knees in front of her, her face paling when she saw who was speaking.

“I didn’t…” she started to stutter, but trailed off at the thunderous look on her Professors face.

Severus strode forward and forcibly picked Harry up, making him stand. He didn’t realise until he saw it how much he would hate the sight of Harry kneeling to anyone. It wasn’t in the man to submit and certainly not to some teenage chit who thought she could force him.

Harry looked confused, but when he saw Severus his eyes cleared a bit and he smiled.

“Severus have you met Romilda?” His voice was distant and he swayed slightly.

“I have. I’ll be getting to know her considerably better, but for now you need to come with me. You can tell me more about her alright?” Severus replied gently, steering Harry toward the dungeons.

The younger man frowned a bit but walked with him, leaning into his side.

“She’s very pretty” Oddly this seemed to trouble him, some of blankness seeping away. “I don’t think I like pretty though. It’s not interesting. Interesting is better.” His voice slurred a bit and he poked Severus in the chest in emphasis.

“If you say so. I find I rather like pretty” he answered absently, trying to navigate the stairs with a man that seemed to only be distantly connected to his sock clad feet.

“Do you like Romilda?” this was said in a stage whisper into his ear, Harry titling alarmingly into him.

“No you idiot I don’t fancy a fourth year girl” Severus gave him an appalled look, which rather missed its mark as Harry was smiling at him again. His hand came up and patted Severus’ cheek carefully.

“Good. I don’t think I’d like her much if you did” Harry murmured as he swung himself off the final stair, only stumbling slightly.

Severus stopped, blinking in what he feared was a rather stupid way as his brain tried to make sense of that. Harry was dosed with a love potion keyed to Vane, why on earth would he not like her?
A small crash as Harry tripped over the foot of a suit of armor and knocked its halberd over brought his eyes back up in alarm.

He snapped back to himself and hurried forward, catching Harry just before he careened into the wall. Arms flung themselves around his neck and Harry pressed his face into Serverus’ neck muttering “dizzy” over and over.

Severus paused for a second, his hand running slowly over Harry’s back as he tried to help him regain some of his balance. That girl would regret ever considering dosing anyone, though he did need to know who she’d gotten the potion from. He would have to hold onto his temper until he had gotten at least that from her.

They finally managed to weave their way down the hall, and back to their rooms with only two more short stops, the last from Harry bending over to throw up just under the portrait of a horrified milk maid who had shrieked and run for safety to the wooded forest canvas next to her.

Two quick doses of potions and Harry started coming back to himself, the glassiness in his eyes fading. He would feel at least some of the effects until the following morning, and as much as Severus wanted to go deal with the girl he wasn’t going to leave Harry unattended. The man was a flight risk.

After some wrestling with a nightshirt and one of the most interesting rounds of teeth brushing Severus had ever taken part in he settled Harry into bed. The younger man flopped around rather comically, twisting the blankets into an incomprehensible mass in seconds.

Severus just shook his head but quickly got ready for bed and climbed in next to his moderately inebriated companion. Harry wiggled around and did a fair imitation of the giant squid, wrapping himself around him as soon as Severus had stilled.

He stayed still, waiting for Harry to drift off before he could begin trying to untangle himself. Just before his breathing evened out he muttered a soft “You smell so nice” into Severus’ throat, making the older man’s eyes widen.

Severus stayed there for a long time, unable to sleep. His brain spun around, trying to find some kind of explanation that made any sense at all. He was still staring at the ceiling in confusion when he finally drifted off, unease rolling through him for one simple fact.

Amortentia not only smelled like what attracted someone, it made them focus on the scents they found most attractive.


The next several weeks came and went faster than Harry realised and before he knew it Ron’s birthday had passed, a small celebration lasting late into the night in Gryffindor tower, and then they were just two weeks shy of Easter Holidays. Severus had been odd for several days after Harry had been dosed with the love potion, but seemed to get back to his normal grumpy self after assigning Romilda two months of detention with Filch and dropping Gryffindor by a full 100 points with a particularly vicious smile.

 

They continued to work on occlumency, and Harry was slowly getting a better grip on it, able to keep Severus out the majority of the time now. He still had trouble keeping his shields up constantly and was susceptible to attack when he was distracted. As a result, more than one of his classes had been interrupted by Severus whipping around and slamming into his mind when he least expected it.

