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Lucid Intervals 2/4 (unfinished) HP/SS

Title: Lucid Intervals 2/4
Author: Sundara
Pairing: HP/SS
Rating: Adult
Word Count: 17,127 (unfinished)
Summary: Harry’s magic talents mature earlier than usual, and the consequences last for years.
 
A/N: Originally begun many years ago for the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest Scenario #127: Neither Snape nor his partner are loud/vocal during shagging.  In a moment of personal clarity, I had to admit to myself I'm probably never going to finish this story...which makes a part of me very sad, because I adore it, I love what I wrote, but...it's not where my head's at anymore. So...here it is, just because I think it deserves to be seen and read. And, if anyone perchance actually falls in love with it and wants to take a stab at writing the rest of it, hell, go for it! Just let me know, and I'll tell you what I know about what I had planned, if you want. So, with no further ado, here's my languishing, errant Harry Potter/Severus Snape story.


Part One

oOo

--- He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks.---
François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
December, 7 years after Harry's graduation

Harry had to admit it had been a long, circuitous and sometimes strange journey he'd undertaken the last seven years. Especially to end up back where it all had started.

He relaxed in his chair and surveyed the hall. The students' excited voices echoed loudly around the room. House lines had always blurred somewhat during the Christmas holidays for those who didn’t go home, but now a post-war fragility existed among the current student body. The house rivalries Harry observed were but faint reflections of those in Harry's day. Too many students' lives had been personally effected by the war. Many families had been ruined or destroyed. Too large a number of students were now orphans. The need to pull together permeated every house, even Slytherin.

Ravenclaw and Gryffindor sat with Slytherin and Hufflepuff, and tonight, by tradition, all students staying for the holidays ate with the staff. Two long tables had been set up near the front dais, and remaining staff abandoned their usual place at the head table to sit among the fifty-some students present.

Even Severus Snape.

Obliquely, Harry observed the dark head as the Potions Master bent forward, attending to the students with whom he sat. Slytherins, for the most part--big surprise there--and a few Ravenclaws for good measure, seemingly quizzing him irrepressibly on some subject. He appeared to be responding with surprising patience. No, not really surprising, not after the past four months Harry had spent back within the Hogwarts community.

Very little at the school remained the same after Voldemort's demise. Even Dumbledore, as jolly and sly and bizarre as ever, seemed to have--Harry cast about for the proper description-- slowed down . Before the current term, McGonagall had taken over a great deal of the Headmaster's administration duties, while still retaining her position as Professor of Transfiguration. The shift in her duty structure had necessitated another change: turning over Gryffindor House to a new Head. It had been the offer of Head of Gryffindor that had lured Harry back to Hogwarts, much more than the eternally vacant position of teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.

“Professor, if the weather clears up tomorrow, can you give us a go on the pitch?” Young Alicia Bean's question jerked Harry back to the present.

He smiled as he glanced across at the tiny Hufflepuff second-year, whose skill had earned her a spot as Hufflepuff's reserve Seeker. Her hair reminded him of Hermione's, thick and untamable and going everywhere as she nearly crawled onto the table to reach another helping of chocolate ganache cake.

William Grandy, a sixth year Gryffindor, smiled and pushed the plate across the table to where she could reach it. “You're Quidditch-mad, Bean. Snow's a foot thick if it's an inch, and it's as cold as a--”

“Well, we don't play on the ground, do we? As long as the snow's stopped falling and the sky's clear, what difference does it make?” Large, limpid blue eyes turned to Harry. “Right, Professor?”

“Tell me that tomorrow when your nose is frozen and your hands feel like chunks of ice on the broom.” Harry smiled.

“Does that mean yes?” Bean persisted.

Harry sighed. “If the weather is cooperative.” He had no desire to freeze his own arse off.

Bean beamed with success, and a Gryffindor beater piped up from down the table. “Hufflepuff's going to have an unfair advantage at this rate, Professor, what with the extra coaching you're giving. Your own house is going to lose,” he predicted gloomily.

Harry turned a thoughtful gaze upon the put-out young Terrence Stone. “All players are always welcome in any coaching session, Mr. Stone. I don't favor Gryffindor over any other. Next time, Gryffindor might do better if they chose between a Hogsmeade weekend or Quidditch practice with the same dedication as Ravenclaw.”

