Chapter Twelve - Gran
Sev only agreed to see Poppy about the painful bruise on his arm when Harry gave in about the one on his leg. His beaten belly was clear, so he didn’t even know about it until it was pointed out in front of the mirror. So, yeah, maybe nearly a square foot of purple-brown should have been more obvious. Patched, Sev smirked as Poppy tapped it with her wand. Due to its size she followed it with a bruise salve; Harry sat there, beet red, robe shoved up around his waist and desperately held down in his lap, right leg dangling off the bed. “This is your fault.”
Severus put a shocked hand to his chest and stepped back. “How is it my fault you know nothing about Quidditch?” They were going to have words later. Poppy ignored them. Her businesslike ministrations were at least mercifully fast.
“Don’t you have a cauldron to melt?”
“As a matter of fact, I do, but how can I tear myself away from such an inspirational sight?” Harry’s face burned; out of the corner of his eye he saw Poppy go the same shade of red as her namesake. Sev smirked and came over to put a long finger on Harry’s cheek. He leaned forward to brush a kiss on puckered, heart-shaped lips, but pulled to the side at the last instant. Harry quivered in vain anticipation. “We wouldn’t want to embarrass poor Poppy again.” Harry grimaced. His heart pounded. Cool black eyes narrowed pleasantly. Sev turned and left the ward, cloak billowing like midnight wings. Git.
“Glad to see you two have made up,” Poppy said dryly. She wiped her hands on her smock and stood up. “No bathing or heavy exertion for six hours. If you can restrain yourself for that long.”
“Very funny. What do you mean, ‘made up’?”
She set the jar of salve on a tray. “Neither of you has so much as smiled at the other in at least a month. I won’t pry. Any changes?”
“In Severus’ condition.” Leave it to Madam Pomfrey to switch tracks like that. Harry started to say no. He caught himself.
“He, erm, had another attack yesterday.” She nodded.
“The shock must have brought it on.” Her voice was low and melancholy. “I’ll see if there’s a way to boost the Draught’s effects.”
“He was awake.” Harry hunched. This was bad. He knew this was bad.
“I see. What triggered it?” Nothing major. I only slammed his head against the bathtub by the hair like his son-of-a-bitch brother did before he…
“I washed his hair and kinda knocked his head on the edge of the tub.” She hmm’ed and nodded. It wasn’t exactly a lie.
“If it happens again, and as much as it pains me to say it, it will, come get me. Put him in a full body bind if you have to. I can give him something to ease a waking attack.”
“Can’t I do it?” She shook her head.
“Intravenous injections aren’t to be trifled with, Harry.” Oh. Harry felt queasy. He didn’t like the idea of anyone sticking needles into his Sev.
“Why does it have to be a shot?”
“Stomach acid destroys this particular potion, and it’s not effective applied to the skin. I only hope it…” she shook her head. Poppy wasn’t terribly young, but, like Sev, she suddenly looked too old.
“Only hope it what?”
“It’s not effective in later stages of affliction.”
“Oh.” Harry chewed his lip. He realised his robe was still up around his waist, and his leg was cold. He stood up, smoothing the soft black wool. Everyone in the castle wore black today. Even Peeves. The students were too busy enjoying their freedom to care. “What kind of potion is it?”
“It’s an oddball mixture. Some memory potions, a derivative of phoenix tears, a few other things.”
“Do you have the formula?”
“Well, of course I do. What kind of silly question is that? Severus has a copy, too, if that’s what you’re asking.” Just because Sev had a copy of something didn’t mean Harry did.
“Could I get one of yours? He keeps all of his locked up and I don’t have a key.” In truth, he just hadn’t the foggiest notion where to hunt. Poppy gave him a very strange look.
“Very well. Follow me.” She led him into her office. Everything was neat, save the coffee-stained Hufflepuff coaster on her desk. A half-eaten bar of Honeyduke’s best chocolate sat on it. She set the jar in a cabinet, and pulled open a file. Her skilled fingers flipped through parchments and, in seconds, she pulled out a thin stack. “Just give me a moment to copy this.” She stacked the parchments with several blank sheets and touched them with her wand. “Exscribo!” When she separated the stacks Harry saw that one was a perfect copy of the other.
