The Paradox of Existence
Chapter Fifteen: Descent Into Madness
The quick succession of knocks sounded on his door again. With a glare, Harry stood and set the book he'd been reading on the armrest of his chair. Wrenching open the door, mid rap without warning, Harry readied a retort, but it caught in his throat.
Sirius was standing there, awful blond hair and all, but a step or two behind him was Severus. Severus with red hair. Severus with deep burgundy red hair. And they weren't arguing. Just standing there. Harry scrubbed at his eyes with his knuckles, sure that he'd be proven wrong when he opened them again, but no, Sirius and Severus were still standing there getting along from the looks of things.
The demons of hell would be building snowmen any minute now.
"Are you planning on moving, or do I have to tackle you?" Sirius grinned.
Shaking himself out of his momentary shock, Harry moved away from the door. "You've not killed each other."
Severus didn't reply with his usual caustic remark about stating the obvious, and Harry felt his stomach drop.
Sirius, though, was oblivious. "Amazing, isn't it? We had a lovely conversation, in fact." Sirius looked back over his shoulder at Severus. "All about how stunning he looks as a redhead." Sirius shoved his hands into his pockets and looked around. "Anyway, I wasn't supposed to be here since I came last time. In fact, Albus was all set to send Snape, but Snape for some reason invited me to come along. Seeing this as the golden opportunity it was, I told him I would on the condition that he went under a disguise spell. Rather brilliant of me, I think."
Harry paled at the information. Severus didn't want to see him alone. Of course, Severus knew what had happened since he had already lived it and now wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. Swallowing, Harry ripped his gaze from Severus and turned back to Sirius. "Seems a very unSeverus like thing to do."
"Yeah, well, I wasn't exactly not surprised to be asked to tag along too. One would think he would want to do whatever you two normally do." With a shudder, Sirius looked away. "But when I asked, all he said was that he didn't--"
Severus made a point of trodding over Sirius's toes as he brushed past Sirius.
"Greasy fucking git!" Sirius's eyes narrowed.
"Sirius!" Harry barked.
His godfather's head snapped around to look at him.
After a quick glance at Severus, who was not looking at him, Harry abandoned the lecture he was about to give. Sirius never listened to it anyway, and Harry just didn't have the energy to get into it. "Anything interesting happen?"
Three sentences into the whole 'Have to get Harry the potions before Albus finds out story', Harry tuned Sirius out. Sirius loved to listen to his own stories, and Harry usually didn't mind indulging him, so over time it became easier to think about what he wanted to think about. This time it happened to be the fact that Severus obviously didn't want to be alone with him. Or maybe it was that Severus didn't want to see him at all. Sighing at his melancholy thoughts, Harry slouched down in the chair he had taken. He turned when Severus's finger tapped his shoulder and with a smile, Harry took the tumbler Severus was holding out to him.
Scotch. It contained scotch. Not their drink. The brandy was sitting on the sidebar untouched. Looking up, Harry caught sight of Severus settling into the chair on the far side of the room; the one where he had left his book. He had an excuse to go over there. He could get his book and... But the thought died with a sigh, and he turned, muttering locking and silencing charms before looking at his godfather instead.
"Well, Sirius, what does Albus want to know?"
Stopping his next story almost mid sentence, Sirius grinned at Harry and then glowered. "You could have poured me one. Wouldn't have killed you, Snape."
"He hasn't said a word since we got here. I think he's trying to be difficult. What do you think, Harry? Personally, I'm glad the slimy shit hasn't spoken up once."
"Sirius…" Harry groaned. "Severus is always difficult." Harry rotated the glass in his hands before taking a swallow. "It's the way he is, but you know that. You're the one who went to school with him."
Brushing the comment aside, Sirius squared his shoulders and started talking. "Albus wants to know the usual. Personally, I don't see the point. Everyone knows you're going to do your job."
His focus shot, Harry tilted his head to look up at the ceiling. His brain refused to lock on what he had to say and report. He'd rather be talking to Severus - alone - but at the same time he didn't. Sirius's presence kept any private conversation between the two of them from happening anyway.
Harry was almost positive that was the reason behind Severus bringing Sirius along. The two men hated each other, yet they had shown up on his doorstep with no loss of blood or limb. There was no use asking Severus if he was right, Severus wouldn't tell him and Sirius was probably clueless about the situation as usual.
So Harry did the only thing he could: he reported on his mission. "As I told Draco, the hit on Harold Potter was accomplished by Voldemort. It did cause the Order here to trust my translation more, at least to a point." His voice fell into the tone it always affected when he was reporting, cold and indifferent. It was as if nothing could faze Harry anymore, and that could very well be true. "Counter actions have been taken against the attacks I've uncovered. In most cases the counter actions have been so well coordinated it doesn't seem like anyone knows of the attacks beforehand. There was one attack I translated which failed to occur. The family is still under watch, just in case."
Sirius yawned. "Cut and dried as usual."
"Simple minded as always, Black." The sharp slash of Severus's voice into the conversation made Harry look up. It was the first time Severus had spoken since arriving. "What had always appeared to be random attacks were actually strategic moves, planned months if not years into the future. Think of it as a chess match. Right now we are successfully blocking moves. Having Harry here gave us the edge we needed to win the first go around."
"I'm not an idiot, you good-for-nothing Slytherin shit." Sirius ground out ever word from behind clenched teeth. "What do you see in him," Sirius said, jerking his head at Severus, "anyways, Harry?"
"Curbing your tongue, Black? Or you just can't come up with anything more intelligent to say?"
"Do I look like I want to irritate my godson?"
"That has never stopped you before. I am amazed to see you act with any sort of forethought."
Harry rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and sucked in a deep breath. "Severus, stop baiting Sirius. You know he'll give in. I'm not going to get mad at him if you induce him into insulting you on purpose."
"But it is so entertaining to watch you trounce your godmutt under the excuse of so-called 'practice'."
Bounding out of his chair, Sirius grabbed Harry's arm and tugged. "That's what we haven't done in a while, Harry! Practice match."