Terrence resided back into his chair with an abashed look, faced with the memory of their recent ignominious defeat against Ravenclaw's older, more seasoned team.

The students around Harry started a lively argument on the merits of discipline versus recreation, and Harry took advantage of the noise to lean back and cast a glance down the far end of the table. Unlike the rowdy crew ringing Harry, the students around Snape sat quietly rapt, their gazes glued to the older wizard.

Snape's dark hair swung in a long curtain as he talked, using his hands in precise descriptive movements. During Harry's school years, despite his resentment about being the target for Snape's wickedly sharp tongue, Harry had come to find Snape's lectures mesmerizing. When he hadn't filled it with biting sarcasm and cutting invective, the Potion Master's voice had the hypnotic quality of a veela, but Harry had rarely heard it used without a layer of bitterness tingeing every word. Snape's role for years as double-agent had stretched the man entirely too thin. Only later after Harry had graduated did he begin to fully understand the strain the man was under, and he had not been able to stop wondering if Snape were, in some way, permanently damaged from his experiences.

That thought saddened Harry deeply for reasons he carefully, purposefully pushed away. Despite whatever twisted within Snape's heart and mind, when the Order had needed him to help defeat Voldemort and his Death Eaters once and for all--when Harry had needed him--Snape had been there.

Harry watched him now. Never in the four months since he had returned to Hogwarts had he taken the opportunity to observe Snape to this extent. In truth, Harry had wondered if Snape were purposefully avoiding him. Staff meetings and meals, where they were surrounded by the rest of the staff or watched by the entire school, were about the only places Harry saw Snape for any significant length of time. In hallways between classes and after hours, if their paths should cross, Snape's dark eyes would flicker to his, he'd utter a neutral “Potter” and never stop walking.

He looked relaxed, Harry acknowledged. Better than he had five years ago. The deep stress lines etched into his face had softened a bit. The most startling change was his hair. No longer did Snape glare out from behind lank strands. Where once it had reflected Snape's careless attitude about himself, falling in a messy, unkempt disarray, Harry couldn't help but wonder what it now revealed. It gleamed, thick and smooth and longer, a large, new white streak painted down the right side. Usually he pulled it out of the way into an interesting gem-studded queue holder while he was working.

Harry slumped deeper into his chair as he stared at the ripple of Snape's hair and wondered what it would feel like to plunge his hands into that thick, black length. He could wrap it around his fingers, catch and hold him still, get to see those black, black eyes glaze over as they had once before as their mouths met, open and wet....

Snape jerked as if on a string and stopped talking. His head swiveled around, and he stared down the table at Harry, eyes and nostrils flaring wide. Their gazes locking, the room around Harry flickered out of his awareness. Nothing existed but black, deep, endless black...Harry suddenly wanted nothing more than to dive into it, swim in it lazily, thoroughly immerse himself in it, open his mouth and swallow that darkness into the deepest part of himself--

“Professor...is something the matter?”

William Grandy's tentative question startled Harry out of his fugue. He found himself standing, his chair pushed back from the table, staring at the Potions Master, whose stance was a reflection of his own.

“Professor Potter?” Little Alicia Bean piped up, worry in her voice.

With an effort, Harry yanked his focus off of Snape and sent his gaze along the table. All the students were staring at him and the Head of Slytherin.

He swallowed to wet his dry throat and forced his mouth to move. “Everything is fine, Bean. I...I drank too much pumpkin juice. There's one thing a wizard can't do by magic, no matter how much magic he has.”

The comment broke up the tense silence, and the table erupted into giggles and sly comments. When he glanced down the table once more, he saw Snape's dark robes billowing out around him as he disappeared through the side door.

Amid much giggling and teasing, Harry quickly made his own way to the rear doors. He could feel Dumbledore's gaze upon him, and glanced briefly at the Headmaster.

“Yes, yes, children,” Dumbledore spoke up, gazing at Harry. “Let us never forget how powerful nature can be. It is a wise wizard and a wise witch who understands the inevitability of some things, and plans accordingly.”