“Wow. Wish I’d known that spell when I was a student.” He accepted the parchments happily and leafed through. One sheet had the instructions for combining the other potions; the rest had a formula or two each.
“We’ve found that it tends to make students lazy. They remember so much more when they take notes by hand.” She smiled wryly. “Anyway, it’s readily available in the library to any student willing to work for it.”
“Ah.” There was that word, “work,” sure to make at least three-quarters of the student body happy to settle for traditional notes. “Um, what does this stuff look like?”
“I hope you’re not going to try to make it.”
He shook his head. “Oh, no. I’m just curious.” If something was going to be stuck in his Sev’s veins, he’d at least like to see it first. She unlocked a small cabinet behind her desk. It was filled with small metal-topped vials Harry recognized from his thrombosis. They were quite similar to those he’d seen at the Muggle doctor last time he had a tetanus booster. She pulled one from the bottom left corner and held it up. It was opaque, and would be milky white if not for a marbling of silver. She shook it, and the mixture suddenly turned crystal clear.
“If it ever fails to change, it has to be thrown out immediately. Once the mixture breaks down, it’s toxic.”
“Oh.” No, no, he wouldn’t attempt to create this potion any time soon. He still had some trouble making his Incendius Solution turn red instead of orange. Not to mention that blasted Counter-solution. Poor Neville. “I’ve never even heard of a treatment for Unicorn Blood. Is it new?”
“No, it’s been around for about seventy years. Invented by a witch named Philia Westin. I doubt you’ll have heard of her. Greatest potions expert in centuries, but not a household name. Shame, really.” She put the vial away and re-locked the cabinet. When she turned around she peered at him. “You’re pale. Sit down, I’m going to check you over.”
Harry shook his head, but she pushed him into a chair anyway. She waved her diagnostic wand over him from head to foot. “I’m fine, honestly!”
“We’ll see about that.” A few moments later she gave a grunt of dissent. “I’m sorry. You’ll have to forgive me for overreacting, but given the circumstances I think I’m within my rights.”
“It’s okay,” he said vaguely. “Um, was Westin her married name?”
Poppy looked surprised. “You know, I’m not sure. I… guess she was married. There’s not much information on her, personally, just her work. I’ve never heard of her going by anything else. That’s an odd question.”
He shrugged. “I read about someone named Philia once, but I don’t think her name was ‘Westin’.” Poppy nodded.
“Probably Philia MacLeary. She was Keeper for the Holyhead Harpies back in the eighteen-sixties.”
“Yeah, that was probably it.” He wanted to get to the library. It was a novel sensation. “Thanks for fixing us up, Poppy. I’ll let you know if anything else happens.” He started out.
“Good luck, Harry.” He frowned. Luck would probably come in handy about now.
He went to Sev’s office first. Right before he opened the door he shoved the formula in his pocket. He’d been reading through, getting more and more lost as it went into terms and ingredients he’d never even heard of. One that he did know was Lady’s Perfume. This was old ground for Severus, then. The door opened with its usual creak, and he was surprised to see Sev leaning over the cauldron wearing safety goggles. “Stay back. Poppy doesn’t need to see the rest of you. Again.” Thick, dark yellow goo blurped, spitting viscous drops.
Harry leaned against the door, well out of range. “What’s that?”
“Just an idea.” Harry watched him nimbly mince a root and sprinkle it in a few bits at a time. The cauldron’s contents blurped again and turned liquid purple. The smell of fresh ginger filled the room. Sev ladled some into a small, cylindrical vial and screwed on a cap. He gave it a few good shakes and held it up to the light. “Damn.”
“It’s perfect, if you don’t mind slow, painful death.” Sev sighed and turned off the burner under the cauldron; he slumped in his chair. The goggles went on top of his head and he rubbed his eyes. Harry took this as a cue to lean against the tall chair and rub out those thin, drooping shoulders. “Oh, god, don’t stop or I’m force-feeding you the lot.”
“What’s it supposed to be?”