Harry's gaze flickered over to Severus. Severus's smirk just proved that he had a plan and everything was going according to it. "Is there a reason you want to see me thrash Sirius, Sev?"
"Since when have I ever needed a reason for wanting to see that ignoramus flattened? But if you need one, I do think I can conjure up a proper reason." Severus glanced down at his nails in what seemed to be casual indifference. "We cannot allow for your musculature to deteriorate, now can we?"
Harry took a leisurely swallow of scotch while Sirius downed the rest of his in one large gulp. Eyeing his godfather, Harry set his tumbler down. "Perhaps you're right."
At least this way, he wouldn't be thinking about where his relationship had gone wrong, Harry mused, if it had, in fact, gone wrong. He didn't know what Severus was thinking as Severus wasn't letting on that he was thinking at all. A trait which annoyed Harry to no end, but one which he was also quite familiar with. With a final glance at Severus, Harry sighed. He wondered if he would ever find out.
Watching Harry from the relative safety of his chair, Severus drank he scotch and admired the play of muscle under Harry's skin as he stretched and prepared himself for a session fighting Black.
Knowing Harry for as long and as intimately as he had, Severus could see the telltale signs of stress permeating Harry's stance and attitude. Harry had been unusually withdrawn and edgy; usually it was much harder for Severus to bait him into a fight. Not much could get to the younger man. Severus should know; after all, he had been the one to teach Harry how to stay calm in most circumstances. Even knowing what could and would get to Harry and lead to a fight, verbal or physical, didn't mean Severus took advantage of the knowledge often. It took too much time and energy and Harry tended to try and ignore Severus's taunts. Draco, however, could get Harry hip-deep into an argument without blinking.
Once, Harry had told Severus that Draco had an easier time of it because their arguments always led to sparring and sparring with Draco was 'relaxing'. It was easier for Harry to spar with someone of a similar build, which Draco was. Of course, not all -- in fact, not many -- of his opponents were near his size. Voldemort, for all his protestations that it was the magical prowess which mattered, still picked brawn over brain, and in some cases, innate magical talent.
Stress and tension kept Harry away from sparring with Black or Severus, and knowing that and that Harry would be stressed when he showed up tonight, Severus had come prepared with taunts and jabs much worse than the ones he had employed. They hadn't been needed, though, and Severus couldn't stop himself from wondering why.
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Severus looked again at the men squaring off. He knew what weapons they'd use and how they'd fight. Neither of those mattered in the scheme of things, Severus knew. In the end it would come down to who wanted to win more. Black was loose and relaxed, looking for all the world as if he was shooting the breeze with an old chum instead of trying to knock out Harry. Harry, however, was battle-ready. His muscles were compressed and tense; he was ready to spring.
Had he been the type, Severus might have felt bad for Black. But he wasn't.
"Getting slow old man?"
"Who're you calling slow, boy?
"You're admitting you're old, then?"
The insults were routine and meant to rile each other up, though they failed more often than not. This could go on for hours, the slurs spiralling down becoming base and degrading. Everything was going exactly as planned. Harry would waste at least an hour battling the mutt and Severus could think about his bonded, and the current situation they found themselves in, without anyone, especially Harry, the wiser. Harry and Black would attempt to cut each other to ribbons, and Severus could avoid the conversation he just knew was bound to happen.
He could have not come at all. It would, perhaps, have been the wiser course of action, but Severus had needed to see Harry, if not talk to him. To see how he would behave in Severus's presence. To see if Harry would act guilty or as a condemned man.
Severus wasn't sure if he'd seen either.
Lifting the tumbler of scotch to his lips, Severus paused and let the scotch run over his tongue and burn his throat. For years, he had denied the fact that Harry was 'Octavian'. Eventually, however, he had reached the point where he could not deny it any longer. The realization had left a bitter taste in his mouth. Severus hadn't wanted Harry to be 'Octavian', because if he was Octavian then that meant Harry and his younger self had been involved. Almost immediately, Severus had taken the thought and shoved it behind a locked door in his mind never to be thought about except for the few times it had escaped to plague him during moments of self-doubt.
Why would Harry do something so wrong?
Severus would never take another lover, but that was exactly what Harry had done.
While Severus would never let certain things cross his lips, he could admit them to himself. Not always easily, but he could. One of those things was that he loved Harry. Granted, Harry was much freer with such words then he was, but it didn't mean Severus didn't return the sentiment because he did, many times over, if Severus was to be truthful with himself. He would never express it as often as Harry did, and he didn't need to. Harry knew how he felt. He'd even told Harry once, five years ago, but it didn't make the statement any less true.
The verbal jabs had begun to descend into the realm of the disgusting and crude. It'd been what Severus had expected, but he couldn't keep himself from a small shake of his head as he refilled his glass with scotch.
“So, Sirius, did you find your mate last time you were in your animagus form?”
“Well there was this poodle…”
With a grimace, Severus sunk back into his chair and pretended to watch the fight. He actually did watch for a moment, following the cord of muscle in Harry's arm as he tried to twist the knife out of Black's hand, but when Black broke the hold, he also blocked Severus's view and the last thing Severus wanted to see was Black's mangy arse.
The two fighters fell to the ground and Harry rolled on top of Black, his hand at Black's throat and his knees falling to either side of Black's hips, but Severus didn't notice. He saw Octavian Tyler staring down at him, or rather a younger version of himself.
Why had Harry taken his younger self as a lover? True, when Severus had been a student, he had shamelessly taken advantage of the fact that 'Professor Tyler' was drunk. What bothered him was that he knew Harry well enough to know Harry had never and would never be drunk enough to just have sex with another person. If that had been the case, Harry and Draco would have long before this point in time since Severus knew they were mutually attracted to each other, at least a bit. The most either had done was fall asleep in the other's room after a spectacular piss up.