 

They kept up their defense practice, sporadically getting better, but only when they were separated by several lengths and didn’t have to work directly together. Severus was still frustrated that they seemed to spend more time tripping each other than anything else, especially since they could maneuver just fine near each other outside of dueling.

It was a dreary grey Wednesday afternoon when Severus finally seemed to reach the end of his patience. He had been in a temper all day, having had a group of third years knock over a tank with several fire salamanders. It had taken both of them the rest of the lesson to round all eight of them up, having sent the class outside and locked the doors to prevent any escapees or injuries.

Fourteen small fires and one set of ruined robes later they had corralled all of the ember coloured lizards. By the time they got through dinner, where Hagrid had one too many brandys and nearly flattened Severus when he tipped sideways, the man was in an absolutely foul mood.

They had been in the room of requirement for almost an hour when Severus pulled up and shot out the charm to cease all movement from the various castle generated attackers. Harry fell back, panting. He could feel the sweat dripping down his neck and soaking the collar of his now scorched t shirt. He had tossed his robes to the side the second they got to the room, having lost too many sets already this year. If he ordered any more he was likely to be accused of being as vain as Malfoy.

Severus was pacing the room, long legs eating up the ground in angry strides, his hawthorn wand a blur as he spun it around the long graceful fingers of his right hand. He was muttering to himself and gesturing angrily, appearing to argue with some invisible adversary.

Harry allowed himself to slump into a soft brown chair that appeared when he though rather pointedly about it. He knew better than to get in the way of the other man right now. Severus worked through his thoughts in peculiar ways, and when he was frustrated his process could turn somewhat hazardous for nearby objects.

The angry clack of boots suddenly ceased, bringing Harry’s attention up.

“Potter why is it that you are one of the most successful quidditch players in Hogwarts history, a game that relies on grace, awareness of your surroundings, and working with others, yet we cannot seem to get within arms reach without toppling each other?” Snape’s long hair was damp with sweat, sticking to the side of his neck, and he had a small burn across his cheek, giving him a rather crazed look.

Harry frowned, about to answer that he had no idea, when he stopped to consider a moment.

“Because I play the one position in quidditch that doesn’t require me to work around others. The most I have to do is dodge my teammates. And I have focus, my awareness is mediocre at best. How many times have you seen me almost taken out by a bludger?” Harry replied, his face falling into a troubled look.

Severus crossed his arms over his chest, his expression considering and his dark eyes glazed as he worked through the problem. Harry stayed quiet, knowing that look and knowing better than to interrupt. Severus would tell him when he was ready and breaking into his train of thought before that could result in a fairly unpleasant freezing hex.

“You’re terrible at dancing” Severus suddenly burst out, his voice louder than Harry had been expecting. Harry glared as he slapped a hand over his racing heart, not enjoying the shot of startled adrenaline.

“And you have an actual aversion to cheerful people. Are we pointing out each others flaws for a reason or is this just a fun new thing?” Harry answered sarcastically.

Severus gave him a flat look “I hardly think we need to go down that particular path. Everyone would be exceptionally disappointed that we had made it so many months only to murder each other now.”

Harry grinned at him and waved for him to explain himself.

“You’re terrible at dancing. I remember now, the ball in your fourth year, during the tournament. You barely got through the opening dance without maiming your date.” Severus said, his voice strangely excited.

Before Harry could respond to the accurate but no less offensive evaluation of his dancing skills Severus continued.

“I’ve been running off of the assumption that you have a fairly good grasp on working closely with others and I’m afraid I was wrong. Yet again Potter your lack of ability astounds me.”

Harry made a rude gesture “As if you’re any better you wanker.”

Severus just quirked a small smile as he waved dismissively.

“I’m well aware that I don’t duel well with others, I’ve spent the last several months attempting to match myself to you because I had thought, with your quidditch training, you would have the baseline that I, simply put, do not.” Snape was back to pacing now, back and forth in front of Harry’s chair, his steps faster as he waved his hands around for emphasis.

Not for the first time Harry found himself thinking that he looked like an excited bird, the sleeves of his robes flapping behind his arms as they twirled around him.

“If we work under the idea that neither of us has any idea we may actually manage to get through duels without it killing us.” His black eyes sparkled in excitement.

Harry raised his eyebrows at the other man “So what, we work some fancy steps out between us and hope we figure out how to move together without one of us landing on our arse?”

“In a way,” Severus’ face took on a look of cruel deviousness that made Harry’s palms sweat.