“Iridescent.” Sev picked up an open book on his desk. It was written in Latin. Harry, who was still struggling with the third declensions (god forbid the fourth), couldn’t make heads or tails of Sev’s angular script. A lot of the terms looked technical. Sev squinted without his glasses and flipped through a few pages. Drawings littered them: ingredients, diagrams. He slammed the book in frustration. “Fancy a game of chess?”
A little of the scant colour came back to Sev’s thin lips as he thrashed Harry in fifteen moves. Harry didn’t mind – he’d grown fairly resolute to the fact that he would never rival Severus. Now, Ron and Severus would be a match worth watching. If Ron ever spoke to him again. “One more?”
“No. I need to work.” Sev put his own battered set of men in their box. They recovered from their minor injuries and found their places. Harry still had to put his pieces back in their spots – they liked him well enough, but they certainly didn’t respect him as a chess player.
“Can I help?” Sev gave him an exasperated look.
“I can waste my own ingredients, thank you.”
“Please?” Sev folded up the board. Harry squirmed in his uncomfortable wooden chair. “Let me at least cut things up.”
Snape raised an eyebrow. “Not after the mockery you made of those scarabs.” Harry scowled.
“You know that was Malfoy’s fault.” Draco spent quite a bit of their last Potions final knocking Harry’s elbows. He and Sev had an explosive fight about it that night. Not the most pleasant way to start their last night together before Sev’s botched mission, but it got better. “What did you expect me to do, hex him in the middle of class?”
“I expect you to be able to concentrate on your work regardless of what happens.” His long fingers curled into wood. It took Harry a moment to grasp that Sev had directed the comment at himself. He got up to work yet more tension from the man’s back. For someone with barely any muscle he certainly made it work.
“I can just do this for a while.” Sev squeezed his hand.
“Maybe later.” He turned his chair and pulled Harry into a surprising kiss. “Bugger off.”
“Sure, I see, always ‘bugger off, Potter,’ ‘fuck off, Potter’. You’re just after one thing.”
“Yes! A little peace!” Sev swatted him, and turned him to face the door. “Don’t come back until you’ve done something about that hair.” Harry sank inside. That meant Sev outright didn’t want to be bothered.
“Obnoxious brat.” He couldn’t help but smile as he walked out. Harry stuck his hands in his pockets. The formula. Well, if Sev wouldn’t let him help here, he could try the library.
The doors were unlocked, but neither students nor Irma were anywhere to be seen. That meant the off-hours hexes were active. Joy. He could deactivate them if he wanted to borrow something, but it was such a pain in the arse to do that he’d more likely copy anything interesting. Poppy had made his life so much easier. He slid behind the desk and stuffed the Reference Hat on his head. It was sleeker and far newer than the Sorting Hat, and nowhere near as smart, but it was better than a card system. “And what can I help you with today, Harry?” Its voice was pleasant in his head, crisp and feminine.
“I need information on a witch named Philia Westin. Anything you can give me.”
“Hmmm… well, there are two books in the Restricted Section, but I don’t think you want those. One causes burns, and the other has been demanding human flesh.” Harry shivered. “I’ll have Irma get it sorted. Let’s see, she’s written a few textbooks, it seems. We have one in Potions, and four in Advanced Potions. Just look under ‘Westin’, they’re all checked in at the moment. And… ooh, yes, there are some articles in the Daily Prophet. Would you like dates?”
“Yes, please.” He grabbed a quill and parchment. “Go on.”
The hat listed dates starting in the nineteen-twenties and running through the -seventies. “I’m afraid that’s all I can find right now. Would you like me to access the Library Network?”
“Maybe later. Uh, could you do a quick check on Philia Snape for me?” It was worth a shot.
“Just a second.” The hat hummed cheerfully. “I’m sorry, Harry, there’s no record anywhere of a Philia Snape. Would you like me to look up Philia MacLeary? She’s more your speed, I think.”
“No, thanks.” Sometimes the Reference Hat enjoyed its job a tad too much. “What I’ve got is great, thank you.”