Severus's eyes narrowed as he stared down into his scotch. Harry was his. Not his younger self's. Not anyone else's. But was Harry sleeping with his younger self the same as Harry carrying on an affair with another person? He knew they weren't the same, but at the same time, they were, and for all of his intelligence, Severus was having beyond a difficult time separating them out. What he wanted to know more than anything was Harry's reasoning for his actions.
This, however, wasn't a conversation Severus could have with Harry. Not now. It would end up in a fight. A very loud fight, the thought of which started a throbbing behind Severus's eyes. Severus knew given the situation and the problem he should just leave and let Harry stew, but he couldn't. It would hurt Harry, and if Harry was hurt who knew what would change?
In order to keep the timeline in balance, time travellers needed to walk a precarious path. This task was Harry's, as well as, to a point, the task of those who visited him. This was why Harry was not allowed to know the events which would occur in the past - his future as Tyler. Severus had wanted nothing more than to change it. He wanted to tell Harry everything that had happened between himself and his former teacher. It had been a desperate desire to change the past -- and ultimately his future. Until he thought about what it would mean: changing the past, and the future, could cause him to lose Harry.
It wasn't worth the risk. He loved Harry more than anything else he had in his life -- a fact that Severus would never actually tell Harry. If Harry inferred it on his own, fine, but he would never confirm such an allegation. So Severus stayed silent about the past, never breathing a word, and forming a precarious balance. Severus's current anger at the situation, his lover, and himself was disrupting that balance. The twisting of his gut and the tightening in his chest wouldn't go away until he had the row he knew was coming with Harry.
But he stopped himself. When it came down to it, Severus knew Harry's personality and reactions. He knew how Harry would respond to a fight. Harry was unsure about Severus's reactions. It was obvious with every glance and look Harry cast at him and with every bit of tension Severus could see strumming through Harry's body since he opened the door.
Harry needed some sort of reassurance. Reassurance that Severus just couldn't offer him right now.
The easiest thing for Severus to do would be to avoid all visits. He'd let Black or Draco go back. Albus, however, had other plans -- the meddling old fool!
So instead of working in his private laboratory, Severus found himself sitting here, years in the past wondering what his lover could possibly see in his sixteen year old self. Severus had been a spoiled know-it-all, nearly as bad as Draco and Granger combined. Not as spoiled as James Potter, of course, but nonetheless his Grandfather had given him anything he had wanted. Yes, he had to admit that he had been weak as a child. Harry wasn't attracted to weak individuals; he surrounded himself with strong-willed friends who never had any problem thinking for themselves or making their own decisions. Except for Weasley, but one could not avoid sycophants, Severus supposed. He might not admit such to any of Potter's friends, but they were individuals who Harry could be moderately proud to surround himself.
So what had possessed Harry?
Severus's memories of being a student under 'Octavian Tyler' were for the most part inappropriate, in his opinion and he'd rather not think about them, but he did. He clutched the glass in his hand tighter and tried to banish the thoughts of him sleeping with his Professor, trying to think of anything else, but the thoughts wouldn't come and the image stayed in his mind.
Harry was his. As an adult Severus fought to keep the young man safe. He fought to be with him as both lover and friend. He fought for Harry because he loved him. Harry was his and his younger self had done nothing, nothing to deserve Harry.
Sharp stinging pain lanced through Severus's hand.
"Severus?" Harry's voice was firm and made Severus look up into his green eyes laced with concern. "Are you all right? Did you cut your hand when the glass shattered?"
Severus looked down at his hand, taking in the numerous cuts crossing his palm. The price of hiding anger. He clenched his hand into a tight fist and looked back up at Harry. "No, Harry, there were no cuts. I'm fine."
"Are you--" Harry nodded.
"If you two have finished your little skirmish, I suggest that Black and I be on our way." Taking out his wand, Severus muttered a spell, and the glass shards were no more. Then with another wave, he undid the spell that had kept the furniture out of the way while Harry and Black had fought and the pieces slid back into their proper places.
Harry was still looking at him as if something was terribly off. "Is something wrong?"
"No." Shaking his head, Harry turned and moved to the door.
Black's eyes were narrowed and he kept looking between Severus and Harry. It was obvious that the cretin was thinking very hard. The pieces of the puzzle were slowly sliding into place and the conclusion that there was some sort of trouble between Harry and Severus was bound to be made. Severus hated the goddamned mutt.
"Well, we were going to take off, but if you two need a minute--" Black cut off after one withering look from Severus, but he didn't stop. "I need to use the facilities. Through there, right?" Black didn't wait for an answer before heading into Harry's bedroom and closing the door.
"No. We are not having this conversation now. It will wait until you come back." Severus swallowed. "We can't have this conversation now." Snapping his head toward the bedroom door and away from Harry and his hurt, confused expression, Severus raised his voice. "Black! Quit eavesdropping. We're leaving."
Throwing an apologetic look at Herry, Sirius exited the bedroom and tugged on the chain of the time turner hidden under his shirt. He pressed a length of the chain into Severus's hands, and with a grimace, Severus pulled the chain over his head and suppressed the urge to yank on it in order to cut off Black's air supply. A muttered incantation and they were popping out of the past.
Harry dropped down onto the couch summoning the bottle of scotch Severus had opened, forgoing his glass all together. Severus's impassive mask had gone up, but not fast enough. Harry had caught a glimpse of the emotions in Severus's eyes, before they'd dulled and became unreadable. Severus was hurt. Hurt and extremely angry.
Harry really had no one to blame but himself.
One long swallow of scotch led to another and that one led to a third. It was going to be a long night. Sleep was out of the question. These problems with Severus… Well it wouldn't be the first time he had drowned his problems in one type of alcohol or other, Harry thought as he took yet another swallow. Of course, he forgot that it had been a similar action that led to those problems in the first place.
Sometime later, a sharp knock on the door startled Harry from his sprawled-out position in front of the fire. A chill swept through his body. Harry just knew he didn’t like what was coming, but he forced himself up off of the floor to go and answer the door.