Harry nearly stumbled a step before recovering and continued on toward the rear doors.

“With that in mind,” Dumbledore continued, “I hope everyone enjoyed our Christmas Eve dinner. After such a great feast, I think it high time for us all to depart and have our own commune with nature.”

Groans and giggles and laughter punctuated the sound of bench seats scraping along the stone floor as Harry gratefully slipped out of the Great Hall. Skirting the corridors leading to the four common rooms, Harry wrapped his woolen robe more tightly around himself, pulled up his hood and slipped out of the castle through a side door.

Circling around the inner courtyard, a cold wind kicked snow into a frenzy. Deep beneath an overhanging roof and sheltered behind a stone buttress, Harry watched the white haze. Night was hard upon the castle, and the only lighting came from flickering candles and torches at castle windows. Yet a pale glow illuminated the courtyard, the snow itself seeming to light up the very air.

Faery snow, Harry thought. He hadn't seen snow of any kind since he'd left Nepal for India and Malaysia four years ago. Four years of constant heat...snow was a welcome change. A shiver shook him. Welcome even if he hadn't yet acclimated to Scotland's winters.

Harry took his wand from his robes and mumbled a few words, casting a warming charm. From his boots to the hood over his head, his clothing exuded a welcome heat. The snow around his feet began to melt into a puddle.

Rather like the way I did just now in the Great Hall, Harry thought.

He recalled Snape's immediate reaction. Despite five years of training with international wizards learning very advanced levels of self-discipline and magic--even forms of Muggle magic from Muggle yogis and monks--it seemed Harry still had “the touch”.

All for naught, it turned out. Five years of study for naught. First time around Snape in a relaxed setting, and it happened again. It had been a completely and utterly unconscious act. The vaunted self-awareness and control Harry had worked for so industriously had disappeared into thin air, as if it had never existed.

Excellent job, Potter. Come back to the only real home you've ever known, and do your best to bugger it up.

Avoidance seemed the best--the only--policy. He couldn't allow it to happen again. It would be just what the Headmaster needed, his brand-new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher accused of practicing questionable magic on another member of the staff. Mr. Weasley might wield some positive influence as an Assistant Deputy Minister now, but there was always an element in bureaucracy ready to pounce on any little flaw they could find. And Dumbledore, no matter how many loved him, did still have his detractors.

He would have to insure that it never happened again. Or he would have to leave--it was as simple as that.

Harry leaned back against the castle wall, finding the stormy night fitting company for his own dark thoughts. He sighed and watched the faery snow flit around the courtyard.

A wave of depression saddened him as he dragged the toe of his boot through snow, leaving a trail of melting damp behind. He missed the deep sense of belonging he had enjoyed as a student. From famine to feast, as it were, that's how he had felt upon arriving at Hogwarts. Summers had been endured, because the start of term was always just around the corner. Then eventually had come graduation and the escalation of the war...there had been no time or energy to waste on fruitless yearnings when every day came with its own challenge to learn, grow and become more powerful, simply to stay alive.

Overnight he'd gone from schoolboy to grown wizard in the eyes of many. Which had been necessary, certainly, but.... All in all, when everything was over and the Dark Lord had been killed forever, without the Dursleys, without school life at Hogwarts, without the constant presence of his very own personal enemy to define his life, in short, without everything that had given definition to his life up to that point, Harry had been hard pressed to figure out just who Harry Potter really was.

Restless, he’d traveled the world for five years, studying obscure, esoteric magic with even more obscure, esoteric wizards and witches. Bizarre and unique, all of it, yet the urge to prove himself still burned strong inside. But instead of having to prove his abilities to the world against a powerful dark wizard, the only thing that drove Harry at that point had been a need to prove his own worth to himself.

Now he had come back to Hogwarts where it all had begun, only this time, there was no Ron, no Hermione, no Seamus or Neville to chivvy him out of his mood. He was the responsible adult this time, curbing adolescent impulses and wanting to make a difference for those students who had no one else to care. And feeling rather at a loss when he found himself needing the same thing.

Guilt mixed in with his depressed mood. Hagrid still welcomed him with the same cheerful grin and unquestioning acceptance he'd given Harry right from the start. A few hours in Hagrid's shack and Harry could swear the calendar hadn't moved one jot from seven years ago. Hagrid was a true friend, the best kind, full of simple and uncomplicated love.

