AUTHOR: Juxian Tang
PAIRING: SS/Harry Potter
DISCLAIMER: These characters and places belong to JK Rowling. I am making no
SUMMARY: Once Severus turned down someone who was interested in him; more than
twenty years later Harry has to deal with consequences.
NOTES: Part of the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest (Scenario # 1: Snape discourages
ARCHIVING: The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest Archive, my site - http://juxian.slashcity.net - and
everyone who wants.
THANKS: Huge thanks to Rane, who is an absolutely fantastic beta and a really
wonderful person. I can't describe how much I appreciate your help. I'm so
happy I've got to know you!
by Juxian Tang
I hold him after it ends. For a few minutes he lies limp and very still, like a puppet with cut strings; just his chest, slick with sweat, heaves as if he can't get enough air. And then he starts shivering; so hard it looks like little spasms, and his teeth chatter, no matter how he tries to clench them. I wrap my arms around him and hold on, and his breath, ragged, wet, almost sobbing, resounds in my ribcage, which is pressed to his. He tries to break free from me, pushes my hands away weakly - struggling to get up, as if he can; but I don't let go, and finally the shivers subside, little by little, to slight trembling, and he grows slack and exhausted in my arms again.
I loosen my grip and look closely at him. His face is all sharp contrasts - oh-so-white, and his lips are bluish and streaked with red, and there are huge pits of darkness around his eyes. I reach and pull a strand of sticky hair away from his face.
"Leave, Potter," he says. "It's over."
"Are you sure?"
Very slowly, his eyes, terribly tired, find me. His chin jerks up haughtily. A sneer comes on his lips, so faint that I tense in distress, keeping my hand clenched in a fist... trying not to touch him again.
"Sure of what? That I want you to go?"
"That it's over," I answer patiently. I feel sore; changing position seems to require energy I don't have - and even small movements send pangs of pain through me.
He stares at the ceiling like there is something utterly fascinating there.
"Yes, it is. For another year."
Good, I want to say and can't bring myself to do so. Rolling off the bed, I land on my feet on the floor; the stone seems icy cold underneath my soles. I grope on the nightstand until my hands meet the frame of my glasses. I put them on and the room finally comes into focus.
He doesn't look at me; he lies very still, except for the shudders that go through him again and again, his muscles contracting visibly, as if in convulsions. His body is a mess. I feel a wave of dizziness looking at it; his mouth bleeding, lips dry and cracked; and dark stains of bruises coming through on his skin - mostly those where he hit himself against furniture, before I came in - but some are my doing, too... like the ones on his thighs, black and blue. I tried to be careful but what could I do?
I can barely make myself look lower; I know what I'll see. There is enough blood on the sheets, and more of it is drying on his legs, red mixed with white.
I think I gulp audibly.
"Will you stop staring, Potter, and leave me alone? There is no need to abuse your sensibilities any longer."
He still doesn't look at me; his voice has an edge to it, high-pitched and desperately self-defensive, and I feel a wave of heat rush through me. He's misunderstanding everything; like he always does.
I pick up a blanket and put it over him. He shivers a little but I think he also relaxes, a little. He almost looks as if he's about to thank me; his eyes have this contemplative look in them, but no, of course not - it would kill him, right? So, he just licks his lips and stays silent.
It looks painful, his tongue passing over the bruised, very dry mouth. I look around; there's no whole glassware in the entire room - I'm lucky I didn't step on the splinters. I walk to the bathroom and bring an enamelled cup from there, with the Slytherin emblem on it.
He reaches for it, his hand shaking badly - and he doesn't even notice it. I sit on the bed, supporting his head, and bring the cup to his lips. He drinks it fast and greedily, slurping like a kid, trickles running over his chin, his eyes for once not having defensive shields behind them but painfully open in their need.
I look at the wall above him steadily; or I won't be able to bear it, I want to do something, smash this cup into the wall, hit something, kill someone... someone who's done this to him...
I feel him straining as he tries not to lean onto my hand - and lose the battle. I put the cup on the nightstand and lower him back onto the pillow. His breath is still harsh and uneven, his ribs going up and down wildly under the blanket - but his eyelids, too heavy, flop down as if he can't find the strength to keep them open.
"You need to get to the infirmary," I say. "I'll call for Madam Pomfrey."
I couldn't use Healing Spells on him while it lasted; but now it's possible to do so.
A hand, icy cold and gripping with desperate force, locks on my wrist - and his black eyes glare at me coldly and hatefully.
"No, Potter. You're not calling for anyone."
His hand mauls my wrist - and I think he doesn't even notice it; there is such excruciating intensity in his eyes - like he's putting all his life into it, into making me bend to his will. Maybe it feels to him as if it is his life at stake - or his pride, he tends to confuse them - and after this night, so little of his pride is left he can't bear ruining the rest of it.