The last person he wanted to see was standing there and Harry slammed the door. Glaring, he waited for the pounding to resume. It was not that easy to get rid of a young Severus Snape. When the knocking started, harder than the first time, Harry reopened the door and looked into the face of a younger version of his lover.
"Go away, Mr Snape. I'm in no fit state to entertain today."
"You look perfectly fit to me, Professor."
Harry sucked in a breath. "I thought I had told you to stay far away from me."
"You did, Professor, but I just couldn't stay away. I need to talk to you about what happened between us."
Harry didn't move from his position blocking the doorway. "That's too bad as I don't have any intention in discussing the matter with you. Be on your way, Mr Snape. I do not desire to be in your presence."
Severus edged closer and Harry reflexively took a step back. That was more than enough room for Severus to duck beneath his arm and worm his way into Harry's sitting room. Harry bit back a growl and glared as he turned around to face the brat.
Harry fought the urge to flinch as he found himself being looked over. Each scar and line was being observed and filed away into the young Snape's brain and Harry hated that. He hated that Severus could see everything. Things that he had hidden from people whom he didn't trust, and he certainly didn't trust this young man. Severus's gaze paused when it hit his right pectoral and the letters that were carved into the skin there. 'TMR'. Enough was enough.
"What do you think you are doing, Mr Snape."
Severus started, his gaze leaving his chest and catching Harry's eyes. "I came for a visit." He swallowed. "Professor? You don't look all that steady. Perhaps I should help you lie down?" Severus stepped forward and rested his hand on Harry's arm and Harry flinched, but not enough to dislodge Severus's hand.
"I know you're mad at me," Severus continued. "I was hoping that I could change that." He looked at Harry's face, false apology written in the lines of his young face. Harry hadn't spent as many years with Severus as he had without learning how to tell when he was lying. This younger version wasn't nearly as good. "I don't want you to be mad at me." The last was true enough.
"Then go away."
"I can't! Please, Octavian, just sit down."
Harry narrowed his eyes, but did not move. Shaking his arm out of Severus's grasp made Harry lose balance and falter forward. "I'm never drinking again," he mumbled.
Severus grabbed him before he fell. Gratefulness flashed in Harry's eyes, and then vanished as Severus's lips covered his in a demanding kiss. Harry hated it. He hated the familiarity of the lips and the smell of this young Snape. The kiss lasted an infinite moment and then was over. "I'm going to hell."
"Then I'll go with you."
Harry's voice was deadly quiet. "Get out."
"No. You know you want this as much as I do."
Neither knew who started the next bruising kiss or the one after which followed. Neither cared.
Harry started as the cool hands resting on his hips clenched. He dragged his mouth away from Severus's, wishing he could think, but his brain was so cloudy from both alcohol and the rush of desire that was coursing through him. The body pressed up against him was hard and so willing that he just wanted to take even if it was wrong.
The hand that had got his attention was moving up his side, tracing the scars that it came across and making Harry tense up. This was not his Severus. This boy had no right to touch his scars in such a way. He pulled away and looked at the young man.
Black eyes filled with determination looked back. Harry knew that there would be no dissuading him. Part of him wondered if he even wanted to. Severus's hand rested on his chest and Harry looked at the pale fingers, slightly smaller than the ones he was used to. Severus pushed him back and he stumbled backwards into his chair, followed by Severus who landed on top of him.
"Don't try to get rid of me. It won't work."
Harry narrowed his eyes.
"It's obvious what you're thinking. It's written across your face, Octavian."
Sucking in a deep breath, Harry tried to push the boy off of him, but failed. Severus's balance was much better than Harry's at the moment, and part of Harry had wanted to fail, it was a part of him that he hated so much at the moment. Soft, thin lips landed on the side of his jaw and started kissing a trail down his neck, nipping every so often. Breathing was all Harry could manage, and it occurred to him that perhaps indifference would be the best course of action.
It was impossible to remain so as the mouth moved to his bare chest and a small tongue darted out and touched his left nipple. Harry sucked in a breath between his teeth. He was definitely going to hell.
Severus slid from off the chair and onto the floor in front of Harry and started to fumble with the fastenings at Harry's waist. Harry might not be able to manage indifference, but he resolved to not actively help the young man either. Maybe Severus would get frustrated and leave him in peace. Not that there was much of a chance of that happening; this Severus was just as stubborn as his Severus. The thought made Harry's erection wilt just as Severus managed to open the front of his trousers. A disheartened sigh escaped the young man's lips and Harry brutally used it to his advantage.
"Believe it or not, I do not want you, Mr Snape. Now, go."
Severus smirked and then lowered his head and set to work on reviving Harry's fading erection with his mouth. There really was no hope, Harry could feel himself hardening as Severus sucked and licked. His breath hitched in his throat and his eyes slid shut as Severus focused on the head, the shaft surround by one smooth hand that was entirely too still. He didn't want to watch his traitorous body react as he slid as far as possible into the warm, wet mouth. Harry's hips jerked and he groaned before he could stop himself, and then Severus stopped, and Harry made the mistake of sighing in relief.
Severus's hand wrapped around his wrist, surprisingly strong and he pulled Harry down off the chair so that he'd land on top of him. Severus's erection was pressing against his hip, and Severus wasted no time in pressing kisses against Harry's jaw and neck and collarbone. Harry could smell his own arousal mixed with Severus's scent. Almost the same as his Severus's, just a bit different. There was a hint of wood to it that made it sharper, but not, unfortunately to Harry, any less desirable. Growling, Harry gave in. He ran his hands down Severus's body. Too soft in some places, too hard in other, and yet exactly the same in others. It would be like fucking someone who looked almost the same. Just a willing body. Yes, that was all that young Severus Snape could be to Harry, a willing body.
