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.
If a fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.
The students were in high spirits by dinnertime on Christmas Day. The staff sat at the head table once more, while all students present sat together at the table nearest the fireplace, ignoring the usual House seating arrangements.
Late for dinner, Harry glanced around the room as he slipped in the Great Hall from a side door. Leftovers from the celebration--snappers and poppers and their assorted magical items--littered the tables. A large enchanted crystal ball hovered over the students as different winter scenes kept unfolding inside. And for the third time that day, Snape's chair remained empty.
Harry slid into an open seat next to the Herbology teacher, Professor Sprout.
The grey-haired witch eyed him, silently poured and handed him a cup of hot spiced wine. “You look a bit peaked.” She slid the large, dark green bottle toward his plate. “Here, drink up, made it myself. It's a specialty of mine. 'Twill cure what ails you.”
Bundled in various woolen layers after freezing all afternoon on his broomstick, Harry gratefully accepted the warm cup. “Thanks, Professor. I felt sorry for the players and didn't use a warming charm this afternoon. Should have, though...nearly froze my, er....”
Sprout's mouth quirked up. “That was well done of you today, Harry. With Xiomara off visiting family for the holidays, you're the only one to occupy those rambunctious Quidditch players. I am very grateful on behalf of Hufflepuff's team. I'll talk to Filius and suggest he teach warming charms as a practical addition to the curriculum--fourth year and up, of course. We don't want the younger ones turning into flaming candles.”
Harry mentally grimaced at that image. Learning magic was risky business. “That's a good idea.” Harry nodded and took a sip of the wine. It tasted somewhat spiced, fruity and tart, rather nice. But the after-effect really opened his eyes: It felt like fizzy bubbles racing through his body.
He grinned at Sprout. “That's some wine.”
Sprout laughed and held her own glass up to the light. “Designed the spell myself. It's usually not my area of expertise, but this was rather successful, if I do say so.”
“I'll second that,” Harry added fervently, emptying half his glass.
“Try these, fresh out of the greenhouse today.” Sprout started passing to Harry various vegetable dishes and then the huge roast beef platter and accompanying pudding.
His mouth watered at the sight and smell; lunch seemed a long time ago. With few words, he piled his plate high and tucked in steadily. He gave half an ear to the various conversations going on around him.
“...I shall ask Severus, if he ever surfaces from the dungeon. We need to rearrange the schedule to accommodate...”
McGonagall's voice filtered into Harry's thoughts, Severus' name catching his attention firmly. He glanced up from his nearly empty plate, leaned forward and looked down the table toward Snape's regular seat. Still empty. Frowning, he refilled his wine cup with still-hot wine from the bottle.
“Lost in his experiment, no doubt,” Sprout said.
Harry glanced at her.
“Severus. Saw you looking for him.” She eyed him appraisingly.
Harry colored slightly, to his chagrin. “Oh. Yes. I need to discuss something with him. He's been...missing.”
“Probably will be for a few more days. He was out in the greenhouse last evening, harvesting a great many things. Said he was preparing to start a new experiment.” She smiled slightly. “For Severus, he sounded highly enthused.”
Harry stabbed the last piece of roast beef on his plate. “Ah. I suppose I'll have to wait then.”
“You could, yes...or you could simply beard the lion in his den.”
Something in Sprout's tone of voice made Harry look at her. The odd, slight smile she wore raised alarms.
“I'll contribute a bottle or two of wine to the cause, if you'd like.” She pushed a second, unopened bottle toward Harry's plate.
He looked at the wine, wondering just how incriminating yesterday's little performance had actually been. Really, he would have thought that anyone who knew them from years back would have viewed it with a more rancorous interpretation.
Just as he looked up to politely refuse her offer and change her impression, Madam Pomfrey walked up behind Sprout and leaned down to talk to her.
“After dinner, up in my rooms. Vector's coming, so it'll be three-handed pinochle tonight.”
“Oh, very good.” Sprout nodded.
“Hello, Harry.” Pomfrey nodded in his direction, the same appraising look in her eyes that Sprout had.