"You're hurting me," I say levelly.
I can see how he takes control over himself, his effort obvious as he unclasps his hand. But the expression in his eyes is still unguarded - and that says something, for someone who enjoys ranting about 'fools who cannot control their emotions'.
He looks defeated - wrecked - and that's why I can't do what I know I should.
I can't hurt him even more.
"Do you have what's needed?"
He looks warily at me, like a very hurt animal I'm trying to tame, then nods.
With the instructions he's given me I walk to the cabinet. There are five or six lilac glass vials still there. I wonder if he was going to drink them all; if he would still be alive, had he done it.
I pick up different ones - green and white and yellow - and hobble back to the bedroom.
"Could you do me a favour and dress, Potter?"
I look at myself; oh yes, I forgot. I'm about to crack a joke to the effect of 'is there anything you haven't seen' but somehow the words freeze on my lips.
I wonder how soon I'll get over it. I thought, after Voldemort, nothing could shake me off balance. Well, I was wrong.
I go to the bathroom and put on his bathrobe, and then return and bring the vials to his lips, one by one. He downs them, wincing slightly, and I guess they must be really vile if he shows it.
He nods curtly as I finish and looks somewhat perked up. His gaze even delivers his message quite successfully - the one saying 'the door is over there, Potter'. Too bad I'm not good at guessing.
I reach for my wand.
"Let me." I got some training with Madam Pomfrey during these last months, we all did, so I'm not entirely clueless. Healing Charms crackle in the air, blue and filling the air with oxygen, as I run the wand over his body. He shudders again and I notice him clutching the sheet under the blanket.
I don't think I'm good enough but at least it's something.
I finish by putting a Cleaning Charm on the sheets and sweeping the broken glass off the floor, together with the spilled potions and the other mess that is there.
"Oh, Potter," he says in such a nasty, tired voice that I tense involuntarily. "You're a godsend. Now when your good deed of the day is done..."
Bastard. Why does he have to be such a bastard that my most consuming wish, when I look at him, is to slap him?
I say quickly, before he manages to finish the phrase - almost shout:
"How often does it happen?"
Thank Merlin; it stops him. I won't have to hex him into next month... shouldn't be allowed a wand in his presence.
His face gets a petulant, complacent expression as if he is about to ask whether everyone apart from him is really so stupid or just pretends to be so to annoy him. His sunken eyes measure me for a few seconds before he says:
"I told you, Potter. Once a year."
Right, he did; that's why I asked.
"When did it start?"
He answers automatically, before realising that this answer I don't know.
"The summer after my fifth year."
I think I blanch; I didn't expect that. Any answer would be bad, if you think about it, but... he was how old? Fifteen, barely sixteen?
He was younger than I am.
I recall the skinny, intense boy I saw in the Pensieve in my fifth year, and anger comes over me, slamming down like a ton of bricks. For fuck's sake... he was a boy then, he didn't even look like a man... who could do such a thing...
Sudden fear grips me.
My father, Sirius... they don't have anything to do with it, right? There was no love lost between them - but they wouldn't do something... so mean, so degrading... so excruciating? They wouldn't... would they?
"Who did that?"
"Potter." He hisses at me, struggling to sit up, his face even whiter than before and very mad. "You have no business asking me these questions - and what makes you think I'll answer them?"
Because I helped you tonight, I think feverishly; because you would have fuckin' died on the floor of your fuckin' bathroom, if not for me.
Well, maybe he wouldn't have died, I think; if he'd been through that before, as he said. But still, he came pretty close to it.
"Leave me alone, Potter." His voice is strangled and he looks at me with burning, unmitigated hatred. In a way, I understand him; he'd do anything to protect his privacy. If only it wasn't so important for me to know...
"WHO DID THIS TO YOU?!" I shout. "Do you want me to use Legilimens on you? I can do it, you know - and I don't think you're fit to resisting me successfully!"
His face is so white, his eyes so black - and when he speaks, his voice sounds almost silky:
"Let's see, Potter. You're welcome to try."
I catch myself before I grab him and start shaking him, before I really do something I would regret later. He notices it; he has this smug expression on his face that makes me want to wipe it off with my fist.
I should try to fight in his style, though.
"Very well," I say clasping my hands behind my back. "Then, I guess, I'll have to go to Dumbledore and ask. He will tell me. And he knows everything about it, doesn't he?"
He looks as if I really slapped him; his teeth stick into his lower lip, which starts bleeding again, and I want to reach out and stop him from doing that. Then he slackens in defeat. My triumph is poisoned - but I really need to know.
"All right, Potter. The answer to your question is - my father's friend. Now will you leave me alone?"
I sit down on the bed - or rather slump bonelessly. All my strength is drained out of me. I've got my answer; there is relief, yes. But regret is the more powerful feeling surging through me.
