The Paradox of Existence
by DragonLight


Chapter Four:  Odd Friendships

*The Past*

Harry rubbed his eyes tiredly before turning his attention back to the papers he had spread out in front of him.  A headache was looming right behind his eyes, and he wished he could just forget about the lesson plans that he was working on and go soak -- and perhaps fall asleep -- in a hot bath.  Unfortunately, that was not an option.  Sighing, he picked up his quill and wrote some notations in the margins.

He didn't even realize that someone had walked into the room until a shadow crossed the paper.

Immediately, he looked up into a face he did not know. How could someone sneak up on him like that, he wondered.  There weren't many people who could, and none of them were in this time.  Muttering a curse, he slipped his hand down to his wand and pulled it out of its holster.

"Can I help you?"

"I should be offended, I really should."

He knew that voice.  "Malfoy."

Malfoy's face fell into the lines of his familiar smirk.  "But what shall I call you?  Potter or Tyler?  Or maybe Octavian."  Draco wrinkled his nose in distaste.  Only after Harry had brought his hand back above the desk, sans wand, did Draco turn and lock and silence the room.

"Where's Severus?"

Draco brushed his hand through brown hair that really didn't suit him.  "Couldn't make it."  He picked up a paperweight that was holding down a stack of parchment, and Harry was forced to settle a book in its place.  "How have you been?  Working hard?"

"Why couldn't he make it?  What happened?"

"Can't you make my life simple for once and just answer the questions, Potter?  You're like that mangy godfather of yours, gnawing at a bone."

Harry leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, not saying anything, and he wouldn't until he had his answers.  

"He's in the hospital wing, not that he didn't try to get out, mind you, but Poppy would have none of it.  He had a bad run in with the Cruciatus at the last meeting.  Apparently the Dark Lord wasn't appreciative of his not knowing where exactly you were sent on assignment; after all, it's not like you could just vanish off the face of the planet."  Draco glared.  "I hope you're happy.  Severus is going to skin me alive for telling you."

"Thank you, Draco.  Why didn't he want me to know?"

Draco shrugged.  "He said that you would worry too much."

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose.  "Well someone has to worry about the git.  He certainly doesn't worry about himself.

Even with his eyes closed, he could feel Draco's eyes narrow.  "Headache?"

He nodded.

"How bad?"

"A non-Voldemort caused migraine.  I've been getting them off and on for the past month."

Draco heaved a sigh.  "You do realize that if you had told Sirius then Severus would have made up some of the potion you take.  Why you didn't insist on bringing some with you in the --"

"The first one set in about a minute after Sirius left.  I've tried the stuff that Poppy gave me, but it wasn't strong enough.  Which is why I didn't bring any.  I was hoping that I'd be able to wean myself off the stuff that Severus brews so by the time I got back, I could take a lot less of it."

"And as usual, your brilliant plan isn't working."

"Shove it, Malfoy."

They glared at each other, more for show than because of any actual animosity between them.  Harry was the first to look away, and he knew, without turning his gaze in Draco's direction, that Draco was smirking about it.

"I assume that Albus wants an update."

"You shouldn't be surprised.  Since the beginning of this thing, he's been saying that he has no intention of abandoning you in the past for a year."

"I assure you it's out of no love for me, Draco.  He just wants to make sure I don't screw with the timeline, and the best way to do that is to have people keep an eye on me."

Draco's face softened.  "Sirius is right; you've been spending too much time with Severus.  His dour outlook on everything is rubbing off on you."

Harry shrugged.  "So what does he want to know?"

"Did you feel him get called?  Is the bond affecting you?"

Harry looked at him.  "If it was, would I ask why you had to show up?"  Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply and forced himself to relax.  "Sorry.  We're in different time periods, so of course I couldn't feel anything.  I'm not bonded to the Severus of this time."

Draco dropped the paperweight haphazardly on the desk and placed his palms flat against its surface to brace himself.  "I keep trying to figure out why the two of you did that."

"It was just a blood rite, Draco.  You can read all about it in the library."

"In the Restricted Section."

"We aren't students anymore."

"In the Dark Arts books."

Harry shrugged.  It was something that Draco didn't understand, couldn't understand, and they had been through it enough times that Harry just didn't feel like rehashing the whole thing.  As it stood, Draco knew more than most about the bond between Severus and Harry.