Harry shoved at Severus's robe, forcing him to sit up as he ripped it off over the young man's head and cast it aside. He ran his hands over the pale, smooth, scarless skin, similar, but not nearly identical enough. The missing scars threw Harry for a moment, but he settled his mouth where neck met shoulder and bit down, drawing a gasp from Severus. With a grim grin, Harry sucked and licked at the bite, drawing the blood nearer to the surface until it was a red and angry looking spot marring Severus flesh. His fingers dug into Snape's hips as he repeated the process on his collarbone and then his chest. Severus was moaning with quiet cries begging for more were all that Severus could managed. Severus's hips bucked against Harry's and his fingers were clawing at Harry's arms. So responsive, so eager, so young, so desperate.
Harry grabbed his wand and summoned the bottle of lubricant from the other room and forcing the thought of who had brought it for him out of his mind. "Turn over."
Severus did so without hesitation, and Harry took a moment to stare at the more gangly limbs as they scrambled. Wrapping his hands around Severus's hips, Harry pulled the young man over onto his knees. He refused to take him looking at that face. He couldn't. He wasted no time in preparing Severus. As much as he hated the fact that he wanted this, he would not hurt the young man either. Not physically. Not like this.
Sucking in a deep breath that smelled of sex, Harry entered Severus in one quick motion, then stilled, heat pouring off of his body. He didn't move at all, even when Severus squirmed under him. With his bottom lip caught between his teeth, Harry finally started to thrust.
His control was slipping quickly and he reached around to grab Severus's cock and started to pull it in time with his own thrusts. He could feel it when Severus came warm and sticky across his hand and with a final push Harry let him self go, coming hard, and he rested his head in between Severus's shoulder blades, sobbing his relief and self-hatred in one breath.
Pulling out, Harry rolled to the side, bringing his arm up to cover his eyes. Only one thought entered his mind. If his Severus didn't kill him first, he'd let Voldemort do so.
*//…So you see, both of us wanted this. You can't deny it, Octavian. Don't try. This time I get the last word.
Harry tossed the scrap of parchment into the fire. The little cretin had left while he'd been asleep so he wouldn't have to deal with an angry professor. Clenching his teeth, Harry swore that he was going to make Severus's life hell. He really was.
But in the next moment the deep rage dulled. He couldn't be too angry with Severus. As an adult his Severus was manipulative, managing to get what he wanted from anyone with the exception of perhaps Dumbledore and Voldemort, and, sometimes, Harry. Clearly Severus had been no different as a young man.
That was why Harry's real anger and disappointment were with himself. He knew what Severus was like, and yet he had still allowed himself to be manipulated.
Godforsaken alcohol. It was more trouble than it was worth.
*Future: Harry's Seventh Year*
Dumping his books onto the worktable, Harry slouched down on the stool and dropped his head into his arms. He didn't bother looking up when Severus stormed into the classroom in his typical overdramatic style. Usually, he would make an attempt to show more respect, but today he just didn't care. He didn't know how to make himself care.
Harry had woken up shortly after going to sleep the previous night when his scar started sending shooting pains through his head, piercing his eyes so he couldn't see and sending jabs of searing ice down his spine that left him shivering and sweating and biting his lip in an attempt not to cry out and wake anyone. From experience he knew that pain relieving potions and charms wouldn't work; the pain was as much a part of him as his scar. Whoever Voldemort had tortured the night before -- and Harry was glad that he'd learned to block out the dreams -- Voldemort wanted Harry to know about it.
It wasn't the lack of sleep that made Harry lethargic and unable move. Harry was used to not sleeping, and the pain from his scar was routine. Dumbledore's news right before class, however, was not.
The Headmaster had taken Harry aside to bring him up to date about the situation with his godfather. Sirius had gone missing a month earlier and no one in the Order had seen him. Harry had been worried, but was made slightly less so when he was told that the Order had agreed to send Remus out to look for him, but they had lost contact with him too.
Severus had been called the night before and had returned that morning with information concerning his godfather and Remus. Voldemort had somehow found them both and had handed them over to his Death Eaters. As toys. The only reason they had even escaped was because of the full moon and not a single one of the Death Eaters had wanted to step in front of a growling werewolf.
Sirius had transformed and herded Remus away from the Death Eaters, and they were now missing again and probably hurt as well. And there was no one available to go look for them.
"And Professor Snape, sir?" Harry had asked. "How he is?"
"I can't tell you that, Harry. He's back and will be teaching classes."
"But that doesn't--" And Dumbledore had strode off leaving Harry in the corridor with no answers. It was pointless trying to figure out had badly Severus had been tortured, if at all, the night before. Severus always kept his walls firmly in place while in public. So with one final look at where Dumbledore had disappeared around the corner, Harry turned and made his way to class.
Another sharp pain shot down Harry's spine from his scar, but Harry lacked the energy to even move his hand to his head. He just kept his head down, feverishly wondering how something could hurt so much without showing the least bit externally. He almost groaned, but knew better than to draw even more attention to himself.
Any hope that Severus would go easy on him for the class period was dashed as soon as Professor Snape opened his mouth.
"Mr Potter, I will not have obvious acts of inattention carried out in my class. If you cannot stay awake during classes then I suggest that during the night you partake in what us mere mortals call sleep."
It wasn't so much what Severus said, more so the tone that he had used. Harry had become quite capable at reading the subtle nuances in Severus's voice, and today his voice contained the sound of loathing that Harry hadn't heard for quite some time. Squeezing his eyes shut, Harry dragged himself into a sitting position and looked toward the potions master. Cold eyes narrowed at him, and Harry flinched back as if he had been slapped. He didn't understand the mood that Severus was in, and decided that it might be best to rally whatever strength he could and be as attentive as possible for the remainder of the class. Harry's resolve to pay attention during wavered though and soon his head was once again drooping down. The lack of sleep and the jabs of pain from his scar mixed with the too loud clinking of vials and student chatter was making his head throb.
"Mr Potter! I know that you haven't had the most inspiring of influences in your life. An uncle who cannot control his impulses and most likely belongs locked up in a Muggle zoo, since that is the only place that he could possibly benefit society. And we cannot forget your 'father', can we? A lazy, good-for-nothing, cursed individual, no better than a rabid mutt. Considering who you are, one should be able to expect better than that. Since you obviously have no brain and can therefore not perform the simplest task, you could at least stay awake!"