He nodded back automatically. “Happy Christmas, Poppy.” And suddenly it dawned on him.
One night seven years ago, Pomfrey had treated Severus. Dumbledore had later explained everything to him very carefully, about how the Afficio worked, and how one could combat Cupitus with a healthy dose of Libertaserum. Which he had informed Harry that Madam Pomfrey had on hand and had dosed Severus with to effect a cure.
Pomfrey knew. And most likely, she had shared the news with her good friend Sprout.
Who else on staff had been made privy to the events of seven years ago? He gave fleeting thought to ten different ways he could catch both women off-guard and cast Obliviate on them.
He smiled crookedly at both women. “Enjoy your game.”
“I always do.” Poppy said.
“Enjoy yours,” Sprout grinned at him before leaving with Pomfrey.
Glumly embarrassed and annoyed, Harry watched the departing women. So much for privacy, he thought. Gossip, the staff of life...or was that, gossip, the life of the staff? Just what he needed while trying to do whatever the hell it was he was trying to accomplish.
His annoyed gaze slid to Dumbledore, still seated in his high-backed chair. The Headmaster turned and met his gaze with a serenely content smile. Raising his glass, he toasted Harry silently.
Harry gritted his teeth and raised his own glass. He took a huge gulp of the charmed wine and shivered as its warmth and fizz exploded in his bloodstream, then took great delight in beginning to plot for a certain Potions Master's--reluctant or not--cooperation.
Each evening, Harry spent time in the Gryffindor Common Room. During his school years, McGonagall had been a good Head of House, but a distant one. That wasn't Harry's style; he liked a more hands-on approach. Being present also insured he was much more aware of what was going on with all the Gryffindors, to the students' chagrin.
A tall, good-looking sixth year attempted the best of verbal dancing with his Head of House. “I have it on good authority that I'm following in the footsteps of fine Gryffindor graduates.”
Harry raised his eyebrows higher and held out his hand.
“But, Professor Potter, I worked for months on this!” Ian Crowder whinged as he began to gently place the item in question into Harry's hand.
Harry quickly removed his hand and gave Ian a sharp look. “I don't think so, Mister Crowder. This time, let it drop.”
Ian grinned briefly and let the spell-catcher drop from his hand into Harry's.
Harry could feel the magical emanations coming from the beautiful orb. “Actually, I think this is a first. Don't remember the twins coming up with this specific little item. Fred and George will love to hear about it.”
That got the attention of everyone in the common room. “You know the Weasley brothers?” Ian asked, obviously excited.
Harry couldn't help a grin. “I do.”
The room exploded. “Excellent.” “Brilliant!” “Can you get them to come for a visit?” “Have them bring items and we can discuss their configuration in class!”
Harry held up his hands. “If you think I'm inviting the twins here with you lot, you're more daft than I thought.” Groans all around. “There's not a one of you that needs any more encouragement along those lines.”
“From what I've heard, you were just as bad in your own way as the Weasleys, Professor.” Diana d'Argent, a dark-haired fifth-year, sat on the arm of a chair, swinging her legs and grinning at Harry.
“No one was as bad as the Weasley twins,” Harry said with a wry look. “Now, it's late. Curfew's in effect. If sleeping isn't something you want to do, then stay in the tower. No wandering the halls.”
Reluctant agreement followed his suggestion, with some grumbling still coming from Ian's corner.
“It's a crime, it is. It would've been brilliant.”
On his way out of the Gryffindor common room, Harry leaned down to Ian. “Don't worry, I'll let you know how well it works.”
“What?” Ian shrieked as Harry ducked through the hole in the wall. As the Fat Lady closed behind him, he could hear a raised babble of voices break out again.
Grinning, he started down the stairs and contemplated the delicate orb. He had to give the young man credit. Ian's inventive idea had required a great deal of research and time. His end-of-year levels should reflect the effort. All in all, quite an accomplishment.
That is, if it worked properly. It wasn't exactly something that could be tested on just anyone. Perhaps he should save it for his next visit with Sirius and Remus.