"The translation?  Albus wants to check your progress with his memories."

"It's still a slow process.  I'm supervised every session, but I now have access to the entirety of the scroll.  As far as I'm aware of, the Order still has doubts about my trustworthiness, and a few are adamantly against my viewing the scroll at all, but Albus has enough sway to gainsay them."

Draco nodded and headed over to a chair, propping a foot up on the desk.  "So how are you getting along with your students?"

"Fine."

"Been following Albus's last directive?"

Harry narrowed his eyes.  "Did he put you up to asking?"

"More like demanded it actually.  Didn't tell me what he meant though."

"Then you can tell him that young Master Snape is just fine, and that I haven't done anything untoward."

Draco laughed.  "He's forbidden you from carrying on with a student?  Well that shouldn't be a problem.  If Severus is anything like he is now then he must be one obnoxious prick for a sixteen year old."

Harry shrugged.  "He's quiet in my class, and has been since shortly after the year started.  If I can read my students properly-"

"And you have been for years."

"-then I'd say he has a teenage crush."

Draco placed his fist over his heart - overdramatic, but then again, Draco was always one to exaggerate.  "It must be killing you to watch him fall for someone else."

"Not at all.  I believe that he's developed a crush on me."

Draco guffawed.  "I don't believe you."

"Ginny Weasley first and second year."

Draco shook his head.  "Snape?  A crush like that?  Impossible."

"He's the first to come to class, and the last to leave.  Shows up in my office at least twice a week to ask the most ridiculous questions.  Questions, I might add, that he knows the answer to perfectly well.  He never takes notes in class."  Harry looked at Draco.  In his opinion the last was proof enough, but he continued.  "I can feel him following me with his eyes every lesson.  It's unnerving.  Not to mention he blushes every time I acknowledge his presence with the least bit of kindness."

"And he talks about you constantly."

"I wouldn't know.  If I'm anywhere near him he won't talk, doesn't matter who he was chatting with before."

Draco sat up.  "Who would have thought that Snape was once a normal teenager?"

"Was I that bad during sixth year?"

Draco shrugged.  "I never noticed, and, from what I understand, neither did Granger or the Weasel.  Speaking of whom..."  He rummaged through the pockets of his coat and started to pull out various things.  "The box is from Granger, and she said that Weasley would be home by the time you got back.  Why you would want to even talk to that red-headed moron is beyond me."

Harry rolled his eyes upwards.  He might get along with Malfoy, but Hermione and Ron... He didn't think there would ever be anything resembling peace in that quarter.

"Severus sent you some more Dreamless Sleep and Pepper-Up and whatever else it is you dose yourself with.  I'll tell him you need some of his Headache draught.  He sent a book too.  Said that you'd been waiting for it to be released."  Draco held it out and Harry snatched it, skimming through the pages.  "What's it about?"

"Forming barriers and shields against advanced Dark Arts using basic spells that don't require complex rituals.  Remus and Severus have already drilled the stuff into my head, but it'll be nice to know what Rupert Knight has to say on the subject."  Harry closed the book and set it down on the desk; there would be time to look at it later.  "I'll have to charm it to look like something old and boring."

"I'd just cast the blank page spell.  And if you get the locking spell just right, you won't have to worry about anyone reading it at all."

Harry turned a questioning gaze on Draco.

"The spell all the girls learned in our fifth year to cast on their diaries."

"Wouldn't know, didn't spend any time trying to figure out what girls wrote in their diaries."  Harry's stomach growled and he glanced down at the watch on his desk.  It was almost supper and he had eaten nothing since breakfast.  "Care for a bite to eat?"

"Three Broomsticks?  I want to see what Rosmerta looks like now."

Harry grinned.  "Fine, but I better not end up in another Wizarding tattoo parlour."

"Then I wouldn't touch anything harder than water, Potter."

***

Severus had all of the various school charters spread out in front of him on the library table.  Each tome detailed the various regulations that had been passed over the years.  Severus decided that he would go back to the oldest issues just to make sure that it wasn’t an early law that had been taken for granted and not recopied in the newer books.  So far he hadn’t found anything that would keep him from having a relationship with Professor Tyler.  

Actually there were quite a few old laws that could be interpreted in a way that would encourage it.