“I believe it is far past time, Mr. Potter, that you learn how to dance.”

Harry felt his jaw fall a bit loose, wondering if Severus had perhaps been bitten by one of the salamanders and was having an adverse reaction. Could a person be allergic to a salamander?

“There’s no better way to learn how to move around someone else effectively. I know for a fact that Auror partners used to use dancing together as practice long before dueling. It gives each person time to get used to the feel of their partners magical aura before spell casting blurs the edges and makes it difficult to detect.”

Harry made a face but reluctantly nodded. He could admit that it actually sounded like a reasonable idea, though he hated everything about it immediately.

“Come on, up” Severus walked over and held a hand out to Harry, his wand disappearing up his sleeve into its holster.

“Wait, we’re doing this now?” Harry could hear the panic in his voice. He was having flashbacks to fourth year and waltzing with McGonagall, her wrinkled face pinched in disapproval as he trod on her foot yet again.

“Did you have some other pressing engagement I was unaware of? Tea with the minister perhaps?” Severus drawled.

Harry considered for a second whether tea with Scrimgeour would be preferable to the upcoming mockery he was sure to be subject to.

A sharp yank on his arm brought him back as he found himself standing in front of an impatient potions master. Severus tugged on his arm and drew him to the middle of the floor, now devoid of practice dummies, the only sign they had been there were scorch marks arcing over the polished marble.

“So what, we’re waltzing then?” Harry asked, only partially joking.

Severus glared at him before straightening his spine and squaring his shoulders.

“We’ll start with a few simple dances before we move on to actual pre-combat training. Since we are both familiar with the feel of each others magic I would say we could skip this part but I fear your lack of coordination needs addressing.”

Harry gave him a wry look but stepped gamely forward. At least no one else was witness to his humiliation this time.

They took up a traditional waltzing stance, Snape in the lead, and Harry tried not to blush at the feeling of Severus’ arm around his waist. For some reason facing each other like this, under the bright lights of the room of requirement, was different. Every other time he had found himself this close to Severus it had always been quieter, darker, easier. Like they were a them rather than Potter and Snape.

Under the harsh lights they stood stiffly, uncomfortable, separate and distinct in their differences. It was like the strange disconnect he sometimes got when turning to a friend and suddenly remembering that they were a whole person in their own right and not just as they related to him.

Severus cleared his throat and moved forward, pushing Harry along suddenly, forcing him to try and scramble to remember the steps.

“Are we just dancing around in silence then? Cause it’s weird and this is already weird enough.” Harry said, his attention caught on the clumsy movements of his feet, his steps starting a fraction too late.

Severus huffed but paused and waved his hand in a lazy swirl over his shoulder. A soft piano started up, seeming to bleed from the very walls, the keys low and melancholy. A soft flutter of violin threaded its way through, dancing just behind the piano, pushing the notes forward rather than overpowering them.

Harry blinked, taken off guard.

“This is beautiful” he murmured as Severus pushed them to start again.

Thin lips quirked at the corner, black eyes crinkling just slightly in pleasure.

“It’s one of my favorite pieces. It never fails to inspire me.”

They moved slowly about the room, their steps missing any cohesiveness with the music, but Harry found that it didn’t dim his enjoyment of it at all. He found himself caught by the various pieces that Severus put on, his steps smoothing out as his attention was drawn elsewhere. Everything the man made the room play was darker, more minor pieces, but graceful and fiercely beautiful in a way that reminded him very much of Severus himself.

By the time they called it for the evening they were both tired but much more relaxed. They had managed to make two full sweeps through the room without tripping each other or losing their stride and both were ridiculously pleased with their small victory.

When they returned to their rooms Harry prodded Severus into charming the walls to play the same pieces softly. He drifted off slumped on the couch, dreams of spinning with Severus through bright flashes of curses filling his head.


Draco stalked down the hallway to the common room with a group of his housemates, his steps less graceful than usual. His left arm radiated pain and had done since just before dinner. He hadn’t been able to sneak away when he was called, and Nott was insisting on a game of exploding snap and Pansy was already starting off the usual evening gossip.

Draco made sure he was present for it, as usual. He never knew when someone might let something slip that he could use. It was such an established part of his nightly routine it would seem odd if he missed it, so he sat quietly in a stiff backed chair near the fire, his teeth cutting into his cheek until he could taste blood, as he forced himself to sit still despite the flames licking their way across the dark mark.