Story of my life; to do something and then feel sorry about it. Especially where he's concerned.
I suspected him so long of serving Voldemort; considered him guilty of Sirius's death; then thought he deserted to his Dark Lord's side again. I think I'm lucky I don't feel that devastating feeling of guilt I feel about Cedric, and Sirius, and Hagrid - because I will never be able to apologise for every wrong thought I had about them.
At least with Snape not everything is lost.
I sigh and reach under the blanket, grope for his hand there and squeeze it. I do it almost automatically, realising it only when I've done it. His hand is very cold - and for a moment it stays in mine, like it's supposed to be there - and then he starts struggling to get free.
I don't let him go.
"What do you think you're doing, Potter?"
"Why did he do it?" I ask.
I think a couple of years ago I wouldn't need an answer to this question, everything would be clear for me: the person in question probably was a Death Eater and, thus, could be capable of anything, even the most horrible. Since then, I learned it was a bit more complicated.
Snape gives me a disdainful look and I expect him to start throwing me out again. I also think I won't ask again - won't pry any more. I won't violate his privacy, in such a way; the more so as what happened this night was the worst violation of all.
He looks like he's too tired to argue. But then he says - and I think it's because a small part of him really wants to tell it:
"My mother was dead by then. He used to visit my father. They both thought I was queer... called me 'little fag'. He thought that since I prefer men, I should jump at his offer... courted me, in his own way."
His voice sounds dull but steady, and something clenches inside me; I don't want him to say more... but I feel I need to hear it, too.
I don't ask if he did prefer men. Among all the hints Sirius used to drop, and what others said, I couldn't miss it... especially when I figured out the same thing about myself.
And it seems inconsequential now.
"And you?" I ask. "Did you like him?"
I don't think he even realises it's me asking that; at least he doesn't bristle at this question and tell me to leave. He sounds distant and kind of wistful, when speaking.
"I think I was confused. Didn't know what I wanted. It flattered me he was interested... I was not exactly the centre of everybody's attention, you know."
I guess I do know; it looked like that, from what I saw, in the Pensieve and in his memories.
I recall his father, the bulky, untidy bully... an arsehole, if I've ever seen one. So, his son's queer, and his friend's a real man, right?
"He said I led him on, later. Perhaps I did. He said something to me, in the presence of other friends, like if I was ready or something, and I chickened out. He said I bitch-slapped him in reply, humiliated him."
I can believe that; he has an uncanny ability to hit at sore places... sometimes it makes me wish to kill him... no, not sometimes - often.
"He said he'd make me feel sorry about it. He said he'd make me beg for it."
His voice, which sounds somewhat weaker with every word comes to a full stop, and suddenly I get scared.
"Hey." I touch his face carefully. His skin is clammy and very cold. I panic. "Hey!"
Black eyes look at me with disapproval.
"My name is not 'hey', Potter. You know you should call me 'sir' or Professor'..."
The words trail away, and the grin that had appeared at his demand fades away from my face.
"Are you okay?" I ask carefully. "You're awfully cold. I think you've lost too much blood."
"No, I didn't," he answers with a bit more animation. "Just cold. It's always like this. Trust me, I know."
Hmm, trust... an interesting concept, applied to him.
"Madam Pomfrey..." I start.
"If you try to bring her here," he spits, "I'll hex you into oblivion before you make a step to the door."
"So, I should stay with you?" It's not what he was telling me for quite a while - but catching him on absence of logic doesn't make me happy, for some reason.
He looks irritated and confused... and very, very tired.
"I don't care, Potter. I just... must not sleep, now... cold..."
I think it's as much of a call for help as I can get from him. I sigh; you stupid, silly, annoying son of bitch.
"If you lied to me, I'll kill you," I say and slide under the blanket with him.
I don't know how he managed to hold himself till now - but at this moment his control slips, and he shivers so hard it's scary. He's unbearably cold, like he's freezing - and I hastily open the bathrobe, pressing skin to skin. And since he doesn't protest, I suppose it's bad enough.
"From the Boy-Who-Killed-You-Know-Who... that's a serious threat," he whispers.
Ten hours earlier
It is the best birthday in my life. I repeat it to anyone who happens to be around - and even twice or thrice to some of them, by chance. I feel a bit silly, high and fairly drunk but I suppose it's understandable. It's a great day, after all.
I could never even imagine celebrating my birthday at Hogwarts. It was all Dumbledore's idea but I think, unlike some other of his ideas, this one was perfect. He offered to combine three celebrations in one - the defeat of Voldemort (already called Victory Day in the Daily Prophet), the Leaving Feast and my birthday.
In May the school was closed, because of unceasing attacks of Death Eaters, so the year got prolonged for over a month. We studied right to the end of July but finally the N.E.W.T.s are done... and don't ask me what was more difficult, that or killing Voldemort.