But unfortunately for everyone involved, it wasn't Hagrid's simplicity that occasionally haunted his dreams in the deep of the night. And that was the heart of the issue that had driven him outside tonight in the worst storm of the year.

A flutter of wings brought Harry out of his brown study. A small, dappled owl came out of the white-strewn dark and hovered in front of Harry with a soft hoot.

“Who are you?” Harry automatically extended his arm, and the small owl landed with a grateful butt of his head against Harry's cheek. “Got something for me, have you?” Harry took the piece of parchment from the owl's grip, unfurled the parchment and gripped his wand. “Lumos.”

Harry,
Whenever you've had enough of your solitary vigil, come to my office. There's a pot of tea waiting to thaw out all your frozen bits.  
Albus Dumbledore


Harry eyed the parchment and winced, thinking about what the old wizard probably had to say to him. Without a doubt, the subject was a foregone conclusion.

He stroked the owl. “Go on, back to the owlery with you. It's too cold out here.”  The owl hooted at him and nipped at Harry's nose. “I'm going, too. Off with you, now.” He gave a lift to his arm and the owl rose into the air, disappearing quickly in the dark.

Harry sighed and reversed the warmth charm on his clothing before heading back in the small door. Best to get it over with as quickly as possible, rather like drinking a draught that tasted like sludge. Delaying it only made the discomfort last longer. Heaven knew, whatever Dumbledore had to say to him, Harry had more than earned it.

At the top of the stairs once past the gargoyle--password, “twinkies”--the griffin on Dumbledore's office door winked at Harry as he knocked.
“Come in, come in, Harry.” The Headmaster twinkled irrepressibly as he ushered Harry inside his domain. “Frozen your brains long enough?”

Harry sat down in one of the chairs Dumbledore indicated by the fireplace. “I watched the faery snow. Haven't seen any in four years.”

“Ah, faery snow, yes. Quite a sight at night. Here,” Dumbledore handed him a cup of tea from the steaming pot. “This will help thaw you from your gray matter to your knuts.”

Harry stared down into the steaming cup, his stomach roiling. “Professor--” He gave a sharp exhalation. “Professor, please. I'd rather we dispense with the pleasantries and get right down to it.”

“You would, would you?” Dumbledore murmured. “Tell me, Harry...what exactly is it that we need to get right down to?”

Harry knew he looked as miserable and frustrated as he felt. “The part where you point out to me--very politely--my unethical behavior concerning another staff member. How disappointed you are, given that I supposedly mastered the problem over the last five years.”

Silence lasted so long that Harry eventually looked up.

“It seems to me, Harry, that you are doing quite well enough in the lecture department all on your own--not that I had any aspirations toward it, myself.” Dumbledore gazed at him with just a hint of amusement and none of the disappointment and sadness Harry expected.

“But--why not?” Harry asked, now miserable and confused. “My behavior could jeopardize you and the school. The anti-dark arts sentiment is still at a fever pitch.” Harry’s tone was bitter. “And despite that I'm the Boy Who Lived and the Boy Who Prevailed, or possibly more because of it, there are plenty who would turn on me in a heartbeat. People, muggle and magic alike, fear power they don't understand.” In a fit of anger, Harry crashed his teacup down on the table next to him and burst up from the chair to pace before the fire. “And, Albus, how can I blame them?  I don't even understand half of it!”

“Ah, now that's the heart of the matter, isn't it? How can one ever fully comprehend love?”

Harry choked and whipped his head around so fast the room spun. The Headmaster calmly sipped from his teacup.

“We’re talking about the unethical use of magic.”

Dumbledore shook his head. “No, dear boy. You may have been, but I called you up here to discuss that glorious thing we call love.”

Harry felt blindly for the chair behind him and slid into it once again, suddenly unsure of his legs. “I don't see how that pertains to the unethical use of magic,” he persisted.

“Don't you?” Dumbledore asked kindly.

“No. No, I--it's simply an uncontrolled use of magic. I can learn new techniques, there are ways of controlling--”

“Harry, my boy,” the older wizard interrupted his panicked rush. “Stop. Think a moment. Tell me what the Afficio is based upon. What creates its power?”