He retreated to his bed early and pulled the hangings; claiming a headache, then sat cradling his arm carefully as he waited for his dorm mates to settle down and go to sleep. He tried to study but couldn’t concentrate, the discomfort dragging his attention back to the tender skin of his forearm. After two hours of waiting for Zambini to close his curtains and go to sleep he finally broke and dragged the notebook Granger gave him out, needing a distraction, any distraction from the pain and boredom.

They’d written back and forth sporadically over the last several weeks, mostly concerning his Mother, though Granger was always short on details. When he pressed too many times about her lack of information she had written angrily back to him, the nib of her quill tearing the page in places. She had informed him under no uncertain terms that she had no intention of spending any more time than she absolutely had to with bigots, so her information would remain sparse.

They’d not spoken for nearly two weeks and when they met in the hall he couldn’t help but notice that the hexes Granger threw never missed and they weren’t as harmless as some of the asinine ones Weasley or Potter tossed his way.

He had found himself wondering what in Merlin’s name his Mother had said since Granger typically was sickeningly forgiving, but she maintained her innocence when he inquired in their weekly letters.

When he opened the notebook he saw the tight scrawl of Granger’s writing waiting for him already.

Do you have anything for me to take this week?

It was short and perfunctory, exactly the same sentence he received from her each week and he found himself scowling at it. He hated being dismissed and Granger shouldn’t be so quick to treat him like just another chore. His dress shirt pulled tight across his shoulders as he leaned over to reply, his waistcoat crumpled next to him.

Yes, I’ve left a package in the usual spot

He paused before quickly scribbling.

Any plans on casting that horrible sunburn curse again?

He grimaced as he thought of the awful day last week when she’d caught him as he was coming out of Charms and he hadn’t even had a chance to put a shield up. He’d spent the rest of the day in pain and bright red, not having been able to find a counter curse. He was half convinced she had invented it just for him.

He blinked in surprise as words started scrolling over the page. He had assumed she would be asleep by now, or would ignore him like she had been when she wasn’t injuring him.

Possibly. You’ll just need to work on your dodging. Harry got out of the way of that slime hex just fine.

He shot the notebook a nasty look at the reminder. He had been certain he had Potter, only to watch the shorter man shift out of the way so quickly he had been half sure that he’d apparated. He rebalanced the notebook on his lap, his tightly tailored trousers not allowing him to tuck his feet under himself like he preferred.

You can’t expect that of me, Potter is part pixie. Between the speed and the shear amount of chaos he causes it’s the only logical explanation.

 

There was a long enough pause before she started writing again that Draco found himself wondering if she’d taken his joke seriously and he was mentally bracing himself for another week of hexes out of nowhere.

I hate to admit it but you may actually be onto something there.

He felt his lips quirk up despite the fresh wave of pain that rolled over his arm. New writing appeared before he could respond.

I never got a chance to ask, how was the week you were gone?

The small smile dropped off his face as he shuddered at the memory of the hellish week he’d spent at the manor. His skin crawled and he could almost feel the Dark Lord ripping his way through his mind as his aunt cut swirling designs into his back with her cursed knife.

His Godfather had given him a potion to help dull the memories before his session with Potter, but he had no such reprieve with the Dark Lord.

I think it’s sufficient to say that the preparation was necessary.

The nib of his quill pressed too hard into the page and a few letters weren’t as neat as his normal script.

I’m sorry. I hope that you don’t have to go through that again.

I’m afraid that may very well be a futile hope. He’s summoned me tonight. I’m just waiting for everyone to fall asleep so I can leave.

He blinked at the page in surprise, not entirely sure why he’d written it. He hadn’t intended to tell her he’d been called, but he supposed it was easier than trying to get a message to Severus before he left.

 

How long have you been waiting?

 

Since before dinner

His attention was unwillingly drawn back to his mark, his whole left arm a mess of pain, the burning having made it up to his shoulder an hour or so ago.

Snape told Harry that it hurts more the longer you ignore it. Can you not get out?

Not without being seen. Don’t you think I would have left by now if I could have? I don’t fancy making the Dark Lord angry.

He scowled as his stomach turned with fear. He’d been trying very hard not to think too much about why he was being called, particularly on a school night.

Several minutes passed before a sharp crack startled him enough that he knocked the notebook off of his lap and dragged a line of ink over his dove grey trousers. A small house elf that he vaguely recognized stood in front of him, sinking comically into his quilt, a tea cozy flopped over its head and mismatched striped socks over its long feet.