And now there seem to be about a million people in the Great Hall of Hogwarts - and everyone talks, eats, drinks and dances. There are so many people I feel somewhat dizzy and my hand feels swollen and numb from all the handshakes I shared.
Despite the mixed occasions, there is a huge cake especially for me, with eighteen candles and big 'Happy birthday, Harry' letters done in pink icing. I get so many presents Dumbledore appointed a special room for them - and owls keep coming, I can see them crossing the Great Hall with bright parcels tied to their paws.
It is like all my childhood dreams came true at once.
Except that there is a strange sore spot in my chest every time I look at the crowd - and it takes me a while to realise what the reason for it is... and a while longer to understand that it's final. He isn't coming. He ignores the celebration, the feast - in his best manner.
Well, he hasn't allowed himself to skip Hogwarts gatherings before, though. It's something new.
Must be my birthday, I think dully and feel the punch I'd been enjoying so much turning sour. Couldn't stand celebrating the birthday of the darned Boy-Who-Lived, could he? And here I thought we came to some sort of understanding. After so many years of hating him, feeling his hatred... after the last battle we both survived... after I've grown up enough to figure out what is important and what is dispensable...
Apparently he hasn't grown up enough for that.
Son of bitch; petty, envious bastard.
It's not like I miss Snape; I tell myself I should be glad he isn't there. He can only spoil any celebration, with his gloomy look and nasty remarks. Maybe he didn't want to wash his hair - that's why he hasn't come.
But I catch myself looking for his black robes in the crowd again and again - and a bitter wave of temper rises in me.
I thought we got to know each other during the past few months - got to see in each other more than others see. I thought he'd quit with all that 'clearly fame is not everything' crap recently.
I thought... he even liked me little, as much as he can.
And now he fuckin' throws it in my face with his absence or whatever! Like I don't deserve to have a single normal birthday in my life.
"Tired, Harry?" Dumbledore asks, catching my hand when I almost let the empty punch cup slip out of it. "You look a bit out of place."
I'm tired; and I've drunk a bit too much because I say bitterly:
"He's so disgusted with me he can't even stand seeing my face, huh? He thinks I arranged this celebration especially to glorify me?"
I think I should better keep my mouth shut, so as not to make a fool out of myself.
Too late to shut up now.
"Professor Snape." Dumbledore looks at me compassionately; as if he understands everything that's going in my head. It's quite an annoying feeling.
"Yeah. Profe-e-essor," I repeat maliciously.
Dumbledore chuckles; his warm hand still lies on my wrist - and I can see how thin - and old - it looks. He's all thin and old, and I suddenly feel a surge of shame at mimicking him. I don't want to be rude to him.
I'm happy he outlived Voldemort; I'm happy he's here, at Hogwarts, with me and the others. It is the most important thing - that we all live. I often think about it, looking at Ron and Hermione and almost everyone else. I'm grateful to them that they didn't die.
I would feel it about Snape, too - if he didn't make it so bloody difficult.
"Professor Snape," Dumbledore says, "would definitely come to the feast and your birthday, rest assured, Harry... if he were not unwell today."
Unwell, my arse. An acute case of morbid jealousy; the illness that seizes him every time when someone else has a bit of attention.
Dumbledore looks at me, tilting his head in a bird-like manner, when I snort. Under his gaze, I feel ashamed again.
Pouring another ladle of punch in my cup and returning Ginny's blinding smile, I think that maybe yes, maybe Snape did look rather weird recently. Even worse than in the last days before the battle with Voldemort. His hair grew more limp and greasy than usual, his skin having a particularly unhealthy hue and huge circles around his eyes making him look even more like a bat. He looked somewhat wild, casting strange glances around - as if someone were chasing him - or freezing for moments looking at nothing.
Maybe he's really ill, I think charitably; and, when the couples start circling and waltzing around the hall - Hermione and Ron, Ginny and Dean, Luna and Justin - I slap a solid piece of cake on a plate, pick up a cup of tea and walk to the dungeons.
I really feel somewhat out of place at these dances. And besides, visiting sick people is humane. If Snape is unwell, indeed, he'll probably appreciate the attention.
Not likely; I chuckle.
The dungeons are very quiet and the lights are dim. Those from Slytherin who can celebrate are in the Great Hall now - and others... dead or mourning their relatives... or waiting for a trial to come.
I come up to Snape's door and, since my hands are full, bang on it with my foot. No answer; as if I expected one.
It's cold here - so different from the warmth and colours of the Great Hall - like I'm in another world, and a part of me wants to leave now but a part can't deny the attraction of being here. I put a Levitating Charm on the cake and tea and knock on the door again, now with my fist. And again. And there is nothing, not even a sound behind it.
"I'm not going to leave until you open," I say to the closed door.