Harry tossed the orb up in the air and caught it, pleased with the idea. Pocketing the crystalline ball, he sobered, thinking of another idea he had been avoiding all evening. He would prefer to avoid it indefinitely, but Albus had successfully eliminated that option.
For the first time since he'd returned to Hogwarts, Harry walked through the dungeons to Snape's private rooms. The wards and spells he encountered as he approached the area were enough to completely repel a lesser wizard.
Harry hesitated, thinking. It probably wasn't an intelligent idea to approach the older wizard when he so obviously wanted to be left alone. Then Harry thought of his students, his House, thought of letting it all go and having to find another place to live, another niche to fill, some other place that gave him the feeling of home.
Briefly, without touching the wand concealed in his robe, he murmured a few words and the compulsion to leave the area dissipated instantly. There had been no real sense of home in his early life; Harry wasn't going to turn around and give up what he now had without a fight. Snape would just have to deal with it.
Snape had even gone to the trouble of concealing the door to his room. Harry only sensed it in the wall by the magical power outlining it. Taking a deep breath, he knocked.
There was a long pause, then noises from the other side. A door handle rattled.
“Albus? What's wrong--” Black eyes widened, then narrowed.
Harry stood straight under the dark glare. “We need to talk.”
“No. We don't.”
The door slammed closed on Harry's foot. It hurt like hell, but he twisted and shoved and the door opened wide again. “Yes, we do.”
The thunderous expression on Snape's face rivaled any Harry had ever seen. Definitely an auspicious start to the discussion.
“The Boy Who Prevailed...you must believe your latest epithet to be a generic appellation. Boundaries of any type seem to be completely meaningless to you,” Snape seethed. His tall figure was swathed completely in a loose black woolen robe, his hands and arms folded tightly within its confines.
“You're never going to talk to me without me forcing the issue, so....” Harry shrugged, watching Snape carefully. “I don't have much choice. Dumbledore ordered me to talk with you.”
Surprise and something Harry couldn't interpret passed over Snape's face before he blanked it again. “An easily concocted story,” he said bluntly. “I see no reason for him to have done so.”
“If I didn't have to be here, I'd be quite happy to leave you alone.” Harry grimaced and rotated his ankle; Snape had slammed his foot hard. “But Headmaster made his wishes known. Rather succinctly, to be honest. We're to have a face-to-face discussion and come to a complete accord.”
Snape stared at him and snorted. “You must be joking.” For the first time, he turned his back on Harry as he settled himself in a chair by the fireplace. “There is no discord to correct. We each go our separate ways, and the status quo will remain intact.”
“That's the problem...he doesn't want the status quo.” Harry closed the door and limped over to the second chair and sat down, taking weight off his foot.
Snape lowered a crystal glass of amber liquid from his mouth. “What do you mean, Albus doesn't want the status quo?” he asked carefully.
Harry took his time, rubbing the ache in his foot before glancing at Snape out of the corners of his eyes. Snape's hair streamed over his robe-draped shoulders, unbound and slightly damp, as if he'd recently gotten out of the bath. Catching himself staring at it, Harry mentally flailed himself and looked away.
“He said, quote, I will not jeopardize the new-found unity of the school, of the future wizards and witches of Britain, because the Head of Gryffindor and the Head of Slytherin can't be in the same room at the same time.”
Snape thought about this for a few seconds. “Or...?”
Snape raised an eyebrow. “Don't even try, Potter. Tell me what Albus threatened you with.”
“He doesn’t threaten,” Harry protested.
Snape all but rolled his eyes. “Spare me. Tell me the alternative.”
Harry hadn't wanted to discuss this subject at all, because, quite frankly, he believed that Snape would find Dumbledore's ultimatum an elegant, amusing solution to his problems. And Harry really had no desire to sacrifice his job simply to amuse Snape.
But...Snape's words echoed in Harry's ears: Boundaries of any type seem to be completely meaningless to you.
Maybe it wasn't about sacrifice and amusement, but about leveling the field.