“Have fun, dear.” He plucked the hat off and set it back on its shelf. The Potions section seemed like a good place to start. He searched and found the lone volume shoved between Wacznik’s The Drama Of Cauldrons and Westing’s Games Brewers Play. Philia’s book, a plain, thick thing titled simply An Introduction To Mediwizardry Potions, seemed to be little more than the basics of brewing cures for every cut, scrape, bash, burn, bump, bruise, break, bounce, sniffle, snort, snuffle, hack, and cough he could imagine. It also included a primer on the use and theory of injected potions. It looked like a useful read – and Sev would be pleased as punch to see him reading it – but there didn’t seem to be anything he could use now. There was no author information. A little disheartened, Harry slid it back on the shelf. Far above, four rows down, sat the W’s of the Advanced Potions section. Sighing, he trundled the ladder over.
The first book he found with her name on it was Antidote To Life. Harry nearly fell off the ladder again. No wonder Sev assigned it. God, poor little Nadja. Not only did she have to read the bloody thing, she had to write a report on her teacher’s beloved grandmother’s book. He was going to have to give her an extra big hug next time he saw her. The other three books were no lighter: Advanced Potions For Medical Use, Phoenix Tears And Dragon’s Blood: Collected Essays (with an introduction, he noted, by Albus Dumbledore), and The Poetry of Healing.
This was certainly unexpected serendipity.
He pulled the last three out and carried them down the ladder. It occurred to him that Sev already knew them by heart. Still, there might be something he’d overlooked. Yeah. And Harry was going to settle down with Draco Malfoy to raise some young’uns. Harry dropped them on the desk to get later. The periodical cabinets were calling to him.
He pulled out the June 1924 drawer for the Daily Prophet and coughed as a cloud of dust rose to greet him. Each of the jumbled scrolls had a date on the outside. June fifteenth, June fifteenth… ah, here it was. He unrolled it quickly and found the page the Reference Hat had given him. Harry stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth as he read. Philia Westin, age twenty-one, awarded Order of Merlin, Second Class, for discovery of a cure for magic-resistant tuberculosis, research witch at LeStrange Pharmaceutical in Hunstanton.
Harry rolled the paper back up and tried to quell the sick feeling in his stomach. They weren’t Death Eaters. Voldemort wasn’t even born yet. It must have been an old family business. It may have been a completely different family. It was still unnerving to find yet another potential link between the Snapes of old and Dark wizardry. The next article was from 1927, and involved the upgrade of her Order of Merlin. She’d invented the attack treatment, which was primarily in use at St. Mungo’s for a particularly nasty array of magical mental disorders. No previous treatment for these conditions, the chance at a new life for hundreds of wizards and witches worldwide, senior researcher at LeStrange Pharmaceutical, blah blah blah. A picture of her holding her plaque sat beneath the article. She looked sour, like she wanted to get back to work. It was the same expression Sev wore when he felt like he’d been rudely but unavoidably interrupted. Her long, black hair was knotted back, and her black robe had a chemical stain down the front. She blinked sullenly. Harry dropped the scroll back in the drawer and looked for more.
The rest of the articles were pretty much the same. She’d made some major breakthrough, she received some award she never looked happy about. In 1928 she married Curtus Snape, in 1929 Perditus’ birth announcement graced the pages, and nothing more of her personal life was mentioned. She never changed her name.
Harry reached into the drawer for October 1964. His hand finally closed around the scroll for the third and he unrolled it, bored with the whole “yay-another-award-toss-it-on-the-pile” situation. He stopped. A smiling picture of Philia with a short-haired, hook-nosed boy – his height made him look eight or nine, but his face was much younger – giggling into her neck filled a quarter of the sixth page. “Severus?” The boy looked up at him, startled, and glared. Don’t bother me, that look said, can’t you see I’m talking to Gran? Philia hugged him and whispered something in his ear. He giggled again. Harry had never imagined Sev could be so young; he’d certainly never imagined him as a giggling, lanky, gap-toothed boy sitting in his grandmother’s lap like he owned it. The chair wobbled slightly. Harry realised that she’d been sitting in every picture since sometime in the thirties. Apart from her hair, which was still mostly dark, she looked exactly like the drawing in the journal. She turned her face from her grandson and gave Harry a venomous look. Hurt him, and I will personally see that you suffer. Harry could only nod. Dumbledore was right; she had been a formidable woman. He pulled himself away from the photograph to read the article.