If he is behind it, he should hear me. I'm not going to leave with the feeling that I'm a small stupid boy he slapped on the wrist for being too importunate.
Doesn't he understand anything? I thought he did - when we talked and he said... he said:
"You'll always be expected to shine brightly in the lives of those around you, Potter. It's your plight - live with it."
A portrait next to the door stirs and yawns, then glares at me.
"What do you want, you brazen boy?"
"A password, huh?" I say.
"I'm not going to give you any passwords. Go away."
I didn't expect it to. I look around - luckily, there are always bunches of snakes wherever Slytherin is concerned. I find one of them coiled above the door.
She bargains with me a little and then gives me the password. I say it; the door cracks open.
I can't walk in; the air behind it is tingling with magic. For a moment I stop, taking a deep breath, trying to feel what's there. More wards... but with those I can cope. I break through them - and no one rushes to yell at me for that and kick me out for disturbing his privacy.
It's eerie, really.
It's nearly dark in Snape's rooms - and empty - and I start feeling a little vibration of alarm in the pit of my stomach, like I haven't felt since Voldemort's death. Something is wrong...
There are Silencing Charms, too.
"Finite Incantatem," I say.
And then a sound comes. A low, keening sound that makes the little hairs on my arms stand up. I shove the cake and the cup on the nearest table, miss it - and run inside the rooms, where this sound comes from.
The bedroom is nearly dark, too; I notice a crumpled bed in shadows - but the adjacent bathroom is lit. And there he is, on the floor, curled, rocking, fists pressed to his chest like he's crippled... keening.
I can't believe that; I can't believe such a sound of misery can come from a human being. It makes my heart turn to ice.
I gasp soundlessly, freezing for a moment, and then rush to him, on my knees.
"Finite Incantatem." The wand goes over his body and he just jerks, the sound broken into a moan that isn't less horrifying. "Finite Incantatem!"
That's not it... or it doesn't help - and I drop the wand and reach for him, not knowing how to touch him. There're trickles of sweat running over his temples, and the corners of his tightly shut eyes are wet, too, and I push a strand of hair away from his face.
He seems to be aware of my touch. The moan comes to a halt; he stills for a moment, then turns his face a little towards me. His lips are bloodied and almost black, bitten through - but it's not what shocks me most of all.
It's his eyes when he opens them - entirely black, swimming, hazed eyes of someone nearly out of his mind.
I know this expression; I've seen enough of it in the eyes of those who got on the wrong end of Cruciatus... if I never see this expression again, it will still be not be soon enough.
"Prof..." I start.
It seems some awareness comes through in his eyes - and then very slowly he pulls one of his hands from his chest and reaches for me.
"Potter," he says in a small, careful voice, so hoarse it's barely audible. "You've come to me."
His lips curve - in a smile that is at the same time so helpless, gentle and relieved that I choke on my breath. And then he touches me, his fingers cold and wet - along the scar on my forehead.
And suddenly he looks as if it surprises him his fingers meet something solid. He frowns and jerks back - and I see how something snaps shut in his eyes.
"Potter? What're you doing here?"
His speech slurs - and he makes those little sounds that would be cries if he let them loose - and I kneel in front of him and don't know what to do.
"What is it?" I ask, my voice high-pitched in hysterics. "What's with you?"
"Nothing." He gasps and it's impossible to listen to it, to watch, whatever it is. "Go."
"I'll bring Dumbledore."
His face is almost wild, distorted as he waits for a wave of pain to pass. Then he says:
"It's nothing... just a curse... I can handle it."
His hands are wet because there's blood on them, I notice suddenly. Blood - and lilac glass on the floor around him, with something spilled - and the same lilac glass is embedded in his hand.
Unconsciously, I reach for him.
He jerks away from me and cries out and looks at me almost in horror.
"Don't touch me, Potter!"
"I'll stupefy you?" I ask. There has to be something I can do.
"No," he shakes his head. "Only... will make it worse... no magic..."
"You need someone to help you."
And then, almost in defeat, he whispers:
"On the cabinet in the living room. A lilac vial. Bring it."
I get up and hurry there, relieved just a bit that at least I can be of some help. There're half a dozen of sealed vials on the cabinet - and ten or so already empty. I grab one and rush back.
He extends his bloodied hand towards me.
"Give it... give it..."
"You'll break it, like the previous one," I say mildly and uncork it. The smell is the same as the one permeating the room - and I know it; I've learned something in Potions classes, after all.
"Just... give it..."
"Have you drunk all of them?" I ask, pressing the vial to his lips. He drinks it down in one gulp, coughs and presses his hand to his mouth not to let it back out. For a few moments he just lies shivering - and then relaxes a little bit, rolling back and uncurling slightly.
His hair is drenched in sweat and plastered over his forehead; his eyes blink, heavy-lidded, without looking at me. He's doped, I realise; doped to his eyeballs. Of course he's drunk all of them; I don't need to doubt that.