Of course he had to convince his professor that he wasn’t just a silly child first.  That would have to wait until after he covered the rules.  As Severus thought about it, he came to the conclusion that it was quite ordered, like potion making.  Each step had to be completed before the next.  

Shaking his head, Severus picked up one of the older books and started flipping through the pages looking for any section that such rules might be under.  If he read each book cover to cover, it could take years.

“I heard about your grandfather.  My condolences.  I know you were close to him.”

Severus jumped and the book he was flipping through fell to the table.  Looking over the pile of books, he could see Black leaning against a shelf of books.  “It happened almost three weeks ago.  He wouldn’t have wanted me to dwell on it.  Besides, it’s not like he died.  He’s just in a ministry cell.  Four months there and a 500 galleon fine.  But then you didn’t come here to talk about my grandfather.  What do you want, Black?”

“I came to call a momentary truce.”

Severus narrowed his eyes and glared.  “Now why would you want to do that?  We’ve been doing so well at hating each other.  Let’s continue.  Go away.”

“I can’t continue trying to get you angry if you never get angry.  I’ve never had this problem before.  You always rise to the bait.”  Sirius gave Snape a very insincere smile.

“I have more important things to do than to have this immensely idiotic conversation.  Leave.”

“Something’s been bothering you.  Why don’t you just tell me so I can help and then we can go back to hating each other and fighting and what not?  Then everyone will be happy again.”  Sirius sat down across from Severus.  He examined all of the books on the table.  “Why are you going through the rule books?  Trying to get us in trouble?”

“No.”

“This is my point.  Your answer is supposed to be yes.  We are the bane of your existence.  You hate us.  We hate you.  It’s the way the world works.  We make your life unbearable and you and your friends do the same for us.  Wait, I forgot, you don't have any.”

Severus raised one eyebrow and looked at the boy across from him.  “You are so simplistic, Black.  I’m not attempting to get you expelled, but trust me that I would like nothing better.  I’m just trying to find some school rules on a particular matter.  It will go much faster if you leave.”

“You haven’t been acting yourself lately.  It’s really noticeable in Defence class when Professor Tyler is lecturing.”  

Severus could feel the heat rising in his cheeks and he cursed himself.  One day he wouldn't let his emotions show so easily.  They were causing him too much trouble.

Which became all the more obvious when Black next spoke, a lopsided grin on his face.  “You’re falling for a teacher.  That’s what you’re looking for.  Rules regarding student-teacher relationships."  Black shrugged.  "Well, you might as well stop looking.”

“What do you mean?”

“There aren’t any.  You are free to pursue any teacher you like.  James and I know every single rule in this school backwards and forwards.  We researched this one a couple years ago to make sure we had it right before we started… never mind.”

“I don’t want to know."  Severus paused, his eyes narrowing further.  "Why should I trust you anyway?”  

“Consider it one last favour.  Besides, I think that you hooking up with Professor Tyler is a really bad idea.  But I can think of a few up points.”

“You said there aren’t any school rules.”

“Nothing to do with rules.  It’s a bad idea because the man is bloody dangerous.  In case you don’t remember he took on a dragon, single-handed.  Of course he might just kill you, so that could always be considered a plus.”  

“I don’t think he would.”  Severus stood and started to pile the books into a neat pile.

“Now that I’ve done my good deed for the day…” Black leaned over and knocked the pile of books onto the ground.  Smiling, he turned and headed to the exit.

Severus glared at his retreating back.  “I’m going to make your life a living hell, Black.”

Sirius turned back around, his hands in his pockets and the stupid grin still plastered on his face.  “That’s what I expect.”

***

*Future:  Harry age 21*

Harry paced back and forth across the living room floor of the flat that he shared with Ron in London.  Looking up, he stared at the two clocks that were hung on the wall.   There were two hands on the wizarding clock, Harry's and Ron's.  Ron's hand was pointed at 'work' and Harry's was pointed at 'bored'.  Glaring, he turned to look at the other clock.  Six o'clock. On a Saturday.  

He had to do something before he drove himself insane.  This mandatory vacation was going to kill him.  So what if he worked too much?  Someone had to cover the slacking off of others.

