The Paradox of Existence
Chapter Three: The Consequences of Saving a Life
Entering the Common Room, James spotted Sirius sitting in front of the fire. He glanced around and his gaze landed on Lily perched at one of the tables, studying. At least neither looked the worse for wear after today's incident. He breathed a sigh of relief and headed over toward the couch where Sirius was sitting.
"Did you see it, Sirius?"
"Yeah." Sirius hadn't turned to look at him, and was, in fact, just staring into the fire.
From the corner of his eye, James saw Remus and Peter approaching; they must have just got back from their last class, though for the life of him he couldn't remember what it was. Remus made his way over and claimed the armchair next to him before Peter could, and Peter took the space on the floor in front of Sirius, a disgruntled look on his face.
The disruption in his view of the fire must have startled Sirius out of his stupor, because he sat up a bit straighter and actually looked around at the group that had surrounded him.
"What's wrong, Sirius?"
He shrugged. "Well, I was contemplating the fire until Peter sat his fat arse down in front of it."
"Very... Very fu... funny, Sirius." Peter didn't smile, and instead drew off toward the side, away from the centre of the group.
No one was looking at James, and since Sirius had already rebuffed his attempt to start a conversation, James turned his efforts to Remus and tugged on his sleeve.
"Did you see Professor Tyler today? That was bloody brilliant!"
A disapproving cough sounded from the other side of the room, and James looked in the direction that it had come from. Lily was glaring at him.
"Sorry, Evans, did I insult your sensibilities?"
Remus lowered his voice and leaned closer. "You do realize that you aren't convincing her to go out with you."
"It's called 'playing hard to get'. I saw it in a Muggle film."
Remus rolled his eyes. "Well I don't think your technique is working."
"Never mind that. Did you see him? Running toward the dragon with his dagger drawn and-"
"You do realize that he could have died doing that?"
James stared at Sirius. "Ah, so you've finally decided to wake out of your stupor. About bloody time."
The sound of a book slamming made James look over his shoulder. Lily was standing up and glaring at the group of them. He grinned. A pull on his arm forced him to return his attention back to his friends.
"I mean it, James. He jumped in front of a goddamned dragon because it was going to attack the students. He's lucky he only got hurt."
"But it was only a scratch, Sirius, and it wasn't like anything bad happened. Don't be so serious, Sirius."
"You do realize that's an awful joke," Remus said.
"Well, I think we should call a truce. The Marauders shouldn't prank him anymore. How many of the teachers would have done what he did?"
"About time, it's not like any of our pranks ever worked anyway."
"He... he always figured them out."
Remus nodded, picked a book out of his bag, and started reading.
James had thought that the last prank had been brilliant; they just hadn't deployed it at the right time. But the one that they had thought up a few days ago would be sure to work. "You can't mean that, Sirius."
He leaned back into the cushions and crossed his arms.
"Lose something, Potter?"
He looked up at Lily who was dangling his failed Defence Against the Dark Arts essay over his head. "Shite! Give that back, Evans."
"You really should watch your language." Lily jerked the paper out of his reach at the last moment. "Such a shame if Professor McGonagall found out about it. Didn't she mention something to you about your father wanting to be kept posted about your grades?"
"I mean it, Evans."
"What will you give for it?"
He lunged forward and since the paper was out of reach tried to grab her waist, but she stepped back.
"Think about it, James." Lily turned on her heel and headed for the stairs.
James stared after her before turning and grinning at his friends. "She likes me."
"Are you all right, Severus?" Lucius made his way across the sixth year Slytherin boys' dormitory to perch himself on the edge of Severus's bed. "I noticed that you were one of the students who got burned during that class."
He didn't bother looking up. "Don't you have better things to do than interrupt my revision?" After a moment, knowing that Lucius wouldn't answer and wouldn't leave, he continued, "I'm perfectly fine. If I wasn't, Madam Pomfrey wouldn't have let me out of the hospital wing."
"Professor Tyler made quite the impression on the students today." He cut into Severus's thoughts. "That dagger. I never thought that I'd actually see him use it. It's rather deadly, isn't it?"
The book shut with a snap. "I'm glad that you've come to appreciate that dagger. Or did you forget that the night of the opening feast I had to watch it come flying toward us? All because of you."
Lucius waved his hand dismissively, and Severus reopened his book to flip back to what he had been reading.