"Dumbledore," I say. "Pomfrey. Choose."
His lips move in an almost lazy way - but I know it's because he doesn't feel them.
"Neither. Go away, Potter. Happy birthday."
Albus knows, he said.
He's unwell, Dumbledore said.
I shake my head in disbelief.
I reach towards him again - and he shrinks away once more, like a crab - now he's not so deft in his motions.
"I told you not to touch me," he slurs.
"Either I do, or I'll call for someone," I say.
He doesn't answer.
Merlin, his robes are soaked through; I raise him in my arms - and his muscles are hard like wood, unbearably cramped. He's not that heavy - I have no problem with carrying him to the bed. He breathes very carefully through his nose, like he's concentrating on something.
"Is it one of Voldemort's curses?" I ask.
"No." I settle on the bed next to him and take his cut hand, then recall what he said to me about not using magic. His hand is very tense in mine as I start pulling little splinters out. "Long before the Dark Lord," he says. "What time is it?"
I look at the clock on the wall.
"Five to nine."
"Good." He sounds like it's anything but good; there is something awfully hopeless in his voice. "More than half's already over. Soon it'll pass."
I wrap my handkerchief around his hand and see how its whiteness gets stained in blood.
"Why doesn't Dumbledore do anything?"
He looks at me condescendingly - which would be pretty infuriating if not for the situation.
His hand lies in my lap, bandaged and heavy with soaking blood.
"What can Dumbledore do?" he says. "It's..."
And then I just see it happening. His entire body contracts - and his eyes roll up - and his unfinished phrase turns into a shriek - and I leap to my feet and look in horror how his head jerks from side to side, incoherent noises breaking from his throat.
"Potter..." Between cries I catch my name. "Potter... another vial... please..."
I move instinctively, pushed on by the shocking fact he begs me - and then jerk back in place.
"I can't," I say. It's just been twenty minutes or so since he took the previous one. It'll kill him if he drinks another.
"I can't." I flop back onto the bed, looking closely at him, trying to make him see me with his pain-hazed eyes. How can Dumbledore allow it to happen? If he knows... how can he let Snape be killing himself? "I can't, don't you understand?"
"Damn you, Potter..."
It has to stop; something has to be done; it can't go on, I can't bear it. I'll stupefy him, no matter what...
"I can't," I whisper and reach for his face.
And when my fingertips touch him, he moves, blindly and swiftly, turning, his hands - the bandaged and the intact one - going for my groin, fumbling with my clothes.
I'm totally speechless for a few moments. I'm so shocked I can't move. And those seconds are enough for him to open my zipper - and then his mouth covers my cock.
I gasp audibly. This seems a part of some other reality. Him - doing it - to me. I could never... I would never imagine... Snape... and I... he would never...
He would never do it, I know perfectly well - no matter what people say about him; no matter what feelings he might or might not have towards me. He would never do it... if something hadn't been done to him; something that brought him to that.
And my body reacts independently from my strangely paralysed mind. His mouth is hot and wet and clinging - and it slides along my shaft, which grows hard in a record time. I understand I should do something to stop it, it is not how I wanted it to be - neither of us will live it down later.
But I can't. I feel his throat spasm as he pushes himself on my cock, deeper with every movement - and even though I can feel him gag, it doesn't stop him.
My hands, raised to push him away, touch his shoulders carefully.
It's really stunning... he was screaming with pain, right before, and now he looks like the pain is gone. And I feel waves of heat course through my body, all coming to one point eventually - my groin - and it feels unlike anything else I've felt in my life... and then I'm coming, into his mouth, into his throat, crying out harshly and clenching my fists on his robes.
He swallows; I can feel his throat working around the head of my cock - and I keep moaning, a pitiful sound that resounds in the back of my skull.
Then he pulls away from me... and there is an utterly haunted expression in his eyes.
His hair falls on his face in disarray, over the eyes that look at me with horror and the miserable expression of a trapped animal - and he raises his thin hand to his mouth as if not quite believing what this mouth has done just now.
"Potter," he says. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please go. You can yell at me for what a pervert I am tomorrow."
I see how his eyes change - into glazed blackness of rising agony - and his voice rises, too, in near-hysterics:
"Go! It starts again..."
It does. I catch him as he falls back on the pillows screaming.
"What is the curse? What is it doing?"
"WHAT CAN I DO?"
He laughs, a terrible, distorted sound, and tears trickle out from the corners of his eyes.
"Don't you understand, Potter? Fuck me... mouth, arse... all the same. When I'm not... engaged... it hurts."
Hurts? It's more like killing him.
For a moment I just sit there, quite stunned - and then he says again:
And I say:
"No," - and reach for his hand, and pull it to my groin again.