It thrust out a shimmering cloak and he reached forward to take it automatically before he realised what it was.

“Mistress Hermione says you is to bring both Master Harry’s cloak and yous self back in one piece, and you is to tell her the second you is back in the castle.” The small elf shrilled with a stern look before it disappeared as quickly as it had come.

Draco stared at the cloak in shock, hardly able to believe she had sent him something so valuable without his even asking. He scooped the notebook back up and flipped it open quickly.

Did Dobby bring you the cloak?

Yes, he just left.

Good. Will it help you get out and back in?

Yes, I should be able to get around Zambini and whoever is left in the common room

Write me as soon as you’re back. If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow at noon and you’re not at the safe house we’ll start working on ways to come get you from the manor. Unless you think it’s absolutely needed, please leave the cloak in the wooden crate outside of Hagrid’s cabin on your way to the forest.

Draco swallowed heavily, the knot of fear untwisting a tiny bit at the thought that someone would come get him if it all went pear shaped.

I will. Thank you Granger.

Be safe

Draco steeled himself and put his boots back on, swinging the cloak over his shoulders as he readied himself to meet the Dark Lord.


The chill damp of the grounds of Malfoy Manor echoed with a fading crack as he apparated onto the front steps. The manor was quiet and dark, and for the first time in his life Draco felt creeping fear instead of the warmth of home at the sight of his family seat.

He climbed the steps quickly, his breath steaming out and mingling with the faint mist that was falling. The great doors opened as he approached, his magical signature now tied to the stone monolith as the Lord of the Manor.

Bimby was waiting for him in the foyer, the small elf looking thinner and more ragged than the last time he had seen her.

“Master Malfoy sir, his Lordship is waiting for you in the red parlor.” The elf squeaked, looking like she very much did not want to escort him.

He waved her off “I can find my own way through my home elf. See that tea has been supplied and that the Dark Lord and I are not disturbed.”

She bowed low and vanished as he turned down the left hand hall and made his way to the receiving room his father had always preferred. He personally thought it was a bit gaudy, but hadn’t been in a position to criticize his father’s questionable taste in decor.

The door stood open and he could see the flicker of flames dancing against that wall opposite. A low murmur of voices reached him as he approached and he tamped down his curiosity as to who else had been called to the meeting. He checked his occlumency shields once more before he turned and strode into the room with all of the arrogance he could muster.

The two Death Eaters seated on a low couch in front of the Dark Lord fell abruptly silent at his entrance, but he ignored them in favor of kneeling at the feet of the snake like man.

“My Lord, please accept my most humble apologies for my delay in reaching you. I was unable to get away without notice.” Draco said, his head bowed deeply.

“I hardly think that the newest Malfoy lord should have trouble getting past members of his own house. Tell me Draco, are you not capable of commanding the silence of those who should be following you, as you so assured me that they did?” the high pitched hiss made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, and his mind scrambled for an even halfway decent excuse as the two men on the sofa chuckled darkly.

“I’m sorry my Lord, but the bitch of a mudblood has been following me everywhere and she had prefect patrol tonight. She’s taken to lingering around the dungeons and it was necessary for me to wait until she returned to Gryffindor.” he injected enough venom into his voice to cover the slight tremor and hoped like hell he’d have enough time to tell Granger his cover story before some helpful Slytherin informed their father that he was lying.

 

“Umm. I have heard that Potter’s little friend seems particularly vicious with you of late. Very well, seat yourself.” The Dark Lord motioned carelessly to the large burgundy chair to his left, and Draco hurried to take a more upright position.

“Avery and Dolohov have been looking into the incident in Knockturn alley at my request. Share with the boy what you’ve learned” the Dark Lord said, a small cruel smile dancing over his flat face.

Avery shifted a bit, sitting forward on the rich brown leather couch. “Well Malfoy, our Lord has been kind enough to look into what might’ve happened to your mum, and we’ve been askin around you see.” He glanced over his shoulder to the stony faced Dolohov, who raised a brow and motioned him on with an impatient look.

“Turns out a couple of the shop keepers were hit with an obliviate, but they missed two witches out shopping for their grandkids. We found em and they were more than happy to tell us what all they saw by the time we were done with them, weren’t they Dolohov.” Avery smirked and Draco suppressed a shudder at the fate of the women they’d caught, instead giving the other Death Eaters an oily smile.