Mentally Harry went through the options he had for the evening.  There weren't many.  Ron was on assignment, one that Harry had put him on.  So he could blame himself for that.  Hermione was still attending classes at University.  Sirius was taking his turn teaching Defence while Remus was out of the country, working for the Order.  

And Severus was busy.

Damn his procrastination.  When Harry called, Severus had pointedly said he had too much grading to do to entertain him and would, in fact, ignore him until the pile of papers was covered in red ink.

That left one person.  Harry sighed before heading over to the fire.  Tossing in a bit of floo powder, he stuck his head in the fire and spoke Draco's name.  He had a feeling he was going to regret this.  As usual.

***

The Broomsticks looked the same as it had the last time he'd met Draco for drinks there.  It looked the same as it had since school.  It was something that Harry was grateful for.  Lack of change was nice in a few things.  It meant stability.

Draco was, as always when they met for drinks, at a corner table.  A bottle of firewhiskey was already sitting in the middle, and there was one tumbler upside down at the chair across from him.

"Starting without me, Malfoy?"

Draco smirked and lifted his glass in a silent toast.  "I do try."  He nodded after Harry took his seat, and reached across the table to turn over Harry's glass and pour him a portion.  "So why here?  And why me and not one of your sycophants?"

"Why not you?"  Harry took a long drink and poured himself some more.

"Oh, I'm sure that Severus could have found some way to entertain you down in those drafty dungeons of his."

“Shut up, Draco.  Or did you forget that we’re keeping it quiet?”

“Sooner or later your godfather will find out, and then the whole world will be made aware of it as he is carted off to Azkaban for killing Severus.”  

"I'm hoping for later, personally.  I don't want to have to come between those two anytime in the near future.  I have enough to deal with, thanks."

Draco shrugged.  “That still doesn’t answer why we’re here instead of you heading over to the dungeons.  Wasn’t the last visit to St. Mungo’s proof enough that the two of us shouldn’t go drinking together without supervision?”

Harry ran his fingers through his hair.  "I'd really rather not think about it.  Alcohol poisoning and blood loss should never go together.  Besides, I have to spend some time with someone other than Severus.  Didn't a wise man once say that man could not exist on sex alone?"

Coughing, Draco glared at Harry.  "Not amusing, Potter.  Don't forget I have a picture in my head to go along with that."

"Knocking on a professor's door is a very important thing to do."

"You make a lousy comedian."

"And here I thought I was doing a bang-up job."  Harry laughed, and even Draco stopped glaring and chuckled slightly.

It was nice, this camaraderie that they had built up over the years.  Once all the hate had been removed from their bickering -- a miraculous feat in and of itself -- it was fun to trade barbs with someone who would return them with equal gusto.

Harry took another drink and watched Draco watching him.  He knew what Draco was doing because he was doing the exact same thing: counting scars, and changes in appearance from the last time they had seen each other.  It must have been months.

Draco's hair was hanging down in his face, and he was much more relaxed than he had ever been at school.  His ego was still intact, however.  But then, any Malfoy without an ego wouldn't be a Malfoy.  Looking over Draco's shoulder he caught sight of the butt of a revolver sticking out of a holster hidden in his jacket.

Some things never changed.

"I miss my gun.  I miss most of my weapons, actually.  I hate relying on just magic to save my arse if I get in trouble."

Draco looked at him as he poured more whiskey into his glass, ignoring the bit that splashed over his hand because he wasn't looking at what he was doing.  "Then why don't you carry them?  Death Eaters are too obsessed with the stupidity of Muggles to ever check for Muggle weapons on a person.  Got me out of a few scrapes."

Harry nodded.  "Not always the case, but in general it's a good rule.  Unfortunately the Ministry thinks like them a little too often.  I'm not allowed any visible weapons.  So my gun is in its case somewhere in Severus's rooms."

"Damn.  You'd think they'd want to keep you alive."  Harry felt Draco's eyes rake over him again.  Looking for hidden weapons, no doubt.  "Your dagger and some darts.  Shite, Potter, have you gone barmy?"

"That's all I could hide easily.  Even now that Moody doesn't spot check me any more, I'm still in the habit of not carrying much more around than my wand."