"I'm talking to you. Don't ignore me."
"I'm not ignoring you, I am simply choosing not to answer."
Glaring, Lucius snatched the book out of Severus's hands and started flipping through the pages, not really reading any. "What is this, Potions?"
Severus reached for the book, but Lucius jerked it away, and paused to read one of the pages, his gaze skimming over the words quickly. "This is Defence Against the Dark Arts."
Severus pursed his lips and glared.
"Don't tell me you're studying this rot again. It's so much better to actually practice the Dark Arts instead of learning to defend against them." He tossed the book to the side and it landed on the floor with a heavy clunk. "Have you heard from your grandfather? Did he send you any new curses, or hexes? Poisons?"
"Do be quiet." Severus started to lean over the edge of the bed to grab the book, but Lucius's hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"What's so interesting about Defence?" His eyes narrowed. "You always study, but never this much." He paused with a smirk. "No, it's impossible."
"Go away, Lucius." Severus's gaze hardened.
"You like the Defence teacher." Severus could see Lucius thinking of ways to use this information to his advantage. "Why? He certainly doesn't like the Slytherins at all."
Severus leaned back, his shoulders slouching. "That's just it. He doesn't particularly like any of the Houses, he doesn't take sides. He doesn't prejudge us." He reached over and grabbed the Defence book.
"There has to be more to it than that. Something to be gained."
Severus sighed. "There isn't anything to be gained, but I don't expect you to understand that."
"It's his eyes." He lifted the book to go back to his reading, but Lucius's hand fell on top of it, holding it in place. There was no way he'd be left alone until he answered. Even if he did feel like he only had an idiot's answer. His eyes. "There are shadows in them, deep shadows that aren't natural, that had to have been put there because of something, some pain that he went through. And then there are times, during class when he's teaching, his eyes will spark, and that cold fašade just melts." Severus closed his eyes. "I can feel his pain."
Lucius snickered. "That's classic, that is. Severus Snape has a crush on a teacher. What happened to teachers being too old? Or is it different when you think that the professor is attractive?"
"Fine. But what are you going to do about it?"
Severus lifted an eyebrow. "I'm going to do nothing."
Lucius shook his head. "You should check the school rules. Last I saw, there were no rules against teachers and students fraternizing." Standing, he straightened his robe and put on his most condescending expression. The one that always got on Severus's nerves. "Another trip to the library can't possibly hurt your reputation."
At the sound of the door closing, Harry looked up from where he was sitting contemplating the scroll in front of him. He sighed in frustration, and pushed it away from him before returning the Headmaster's scrutiny.
"It's all right, Fabian, you can leave. I would like to have a word alone with Octavian."
"'Course. 'Night, Octavian."
The Headmaster took his seat after Fabian left and pulled two scrolls toward him -- one was the un-translated section of scroll Harry had been given and the other was his translation. He briefly wondered if the Headmaster could read his writing, but then shrugged it off. In the confines of the small, windowless room he'd been placed in, he felt like a student that was being tested instead of someone who held the key to deciphering Voldemort's plans.
Albus narrowed his eyes. "How goes the translation, Octavian?"
The tone of voice and the look on his face were so familiar to Harry. He'd seen them many times during the course of watching Albus question those he was suspicious of, but never had that look been turned on him. He might as well be under Veritaserum for all the good lying would do him at the moment. Not that he had any intention of doing so.
"As well as could be expected, Albus." The deliberate use of the Headmaster's name put Harry at ease, and he motioned toward the parchment that Albus held in one hand.
Adjusting his half-moon glasses on the tip of his nose, Albus scrutinized the parchment, his eyes flying over the words. Harry knew what he was looking at: the list of titles that Voldemort had given himself.
"Quite a pompous man Voldemort is, don't you think?"
"I suppose the phrases still in Parseltongue couldn't be translated."
"Not unless you want me to write a dissertation on the social structure in snake colonies."
"I see." Albus returned to his reading, finally looking up when he reached the end, though there wasn't that much more translated. "Attack plans?"
"As far as I could gather, yes."
"Any given timeframe for it?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm afraid not. It's what I was looking for when you came in, but I hadn't had any luck yet. By all appearances, he just moves onto the next plan. My guess is that he just kept the information to himself in case something like this happened. After all, we have the scroll and someone to translate it."