Potions Pioneer Retires At 61
Yesterday, it was announced that Philia Westin, the greatest living authority on Potions, would be retiring – effective immediately – from active research. Head of Experimental Treatments, she has worked at LeStrange Pharmaceutical for the last forty-one years. Reasons given were her declining health and a desire to spend time with her family. When asked to comment, Madam Westin said, “It’s my own bloody business where I stir my cauldron. I’ve got a grandson I’d like to see grow up. If you lot have a problem with that you can take it up with me.”
When asked what he thought of his grandmother’s decision, Master Severus Snape, age six, replied, “I’m going to be just like my Gran when I grow up.”
Regrets and well wishes of other researchers in both her field of mediwizardry and Potions in general have flooded in. Albus Dumbledore, Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the famed discoverer of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, says it best: “It will be a long time before we see her equal in skill, in breadth, or in creativity. Her pioneering research into intravenous potions has redefined the lives of many who would otherwise be looking out a hospital window. Even if Madam Westin’s other great achievements are somehow forgotten, for this the entire wizarding world owes her an unimaginable debt. I tip my hat to a brilliant woman and a dear friend.”
Harry looked at the picture again. Little Sev was cuddled in her lap, eyes droopy. He contentedly slurped on three fingers. Philia stroked his back until his black eyes closed and he slumped against her, fingers still in his mouth. Harry stared, amazed. His stomach ached to have had her for a grandmother. Philia looked at him, still mistrustful, and put a single finger to her lips. Harry nodded. He started to roll up the parchment. Instead, he took the paper to the desk and, laying that page on a sheet of parchment, tapped it with his wand and muttered, “Exscribo!” The page came through clearly, complete with a very bewildered picture of Philia, still clutching a tired grandson. She glared at Harry. “It’s okay, I know him.” She raised an eyebrow. Argh, it was genetic! Harry silently thanked any gods listening that he and Sev made a decidedly infertile pair. The thought of raising a small army of black-haired, black-eyed, eyebrow-arching rugrats was slightly scarier than Voldemort with a migraine. “No, really. I love him.” She clearly wasn’t going to believe it until she saw it. Frustrated, he rolled up the original. The drawer accidentally banged shut. He looked down at the page in his hands and groaned. Sev was looking around, groggy but wide-eyed. Philia tried to soothe him, but whenever her eyes met Harry they were pure murder.
Breathe, Harry. It’s a picture. Just breathe.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. Reflexively, he stroked Sev’s younger self with gentle fingers. Severus sulked. In a moment he’d buried his face in Philia’s robe. She rocked him, openly protecting him. Her chair hovered slightly as she turned to hide the small body. It was a wheelchair. Philia picked up the extra layer of a folded blanket tucked over her legs and wrapped it around her grandson. Tenderly, she kissed his temple. Her accusing eyes never left Harry. He rolled up the parchment, shaking his head. He didn’t need those black eyes boring into his soul; he got it in spades at home. There was one more article to look up. Please don’t let it have a photo. It turned out to be her obituary. It was short, and got right to the point.
Philia Westin, born Hunstanton, 1903, widow of Curtus Snape, one of the foremost Potions experts of the century. Died at the Snape family estate outside Holme-next-the-Sea, age 69, after a long illness stemming from her tragic paralysis in 1932. She is survived by her son, Perditus Snape, and two grandsons, Eversor and Severus.
Harry’s brow furrowed. A hundred paralyzing scenarios played in his head: a broom accident; an unfortunate Bludger; fistfights; tripping over the cat at the top of the stairs. None of them seemed terribly likely, though. A good witch or wizard was difficult to injure that severely. They just weren’t as vulnerable as Muggles. They weren’t unbreakable, either. Look at what a Squib did to Sev.