He took a deep breath. “Dumbledore said that if I can't arrange for a complete accord between the two of us, then I, being the junior-most staff member, would be required to leave. So the unity of the Houses would not be upset.”
Snape's only reaction was a thoughtful gaze as he stared at Harry and gently rotated the glass. “What an interesting power you've put into my hands.”
Feeling slightly queasy, Harry pushed himself out of the chair and walked over to the bottles he saw peeking out from behind a half-closed cabinet door, searching for the whiskey Snape was drinking. An excellent aged single-malt, Harry noted as he poured himself a badly needed glass.
“By all means, Potter, do make yourself at home.” Sarcasm dripped from Snape's words like syrup.
Harry raised the glass in Snape's direction. “Thank you. I will.” He took a mouthful of the fiery, smooth liquid. “I'll buy you another bottle. Or not. I suppose it will depend upon the future state of my income.” He turned around and looked at Snape.
“Yes. Interesting,” Snape drawled the word slowly, his black eyes alight with dark mirth.
Well, maybe it was a bit about amusement, however much Harry would rather it not be that way. “We're as even as I can make it, Snape, under the circumstances. Unless you have a better idea.”
“Ah, the predictable Gryffindor ethic rises again. How noble, Potter. Not at all wise, but definitely noble,” Snape said with biting levity.
Harry discovered he could tolerate Snape's sniping much less now than he ever could in the past. Tossing back the remainder of the expensive whiskey like water, he set the glass down very gently on the table. “It's certainly old history that I'm noble and unwise,” he said shortly. “And while a lot can be seen looking at the past, at the moment I'm more interested in the future...specifically, if I have one here at Hogwarts.”
Snape smirked subtly. “What an excellent question, Potter.”
Harry pondered how some people, no matter how much he had grown, had the unfathomable power to always...get...under...his...skin. Now, he reminded himself grimly, was not a good time to loosen his temper and let it fly.
Snape leaned back in his chair and tapped his fingers together. “Such an important question deserves a thorough and exacting deliberation. It behooves me to ponder how things would be altered if one junior-most member of staff were required to find employment elsewhere.”
Harry's white fingers curled around the arms of the chair. Would that they were someone's neck.
“Yes...I can imagine the rest of the year devoid of embarrassing episodes in front of the entire student body and staff. I can imagine my life as my own again, with no one infringing at will upon my time, my space, my every thought.”
It was only the truth; it made Harry's stomach burn. “It was never on purpose,” he said, surprised at how gravelly his voice sounded. “I've tried my best since then.”
“Your best? You refer to yesterday and today as your best?” Agitated, Snape jumped up and paced a few steps.
“I never intended--”
“You. Came. Back,” Snape thundered as he wheeled around, hair flying in all directions, the streak of white like a beacon. “What in Merlin's name did you think was going to happen with us together in the same place day in, day out? Did you never study the magic involved? Are you truly that dimwitted?”
Harry stood up abruptly, gritting his teeth. “Yes, I studied the magic involved, extensively. It's not an Irrevocable Curse, it's an emotion-driven spell. What should have happened was absolutely nothing. It's been five years since we'd last seen each other. We're no longer working closely under pressure and stress. You've changed, I've changed. There's no reason for anything to be happening!” Harry yelled, any idea of control long gone.
Snape looked utterly amazed. “You truly are that dimwitted. And to think the well-being of our world once rested upon you,” he sneered, “the Boy Who Lived and Prevailed--a complete and utter imbecile.”
It cut right in, cleaving through skin and muscle, right to his innards, and it hurt, hurt more intimately at this moment for some reason than during any of the past taunts and insults Snape had thrown his way. Harry gasped, feeling it with a physical pain. His body, so well honed over the years to respond to any threat, reacted with a life all its own. Before he even registered it, he had his wand drawn and pointed, quivering, directly at Snape's nose.
A tense silence stretched out as they locked eyes.
Snape's low voice broke the moment. “If you're going to use it, Potter, then do so. If not, I suggest you lower it.”