Harry coughed. "I might not be fighting alongside the Order, sir, but I still am translating a scroll that will hopefully bring down the Dark Lord."
"For a price."
"All men have a price."
"You could be lying. This," he held out the translation, "could be fake. There's no one to tell us otherwise except the man who wrote it."
Harry nodded. "The only way you'll know is if you take into account what I have translated." There really wasn't a point to bringing up whether or not he was trustworthy. If Albus didn't think so, he wouldn't have let 'Octavian' anywhere near the scroll. But that didn't mean the man was going to take any chances, hence Fabian to keep an eye on him while he was working.
"I will inform the Weasleys about the possibility of an attack and arrange for a safe house. Hopefully we'll be in time."
"Hope is all one can do in such situations."
Albus nodded. "Sleep. It's already past midnight, and I believe you've been working on this since shortly after dinner. I've arranged for some tea to be left in your rooms. Good night, my boy."
Standing, Harry headed toward the door. Albus patted his shoulder on the way out, and Harry drew some comfort from it. Saving the Weasleys was as important to him as it was to the Order, but he could never show that. It would be worse than devastating to him if he had somehow skewed the timeline and had translated that plan too late. It was certainly a thought he'd prefer not thinking about.
"Good night, Albus."
*Future: Harry's Seventh Year*
Harry stretched, his back arching slightly off the bed, before he twisted toward Severus, settling his cheek against Severus's shoulder.
"Have you been possessed by a deranged feline, Potter?"
He turned his face so he could press a kiss to Severus's sternum and smiled. "I've never heard you complain about it before."
"Obviously I've never been in my right mind before."
Harry shivered at the light touch of Severus's fingers down his spine. "And you are now?"
"Of course. Which also explains why I am about to kick you out and send you back up to Gryffindor Tower. I should never have even let you down here tonight."
Harry rubbed his cheek against the chest beneath him, his tongue darting out to lick at one nipple before blowing a stream of air on it. He both felt and heard Severus's sharp intake of breath, and he smiled.
"I could just stay here."
"You have N.E.W.T.s tomorrow, in case it has slipped your diminutive mind."
Harry frowned. "Only my Defence one, and you know perfectly well that I can pass that in my sleep."
"Nevertheless, you should have spent the evening studying."
Harry sighed and rolled onto his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows. "Why?"
"Even someone as advanced as you in the field could do with a basic review, Mr Potter."
Harry scrunched his nose. "Don't call me that when we're in bed. It's... just don't."
"Then I would suggest that you stop complaining."
He breathed in deeply. "Then you should stop trying to kick me out."
Severus narrowed his eyes. "Go to sleep."
"I have a first name, Se-ver-us."
Severus brushed his fingers through Harry's hair, pulling at it and forcing his head to turn up to face him. "Good night, Harry."
Harry grinned and settled back against Severus's side. The room was quiet, and he was nowhere near tired, so his mind wandered. No matter the situation, Severus was in some way or form looking out for him. Severus was either on his case about studying for exams or pulling him out of a situation that would most likely get him killed, and Severus was always doing such things.
"I'm afraid that you've forgotten over half of your question. And you are supposed to be sleeping. Do not force me to change my mind and send you back to the Tower."
"Why are you always there pulling me out of danger?"
"It's my job; after all, you are my student."
Harry made a face. "Not because you love me?"
Harry narrowed his eyes, but dropped the subject. He ran his hand down Severus's side, settling it on his hip, and with his thumb, he rubbed small circles over the bone. "I think I might. For sure. Where you can't say it's a silly infatuation that I'll get over."
"You're confused. Obviously the lack of a proper night's sleep has addled your brain. This will be the last time you spend the night before any exams."
"Then it's a good thing that tomorrow is my last N.E.W.T."
"At last, Harry Potter leaves Hogwarts. It's what the entire teaching staff has been waiting for."
"Your sense of humour kills me, Severus."
"I don't know why I put up with you."
"When you've figured it out, please inform me. I will be delighted to know what ailment of the brain consumed you so many months ago."
"You're a prat."
"I should kick you out of bed for that comment, Potter."
"But you won't."
"I'd suggest that you close that mouth of yours and-"
"-go to sleep. I have a better idea." He leaned up until he was close enough to run his tongue along Severus's bottom lip. "Something much more satisfactory than sleep, and a much better use for my mouth." Closing his lips over Severus's, he drew him into a kiss.♦