A very surprised expression flits over his face - like he can't believe I mean it - and then there is such a mindless relief in his eyes that I feel my heart fall deep down in my chest and stop beating there.
I feel his mouth on my cock again - and my body responds.
It's heat and moistness and velvety tightness, and I feel blood thrumming in my ears but it is not pleasure that fills me. It's a terrible feeling of anger. Whoever put this curse... what a sick mind they must have... what a cruel, horrible mind... to turn into such a desperate, ugly thing something that could be joyful, intimate, meaningful...
I know sex can be a weapon, a very destructive one. I remember Ginny, when we found her... but I know how wonderful it can be, too - and easy, and fascinating.
And this... I feel so helpless because there is nothing I can do; expect for one thing - and I know I'll be doing it, no matter what - if he needs me to. I try to make my mind blank of anything else and focus on what has to be done right now.
He collapses and curls up on the bed after that, his voice sounding dull from under the curtain of hair.
"Bring me the vial," he says. "It stops the pain... for a while."
It's twenty minutes to ten. I think I can do it.
"You said it'll soon be over," I say while giving him his opium. "When exactly?"
He looks at me with hazy eyes.
"Oh... yes. At six. In the morning."
"Twenty-four hours," he says. "You don't have to stay, Potter. For fuck's sake, how often should I tell you to go?"
Twenty-four hours? Of this? How can he not go mad? A sudden thought scalds me.
"It's not for the first time, is it?"
"No," he says.
It's astonishing how quickly the effects of the opium wear off. His hands clench on the sheets and he starts flinching again, hugely. I guide him carefully; I can't get hard at once, this time, but I think it doesn't matter for the curse.
His lips are still numb and he can't even support himself on his hands. When I get an erection, I get free of him carefully and settle between his legs. He moves blindly, as if hypnotised, his body seeking relief from pain instinctively as he pushes against me.
I think he almost doesn't feel it when I stretch and enter him. He looks like he's falling asleep or unconscious - and if I'd let myself think about it, I wouldn't be able to force down hysterical laughter. But I try only to think about what I have to do.
I almost don't remember how it feels. My mind is a blur, of sensations and emotions. The only feeling that is bright among them is anger - against the bastard who's to blame for it all.
Snape used to tell me to free my mind of emotions - not to let enemies prey on them. And when killing Voldemort, I felt not anger but clear realisation of what I had to do.
I think it was a fluke. I really don't rule my emotions at all.
It's strange I can feel, at the same time, so much anger - and so much... sadness. I really would like it to be different, for us. And when he goes limp, exhausted, and I hold him, spooning behind him, I think I'll do anything to protect him.
The repose is over too soon.
There're spells, for acquiring and maintaining an erection. Ron and I learned them, 'just in case' - not that I ever needed them before. My eyes sting with sweat and it seems the hands of the clock are frozen in place. I'm so sore I have to put Healing Spells on me.
And Cleaning Spells before he takes me into his mouth again. Somewhere on the way we both undressed - but I don't think he even notices it. I don't have any titillating feelings about it, for sure.
During one of the short breaks I take him to the loo and under the shower. I support his skinny, limp body under the jets of water - and see how pink trickles run down his legs.
I'm too tired even to feel bad about it.
Two more opium vials later... and he can't even move his jaw... and down there, he's so raw that he can't contain short gasps every time I thrust into him.
"Tried everything..." he whispers deliriously. "Paid people... for twenty-four hours... indignity... thought I'd get through, by myself... I did get through, Potter, last year... and before last..."
In these rooms? Stoning himself out with opium? Screaming behind Silencing Charms?
"It's like your Lupin," he says. "And the full moon. Only I turn into a beast... once a year."
"I only see a man," I say.
He shivers in my arms; for a short while we can rest, don't have to do anything. I try to be careful not to grip too hard on him, not to hurt him more than necessary. Then he goes tense in my arms - and I know it started again.
I think it will never be over. I think I can't go on any more. But I know I will. I won't leave. I try not to fear, not to wait impatiently. He's the only thing I should think of.
The clock chimes - and he, all of a sudden, goes limp in my arms.
I lie on my side, resting on my elbow, my fingers touching a dirty strand of his hair. I think he doesn't notice me doing it because he doesn't mind.
"Hey," I say. "Don't sleep. You said you can't fall asleep."
"I never can teach you anything, Potter, can I? This 'hey' thing..."
"Can Dumbledore lift the curse?" I ask. "I mean he can do... well, everything."
I suppose it's a stupid question. Wouldn't he already have done it if he could? But I think stupid questions are not such a bad idea now.
"The specific character of this particular curse," he starts lecturing me, and I feel relieved to hear him talking in this voice again, "is that it can be lifted only by the one who cast it."
"And this man?"
"He's dead," he says. "I killed him."
I freeze - and curse at myself. What a hypocrite. It's not like I haven't killed.