He stuffed the paper back in the drawer and hurried to check his books out. Three cards with “Potter, H.” went into the file. He impatiently murmured the five minutes of hex-breaking charms that would let him leave in one piece; setting the books outside, Harry erected them again, and hurried back to the suite to read.
That was how Sev found him a few hours later. He’d stretched out on the bed, robe a ball on the floor, Gryffindor sweatshirt and pajama bottoms being far more comfortable to study in. Harry had Phoenix Tears And Dragon’s Blood in front of him, and a Potions dictionary off to the side. “’Short’ doesn’t mean ‘easy’, Mister Potter.” A thin finger tapped The Poetry of Healing. “Perhaps you should start here? Unless that’s too difficult, in which case I believe I have My First Potions Picture Book somewhere.” Harry looked up. Severus was scowling.
“I’m doing fine, thank you.” Sev snorted.
“I’ll just take this, then, shall I?” He started to close the dictionary. Harry snatched it.
“What are you doing back here? I thought you were going to be busy until dinner.”
Snape shot him a sarcastic look and held up a hand coated in thick, orange salve. “Doctor’s orders.” Harry rolled his eyes.
“This is why you need me to help you.”
“Why? So I can be mortally wounded rather than slightly burned?”
Harry took his hand and inspected it. “What happened?”
“Nothing.” Harry raised an eyebrow at him. “Boiled over,” Sev muttered through clenched teeth. A bolt of pain went through Harry’s chest. Snape didn’t just let his cauldron boil over. Either he was working with something well beyond the normal limits of touchiness, or he was getting worse. Sev wrenched his hand free. The hollowness fell from his eyes; he looked worried. Harry sat up and pulled the man onto his lap.
“Did you get it cleaned up yet?” Sev shook his head. That wasn’t like him, not at all like him. The cauldron boiling over must have scared him enough to send him running. Poor, lost little boy. “I’ll do it.”
“You’ll hurt yourself.”
“How? You turned the burner off, didn’t you?”
“Of course I turned the burner off. Who do you think I am, Neville Longbottom?”
Harry smiled. “I hope not. His grandmother would kill me.” He rest his cheek in Sev’s hair. That slender body was pressed tight, hugging him.
“Gran’s not angry, is she?” The pure hurt in his voice made Harry blink. He thought of Philia Westin’s reputation, and the absolute devotion she had for the child she could no longer protect.
“No, she’s not angry.” Sev relaxed a little in his arms. Funny how the most hated, feared person in the school could be so terribly, terribly frightened of disappointing his Gran. Harry gave him a squeeze and rubbed his back. “Come on, let’s go get that mess you’ve made tidied up before it sets.”
Harry didn’t even bother with his robe, just his slippers. The lack of students allowed them the luxury of holding hands in the main corridors. Professor Vector, coming up from the dungeons, gave them a short nod. She glanced at Harry’s odd attire – virtually running around in his underwear, by wizarding standards – but said nothing about it. “You’ve got a student waiting for you downstairs, Severus.”
His shoulders sank. “Who?”
“First year girl. Ravenclaw, I think. Sorry, they all look alike to me.” Sev groaned.
Vector cocked an eyebrow. “Should I put her on my ‘least wanted’ list?”
“Just don’t let her near a cauldron, for god’s sake.” He sighed. “Into the mouth of Hell I go.”
“She can’t be that bad.”
“She’s not.” Sev shot Harry a glare.
“We didn’t ask for your opinion.” He turned back to Vector. “I don’t suppose she said what she wanted?” Vector shook her head. Chocolate-coloured curls shivered.
“Just asked where you were.”
“Brilliant.” The other professor shrugged apologetically.
“I’d love to help, but Minerva’s waiting for me. Stick your head in the fireplace and give me a yell if you need. I’ll be in her office. Old office,” she hastily added. Sev grunted. He looked like he’d been dropped in the mud and kicked. Harry squeezed his hand.
“Thanks, Emily.” It never failed to puzzle Harry how comfortable Sev and Professor Vector were with each other, especially considering how hilarious she’d found their relationship at first. Maybe it was because they were the only two Slytherins currently teaching. She flashed a sympathetic smile and hurried up the steps; under her breath she sang something about having a little list. Harry pulled his reluctant maritus down the stairs. “This can wait until morning,” he protested.