Harry had lost what little colour he had had by midway through Severus's lecture. The majority had no clue as to what Severus had meant, but there were a few in the class that did. Severus wasn't talking about James Potter and Vernon Dursley, but was in fact talking about Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.
Harry could barely think. He knew what Severus was saying, but he didn't know why. Insults to his family hadn't occurred since the end of his sixth year. They hurt Harry as none of Severus's other insults did. Why would his lover do such a thing? It was one thing to insult the Dursleys and even James Potter (there would never be a way to mend that rift and Harry had come to learn how to ignore the insults to his father with more ease than he had in the past), but Sirius and Remus were the only family he had left. Severus was being deliberately cruel again and Harry desperately wanted to hit him.
The entire class was staring at Harry waiting for what they were sure would be a spectacular blow-up. But it didn't happen. Instead, Harry silently gathered his books and stood. Stumbling over his feet, Harry left the room without looking over his shoulder to see how Severus took his desertion.
"He wasn't in Charms."
"Or Divination." Ron shoved the food around on his plate, an unusual thing for him to do, but Hermione didn't seem to notice.
"Have either of you seen him?" Dean whispered from across the table.
"No. He wasn't in the Tower before dinner, either." Hermione caught Ron's eye. Ron had wanted to go and check the Order training areas, but he didn't have the passwords to get into them, and there was no way that he was going to ask Malfoy.
At the Slytherin table, things weren't much better. Draco sat apart from most of the other Slytherins and wasn't touching his food either. Dumbledore had called him to his office midway through Arithmancy to inform him that his mentor, Sirius, was still missing. The rest of the day's happenings started clicking into place. How upset Harry must have been with Severus. Granted, the two always bickered and sniped and greatly disliked each other, but Draco was almost positive that they had come to mutually respect each other from what he had seen when he found them working together. Draco's gaze wandered over the Gryffindor table. After leaving Dumbledore's office, he had gone straight to the training rooms to see if Harry had gone there, but there had been no sign of him. Weasley and Granger could tell him if he was in Gryffindor Tower though.
A friendship of sorts had begun to develop between him and Harry, Draco thought, and Harry was the one person in his year that Draco felt he could talk to Harry and trust him enough not to betray anything that was said, and right now, Draco wanted someone to talk to about Sirius. Determined, Draco stood and headed over to the Gryffindor table.
Ron and Hermione both snapped around to look at Malfoy. Disbelief was etched on Hermione's face, and Ron was sure that his faced probably had the same look on it.
"Shove off, Malfoy." Ron turned, knowing that his face was going red with anger. Malfoy's mere presence was still able to rile Ron.
"Just leave him alone, Malfoy. He doesn't need the likes of you making his life and more difficult." Hermione started to turn away, but stopped when facing the doors. "Harry."
"Leave them alone, Malfoy."
Draco cocked an eyebrow. "Look what the cat dragged in. You look awful, Potter. Gone to weep about the nasty things the Professor said?" Draco was looking at Harry, taking in the signs of strain around his eyes and how his lips were pulled tight in pain. But his eyes weren't quite as dull as they had been when he'd left the dungeons, and he was smiling.
"Where have you been?" Hermione jumped up and wrapped her arms around Harry in a hug which Harry returned.
"I spent the day visiting Hagrid. He's still recovering from that bite from the sick acromantacula he was taking care of. We talked for a while. I slept. Then my dog Snuffles found me. Looked like he'd run all the way from London to get here. Professor Lupin had found him in the Forbidden Forest. Lupin says he's going to keep Snuffles down in his room, if I don't mind." Harry turned toward Draco. "What are you still doing here, Malfoy? I'll deal with you later."
"I'd like to see you try, Potter." With a nod, Draco turned on his heel and headed toward the doors of the Great Hall.
"No, Harry. Stop. Don't throw your weight. For that type of slash you want to use just your arm and wrist. Draco, if you keep moving away like that and don't put your weight down on your feet properly, Harry's going to knock you over and you won't know up from down." Sirius shifted against the wall on the far side of the room watching Draco and Harry practice. They were getting better with weaponry though Sirius would have preferred to return to boxing. Knowing how to punch something, particularly big nosed bully teachers would have been much more to his liking at the moment, but they'd gone beyond hand to hand without weapons a long time ago and if the boys had wanted to hit a particularly vile looking greasy professor they were perfectly capable of doing so with out Sirius pausing their training to make sure they could do it right.
Sirius had always enjoyed playing around with Muggle weapons, but had never expected to be asked to train Draco and Harry in how to use them, but when Dumbledore asked, he had jumped at the chance taking them through hand to hand combat with and without weapons, to making sure that they could both shoot a gun. Dumbledore might have a screw or three loose, but he was right when he said that Death Eaters would never expect someone to pull a gun on them and fire.
Originally Ron was going to train with them, and Sirius had hoped that he would, but Ron was adamant about becoming an Auror, and after all his trouble with the Ministry, Dumbledore had put his foot down. If Ron wanted to join up with the Aurors after he finished school, that was fine and Dumbledore gave him his blessing, but neither would Dumbledore accept split loyalty from anyone, so Ron was not allowed to be inducted into the Order. There were exceptions. Arthur Weasley, and Nymphadora Tonks as well as Kingsley Shacklebot, but no more.
Harry backed up and out of the fight ring holding up his hand asking for a break.
"What's wrong, Potter? Am I too tough for you?"
"Yeah, you are." Sirius could see Harry roll his eyes from where he was standing. "No, I have to take something." Rubbing his head, Harry headed over to Sirius to go through his bag that he'd left at Sirius's feet.
"You all right?"
Harry nodded, but didn't look up at him. "I just need a few minutes. Please?"
"'Course." Stepping away from Harry, Sirius went to stand by Draco, who was stretching out his arms. "Cramped up?"