Shaking his head, Draco emptied the last bit of whiskey into Harry's glass and signalled Rosmerta to bring a new bottle.  “Why are you even with the Aurors, anyway?  I mean, I’m sure that you’d be more use to the Order than the Ministry."  Rubbing his fingers over his jaw, Draco looked like he was thinking, but it was really too casual of a gesture for him, in Harry's opinion.  "I hear that Albus is looking for a new teacher next term."

He'd been right.  "Yes, the Defence Against the Dark Arts position."  Harry shook his head.  "He's offered me that job every year since I've come back from Romania."

Rosmerta set another bottle down between them.  "No fighting.  No knives, no... whatever else you two are carrying.  I don't care how pissed you get.  Any blood spills on my floor, and I'll just cart your bodies outside and leave them there."

"Oh, Rose, you know you'd miss us if we were to die and leave you forever.  Who would you yell at for destroying your bar?"  Draco said, smirking.

"No one, and that would be a good thing."  Rosmerta slapped him on the shoulder.  Draco alone was a common fixture in the pub, Harry knew.  It was only when the two of them were both there and there was alcohol involved that things could get... out of hand.  "You break any of my tables this time--"

"And there won't be anything left for St Mungo's to fix.  We know."  Harry grinned at her and, returning the smile, Rosmerta left them to their conversation.

"So take the job.  It'd be worth it to be closer to Severus, wouldn't it?"

"I don't know if I want to live with Severus."

Draco waved a finger at him.  "That's not an excuse.  You could live with him now.  In fact, you did live with him for a while there."

Harry didn't say anything.

"Whatever happened to that arrangement anyway?  You moved back in with Ron fast enough."

"Severus is impossible to live with."

Harry turned away from Draco's questioning stare and took another drink.  "In case you've not noticed, he's a stubborn git."

Draco snorted.  "Of course he is.  You've only realized this now after being with him for..." Draco paused.  "Bloody hell.  Four years or so."

Draco would know.  He was one of the only ones who did.  Him and Albus.  Everyone else thought something else.  Harry wasn't sure what exactly, but he didn't care either.  They never asked.

Harry took out a pen and summoned one of the napkins that Rosmerta had folded off to the side of the bar, and started drawing.  "I've always known.  The problem lies in the fact that I'm pretty stubborn too.  Makes for some nasty fights."

"Fights?  And why don't I ever see these fights?  They must be spectacular.  I'm surprised the dungeons are still intact."

Harry glared.  "We don't fight."

Draco poured more whiskey into both their glasses.  "Then how would you know?"

"I just do."

Draco nodded and drained his glass.  "Of course you do.  All-knowing Potter.  Didn't realise you did that well in Divination."  Draco snatched the napkin from under Harry's pen causing a line of black ink to go through the middle of the picture.  "What is this, and you better tell me, Harry, or I'm going to tell Rosmerta that you're drawing all over her napkins."

Harry glared and snatched the napkin back.  "The Potter family crest."  With his wand, he undid the last line that Malfoy had caused and took a drink.  A shield with a snake wrapped around it.  It wasn't too bad, if a bit shaky.  Harry drained his glass and tipped the last of the second bottle into it.

"That is not the Potter family crest."

"How would you know anyway?"

"Don't be daft.  My father."  At Harry's blank stare, Draco continued, "He had it on some documents.  Your grandfather always used it as a seal next to his signature.  And it looks nothing like that."  Draco paused to drain his glass.  "It was a sword-"

"Across a rose, that split a shield.  I know.  It looks like some little girl's romantic idealism at its worst."

Draco shrugged.  "Well it certainly doesn't look like that."

"I'm changing it to something more appropriate."

"Well I suppose as the only Potter left you can do so, not that I see a reason to, but no one ever said you had any sense of reason."  Draco smiled when Rosmerta set down a new bottle.  "So why else don't you want the teaching job?"

"My whole life is Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"Makes you especially qualified, doesn't it?"  Draco refilled their glasses.

"I was planning on it actually.  Sev is right.  I'm not doing as much as I could be."

"You've already discussed this?  He's told you that you shouldn't be with the Auror division?  What happened to 'He supports all my decisions, Draco'?"

"We talked about this years ago.  It's the one that he didn't agree with.  There's an exception to every rule."

"Solves the mystery of why you moved out, though."  Draco slid out a thin stiletto from his sleeve and started toying with it.

"I wouldn't suggest carving anything in the tables, if I were you."