“Sorry, but I do remember a few things from class.”
“The Apocalypse is here so soon?” Harry smacked his bum, sending Sev running a few steps ahead, feigning indignity. He leaned against the wall and panted slightly, looking annoyed. Absently, he rubbed his crusted hand, knocking away vivid chunks. Harry took his good hand. “I don’t want to play teacher today.” He leaned over to nuzzle Harry’s neck. “Can’t we just go back and—?”
“After.” He pulled Sev loose and gave him a small kiss. “Should I go down first?” Harry wouldn’t mind seeing Nadja. He still owed her that hug.
“No. But if you leave me alone with her I’m going to make an exception and test you on every potion I ever mentioned in any class.” Harry smirked.
“Don’t call me ‘Snapey’.”
“Snapey, Snapey, Snapey.”
“Potter…” his tired lips twisted in a sneer, then a wicked smile. “Pottery.”
Harry winced. “At least it’s a real word.”
“Does it hurt?”
“What? Being called ‘Pottery’?”
“Thinking.” Harry stuck his tongue out. Sev kissed it. “Don’t call me ‘Snapey’.”
“Okay, Sevvie.” A hand came down on his backside. “Ow!”
“Do you want one that’ll hurt?”
Harry batted his eyes. “Please?” Sev crossed his arms and looked weary.
“Not if that’s how you’re going to react.” He pushed off the wall with his shoulders. “Best get this over with.” Harry trotted beside him. Severus kept his arms crossed all the way to the dungeon. He grew colder with every step.
“Go easy on her.”
“No. She needs to learn that I will not be taken lightly.”
“She’s already knows. You don’t even know what she wants.”
“There are only two reasons any student would blatantly bother a teacher over holidays: help with homework, and to serve as a general reminder that things can always get worse.” Harry tried to grab him as he swept ahead. His long stride forced Harry to jog to keep up.
“God, you really do go from zero to arsehole in six seconds, don’t you?”
“Please. It’s never taken more than three.” Harry hit his arm playfully. Sev turned with a snarl. “Don’t do that.” Harry shrank.
“Sorry.” He didn’t dare say anything else, only prepared to defend poor little Nadja in any way he had to.
Sev towered menacingly over the girl, who sat on the cold stones, engrossed in The Magician’s Nephew. “What are you doing here?” Her head snapped up. Quickly, she got to her feet. Her robe was wrinkled from sitting on the frigid dungeon floor. “Answer me!” Harry took a step towards her; Severus shot him a glare.
“Spit it out, girl. I have little time and less patience.”
Nadja, eyes wide and teeth chattering in terror or cold, groped around in her pockets. She pulled out a small, red jar and held it up. “I hope you’re feeling better, Professor Snape.” Her voice was so soft and shaky Harry could barely hear it in the dead silence. “Mum sent me lots. Minky the house-elf said you like them.”
Sev stared. His thin lips moved vaguely but nothing came out. Finally, he reached out an unsteady hand and grasped the jar. “Thank you, Miss Alabaster.” It disappeared into his robe; Harry knew it was either that or down the lot there in the hall. “I’m much better today.”
She nodded, suddenly businesslike. “That’s all I wanted to know.” She gave him a small, still slightly scared, smile, and Harry a broader one (which he returned), and shuff shuff’ed her way down the corridor. Sev didn’t move. His face was carefully composed. Harry saw his fingers trace the jar in his pocket.
“I told you she’s a sweet kid.”
Black eyes flicked towards him. “Bring me the head of Minky the house-elf.”
Harry ripped off a piece of Spellotape with his teeth. A few moments of careful angling and it fell into place. A wand tapped the outside doorknob several times and Severus cursed. Harry grumbled. Sev was doing it just to annoy him. He’d finally cast an unbreakable locking charm on the bathroom door and taken the damn presents in there. It had been hard enough to convince Lupin to go to London on Christmas Eve, even more so to Muggle London – he’d finally told him he could pick out his own present, and was touched and a little sad when Remus proudly returned wearing a heavy wool robe and cloak – but he was pretty certain he’d thought of something Sev would like, if he ever got around to reading it. From the look of things, there wasn’t a Ray Bradbury book left in the whole of WHSmith.