Harry shifted uncomfortably. “A strong desire to protect.”

“In one word.”

“Care.”

“Well, dear boy, what is the root from which all of that stems? What is the inexhaustible source we draw upon to fuel White Magic?”

The answer echoed silently in the very air:  Love .

“No, what you're sug--no. It's my fault, I simply didn't control the direction of my thoughts,” he protested, feeling crevices open up under his emotional feet. “Snape's detested me ever since I arrived at Hogwarts. And he's done everything possible since then to let me know it.”

Dumbledore selected a cream cake from a plate on the table. “I admit, my boy, Severus will never be soft and sweet like this delicious little confection.” The Headmaster nibbled at the cake. “On the other hand, I do love that wonderful enchanted hot pepper curry Dobby makes. It's so much fun breathing fire with every bite. Dragons may be dangerous, but like Charles Weasley discovered, they're so very, very interesting. Worth a lifetime of study.”

“Dragons.” Harry had to look away as he swallowed the laughter trying to break out. Crazy he might be, but the old wizard had a certain way of putting things. “I don't feel that way. About him. It's all a mistake, a fluke. An error made when I was seventeen and full of adolescent hormones and unused magic, facing an uncertain future. And I didn't have a clue what I was doing at the time!”

“Hmmm, yes, yes, very true, Harry. But the same certainly can't be said about today's little performance, can it? Hmmm?”

Harry glared at Dumbledore and grabbed a handful of biscuits off the tea plate. Jumping up, he paced in front of the fireplace, eating them furiously one by one as his own frustrations ate at him. “Avoidance. I'll simply have to keep contact with him to a minimum. There's no reason why our paths need to cross, other than brief, mandatory work functions--”

“Harry.” Dumbledore's voice cut into Harry's musings with an edge the young wizard had rarely heard directed at him. “Understand one thing: this school, indeed, all of magical Great Britain, is emerging from generations of fearful and divisive attitudes. For the first time in decades, the Houses, all the Houses, are united at heart in peace. I will not risk that unity--the unity of the future generation of witches and wizards--because the Head of Gryffindor and the Head of Slytherin cannot be in the same room together at the same time.” Steely blue glints in Dumbledore's eyes matched his tone. “Since you appear unable to face things on your own, I will give you the impetus you seem to need. As Headmaster of Hogwarts, I am ordering you to take immediate steps to work out this situation with Severus.”

Harry gaped.

“Face to face,” Dumbledore added mildly.

Rebellion bloomed in Harry, and as he opened his mouth to give it voice, the Headmaster continued.

“I will settle for nothing less than complete accord between the two of you. Failure to settle this in a timely fashion will result in the termination of the junior-most staff member involved. The unity of this school will not be threatened.”

 Complete accord ... termination . Harry gaped some more, feeling like a red-faced fish out of water, floundering around futilely. A burgeoning righteous anger helped him find his voice.

“That's completely unfair! You've made my job dependent upon Snape's cooperation, something he will quite happily withhold. He'd probably like nothing better than to see the last of me--and with this, all he has to do is nothing, literally nothing, to achieve it.”

Ignoring Harry's outburst, Dumbledore made a show of selecting a small cake and popped it into his mouth. He chewed with great relish. “Spicy pumpkin with peanut butter, how wonderful.” He stood up and blinked at Harry. “Ah, Harry, you're still here? If you believe what you say to be true, then you had best get started right away, hadn't you?” With a twinkling smile, he steered Harry to the door.

Beyond amazed, Harry tried to resist. “Wait...that's it? You are seriously making it my responsibility to get Snape to cooperate with me?”

“I have all the faith in the world in you, my boy. You were central in the defeat of Voldemort, the most powerful Dark Wizard of this era. After that, what trouble could one lone Potions Master give you?”

As Harry opened his mouth to reply, the office door closed in his face, and the griffin on the door leered at him and snickered.

“Bugger it all to the Seven Rounds of Hell!” Harry almost drew his wand and blasted the bloody doorknocker to bits, but manfully restrained himself.

He was in enough trouble already.

.oOo.

continued in part three

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