"Not even 'Harry Potter loves Severus Snape forever'?"  Draco smirked and balanced the tip of the blade on his finger.

"Put the weapon away or I'll take the firewhiskey!" Rosmerta yelled from her place by the bar,

"You're no fun today."  Draco flipped the stiletto and slid it back into its wrist sheath.

"Show-off."

"Haven't I always been one?  When you have a talent-"

"-make sure you abuse it?"

Draco licked a drop of whiskey from the corner of his mouth.  "There's got to be a reason that you've changed your mind other than Severus knocking some sense into you.  You're more likely to not take the job in a vain attempt to prove him wrong."

Whiskey sloshed out of both glasses as Harry poured it.

"Admit it.  You just want to be closer to Severus."

Sighing, Harry whispered, "I can't get closer to Severus."

Draco shook his head.  "I must not be hearing you right.  You live in London.  Severus lives in Scotland.  I'd say that's pretty far apart."

"Do you think we've had enough?"

"Never such a thing as enough, Harry.  Never."

"Doesn't matter where we live.  Together or separate.  We're bonded."  Harry downed his full glass of firewhiskey and then did the same to Draco's.

"Hey!  You don't go drinking a man's whiskey after giving him news that requires it."  Draco, instead of pouring more whiskey into his glass, took a swig from the bottle instead.  And then poured them each more.

Harry looked at his before shrugging and taking a sip.

"Since when?"

"About a year."

The whiskey glass almost tumbled out of Draco's fingers.  

Harry smirked and, drawing his dagger, placed the tip of it under Draco's chin and closed his mouth.  "You're being rude."

"Weapon away."

Rolling his eyes at Rosmerta, Harry turned back to face Draco who was still staring and not saying anything.  Not drinking either.

"I'm shocked."

"Then you need to drink more."

"So do you."  Draco poured the next two glasses, and the ones after those.  "I have an idea."

The bad feeling that Harry had earlier made its reappearance.

***

"Jesus, Harry, close your door!  That's not what I want to see when I stumble out of bed in the morning."

Harry sighed and rolled over onto his back.  Yelping, he sat up and reached around to touch his back.  He groaned.  What had happened last night?

"If you two are doing what I think you're doing that door better be shut.  While you're at it, add some silencing charms 'cause, ew Malfoy."

"Malfo-- Oh shit."  Waving his hand at the door to close it, Harry turned and saw Draco passed out next to him curled onto his side.  "Dray, wake up."  Harry prodded him with his elbow.

"I have the biggest headache."  Draco groaned.  "Of all the faces I could have woken up to, why did it have to be yours, Potter?  What happened?"

"My guess?  We got pissed and you had to help me home, but then we realized there was no one to help you home."  Harry collapsed back against the pillows and then gasping in pain, he rolled onto his side.

"Silencing charms!"

Harry glared at the door.  "When did Ron get back?  He was supposed to be gone until Monday."  Twisting, but being careful to not lie on his back, Harry glanced longingly at the bathroom door.  "And why is the door so far away?"

"I'd rather know when you got the tattoo."

Harry jerked around, biting down on his tongue as the nerves in his back screamed.  "I don't have a tattoo, I can't have a tattoo."

"Tell that to the tattoo on your back."

"Shut up, Draco.  Tell me what it is."

"Your new family crest."  Draco rolled off the bed and grabbed for his shirt, laughing.

"Oh, this has to be your fault, Draco.  Stuff like this is always your fault.  I'm going to kill you."

Draco darted through the door.  "You have to catch me first!  See you around, Weasel."  He was through the floo before Harry had even made it out of the hallway.

"Bastard."

Ron was laughing into his breakfast when Harry came into the kitchen.  "Is there a reason Malfoy just tore out of here half-dressed and with no shoes, looking rather well shagged?"

Harry opened his mouth to protest, but then remembered that Ron -- and practically everyone else -- thought that Harry and Draco were in a torrid off and on again relationship.  Harry had no clue how that became the accepted verdict on his love life, but he wasn't going to change what they were thinking.

"Because I woke up this morning with a tattoo and decided he had to die."

"A tattoo?"  Ron stuffed a forkful of food into his mouth.  "That's bloody brilliant."  Pushing his plate over to Harry, he held out his fork.  "Want some?" ♦

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