After the last few days, and finding Sev near tears with his broken broom clutched tight against his chest more times than he’d like to count, Harry needed to make him smile.
But if he didn’t stop trying to peek he was going to be beaten to death with his own gift.
The last book finally wrapped, he tied them in a stack with a long silver ribbon – green paper, of course – and cast a little charm to keep the stack from falling over (or being opened before sunrise). He broke the charm on the door and, wand in his teeth, lugged both present and the large carrier bag of wrapping supplies into the suite proper. It was only a few minutes until Christmas. “’Ou’re nah to toush ‘his hehore I shay show,” he managed around his wand.
Sev didn’t answer. He was staring out the window at the field of snow. His arms were crossed, and his back was mostly to Harry. A curl of hair had formed around his left ear. Harry dropped the bag, stuck his wand in his dressing gown pocket, and set Sev’s gift on the table between their chairs. He put a hand on a thin shoulder. “Do you honestly think I appreciate this?”
Harry was startled. “I know you don’t like Christmas much, but…”
Sev looked back at him. Rage glinted in his eyes. His face was stone. “I hate you.”
“Sev! That’s not funny.” What in flipping Hell was going on?
“I don’t care if you think it’s funny, Lucius. I also don’t understand how I never saw before now what a sick individual you are.”
Oh, no no no, not again. “It’s me, Harry, not Lucius.” He tried to take Severus’ face in his hands but Sev caught them and held tight. “Sev, just let me go. I’m going to get Poppy. She’ll make things all better.” Sev didn’t let go. “Fifty points from Slytherin!”
Severus scowled. “Have you lost the rest of your mind?” Uh-oh.
“I’m not Lucius. I’m Harry. Let me go, Sev. I’m going to get help.” Hot, wet breath filled his ear. Harry forced himself to breathe, not to panic. If he could just free a hand he could stupefy Sev long enough to get Poppy.
“It is so, so tempting to do to you exactly what you’ve done to him, but you know I won’t. Don’t you? That’s why you’ve given me something so generous. No fear of it being returned. Isn’t it, cousin?”
“Sev, let me go.” He struggled. Sev gripped harder. Just ride it out. Nothing is going to happen. Ride it out and get Poppy and everything will be—
Harry reeled. The punch very nearly put him on the floor. Sev’s eye twitched dangerously. Harry could get help right bloody now, or he could risk whatever else happened to Lucius Malfoy. In blind panic, he managed to get a pinch of Floo powder and threw it into the cheery fireplace. He ran and shouted. The head-churning spin of the Floo paled next to the ache in his jaw. He fell out into the hospital wing—
The hospital wing didn’t have a twelve-foot Christmas tree dripping tinsel, squished against the ceiling. The hospital wing wasn’t cheerily warm and cluttered, with presents on every charmable surface and overstuffed stockings and an edge of crust from mince pie on a chipped plate next to an empty sherry glass. The hospital wing… was very, very far away. How did—? Oh. Yes. He didn’t say “hospital wing,” did he?
Wrapping his open bathrobe tighter around his naked, sooty body, he ran to the kitchen for the flowerpot of Floo powder. He reached to the windowsill, only to discover a small potted plant.
Air wouldn’t fit into his lungs. Harry felt like his head was still caught in the Floo. He could think of no other way to get back to his Severus. His poor, confused, possibly injured or dead Severus. Hot tears began to drip behind his glasses. He started to run for the stairs, to wake someone up and ask to go home. He could only remember one person to run to, though. He certainly wouldn’t find help there. He couldn’t go forward; he couldn’t go back. Harry did the only thing left: he lay down on the soft, comforting couch and cried himself to sleep.
Special thanks to Grindylowe for permanently implanting the image of Sev in goggles in my head. Thhhhblllt!
Return to Archive | next | previous