"A little." Sirius grabbed one of Draco's arms at the elbow and pulled Draco's arm up and behind him. Draco grunted his thanks and turned his eyes to look at Harry. "What's with him," he asked as Harry lifted a vial and drank down the entire contents.
"Headaches, I'd imagine."
"But potions and charms don't work on headaches caused by his scar. Even I know that."
Harry had dropped the vial back into his bag and had leaned his forehead against the stone wall.
"True, but from what Ron's told me, Harry hasn't been sleeping at night so he's tired and weak during the day. By the time the pain from his scar fades, a regular headache replaces it. The lack of sleep isn't helping either." Sirius dropped Draco's arm and took the other one, repeating the stretch. "Harry's been getting steadily better since the beginning of the year, and now all of a sudden it's back to bad. Ron thinks that Harry had a boyfriend that was taking his mind off of things and maybe," Sirius coughed, "doing other things with him, but now it's got to be over with whomever. Harry's made curfew every single night for the last couple of weeks at least. I've no idea how to make it better either."
"Can't Severus brew up some Dreamless Sleep for Harry to take?"
"It's not dreams keeping Harry awake. It's his link with Voldemort. Sometimes he still has visions no matter how much he works to block them, but most of the time it's just pain. No matter what it is though, Dreamless Sleep doesn't work. The only potion that has worked is Draught of Living Death, and Harry has refused to take it, no matter how bad the pain is."
"Because it's so highly addictive?"
"Exactly. Harry's probably been living off of PepperUp and pain numbing draughts." Sirius stepped away from Draco. Harry had stood up and was heading back toward them. "End of the week I'm pulling him in to see Poppy."
Sirius started back to the wall, pausing to rest his hand on Harry's shoulder for a moment.
"Ready to have your arse pounded into the ground, Malfoy."
"You don't think you're actually going to win, do you, Potter?"
Harry shrugged. "We'll see."
“What are you brewing?” Draco leaned against the worktable that Severus had his ingredients set up on.
“You want to study potions for a living, why don’t you tell me.”
“Without looking, my guess is pain numbing draught and PepperUp. Am I right?”
“Correct. Poppy said she’s been running low. I just made her a batch last month. It should have lasted for three months. Since you’re here, you can help. Stir that cauldron over there. Fiftee-“
“I know, Severus, fifteen times counter clockwise and then five times in a figure eight pattern.” The potions master just nodded his head, and the two men worked patiently for a few minutes.
“How did you know without examining the ingredients? I doubt that you guessed by smell.” Severus looked around his private lab. He had brewed over fifteen potions that day alone. Even he couldn’t tell what he was brewing by smell.
“I didn’t. I just came from practice with Sirius and Harry. Harry’s been downing the stuff for two weeks; he’s been in a lot of pain. Do you know anything about it? You’re his mentor, after all.” Draco watched as the older man tensed. Draco had gotten the feeling that Harry hadn’t been going to his meetings with Severus; after all, he would have come across the two of them talking when he visited his Head of House, and he had done so plenty of times since the school year began months ago. “I didn’t think so. What’s been going on? You and Harry haven’t been getting along lately.”
“Not that it is any of your business, Draco, but Harry has decided that we cannot work together.”
“Is it because of what you said?” Severus didn’t say anything. “Why did you say those things during potions class two weeks ago? You knew that it would hurt him. I didn’t think that you had wanted to do such a thing.”
The older man continued to stubbornly remain quiet, but Draco knew that he had gotten his point across. A change of topic wouldn’t hurt. “Anyway, Harry is really toning his muscles. I mean, in ways that Quidditch just can’t. He’s good looking; even I have to admit that. I wouldn’t mind having a go with him.” Draco looked at Severus with an impish expression.
“He has enough people using him, Draco. He doesn’t need to add you to that list. Stay away from Potter.”
Draco was taken aback by the sharp tone. Severus had always been prickly, but usually he curbed his tongue around him. “You think I would use Harry?” Severus’ lack of faith hurt him. He had known Severus since he was a small child; never had Severus shown a lack of confidence in him. It was as if Severus had always known he would do the right thing. “Why would I hurt a friend? It’s not like I have many of those at the moment.”
Severus did not look at Draco. “I didn’t realize you had become friends with him.”
“We’re getting there. When he stops calling me Malfoy, I’ll know we are.”
“And why would he stop calling you that?”
“Because I told him to.” Draco sighed and began chopping up one of the ingredients that was out. “That’s not the point. I said that I’d like to have a go at a relationship with Harry, not that I was going to. I spend enough time around him to know that he’s seeing someone.” Draco paused in his cutting to think for a moment. “But it doesn’t seem that anyone knows who it is. Do you know?”
“And why would I know that?”
“Because you used to talk to him all the time.” The cool gaze that Severus gave him caused Draco to turn back to the cauldron and begin stirring it again. “Never mind. I’m sure that if Harry wanted to tell someone, he would have. This potion will be ready to cool in a minute. Do you want me to apply a slow cooling charm?”
“No. It’ll be curfew soon. You had better be getting back to your dorm, Draco. I’ll finish up here.”
Draco finished his stirring and placed the ladle down. Straightening his robes, he turned to the potions master. “Goodnight, Professor.”
“Goodnight, Mr. Malfoy.” The return to formalities relaxed Severus. As the door to his lab closed behind the young man, Severus frowned. Too many things had disturbed Severus during his chat with Draco. Too many things.
Harry waited until the last minute to walk through the door into the Order meeting. Even last minute wasn't last minute enough, though, as there were still a few people missing and the meeting would not start without them. Sighing, he watched Dumbledore finish his conversation with Mr Weasley and decided that now was as good a time as ever to corner the Headmaster again.
"You wish to speak to me, Harry?"
Harry jerked his head in a quick nod. "I was wondering if you've thought about my request from earlier this week at all, sir." Harry shoved his hands into his pockets.
Dumbledore glanced around, and then took Harry's elbow and led him away from the small group that had been talking near them. "Harry, I happen to think that you work much better with Severus than you could with another Order member, even Remus."