Not getting as much of a reaction as he had obviously hoped for Avery hurried on, his eyes darting between the Dark Lord and the folds of his black robe, bunched in his lap.

“Well those witches, they told us that that very morning a whole pile of redheads showed up right off the old jewelry store, and some tall skinny bloke all dressed in black with a boy that looked just like Harry Potter with him.” Avery finished triumphantly, looking expectantly at Draco.

Draco had been preparing himself for it and stood sharply, rage written over his features. Avery startled back as he paced across the room, his strides abrupt and angry.

“Those fucking bastards, I knew it, I knew they had something to do with it. All their high and mighty speeches, how they’re all so self righteous and then they turn around and MURDER AN INNOCENT WOMAN.” He screamed the last, his fists bunched at his sides and his hair ruffling from the magic that was swirling around him.

Avery looked a bit alarmed, though Dolohov’s expression hadn’t changed from his slightly bored look. The Dark Lord looked terribly pleased, motioning for Draco to seat himself again.

“I’m sorry for my behaviour my Lord” Draco muttered as he sank back into his seat, relief that they hadn’t discovered his duplicity making his hands shake.

“It is understandable Draco. I thought you would like to know what we had found, even though you were already so sure about Potter. You will not however attack him again. My wish is for you to remain at Hogwarts and follow through on your mission.” The sibilant voice commanded softly.

“Of course my Lord, I won’t do anything that would result in my expulsion.” Draco hastened to assure the man.

“Very well, you may go. But Draco, I expect you to have made progress the next time I call for you. I have been lenient given your loss but I will not be so any further.” The Dark Lord turned from him, clearly dismissing him.

“Yes my Lord. I won’t fail you. Thank you for the information.”

Draco backed out quickly, shutting the door softly behind him and striding swiftly down the hall before Voldemort could call him back. Adrenaline was surging through him, making his hands shake and his breath come in small rapid gasps.

He barely noticed the darkness of the manor as he sped out the door and apparated back to Hogwarts.

His trip back to his dorm was a blur and he found himself reaching for the notebook he had tucked under his pillow almost before he got the cloak off.

I’m back. He just wanted to tell me that they had confirmed it was the Order who blew up the jewelry store and to remind me I should be murdering the Headmaster.

His hands still had a small tremor as he wrote, making his writing look like a man with palsy had taken his place. He heaved a deep breath and leaned down to carefully unlace his boots. He was pulling off his shirt to change into his pyjamas when familiar crack sounded and the small oddly dressed house elf from earlier reappeared.

“Miss Hermione says Dobby should be taking the cloak back and that I was to be bringing Mr. Malfoy things when he returned.” He blinked a bit as the elf he now recognized as once belonging to his family snapped long fingers, then grabbed the cloak from the end of the bed and disappeared.

A small tray sat on his bedside table, a cheese toastie, a mug of soup and a glass of firewhiskey sitting on it.

He glanced up to see words scrawling over the page of the open notebook.

I’m glad you made it back. Did he hurt you? Do you need anything? I sent Dobby with a few things, I assumed since the Dark Mark was active you didn’t eat much tonight. Hopefully you don’t hate cheese toasties.”

A kernel of warmth lit itself in his chest at her thoughtfulness. He hadn’t gotten to eat much and now that he wasn’t sick with worry he found he was starving.

He quickly finished changing and sat down with his late night meal and the notebook balanced on a pillow next to him.

I’m fine, he wasn’t upset with me. I think he only called me there to help bind me tighter to him. I’m new enough and in just an important enough position that I think he is trying to cater to me at least a small amount. And really Granger, who doesn’t like a toastie?”

Also before I forget, you were in the hall on patrol tonight and stalking me so I couldn’t leave.

Was I now? Good to know I’ve developed such disturbingly Harry like habits. That should be easy enough, Ron was on patrol, I’ll just mention I took it over.

He grinned around a bite of hot beef soup, his stomach settling for the first time in hours. Really when she wasn’t being an insufferable know it all or trying to hex his bollocks off she wasn’t half bad for a muggleborn.

Thanks Granger, I’ll try to miss you the next time we have a run in in the hall.

Thanks ever so much for that. I’m going to bed. Goodnight Malfoy.

Night Granger

When he finally settled in to get a few hours of sleep, his stomach pleasantly full and his head a little fuzzy from the whiskey, he found himself thinking about how it wasn’t terrible to have someone around who wasn’t just trying to get something from him.