"I didn't know," he says flatly. "It's a rare curse... and unlike your godfather used to say, I'm not a walking manual on every Dark Arts spell."
I recall the boy I saw in the Pensieve - who looked desperate, and pathetic, and angry... but certainly not the 'dark wizard' in miniature one could imagine from Sirius's words. This boy grew up into the man whose bed I share at the moment - a bitter, and twisted, and nasty man.
For this man, I will fight; with everything I have. Like that time when I stood in front of Voldemort and he said:
"You're mine, Severus."
I thought very clearly then, that no, he wasn't his, I wouldn't allow it. And I did as I planned, wielding the whip, tearing the wand out of Voldemort's hand - and waving mine at the next moment.
I'll be there if he needs me. I wish everything could be different... that we could talk and understand each other and that only after that everything else would happen.
But it happened this way.
Our plight was sombre but we're betrothed now.
"When he cast the curse," he says, "I didn't even know what it was. It just struck the next day... and I don't remember much anyway. He said he was glad to help me in my need... but of course he couldn't, alone, so, he had to call for others... I really remember only flashes of it."
"And your father?" This thought suddenly strikes me. "How did he allow?.."
"He held me while he cast the curse," he says. "He said I deserved it... such like me shouldn't be picky... shouldn't turn down people who show interest in them..."
I hope the bastard is dead; I'm happy the other bastard is.
How could one not kill him?
"Anyway," Snape says with quite a thick layer of irony. "I thought it was a one-time thing. Imagine my surprise when the next year, in Lucius Malfoy's Manor... It was terribly embarrassing.
"Then I joined the Death Eaters," he says, "and was trained in Unforgivables. And when I returned home, I used 'Avada Kedavra' on him... should've read some books before then."
"But twenty-four hours?!" I still can't let it settle in my mind.
"He didn't intend for it to be for so long. I suppose he was not so good at Dark Arts, after all."
Merlin; I think something like a chuckle is caught in my throat. And, almost unbelievably - there is a small smile curving Snape's lips.
I can't help it; I reach and pass my finger over his lips.
He turns and stares at me, warily. His hand is raised in a protective gesture, ousting mine.
"What do you want, Potter?"
"Not to let you fall asleep?"
He squints at the clock.
"It's all right now. You should go. Have you seen the time? Your friends have torn the castle down, looking for you, I bet."
It takes me a little while to process this thought, and I say:
"If anyone were looking for me, they would already be here, banging on your door and demanding you release me. So, I think they know not to look."
He guesses what I leave unsaid.
"Albus?" His eyes narrow dangerously. "Did he... Oh, how dare he! To push you into that, to force you into..."
"NO ONE FORCED ME INTO ANYTHING!"
"Yes, and like you'd realise it if they did. You're a boy, Potter..."
Great; we're nose to nose, staring at each other and if the hatred in his eyes mirrors mine, we both look pretty scary.
"I turned eighteen yesterday," I say weakly.
"That was one hell of a birthday party."
I can't help it; I snicker at that - and fall back on the bed. For the first time since I came here last night, I feel relaxed - and throw my arms and legs wider, brushing against him.
I turn abruptly, staring at him.
"I don't know what's going on in that empty head of yours but if you think..."
"I don't think anything." I don't want him to finish the phrase, so, I prattle. "My head's empty, you said it yourself. So... do you have it for life? This curse?"
For a moment he's silent, as if pondering whether to answer my question or to keep berating me.
"You'll be surprised... I never thought I'd get this far. The term of these curses is usually twenty-five or fifty years."
"And how many years passed?"
"This one was the twenty-third."
"So, two more times left, at best? Or twenty seven."
He doesn't answer - not even with 'you have such a flair for stating the obvious, Potter' - and I think I know suddenly what he thinks about this curse. It's just twenty-four hours a year. It can be lived through; terribly, excruciatingly - but it can. I wonder how many times he has to repeat it to himself - that he can live through it, that it's nothing, that it's survivable.
"Don't plan anything for this day next year," I say. "I'm going to pay a visit."
That doesn't go down smoothly. He whips up, his eyes burning.
"You won't get involved."
"Too bad. Because I'm already involved."
And there are three hundred sixty four days between these dates - but I don't mention it now. It'll just make him argue his head off if I say I have plans for these days, too, and they in some way or other include him.
"Potter, you idiot."
He sounds sleepy. His eyelids tremble, rising up and falling and then they don't rise anymore. I look at him and recall his tentative touch to my forehead, when he was so out of it he couldn't tell reality from hallucinations. I take his hand and run his fingers over my scar.
His eyes are closed and his face smoothens a little, and I know he doesn't feel it. I lie down, facing him, and close my eyes.
I think I'll have a nap for a short while; Hermione and Ron probably really are worried, it won't do to make them nervous...
I'll just stay with him for a little longer.