"But I can't work with Severus." Harry kicked at the ground with the toe of his trainer. "I just can't, Headmaster. You have to let me work with Remus."
Shaking his head, Dumbledore looked down at him. "Perhaps I have assumed too much. There is something that you must understand about your mentor, Harry." Harry bit back the retort that he understood Severus just fine, thanks. "He can be quite defensive at times, and I am afraid that he lets his temper flair with certain people at the wrong times."
"I'm sorry, Headmaster, but that wouldn't come as a surprise to any of his students."
Dumbledore tapped the tip of his finger against his lips and smiled a bit. The only person, besides Sirius, that would smile at his cheek. "Perhaps, you're right, but I am thinking along different lines, Harry. You aren't just Severus's student --"
Harry's heart stopped for a moment. If the Headmaster knew…
But if he did, Dumbledore didn't mention it. "There are times that Voldemort does not use magical techniques to torture a person. I'm sure you must realise that."
"I know. He likes to leave marks, so he'll resort to Muggle methods on occasion, but not always."
"No, not always."
The Headmaster was looking at him, waiting for Harry to piece together the puzzle like he always did. "He- Voldemort - he tortured Severus that night, didn't he?"
Dumbledore said nothing.
"Why didn't either of you tell me!" It was getting harder to keep his voice just above a whisper.
"It did not concern you, Harry."
"Didn't concern me? The welfare of my mentor, my guardian in the Order, didn't concern me?" Of my lover? He added silently. Harry sucked in a breath and took a step back from the Headmaster, straightening his back as he did so. "I will not work with Severus. It isn't possible. If he doesn't trust me enough to tell me that he's been beaten…"
Harry shook his head. "No. Besides, I can't work with someone that insults my family just because he is having a bad day. It was one thing before he started to mentor me, but now… Not in front of the whole class. I'd never treat him with such disrespect."
"I discussed that with him, and he knows that what he did was inappropriate--"
"He's not a child to be chastised and neither am I, Headmaster."
"If you were to talk to him-"
"I will not talk to or see Severus until he apologizes for his actions." The squid would attend classes before that ever happened.
"Harry, how exactly do you expect Severus to apologise if you will not meet with him or talk to him?"
"Bugger." Harry glared at the strap of his satchel that had broken again. The third time that day. Either Goyle had suddenly learned which way to point his wand or Harry's spell work was becoming horribly shoddy. Shoving all his books back into his bag, he reached out to grab the ink bottle that was rolling away.
Giving up on stretching to reach it, Harry stood, determined to chase it down, but then a hand reached out of the shadows and grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into one of the hidden corridors. Harry's hand was on his wand in the next minut,e and when he cast Lumos, Harry's wand was pointing at Severus's chest.
Severus arched an eyebrow, but ignored the fact that Harry had his wand pointed at him otherwise. "Potter, we need to talk."
Harry threw his wand into his bag and tried to turn away, but Severus's didn't let go. Severus's fingers were digging into his arm, and Harry knew without looking that there would be angry red marks left behind.
"I don't want to talk to you, Professor. Please let go of my arm."
"Let go of my arm, Severus. I need to get to back to the dormitory. It's almost curfew."
Again, Severus raised an eyebrow. "Since when have you started to give a care for school rules, Potter. No matter, you are not going anywhere until you listen to what I have to say."
"I'm not exactly feeling charmed to stay and listen." Harry jerked his arm even though he knew it would be useless and that Severus would not release him.
"I shall endeavour not to behave the way that I did previously."
"And what way was that?"
"Come downstairs and we will talk."
"Harry, I want to," Severus floundered for a moment, "fix things."
"No. I told the Headmaster that I wouldn't talk to you until you apologised and I meant it." Harry glared, and all the anger started pouring out. "They beat you and you didn't tell me! You just went off at me for no reason. And I should have known. I could feel the unhinged glee that always means torture, but I had thought you would tell me, but you didn't. You don't trust me! You don't respect me. You don't care about me at all. In fact, I wager that--" Harry stopped. Glaring, he jerked his arm free from Severus's suddenly lax grip and spun on his heel ready to storm out of the alcove.
Severus's fingers latched onto the collar of his robe. "Harry, I'm…"
"A greasy git. I've known that since I started here."
Harry looked back over his shoulder. "The Headmaster made you say that because he didn't want me to work with Remus."
"No, you impertinent brat, the Headmaster did not make me say that. I've been trying to give you detention for the past week--"
"One more outburst from you and I'll--"
"This should be interesting."
Severus spun Harry around and shoved him against the wall clamping a hand over his mouth. "Shut up, Potter."
"I have been trying to make amends for my actions for over a week, but Granger has appeared each lesson with a note signed by our esteemed mediwitch saying you are too ill and that attending my class would only make matters worse. You've not come to any training sessions at all, and Black, the insufferable mongrel, would not offer any assistance. Now, you will listen to what I have to say whether you like it or not. Do you understand?"
"I shall try not to behave as harshly as I did. There was no excuse for it and we have come to an accord. You will work in class and I will refrain from insulting your family. Even if you were on the point of drooling into your cauldron.
However, it has also been brought to my attention that I should have informed you of certain events that occurred during the meeting I attended. I shall try to keep that in mind as well. Are you satisfied?" Severus removed his hand from Harry's mouth.
"You're going to tell me if they hurt you?"
Severus nodded, though he seemed reluctant to do so.
"I'm still angry. You've no idea how furious I've been at you."
Severus ignored him and ran his thumb along Harry's scar. "Did it hurt?"
"Of course it hurt!"
Severus closed his eyes. "Am I-?"
"I suppose. But if you ever do something like this again, I'll make it even harder on you." Harry leaned up and brushed his lips against Severus's. "I will. I need to go. Can't risk a detention with Filch. I have this professor that is tutoring me in remedial potions and he'll be furious if I miss because I have to sit detention. Even if it is all said professor's fault."
"The professor is never at fault." Severus kissed Harry again before letting him go.
"Good night, Sev." ♦