Harry shuddered. He wanted to use it, oh, how he wanted to. The past crowded in around him in a whorl of faces and humiliation: sixteen years of obsessive antipathy from the Dursleys, seven of Snape's active acrimony and his peers’ distrust, underscored by a lifetime of Voldemort's maleficent attention. Faces distorted by ugly words, taunting and insulting and laughing at him, and pain. Lots of pain. All the pain he had for years ignored, denied, shunted off to the side because he simply couldn't deal with it, didn't know how, didn't have the time.
Pain. It radiated through him, clouding his vision. With a gasp, he lowered his arm and stepped back. The pain gripped him again with claws of steel and breath of fire, chewing up his spine, inching down his arm. With a horrified cry, he flung his wand away from him, and the fire and steel turned back on him, molten. Wavering, he grunted and fell to his knees, unable to remain standing.
Hands grappled with him in a losing battle as he tipped over, falling to the floor. The rough woolen rug scraped his face. He was nothing but pain, all pain.
Hoarse screams echoed in his head as time slowed down to a bare crawl. Forever passed in an agony.
A voice, distant but urgent, penetrated his fog. “Potter!”
Gentle hands turned him over, and light shot through the haze and into his eyes. Panting from the pain, he blinked, looking up.
Dark hair floated down around him in a cloud and swept across his face. He breathed in the scent of vetiver, earthy and pungent, tasted it on his lips.
“Potter, stay with me. Keep breathing.” Black eyes peered down into his, ringed with stress and worry. “Help is coming. Just keep breathing, damn it.”
He wanted to smile, but couldn't. Wanted to ask who was coming and why, but couldn't do that, either. Instead, he gulped another breath, tasting the lovely dark flavor again. And again.
A commotion in the corner brought noise and more voices, and took the flavor away.
“Oh dear Merlin...what's happened?”
“Severus, what did he do?”
“Poppy, is he breathing?”
Another face peered down at him with a grim expression. “Hold on, Harry dear, I'll have you right as rain in a moment.” Poppy waved her wand over his face and he closed his eyes.
“Potter!” Snape's sharp voice sounded in his ear as two hands grabbed him. “Don't you dare leave. We have unfinished business.”
Hysterical laughter formed in his chest, but Harry could only wheeze.
“Albus, can you help me? This will take two of us.”
Harry heard Poppy giving orders to Albus, but lost focus as another wave of pain bit teeth into him, and he grunted, gasping for air.
“Hold on, Potter. They're almost done.”
Earthy vetiver wafted over him again, and he swallowed it in along with the air his lungs demanded.
“All right, Harry, open up. I need to drip this into your mouth.” Poppy coaxed him, stroking his jaw.
He opened slightly and felt something cool and wet dribble into his mouth. He swallowed, grimacing at the bitter flavor.
“Once more, Harry.”
He did it again, and the tight band constricting his chest eased up. His lungs expanded without pain with each sweet breath of air.
“There, that'll have you feeling better, didn't I tell you it would be just a minute? We need to take you to hospital now so I can keep an eye on you.”
“I'll do it.”
Arms cradled him and lifted; Harry felt the slightest tingle of magic lightening his weight. Hair tangled in his day-old beard shadow, clinging like a vetiver-scented vine. With his eyes closed, he floated in a woolen-wrapped cloud, his body blessedly calm.
“Harry,” Poppy instructed, “if you need more painkiller, tell me. I've got it right here.”
“No...” he managed, barely a breath of air.
“Be quiet. Rest.” Snape's low order resonated through his body.
“Bitter,” he breathed, opening his eyes and looking up into the dark ones above him. They were tight with pain. Why was Snape in pain? “Potion's bitter. You're...better. Taste better. Like it...want …breathe you....”
Harry watched Snape's eyes darken with something as he tightened his grip. “Almost there, Potter. Stop your incessant chattering and for Merlin’s sake, let your body rest.”
Harry grimaced and closed his eyes, breathing in the dark, crisp scent of vetiver as the world drifted away.
continued in part four